Archive for September, 2012

Bridging the Gap

It was my senior year in college when I officially began my career in the fitness industry.  My basketball coach asked me to help with team conditioning when I opted to sit out my last year.  This was an opportuntiy to lead me on the path to a wonderful career in the health and wellness industry.

Early on I was training at a small health club and also working as a strength and conditioning coach at a local high school.  This was the perfect introduction.  I understood how the body moved and reacted from an atheltic point of view.  My typical client at that time was looking for general fitness and looking to improve strength, increase flexibility and reduce the risk of injury.  I was surrounded by many great coworkers that offered great advice for program design, how to modify exercises to regress or make it more difficult, and how to develop rapport with clients.

As I gained confidence in myself and my training I was able to integrate what I had learned in school, from my own experience and from playing around.  There were many tools added to the repertoire of exercises.  TRX, kettle-bells, yoga just to name a few.  I began to push clients out of their comfort zones.  Adding more weight, making them crawl on the floor, balancing with their eyes closed, kneeling on a stability ball, signing up for their first 5k race.  These achievements brought strength, confidence and excitement to my clients.  In turn, I was seeing the true benefits of my job.

Once I was asked what fitness means to me.  This was my answer:

I have seen the trends of fitness evolve over time. Terms such as metabolic and functional training. Aerobic verses anaerobic. What does VO2 mean? Often times words like power, endurance, strength, stamina get tossed all over the place. Activate this…draw in your…..

As the trends of fitness have evolved, so has my perception. I now see fitness as a powerful vehicle that creates change. Change in our movement patterns, thoughts and actions. Fitness allows the opportunity to build strength, confidence, empowerment, and character from the inside, out. Visible, physical results are a by-product of hard work and dedication to change.

We are in a constant being of change. With that, fitness is not part of my life. It is my life.

Our industry is changing every day. We have a beautiful platform to make a difference in the lives of those we work with.  One of the greatest parts of my job is that no two days are ever the same.  Whether it is working with the 40 year old marathon runner or the 75 year old wanting to improve strength and balance, all clients deserve the opportunity to achieve their goals in a safe and enjoyable environment.  This is why I hold myself accountable to helping them achieve their goals.

Over the last few months I have seen an increase in “special population” type of clients coming in for help.  These include MS, obesity, arthritis, cancer patients and the list goes on.  It is that reason I am bridging the gap, between the medical world and the fitness world.  By actively seeking out workshops and trainings that specialize in these populations will help to improve the everyday lifestyle for many of my clients.  I see this as the most applicable part of my journey.  As more people are educating themselves about illnesses and diseases they have acquired, I am helping them on the flip side, to a healthier, more fulfilling and enjoyable life.

My journey in this industry has been great and I look forward to seeing where it leads me in the future.

be well-

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Big Gulp…no more?

Michael Bloomberg, mayor of New York City, has made some bold moves to change the health of NYC.  He has banned trans fats to be used in restaurants, banned smoking in public parks and now, limiting the size of sugary drinks.

I am not here to share my opinion about government having the right to say how much is too much or whether they should limit sizes of beverages.  I am here to share what drinking sugary drinks does to one’s health.

The topic of soda and sugary drinks has been a hot debated topic.  Obesity runs rapid in our country.  Nearly 2/3 of Americans are either overweight or obese.  This is a serious and costly epidemic.

In a study done at the Harvard School of Public Health they found those who drink a large number of sugary drinks and are genetically disposed toward obesity are at greater risk of weight gain from their consumption of those drinks.  Researchers at Children’s Hospital in Boston randomly assigned 224 overweight or obese teenagers to receive home deliveries of bottled water and diet drinks for one year. The children also were regularly encouraged to avoid sugary drinks. Those who received the shipments gained only 3.5 pounds on average during that year, while a comparison group of similar teenagers gained 7.7 pounds.  In another study, researchers at VU University in Amsterdam randomly assigned 641 normal-weight schoolchildren ages 4 to 11 to drink eight ounces of a 104-calorie sugar-sweetened or noncaloric sugar-free fruit-flavored drink every day from identical cans. Over 18 months, children in the sugar-free group gained 13.9 pounds on average, while those drinking the sugar-added version gained 16.2 pounds.

“So many things are driving obesity that changing any one thing is not going to reverse the problem, but these studies suggest soda is a pretty darn good place to start,” said Kelly Brownell, director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale.

One decision we make leads to many others.  By limiting the amount or size of sugary drinks will help lead to other healthier choices in our life.

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The President’s Challenge

Some people are born with natural talent or gifts in music, reading/writing, comedy, public speaking, or languages.  From the time I could walk and hold a ball in my hand, athletics and movement seemed very natural to me.  I spent a lot of time playing one on one basketball with my brother (which he kicked my @ss most of the time).  At school I raced the 50 yard dash against the boys during recess.  I played jump rope with the girls.  As a freshman in high school I remember one of our gym teachers telling me that I smoked all of the senior girls in the Presidential Fitness Challenge based off my results.  He was a little shocked because we had such great athletes in our community.

Most dreaded those few days where we did as many push ups, pull-ups, the sit and reach, the mile run and shuttle run.  It brought joy to a few kids but hatred to most others.  The challenge had been scored so that peers were scored against each other.  This put 50% of the kids at a disadvantage right away.  Now that we know more about health and wellness, and as a country we are trying to keep the epidemic of childhood obesity from growing, a new protocol has been established.  The Presidential Youth Fitness Program will encourage kids to be active and healthy for life.  This measures one’s overall health and avoid physical performance only.  The assessment measures health-related fitness through a variety of items designed to assess aerobic capacity, muscle strength, muscular endurance, flexibility, and body composition. Each score is evaluated using theHealthy Fitness Zone® standards.

Although many kids learn about health and wellness at school, it is also up to parents and caretakers to lead by example.  Eat healthy, exercise/play on a regular basis, get plenty of sleep.  This will help keep our youth on track to living a healthy life.

For more information on The Presidential Youth Fitness Program: http://www.presidentialyouthfitnessprogram.org/index.shtml

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TWLOHA

Disclaimer: This post deals with a very serious and emotional subject; mental health/suicide awareness.  I understand if you choose to discontinue reading.  My hope is that at some point you will come back and read when you are ready.

Several years ago I was introduced to an organization called To Write Love on Her Arms.  This introduction was a fluke at the time, and to show my support one weekend, I wrote in black marker what you see in the picture above.  In the very near future, that word will become more permanent. TWLOHA is an organization that brings hope and awareness to those struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide.  It is estimated that nearly 19 million people in the United States live with depression.  The third leading cause of death to 15-24 year olds is suicide.  Suicide rates have increased by 60 percent in the last 45 years.  That is why TWLOHA travels around the country and world to bring awareness to high school and college campuses.  Bringing these issues to the masses, letting them know there is help.

Facts from TWLOHA:

Quick Numbers

121 million people worldwide suffer from depression. (World Health Organization)  18 million of these cases are happening in the United States. (The National Institute of Mental Health) Between 20% and 50% of children and teens struggling with depression have a family history of this struggle and the offspring of depressed parents are more than three times as likely to suffer from depression. (U.S. Surgeon General’s Survey, 1999) Depression often co-occurs with anxiety disorders and substance abuse, with 30% of teens with depression also developing a substance abuse problem. (NIMH)  2/3 of those suffering from depression never seek treatment. Untreated depression is the number one cause of suicide, and suicide is the third leading cause of death among teenagers. (NIMH)

About Depression

According to the World Health Organization, depression is one of the leading causes of disability, with approximately 121 million people suffering with depression worldwide. The National Institute of Mental Health states that approximately 18 million people suffer from depression in America alone. Depression does not discriminate across age, race, gender, or class. Among teenagers it is estimated that 20 percent will suffer from depression at some point by the time they reach adulthood. There are also as many as 8.3 percent of teens suffering from depression for at least a year at a time, compared to 5.3 percent of the general population.

About Addiction

The stigma associated with addiction is one of the greatest challenges to recovery. Each year only 10 percent of Americans who need alcohol and drug treatment get the help they need. Yet with treatment and support, people with addiction can lead productive lives.

About Self-Injury

While not always the case, often untreated depression and other struggles lead to unhealthy ways in which we try to deal with the hurt and pain we are feeling. We try to find anything that we can do to take away the hurt, painful feelings, or negative thoughts we are experiencing. Often the things that we turn to seem to help at first, appearing to provide some of the relief that we need so badly. But, even though they may seem like they help, often they are unhealthy themselves, eventually becoming even greater struggles like addictions such as drugs, alcohol, eating disorders, or self-injury.

 It can be defined as the deliberate, repetitive, impulsive, non-lethal harming of one’s self, including but not limited to;

  • cutting
  • burning
  • picking or interfering with wound healing
  • infecting oneself
  • punching/hitting self or objects
  • inserting objects in to skin
  • bruising or breaking bones and
  • some forms of hair pulling

About Suicide

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that each year approximately one million people die from suicide, which represents a global mortality rate of 16 people per 100,000 or one death every 40 seconds. It is predicted that by 2020 the rate of death will increase to one every 20 seconds.

In the last 45 years suicide rates have increased by 60% worldwide. Suicide is now among the three leading causes of death among those aged 15-44 (male and female). Suicide attempts are twenty times more frequent than completed suicides.

Although suicide rates have traditionally been highest amongst elderly males, rates among young people have been increasing to such an extent that they are now the group at highest risk in a third of all countries.

Mental health disorders (particularly depression and substance abuse) are associated with more than 90% of all cases of suicide.

Suicide results from many complex sociocultural factors and is more likely to occur during periods of socioeconomic, family and individual crisis (e.g. loss of a loved one, unemployment, struggling with sexual orientation, difficulties with developing one’s identity, dissociation from one’s community or other social/belief group).

I am a supporter of TWLOHA because I have been affected by depression and suicide, seeing friends and family struggle.  I also work closely with teenagers whom battle alcohol and substance abuse addiction.  Organizations such as them bring hope, strength, opportunity and possibility.

For more information on TWLOHA or other events going on during Suicide Prevention Week, check out: www.twloha.com

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Ready, Willing and Able

Tuesday evening when I got home I was excited to see a package that I was anxiously waiting for arrived.  There was a shirt inside that brought goosebumps to my skin.  Seeing this shirt sparked inspiration for today’s post.  I took to Facebook and asked others “What inspires you?”

The list was long and very heart-felt.  Many friends said they were inspired by their pets, music, love of art, being surrounded by nature.    I too, am inspired by each of these.  Nearly everyone that replied to my post or I have spoken to in person has also had one common inspiration, other people.  Most notably, those with disabilities or difficulties in life.  I thought this was perfect!  Exactly what I was looking for.

How does this tie in with the shirt you may ask.  Well, this is no ordinary shirt that I got from the internet.  This shirt has true meaning to the word Inspiration.  A friend of mine that I have known since middle school, if not earlier, will be taking part in IronMan Wisconsin this Sunday.  As many of us know, this grueling race consists of a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and  a26.2 mile run.  My friend will have his buddy at his side the whole time, literally.  My friend is taking part in this race as a guide to a visually impaired person.  They will be connected for the entire race.  So this shirt I speak of, is a shirt in support of their friendship, their commitment to complete this race and inspiration that one day, the category “physically challenged” will be extinct.

While I compete in a sprint triathlon here in Massachusetts on Sunday, I will proudly be wearing this shirt during the ride and run portions of my race to show support of my friend in my home state.  I look forward to following bib #101 as the day goes on to see their tremendous success.

If you are ready, willing and able, why not Inspire others…

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