By Christopher Cudworth
As President of the Fox River Trail Runners, a popular Chicago-area running club, Tom Spadafora sees plenty of healthy people in action at the races the organization sponsors in the Chicago area. The club itself has a membership of more 600 runners. Its Thanksgiving day Fox and the Turkey Trot race drew more than 2500 participants in 2014. All that makes Tom a happy man.
But what really makes him happy is helping people who aren’t so far along in the health and wellness process. His business Your Health Vision is in its 6th year of operation. Its mission is counseling people on diet, health and exercise. “There’s obviously a market for education about combatting obesity, finding a better diet and learning how to exercise properly,” Spadafora notes.
He earned his training in a yearlong study class that led to a health-coaching model he now uses in working with clients. “Some want to lose weight. Others want to stop smoking. It’s all about overcoming habits. But I counsel people to work on one increment at a time. That’s how we change behaviors and combat stress.”
As a former operations management director for a major retailer, Spadafora knows a thing or two about “moving the needle” when it comes to human behavior. In fact it was his own soul-searching following a downsizing in his industry that led him to focus his energies on health and wellness, a passion born out by his own commitment to running, but one that also appeals to his sense of compassion for other people. He laughs, “But it started with me. I also decided I was not going to go work for someone else again.”
It all comes down to motivations, he observes. “All my training for this role came through a sales organization,” he explains. “And it turned out that the things that make people better salespeople are really basic. It shouldn’t be surprising that getting people into better health helps them professionally as well as personally. So I took those philosophies of coaching and applied it to the model of health coaching full time.”
One of the surprising facets of his health coaching business is that he finds people bringing up their finances as a source of stress. His background in operations enables him to sort through these issues with his clients and get them the resources they need to simplify that component of their lives.
“Every successful athlete or business person has a coach,” he contends. “They help you understand that you have it within you to improve something in your life. It’s all a matter of getting that motivation up into your brain and out into the world. Then change can occur.”
Some clients want it handed to them. Spadafora calls them to account. “I’m not going to tell you what to do…” he responds. “You’re going to own it.”
If that sounds similar to the approach of a professional psychologist, so be it. “I ask people to give me one thing to work on that they really want to do. I tell them not to be afraid to shoot for the moon, but we’ll work on it with small steps.”
“It generally takes about 3 months for people to see and understand the progress they’re making,” he says. “That’s a pretty good time frame and you can almost always track the flow by then whether its weight loss or to stop smoking.”
He particularly enjoys seeing people motivated by their progress. “I get so jazzed by people who didn’t know they could reach their goals,” he enthuses. “It’s often the case that people don’t know what they don’t know. You give them those tools and it all makes more sense to them.”
Tom Spadafora is a RRCA (Road Runners Club of America) Certified Running coach.
No doubt Spadafora solves a few client challenges in his own head before broaching the subject of how to change behaviors. His own running takes him on the road for hours at a time. Last year he also organized an indoor running program in collaboration with a high school so that his club members and clients could have a place to train out of the cold for three days a week. Spadafora is usually there himself, circling the track at 6:00 pace doing intervals with a training partner or two.
It’s all part of the picture for Tom Spadafora, whose company Your Health Vision offers a health handshake with the world.