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Friday, October 8, 2010

A PT's job - A Craig Harper post.

Why we're still Fat.

When it comes to health and fitness, Australia is one of the most educated and well-resourced countries in the world. Curiously, we’re also one of the fattest.  :(
Teaching Newbie PTs
Yesterday afternoon, I gave a two-hour lecture to some personal training students; something I rarely do these days. As I rode my motorbike to the college, I wondered what might be the single most valuable thing I could share with a group of newbies who were yet to facilitate their first PT session (keeping in mind that I have completed more than 40,000 sessions over the course of my PT career).
No wonder I’m tired. ;)
What to Teach?
I pondered what twenty-eight years of working in (and owning) gyms and coaching people towards their best body had taught me. Why did my business work? Why did I have a good success rate with my clients? What did I do right and what have I learned from my many mistakes? How could I save these students (and their future clients) some time and potential heart-ache? If I could only teach them one thing, what would it be? What key message could be potentially career-making or breaking?
Then the message de jour came to me:
“Getting your clients in shape physically – and keeping them that way – is largely not about their body.”
“But Craig, after all that study on body-types, metabolic processes, muscles, joint actions, energy systems, physiological adaptation, progressive overload, lever lengths and biomechanics, you’re now telling us that’s not the important stuff?”
Well, no, not exactly. All that ‘stuff’ is indeed important. Crucial even. As trainers, you will need to understand the mechanics of physical change from a scientific and physiological perspective. However, knowing how to prescribe exercise, demonstrate a movement, identify a muscle, name a joint action, measure blood pressure and use body-fat calipers doesn’t guarantee that (1) you’ll be a quality fitness professional (2) you’ll be an effective communicator, coach or teacher or (3) your clients will achieve (and maintain) their desired results.
What It’s Not About
As I shared (extensively) in my book Fattitude, getting in shape physically is largely a byproduct of getting in shape emotionally and psychologically. I find it confounding that the medical profession, the fitness industry and the weight-loss industry still spend a disproportionate amount of time and energy focusing on the stuff that doesn’t ultimately determine success or failure. Of course, we need a practical plan (diet, exercise, lifestyle, etc.) BUT… if creating lasting physical transformation was about diets, gyms, education and plans, we’d have zero obesity because we (we, the society) currently have more weight-loss (health, fitness) resources than we’ve ever had before.
Brains Not Biceps
When it comes to maintaining a new dietary regime or exercise program, take a wild guess at how many people last four weeks? Less than half. And how many have the potential to create positive change with their body? All of them. How many will consistently maintain the desired behaviours for one year? I don’t have the research on it but, in my experience, almost none. Why? Because ultimately, lasting physical change (the common goal) has a little to do with our biceps and bum and a lot to do with our brain.
It’s always been my experience, observation and opinion that getting in shape and staying that way (the hard part) is ten percent physical and ninety percent emotional/psychological. If our mind and emotions drive our choices and behaviours (and they do) and our choices and behaviours determine the quality of results we produce, then why do the experts spend most of their time focused purely on the physical? Take a look around – whatever we’re doing, it ain’t working. We’re still fat!
Or, should I say, fatter.
How many new diets do we need to start, weight-loss books do we need to read, gym memberships do we need to waste and how many exercise bikes do we need collecting dust in the garage before we realise that physical transformation works from the inside-out? :)

Post by Craig Harper (see link on right).

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