Post Covid-19 Refocus on Health and Wellness

Author: Vanessa Warren

As Australasia begins to re-emerge from weeks in lockdown, the inevitable Covid-19 weight gain becomes more apparent! People have had time to reassess their health and life during lockdown, and what we have seen in New Zealand so far, is a real focus on health, fitness and dealing with weight issues. We were also told those with underlying health conditions such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension and obesity were more susceptible to becoming extremely unwell, or potentially dying if they contracted Covid-19. This has been a wakeup call for many about their health and activity levels. 

I feel there has also been a shift for people working as fitness professionals. How tight your booty is or taking the perfect selfie seems super indulgent and so not important after what the world has been going through in the last few months. For fit pros it has been a huge reminder of why we wanted to work in this industry in the first place – to help people, and it has confirmed that fact for many of us. And now, more than ever, health is at the forefront of people’s minds, and how they can achieve this. For me personally, I value connection even more now than I did before with my work. The connection with our clients, and helping them be fit, healthy, active and well is so important, and really much easier in person! 

As fitness professionals we have a responsibility to lead the way and help our clients not only survive this current crisis, but to thrive. Without our health we have nothing. Which brings me to the course I created, aimed at helping people with significant health and physical issues due to being obese – ‘Training the Bigger Client – from Obesity through to Bariatrics’.

I created this course for fitness professionals for 2 reasons.

Number One Reason – After working in the fitness industry in various roles for 30 years, there is no clear instruction on how to work with clients who are bigger or obese. There are general guidelines, but nothing specifically taught on any personal training certification course. What I have seen trainers doing to their bigger clients over the years has made me cringe. Burpees, plyometrics, box jumps and running when someone is 130kgs and heavier is just frightening and to honest, incredibly dangerous. But it is not up to the client to question the knowledge of the fitness professional. There is an assumption that we know what is safe and appropriate! Hopefully this course provides some education for fitness professionals wanting to help their bigger clients as much as possible.

Number Two Reason – We have an awesomely massive responsibility and the chance to make a huge impact on the lives of people struggling on a daily basis with their weight, health, physical limitations and mental health due to their weight. We can help someone live!! Outside of the medical profession, we are the only other profession with this much influence on healthy living and exercise – so we need to make sure what we are prescribing is effective, maintainable, safe, and fun! Our role is to educate, support, guide, coach, encourage, empower, and motivate our amazing clients. Remember, it’s their journey, not ours. We are merely along for the ride 😊

I also feel a degree of frustration at the role the fitness industry COULD and SHOULD be playing in combatting the global obesity epidemic, but aren’t. There is way too much focus on image and appearance (in part due to the rise of social media), and less about health outcomes. Where there is extreme obesity, we have to help people heal from the inside out. No one gets to the extreme levels of obesity which are now commonplace, overnight. The next generation is going to suffer for this and will die before their parents from obesity related diseases without lifestyle intervention. Each generation is getting fatter and unhealthier earlier than the previous generation. And that scares the shit out of me. The burden of health care, mental health, social and economic consequences are also mind boggling, and are only going to get worse. Skinny and thin should not be the aim when working with our bigger clients – let’s keep it realistic. Health, happiness, fitness, movement, activity, participation, living, strength, social health, less mental health consequences and balance MUST be the goal.

I use the word ‘Bigger’ to describe these particular group of clients because there is so much focus on numbers on the scales, BMI, bodyfat, and all the other ways of ‘measuring’ people. I don’t want them to be defined or limited by a number. And when talking about obesity, there is always a number or a measure! ‘Bigger’ can also relate to how people ‘feel’ in their body. They may only be 10kgs above ‘normal’ weight, but for them they might feel big within themselves. The word ‘Bigger’ covers a multitude of body types too – it doesn’t label someone quite that way as calling someone fat, overweight or obese does. I don’t use the word bigger to be politically correct… I use it to not make a client feel worse about themselves, and labels have a habit of doing that! 

How you can help your bigger clients –

Be cautious when beginning to train a bigger client. It’s far easier to increase intensity when you have a better idea of their limitations, but incredibly difficult to regain their trust and confidence if you have pushed them too hard initially or hurt them. Be aware of all the other factors that may be at play – anxiety, fear, embarrassment, worrying about other people watching or commenting. You want them to come back for their next session! Remember these hints and you can’t go wrong –

  • Never judge. You do not know how they feel – physically, mentally, emotionally. If you’re not sure about something, ask them.
  • Listen – if you ask a question, make sure you listen to their response!
  • Have empathy. Enough said….
  • Teach them to advocate for themselves – for their health and their body.

These topics and more are covered in my course –

  • Fat shaming within the fitness industry
  • Eat less move more?
  • The business of training big
  • Scope of practise
  • 3 aspects of working with the bigger client – HPP
  • The role of behaviour modification
  • Barriers to adherence 
  • Bariatrics (weight loss surgery)
  • Bariatrics and Exercise – what you need to know
  • Safe effective exercises for training bigger clients

And to finish up, a little bit about me….

I’ve been in the fitness industry for the past 30 years as personal trainer, and many other roles. (Group fitness, small group trainer, personal training tutor and mentor). I have also been working as a bariatric exercise specialist for the past 13 years, and created the exercise and wellness programs used by many bariatric clients and weight loss clinics. I presented this topic at Fitex (NZ Fitness Conference) in 2019, and I continue to be super excited to help fit pros pass this learning on to their clients. I am so passionate about helping people live their best lives, and overcoming the obstacles that have caused weight, health and physical issues.

Link to the course – Click here

You can also listen to the podcast where I have a chat with Jono and Travis about this topic and what is covered in the course on the Fitness Education Online Podcast – The Bootcamp Blueprint – Click here

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Vanessa Warren

Vanessa Warren (TWC Wellness Consultant) is a leading Health, Wellness and Activity specialist. She is the premiere Bariatric Exercise Specialist in Australasia currently located in New Zealand, and has spent the past 13 years working exclusively with hundreds of people who have had bariatric weight loss surgery. She has combined her vast experience and knowledge of 30 years working in the health and fitness industry, and has created the TWC Bariatric Programmes covering all stages of the weight loss journey from the pre-surgery phase through to 12 months plus post-surgery.

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