In most group exercise workshops I deliver for both land and water, a familiar question is asked. Initially, when I was first asked about how to deal with people with varying health issues in my classes, I would systematically respond to each health issue. The usual response was to make sure that the individual with the health concern, follows the recommendations of their health care provider and then provide them with modifications during the workout. In fact, when I reflect over the years of those responses, there were many modifications – for heart issues, joint pain, postural challenges, various different forms of cancers and other debilitating diseases. This was particularly evident in water based workshops, as often there are more people with health related issues drawn to exercising in water.
Away from the workshops, I approached my classes very differently and only recently realised this. There was an incongruence between my responses in workshops and what I actually did in my own classes! The penny finally dropped.
What was my realisation? I did not see the illness in my participants, but instead their wellness. I would show up at each class with the expectation to see and exercise with healthy people, or people who wanted to be healthy. When I looked at my participants faces, I would see anticipation of the workout and experience to come. Their eyes would light up and I could sense physical eagerness. That would not always be 100% of the time, there were times when it appeared that my participants was waiting for the energy burst that would motivate them to move. Having said that, they had the impetus to get ready, drive to the venue and show up. That takes effort and acknowledging this, I knew that they were already motivated to be there. This is a clear demonstration of wellness. The desire to physically move and participate.
What I realised was the endless questions about what to do with ‘this’ issue and ‘that’ health concern meant that we were looking for the illness or lack of wellness, rather than what could be achieved. According to the World Health Organisation wellness is defined as “…a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” And the National Wellness Institute, “a conscious, self-directed and evolving process of achieving full potential.”
Since we are fitness professionals, our role is to assist with helping people achieve their full potential. I am not suggesting that we ignore clients limitations, but instead to focus on the ‘can’ rather than the ‘can’t’. No one person can heal another individual, that is up to the individual to realise this for themselves, but we can certainly be part of the hope and ambition that everyone innately desires to achieve optimal wellness.