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Become the Leader Your Clients Need and Want BY “Dr. Evan Osar”


I have had so many ideas to write for my next blog, but i did not blog them in fear it may be perceived as angry. Most of my personal frustrations have been me observing how our fitness industry is becoming more generic these past years. I fell in love with this article. I hope you all find it just an interesting as I did.

Dr. Evan Osar has a 20-year background in fitness and experience as a chiropractic physician that works with the pre and post-rehabilitation, pre and post-natal, baby boomer, and senior populations. He is the creator of over a dozen resources including the highly acclaimed The Corrective Exercise Approach to Common Hip and Shoulder Dysfunction. He is a regular presenter at fitness conventions and is the developer of the Integrative Movement Specialist™ certification. See his webiste for more information.

‘The aim of education should be to teach us rather how to think, than what to think – rather to improve our minds, so as to enable us to think for ourselves…’
John Dewey on Education

Unlike my previous articles, this article will not discuss ways to improve scapular stabilization to diminish neck and shoulder discomfort, stimulate better gluteal muscle activation to improve lower extremity force production, or cue more efficient posture to reduce chronic trigger points. However, the content of this article is every bit as important and perhaps even more important than any of these previous topics. For as far as we have come as a profession, there seems to be an alarming trend towards moving in the opposite direction of our vitally important role as coaches, mentors, and teachers. In this article, I am going to encourage, perhaps implore you to reverse this trend and become the leaders that your industry and most importantly, your clients need, want, and will pay for.

We have a major health problem in the United States. While politicians spend their time debating about health care, no one seems to be discussing the much larger problem we have in this country. Consider, the following statistics:

• $849 billion or 7.7% of this country’s gross domestic product is spent on direct and indirect costs related to musculoskeletal pain with the majority of this money spent on spine and joint related problems.
• $300 billion are spent every year on prescription medication and another $532 million are spent on over-the-counter medication. The majority of this medication is used to treat symptoms related to results of poor movement patterns (pain medications and anti-inflammatories) and dietary choices (high blood pressure, high blood sugar, antacids and related medications).
• Nearly two-thirds of our population is overweight, with one-third of our population being obese. Shockingly, there is a similar rate of obesity in our children. Similarly, these statistics are largely related to movement disorders (pain limiting movement or the general lack of movement) and poor dietary choices.

While some may argue that expanding health care coverage would help change these figures, they do not take into consideration the health of the individuals that are currently insured. For example, the majority of the clients and patients I see in my downtown Chicago practice are insured and on the higher end of the economic income spectrum. The majority of these individuals are on three or more medications and the rate of obesity in my population is virtually equivalent to our national averages. As I speak with my fitness professional colleagues in different regions of the country, they report similar findings in their clients. These are universal problems that cross socio-economic levels and affect every aspect of our culture.

As more individuals experience the deleterious effects of poor health – low energy, chronic muscular and joint pain, and depression – they will increasingly seek the help of professionals to help them on their journey back to health. Which profession is in the best position to be the leaders and advocates for these individuals? I would like to present the argument that there is no better profession to help these individuals on their road to improved health than the fitness profession. Why do I think that we are on the forefront of this health care revolution?

1. Entrance: Unlike many health professionals, we have direct access to individuals. We don’t need a prescription or referral from a medical professional to work with individuals. Many of us actually travel to clients place of work or home so we can help individuals by making our services more accessible and avoiding many of the common barriers of time and location as to reasons clients use for not taking control of their health.
2. Education: Because we spend time with our clients and often remain in direct communication with them via social media and the web, we are much more effective educators on movement, nutrition, and exercise. We generally see individuals on a regular basis so we can closely monitor any changes in the client’s health history and refer them off to their health or medical professional before things progress too far.
3. Empowerment: There is no better profession for motivating and empowering individuals to start and remain on a health and fitness program than the fitness industry. Most of us got into this industry because we love to help others as much as we love being physically active. By combining this passion to help and serve others with a passion for health, we are set up to be the leaders our clients need and want.

While we have been presented with this incredible opportunity to be leaders of the health care revolution, unfortunately our industry is largely moving further away from responsible training and being a solution for this pandemic with the emphasis of training methods that perpetuate training the general population like professional athletes, training general population like they are professional mixed martial arts fighters, and training the general population like they are going to apply to be a Navy Seal. Don’t get me wrong, if you are training collegiate or professional athletes or Navy Seals, than train them appropriately. However, with less than 1% of the population being a professional athlete or Navy Seal, I doubt many of us work with these individuals. As I travel and teach around the country and speak with the trainers in all types of settings, it is not surprising to find that the large majority of us are working with the general population. Unfortunately, we are taking our training paradigm and exercise programming from the industry leaders that mostly work with college or professional athletes and even celebrity trainers. This does not detract from these individual’s knowledge, expertise or experience or suggest that they don’t have any information that can benefit those of us that don’t work with the high-level individuals.

However I have a question for you to consider – would you go to a heart surgeon for advice on your ankle injury? Why not? Because you know that while a heart surgeon knows surgery and likely studied the foot briefly as a medical student, he does not spend the focused time or attention on the ankle. Then why as a profession do we clamour to the individuals training high-level individuals to get information on training the general population? Why do embrace training strategies that are actually breaking our clients down and contributing to their movement dysfunction rather than focusing on the strategies that can help us become the movement-based solution to chronic pain, joint degeneration, and obesity? There are three primary reasons I believe are at the root of this mind-set.

1. Practical application: Regardless of the level of pain or dysfunction the client is in, the large majority of individual’s presenting to the fitness professional have the goal of losing weight. And unless they get their butt kicked and are profusely sweating by the end of workout, they often fail to recognize how improving things like breathing, joint centration, and integrating these components into the fundamental movement patterns will help them accomplish their weight-loss goals.
2. Pressure: In an attempt to help clients achieve their goal – usually changing body aesthetics – many fitness professionals feel pressured to give their clients exercises or methods of training geared towards accomplishing these goals and often at the expense of exercises that would be more appropriate to the individual’s level of experience and medical history. Also many fitness professionals feel pressured to offer rapid weight loss or muscle gaining programs in the fear they will lose clients to their competition who are promising rapid results.
3. Perception: Our society tends to be swayed by bright lights and the glamour of Hollywood and professional sports. If they see their favourite celebrity saying she lost 30 pounds doing ‘Jenny’ the celebrity trainer’s workout or saw their favourite athlete just win the Superbowl and were trained ‘Jim’ the sports trainer, than they will likely want to experience similar results. They naturally conclude that they should be doing a similar type of workout not taking into consideration all the other variables that helped this celebrity or athlete accomplish their goals. And unfortunately, too many fitness professionals follow suite with their clients training these individuals at inappropriate levels without first applying the fundamental principles and having the client ‘earn the right’ to train at higher levels.

So I am challenging you as part of this profession, to develop yourself into a leader of the movement-based solution to the health care crisis and not give in to the ‘quick fixes’, fads, and endless stream of ‘over-the-top’ training strategies that seems to be bombarding our industry literature and conferences. There are three key steps that I believe are instrumental to developing yourself into a powerful leader of this health care evolution.

1. Education: I believe the greatest purpose of education is to gain perspective. Perspective gives you the opportunity to stay objective despite what you hear or read. Educate yourself so you gain perspective and remain relevant in the health and fitness industry. The fitness professionals that are voracious readers, regularly attend conferences, and network with other health and fitness professionals are the ones with the most perspective. Once you gain the necessary perspective, educate your clients. This enables you to be a powerful ally for your clients and instrumental to helping them make more informed decisions regarding their health.
2. Embrace the Principles: Develop your training system around the principles of human movement rather than industry fads or methods. While training fads and methods will inevitably come and go, the principles will always remain. There are only three principles of human movement: you must help your client’s normalize their respiratory patterns, you must help your clients centrate their joints, and you must help your clients in integration of breathing and centering their joints as they perform the fundamental movement patterns of pushing, pulling, rotating, squatting, lunging, bending, and gait. If you improve the principles in your clients, they will achieve their functional health and fitness goals whether they are to lose twenty pounds, lift their child with less pain and discomfort, or begin training for a marathon.
3. Empower: Find ways to empower your clients every single day. A kind word, pat on the back, ‘high five’, or positive email that says ‘you’re doing great’ will go far in motivating your clients on the path to positive changes. Surround yourself with individuals and clients that in turn empower and fill your bucket. Every day you will be giving so much of yourself to your clients that you must surround yourself with individuals that give back to you emotionally and spiritually. Additionally, read or listen to positive messages to keep you in the right frame of mind and focused on your mission of serving others. Find your favourites, listen or read at the start and end of your day and you will notice your mood and how you relate to people elevate as the result of this one small idea.

We are most alive and fulfilling our mission on this earth when we are in the service of others. As fitness professionals we have that privilege every single day. As Albert Schwietzer said, ‘I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: the only ones among you who will be truly happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve.’ Dedicate yourself to developing yourself mentally, emotionally, and physically. Dedicate yourself to educating yourself so you gain the perspective that all great leaders possess. Dedicate yourself to serving your clients and being the leader they need and want. If we accomplish these things, as fitness professionals we will become the leaders of the movement-based solution to the health care crisis.

See his webiste for more information.

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