Former first responder and police officer Luke Guyton might have taken an unorthodox path to becoming a health and wellness coach, but the pieces of his past form a comprehensive whole.

Through FitWave, his brand of personal training and health coaching, Guyton seeks to share his passion for health and wellness with clients from all walks of life.

“I am here to inspire and empower others to live (healthy and happy lives)," says Guyton, of Moline. "In a world where most are on autopilot, passion is a rare thing.”

Guyton holds a national paramedic license, and he is a certified health and nutrition coach through the Institute of Integrative Nutrition, a certified personal trainer through the International Fitness Professionals Association, and a certified cycling coach through USA Cycling. 

This year, he is taking a six-month course to become a specialist in gut health.

“I never want to quit learning,” Guyton says. 

Throughout his professional life, Guyton has worn myriad hats — literally. He spent five years as an EMT and paramedic, two years as a police officer, and nearly two years as a firefighter. Deeply personal, preventable, tragic experiences are at the core of what motivated him to become a first responder shortly after high school, and now at 28, a health coach and personal trainer.

When Guyton was 4, he lost his father to suicide. “Growing up was tough for me because of this,” he says. “Around age 6, I knew I wanted to help people. As a kid, I loved to watch the show 'Rescue 911.' ... I was fascinated and in awe of these men and women who would risk their lives to save someone.”

Guyton was 19 when tragedy struck again. One of his best friends passed away, an event which Guyton says solidified his decision to change lives.

“After this (loss), I knew it was my life’s mission to help people," Guyton says. "I am a natural protector and want everyone to feel safe, loved and comfortable with who they are.”

Guyton was a paramedic with Medic EMS in the Davenport and Bettendorf area. He was a police officer for the Rockford Police Department before taking a position with the Rock Island County Sheriff's Department, and then later, he was a firefighter with the Moline Fire Department. But after years in law enforcement and as a first responder, his calling evolved.

“The biggest turning point for me was when I was a firefighter working on the ambulance,” he says. He estimates that 90 percent of the calls he responded to were directly linked with what he refers to as “chronic lifestyle disease,” including high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, heart problems and mental health issues.

He "saw how these individuals were stuck in this ‘rinse and repeat’ health- care system,” he says, meaning that though the patients were treated for their health issues, the potential underlying issues causing them were never properly addressed. “If someone took the time and taught these people how to make healthy decisions,” Guyton says, it could change their lives. 

“I got to the point where I felt like I was part of (this) broken system,” he says, so "(I) decided I had to take the leap of faith.”

Guyton’s jump took him from a field he knew and loved and catapulted him into a then-unfamiliar territory of professional independence.

“I finally realized after 10 years of trying different careers, my purpose in life is to inspire health and wellness," he said. So last spring, "I resigned from the fire department and started working full time as a personal trainer and health coach.”

After he made that leap, FitWave was born. From branding to marketing, Guyton quickly learned how to navigate this world — and his history as a first responder in large part informs his ethos and practice as a personal trainer and health coach.

“We live in a world where everyone wants to talk, but few listen. If we sit back and truly listen to someone, (we can) help them in a greater capacity,” Guyton says.

In fact, he cites listening and attention to detail as the two most significant take-aways from his time as a police officer and firefighter. Employing those two skills meant “the difference between life and death” he says.

Now, his keen listening skills help clients pick up on “the little details” they share, but do not themselves notice, during meetings and training sessions. These often are keys to where clients need the most help. Guyton and his clients attend to these little details, which paves the way for breakthroughs with areas clients are struggling with.

So, what does a typical session look like for one of Guyton’s FitWave clients? Depending on the weather, “I will meet (a client) outside, down by the river, and sometimes get a walk in while we are talking.”

The first order of business is catching up. “We talk about how the last few weeks have been” and the outcome of health- and wellness-based “tasks” he assigns at each meeting. These tasks focus on slowly changing a client’s daily routine, such as incorporating new exercises, eating a more balanced diet, and using self-care activities to promote mindfulness.

Then, the conversation “transitions into what our main focus is for that particular day. This varies based on (the client’s) individual needs.” Guyton creates intricate, personalized handouts for each client, so that clients leave each session with specific guidelines that help redirect their lifestyles.

Those on the road to change inevitably will encounter rough terrain. “I make my clients create a mantra when times get tough,” he says.

Guyton’s personal mantra? “It’s a little extreme, but ‘Not dead; can’t quit.’ So many people quit when things get tough. We will never do anything great if we don’t embrace being uncomfortable from time to time.”

Radish magazine is a monthly publication of Lee Enterprises that focuses on healthy living. It is available at several area outlets, including Hy-Vee stores.

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