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Posted: Friday, February 26, 2010 12:00 am

Rachael Hanania knows the first step toward a healthy lifestyle has nothing to do with a treadmill.

“I’ve learned to ask the right questions because if they don’t like their exercise program they won’t do it,” the healthy lifestyle coach said.

That’s why understanding a client’s needs and goals are the first steps in the Ahwatukee Foothills Family YMCA’s healthy lifestyle coaching program, said Margie Poer, health lifestyles administrator at the Ahwatukee Foothills Family YMCA.

The lifestyle coaching program has been successful at YMCAs on the East Coast, and the Ahwatukee Foothills Family YMCA is serving as a test market for the Arizona program, which helps YMCA members learn how to use their gym equipment and create effective exercise programs.

“When new members join the YMCA, we tell them about our lifestyle coaching program right away,” Poer said. “They sit down and discuss their fitness goals with a coach, and we find that most people are intimidated and don’t know what to do in a gym.”

There is no extra cost for the healthy lifestyle coaching program, and although the majority of people in the program are new members, it is open to the entire gym membership.

“Their needs could be that you hold their hand to walk them into a yoga class and introduce them to the instructor and a few other people,” Poer said. “We’ve found that if we get them established in a routine they will come back more frequently.”

YMCA member Baegan Oliver-Rogers has been using the healthy lifestyle coaching program since she re-joined the YMCA in September. The main goals she developed with Hanania, her coach, were to lose weight and body fat.

“I’ve lost 15 pounds so far,” she said. “I come at least three days each week to exercise.”

Oliver-Rogers said she has benefitted from the shared knowledge of her coach.

“I’ve always done cardio to lose weight, but Rachael showed me how to lift weights without bulking up,” she said. “I never knew that lifting weights was such an important contribution to losing weight.”

According to Hanania, Oliver-Rogers is an example of how new members can benefit from having a coach.

“After talking to Baegan I knew that her time was precious because she has small children,” Hanania said. “We were able to create a workout program that she continues to find interesting.”

For more information on joining the Ahwatukee Foothills Family YMCA or its lifestyle coaching program, call (480) 759-6762 or visit www.valleyymca.org/Ahwatukee.

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