Monday, February 25, 2013

Can fitness drive community health?

The definition of 'can' is to be able to; have the ability, power or skill to; to know how to; to have the power or means to; to have the right or qualifications to to have permission to ... 

So to the question of 'can' fitness drive community health the answer must be a resounding yes.

Take a step back though and a bigger picture emerges, that despite the ability and power of fitness to change lives for the better, in order for fitness to drive community health there are a few things that need to happen to actually make it so.

Yesterday I had the enormous privilege of participating in a panel discussion on this very question.  In remote far north queensland the CEO of Fitness Australia, Lauretta Stace, and 7 other supportive industry professionals came together in front of an audience of roughly 100 to discuss this topic.  What emerged from the discussion was for me a clearer understanding of the bigger picture, and a great sense of the desire across the board in the fitness industry to participate in a more cooperative manner both amongst ourselves and with allied health professionals and other industry bodies to make positive change to community health.

The key distressing factor about our community health is that less than 20% of the population are participating in fitness services.  In a community where lifestyle diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and depression are on the rise, the primary preventative measure for these diseases is being used as a management tool by only 20% of the population.  More than 60% of the population is obese ... the first step in moving towards the onset of one of these diseases.  

Point 1 - fitness services are not yet connecting with the individuals in the community that really need them.

What concerned me next about the discussion was a general fear that our qualifications are inadequate.  As I listened to the discussion move a little off topic for a moment I heard  industry professionals, my peers and colleagues, express their own fears that the qualifications that are being awarded that enable fitness professionals to positive change lives are not perceived as professional by allied health professionals and therefore limit our capacity to change.

Point 2 - fitness professionals are having a crisis of confidence

And the final key point for me was that within this community of concerned professionals coming together to create positive change in the community was the very real belief and concern that government and legislation had an enormous role to play to support the work of both fitness professionals and allied health professionals.  Citing the recent cutting of more 200 jobs in the health services in far north Queensland and the slashing of funding from programs such as Steady Steps, which deliver positive results for our ageing population in improving their stability and mobility, the panel unanimously agreed that there is a very great need for the fitness industry to come together to build a body of evidence that supports the claim that fitness can take a large burden off the public health system.  It is imperative that we show the evidence that can in turn be used to lobby government for more, and more consistent, support of what the industry is doing.

Point 3 - fitness leaders must collect their evidence and come together to tell a compelling story of change which cannot be ignored by the leaders of our country.

For me, I will continue to think globally and act locally and as a personal trainer recognise that my power today lies in my capacity to create positive change for my clients.  My 3 key points will focus on how I interact with my clients today.

I will change the emotional state of my client so they leave me feeling happier.

I will empower my client to take control of their own wellness by teaching them the movement tools to do this.

I will create opportunities for my client to feel successful during their workout so that they will celebrate the experience, seek to repeat it, and invite their friends to come too.

For me personally fitness has delivered the most positive changes I could imagine - empowering me to eliminate potentially life threatening behaviours, creating opportunity for a more rewarding career path and placing me within a circle of like minded people who lift each other to a higher place every time we meet.

Can fitness drive community health?  Absolutely.  Buckle up though people ... this is kinda like wadi bashing .... a tonne of fun, but it's going to take a team of strong people working together to keep moving forward when things get stuck in the sand ....

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

I like to move it, move it ....

Motion is Life ....

I spent some time yesterday talking fitness with a group of fresh students.  I think it was day 2 of their Cert 3 & Cert 4 course.  Newbies - LOVE THEM!!!

My greatest observation of the day was that we have to move to think.  I tried asking them questions when I first arrived ... they were sitting down, a bit disinterested, and their body was probably telling them to get up but they weren't able to in that environment.

So, bring out the balls!!!

I moved one student, fairly aggressively, with a round of tennis catch with a get down get up thrown in for good measure, and that got all the other students to react to the moving student.  Then I moved all the students and this got them to react to themselves as well.

The learning that took place was incredible and their ability to verbalise their experience and observations, and their ability to share it went through the roof.  Plus, we had a bit of a laugh along the way.

The benefits of what we did are enormous ... but my bet is most of them will be saying they really enjoyed it, but not truly understanding why.  So, let me make it a bit clearer, and for those of you that are like me and don't like big words, I'm going to keep it really simple.

1. The body enjoys acting against gravity and being challenged - standing up is good
2. The brain enjoys challenge, input and feedback - making it work is good
3. The heart enjoys warmth, created by increase in blood flow which can be stimulated by movement, interaction and challenge.

It's a pretty simple way to look at things but for me it distills it down into a way of understanding why movement is good for us.

Hippocrates said "Motion is Life".  Consider it for a moment and compare the action of children at play in a playground to the action of old people at rest in a nursing home.  We are all alive, but possibly we are not all living.

More than once this past week I have seen or heard the quote, and I don't know who said it first, but I heard it first from my good friend Rod - "We don't stop playing because we get old, we get old because we stop playing".

Today, find a playground, having a swing or do a slide and whilst you do close your eyes and feel whatever you feel.  Could it be .... "ALIVE"?

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

.... remember "Twisted Sister"...??

I don't even remember the year, but I remember every word to the song...

"We're not gonna take it, no we aint gonna take it, we're not gonna take it ... anymore"

Sung with the passion of angst ridden teenagers around the world the song became and anthem for the generation ... for at least a good week or two.

Then, as is the way with human nature, we slipped back into our 'normal' lives and continued to 'take it'.

This morning as I trained my very energetic and enthusiastic  6:30am client we discussed pretty much every topic you can imagine from lamenting the political decisions that are undermining our public health system to the desperate need and guilt ridden indulgence of a chocolate coated dried apricot in the late hours of last evening.

The end result, a conclusion that perhaps we should start singing passionately the words of Twisted Sister again.

Now they weren't that pretty, but they did get the juices flowing and even now as I think about how it felt to sing it, I feel myself energised, wanting to go out and make change in the world.

The catalyst for the conversation was a song "What doesn't kill me makes me stronger" and a comment "not like 10 litres of coca-cola a day", which you may recognise as the lethal self administered dose of a new zealand woman found slumped in her toilet and dead yesterday at the tender age of 30.  Leaving behind 8 unhealthy children ... and who knows what else.

I have so much to say on this issue, but it can be summarised in one simple question ... when did this woman start to believe that a coca cola diet was the best choice for her?  Lack of energy, an early morning vomit (daily) and probably morbid obesity should have been signals that something wasn't quite right.  Then look down the line to 8 children without teeth, because they had rotted out ... and probably destined for a short future of junk food, health problems, and general misery.

People ... I find myself greatly saddened by the passing of this young lady, not because I knew her or because she has left behind a family ... these things happen around the world every day ... but rather because as a society we find it easier and more acceptable to criticise her circumstances and point the finger of blame at a multinational corporation, than to recognise that as a society we are failing.  We are failing to educate people on the best choices for a healthy, prosperous and energetic life; we are failing to empower individuals to make great choices themselves for their own life; and we are failing our future generations because with all the research, knowledge, technology and smarts that we have, we are still forgetting to love ourselves and each other in a way that enables us to enjoy each and every day to the full.

Today is valentines day ... share the love and make a better choice for your life today!!!

Monday, February 4, 2013

"Find the WHY to find the WAY"

Fitness means so many things to so many people, but universally my experience of people that come to fitness is that when they are first asked that questions, they want weight loss.  So my question is WHY?

Until we know why our clients want the weight loss, we are not going to be able to empower them to reach their goals.  Sure we can go commando style and bark orders at them, make them sweat, make them hurt, and possibly even make them hungry enough a couple of times a day so that in the short term they achieve a weight loss result, represented to them by the numbers on the scales.  But is it sustainable??

Well, since gaining over 25kg during my first pregnancy, now over 6 years ago, I have not stepped on the scales.  Reassuring myself that I was heavier than I thought I should be did nothing to stop my desire to eat cake - yes, I had a weakness for cake.  What it actually did was give me a reason to be angry with myself, which then created more reasons to be angry with myself as I punished myself by eating more bad food!!!

Lucky for me I'm a fitness trainer with a long strong history of eating well, and when I understood that the cravings and weight gain during pregnancy were my body's response to my growing baby's needs and my pre-natal lack of excess body fat to meet those needs, it started to make more sense.   Now, 2 children later and 4 years since my last delivery my body has almost returned to its pre-natal fitness level  and with it my body shape is returning to what I would consider normal.  And it's been through a simple process of returning to what I know my body needs to give me the fuel and energy to achieve what I want to achieve, both on a daily basis and in the long term.

Everyone has a different why.  As trainers, to be able to give our clients the tools to succeed we need to uncover the why that is truly personal.  Mine is to be the best mum that I can be ... which being a mother of boys means playing soccer, climbing everything, running lots and being generally energetic for most of the hours of the day.  Poorly fuelled I will fail.  So I choose real energy fuel - the stuff that nature has given us.  Consequence ... lots of energy and a healthy body shape!

Find out your client's WHY.  

What is the personal consequence of achieving their goal?  And more importantly, what is the consequence of not achieving?  Amazing pictures emerge of young people that see a short future as a result of their genetics as they look ahead to becoming their parents; the fear of the heredity of heart disease and the implications of that for life in the long term; older people that see the time clock running out; fear of cancer; diabetes; depression and a myriad of other reasons that in many cases are unpredictable and often unexpected.  And there are also active living motivations - the desire to walk the Kokoda trail, climb Macapichu or dive Galapogas.

As my mate OD says, "You need to find the WHY to find the WAY".  How true is that?  By finding the why you can help your client uncover their own vivid pictures of their present and future life that relates to the overall experience they enjoy, rather than the number on the scale or the size of the jeans they will wear.

When the client understands their own why, it is even more powerful as they take ownership of their body and responsibility for its operation (fuel, service, operation, recovery) and in so doing take an active interest in learning how to do the best for themselves.

As a trainer my job is to empower my clients to success.  Without the true why, the way will remain unclear.

Start with yourself.  What is your WHY to be fit?