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Why Exercise When You Have Cancer?

Exercise is important for everyone even individuals who have cancer. It is important to understand your body and know what you can do. An Exercise Specialist can help you to figure out an exercise plan that works for you. Everyone is unique and therefore needs an individualized exercise program.

It is important to notify your Exercise Specialist when you have treatments. The exercise program may need to be modified for a few days after treatment. Modification is important to help preserve energy and wellbeing. You may need to do two sets of an exercise instead of three for a training session or two. Exercise can help you to stay strong and relieve stress even if you are only able to do twenty minutes every other day.

There are also some precautions to take. While exercising, you may want to wear gloves. Wearing gloves helps you to keep your hands clean during workouts. This is important because the immune system is already weakened. Wiping equipment before use will also help you to be as clean as possible. It is important to wipe mats and dumbbells as well.

caruso1Start your exercise program slowly and progress when you are ready. Fitness is an individual journey and everyone starts at a different place. It is important to not compare yourself to others and keep focused on your goals. Your exercise prescription will depend on which phase of cancer you are in.

There are many ways that exercise can benefit individuals during treatment such as: maintaining your physical capabilities, lessen nausea, maintaining independence, improve quality of life, control weight, decrease anxiety and depression, and improve self-esteem.

When you are recovering from treatment you may notice that the side effects linger. Your Exercise Specialist will adjust your program according to how you feel. Eventually, you will be able to progress and feel less fatigued. It is important, however, to continue to be active after treatments have been discontinued. Research shows that there is less chance of cancer recurrence in active individuals.


Robyn Caruso is the Founder of The Stress Management Institute for Health and Fitness Professionals. She has 15 years of experience in medical based fitness. Contact Robyn by email at: tsmi.caruso@aol.com

 

References

American Cancer Society (2014). Physical Activity and the Cancer Patient. Retrieved http://www.cancer.org/treatment/survivorshipduringandaftertreatment/stayingactive/physical-activity-and-the-cancer-patient

Web MD (2007). Exercise for Cancer Patients: Fitness After Treatment. Retrieved http://www.webmd.com/cancer/features/exercise-cancer-patients?page=3

 

Exercise: A Must for Both MS Patients to Partake In and Healthcare Providers to Promote

Exercise is an essential component of the Multiple Sclerosis patient’s treatment plan. Unfortunately, until the 1990s, exercise was highly regarded as contraindicated to MS patients. In 1993, the first medicine was approved by the FDA for MS and in 1996; the first research showing the benefits of exercise was published by the University of Utah. These were two major breakthroughs which have given hope to a population consisting of the most common disabling neurological disease of young adults (most common onset between ages 20 and 50).

Multiple Sclerosis is a neuroinflammatory autoimmune disease of the central nervous system (CNS), consisting of the brain, spinal cord and optic nerve.  The immune system attacks the myelin sheath of the nerves which insulates, protects as well as affects the signal speed from the CNS to the affected body part. Presentation of initial symptom of MS include optic nerve inflammation, poor balance (ataxia), dizziness (vertigo), weakness, double vision (diplopia), bladder/bowel dysfunction, pain, sensory loss, cognitive impairment, fatigue (most common) and a host of others including but not limited to gait impairment, depression,  tremors, thermoregulatory dysfunction (autonomic) and spasticity. Because many symptoms are invisible (not outwardly visible), most notably fatigue, pain and cognitive impairment, they can affect confidence, relationships, and discourage patients from seeking treatment or help.

Currently, with more than 16 FDA approved disease modifying treatments, as well as exercise being greatly encouraged by health care providers treating MS, the face of MS is changing for the better. While exercise will not change the course of the disease progression, both aerobic and anaerobic conditioning have greatly helped reduce secondary and tertiary symptoms such as falls, injuries, anxiety/depression, impaired activities of daily living (secondary) and increase self-esteem, and independence while reducing social isolation and family disruption (tertiary).

The benefits of a safe, progressive/adaptive exercise program are improved overall fitness, ability to perform activities of daily living, moods, sense of well-being, strength while decreasing spasticity, fatigue and may prevent a host of co-morbidities. Because MS patients may be less mobile and underweight/overweight, coupled with the possibility of side effects from the use of corticosteroids, it increases the likelihood of developing conditions such as osteoporosis and diabetes mellitus. This is an even a greater reason those affected with MS should work with professionals who understand the disease.

Although many patients are still hesitant to begin an exercise program because of fear of exacerbating their condition, lack of confidence or inability to find professionals skilled to work with them, now is the best time in the history of MS treatment for both patients and professionals to be on the same page. Exercise no longer has to be an activity of an MS patient’s past. It is simply a must of the present and future.


Jeffrey Segal, owner and chief operator of Balanced Personal Training, Inc., since 2004 is a personal trainer, motivational speaker and educator who has been working in the fitness industry for over 20 years. 

At the age of 25, Jeff was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. He was told fitness was not going to be part of his future as an activity. Within a couple of years, Jeff was unable to walk, was visually impaired and barely able to speak.  Rather than succumb to his prognosis, he fought for the life he once knew while burying his head in research. Within a year, not only could he walk, see and speak but he used his knowledge, skills and abilities to physically train others in both sickness and in health with an emphasis on Multiple Sclerosis patients. 

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The Fitness Lifestyle & the Path to Healthy Aging

Technology really has changed our lives for the better – and for the worse. The implications of our emerging and overwhelmingly sedentary lifestyle are now only beginning to become apparent to us as we see the obesity crisis emerging as the first “real” medical and health emergency of our time. The long term consequences of this evolving – and expanding – process will be a challenge that we will ALL be affected by on some level in the years ahead. Diminished life expectancy and quality of life, the increasing numbers of people who will suffer from a wide variety of preventable chronic diseases, and finally, the premature loss of life WILL be significant if we can’t find a “way out” of this complex predicament.

Being physically active was always a part of our societal makeup in the first two hundred years of our history due to the nature of work and the lives we had to lead just trying to survive in a world without conveniences and support networks that eventually came into being in the second half of the 20th century. In the last twenty years of my lifetime, the world has turned into the “sitting of America”. What are the underlying problems we will be facing and how can we address them in order to effectively solve them? That is the question, isn’t it? The answers will emerge over time in the “dialogue” that WILL eventually occur among the parties that CAN help bring about permanent and positive change to people’s lives. Part of the answer lies with each of us in the fitness profession. We MUST define for ourselves how to “translate” what we love into “doable” solutions for those we train and teach. We have to become the change “we wish to see in the world” – one person at a time.

Discussion

The world is complicated by different and opposing points of view. The “post Bush years” have shown us conflict and anger on levels never before seen in our political discourse. We now call it “gridlock” and throw up our hands at the very mention of healthcare and reform. The truth is that approximately 80 million people born into the “baby boomer” generation will be reaching 60 years of age (including my daughter who was born in 1971) in the two decades ahead.

I see the need to have community based “conversations” about the delivery of healthcare to people and how to make it affordable and accessible – and most importantly – understandable. I became a personal trainer in 1990 with my first client and during the period of 1988 to 2011 I did NOT have health insurance because I couldn’t afford it due to the nature of my uncertain and fluctuating income – AND the cost for coverage for those over forty.

I never made a “comfortable” living as a trainer because I was always struggling to build my client base, which as we all know, tends to expand and shrink depending upon a wide range of variables including the state of the economy (and jobs), people’s motivation to hire a trainer, personal finances, and other related challenges. I was in my mid forties by the time I transitioned to the fitness profession and was already “old” and a part of the higher risk age groups that tend to pay significant percentages of their income to cover their health insurance costs. I am NOT informed – even today – as to what I will do in the future regarding this issue even though I now have Medicare and a companion program through Blue Shield to help cover me in the event something unexpected happens to me.  I am now covered by health insurance and relatively well informed on health and fitness issues and that still DOES NOT qualify me to be a primary resource for solving this problem. However, I WILL make it my business to be a “part of the solution” and this time I am counting on the fitness profession to NOT be an “afterthought” in the discussion! How does that sound to you? It will take, as Hilary Clinton said a while ago in one of her books, “a village” to tackle this massive challenge.

Conclusion

In my book, I describe (what I BELIEVE will work) a concept whereby we bring the “major players” to the table in order to “seize the moment” and save lives in the process. First, we ALL have to agree that it is NOT OK to just “let people die” because they lack health insurance. Second, we have to agree that prevention means MORE than “testing” for diseases and that learning to make better choices (and establishing new priorities) in our daily lives, becoming conscious of our challenges, and FINALLY taking responsibility for all of them is CRITICAL. Third, we have to understand the MAIN ISSUE to be handled WILL be about MONEY (and how to pay for medical services) and we will have to always remember that lives will be at stake with whatever we decide. Fourth, it will take a “cooperative effort” on all our parts – and compromise – among the major “players” (the insurance industry, medical profession, government at ALL levels, the pharmaceutical industry, business and corporate America, health related non-profit agencies, and finally, each of us in our own communities) to decide what it is we are going to do “to fix the system” so that it works for ALL of us – not just a few of us.

My health insurance program over the past 45 years has been my exercise, fitness, and running program – even when I was covered at work during my corporate years. In the intervening years from college to the present time, I have NEVER been in the “system” because I stayed healthy. I am the EXCEPTION – not the rule. What do we DO with all the aging people who aren’t like us – or me – when the time comes to treat them for “whatever ails them”? This is the BIG question we will be facing in the years ahead as we age and I AM betting on my approach with HEALTHY AGING as being one of the KEY components of the solution! Will YOU commit yourself to this journey with me today? NOW is the time and THIS is the place! We ARE the ones who truly CAN make a difference – and save lives in the process!

Reprinted with permission from Nicholas Prukop.


Nicholas Prukop is an ACE Certified Personal Trainer & a Health Coach and fitness professional with over 25 years of experience. His passion for health and fitness comes from his boyhood in Hawaii, where he grew up a swimmer on Maui. He found his calling in writing his first book “Healthy Aging & You: Your Journey to Becoming Happy, Healthy & Fit” and since then he has dedicated himself to empowering, inspiring and enabling people of all ages to reach for the best that is within them and become who they are meant to be – happy, healthy and fit – and be a part of a world where each person can contribute their own unique gifts to life.

Senior woman exercising with trainer

An Intro to Chronic Conditions for the Fitness Professional

With the future of health being unknown, one thing is known — that Americans are living longer and with age often comes a chronic condition. Living with a chronic disease/condition is often an exhausting and frustrating ordeal.  Too often the person may feel burdened and burned out! When the stress of pain and fatigue, coupled with normal life stresses, the client may feel overwhelmed. When the client is overwhelmed, they often don’t take care of themselves and that only contributes to more fatigue and pain.  Just a few weeks of neglecting themselves can contribute to further disability.  What is the goal of the fitness professional – be positive and supportive and don’t contribute to making they condition worst.

The 3 E’s of Fitness Therapy

Your job as a fitness therapist is the 3 E’s: Educate, Empower and Encourage.

Educate yourself and client about their condition and effects their medications may have on exercise performance. Stay abreast of corrective exercise research. Knowledge is power!

Empower clients to be their own best advocate and to take control of their life not become a victim of their condition. Empower them to take the “dis” out of disability.

Encourage clients about ways to be the best they can be. Think of all methods to foster healthy lifestyles, provide hope and set realistic attainable goals

The purpose of this article is that knowledge is power, and the more you know about a condition, the more you will be an equal partner on your client’s health care team. Not every application is perfect for every client. Always stay alert that what is accepted as a “norm” today can change tomorrow with new research. That is why it is strongly encouraged that your client discuss their fitness plan with their medical professionals. You are not expected to know everything, but you are expected to know when to seek advice!

The Fitness Therapist is first and foremost an educator of the psychomotor domain.

Do NO Harm!

Sometimes clients with a chronic condition will be afraid to embark on an exercise program in fear that it will cause them injury or more pain. They may know intellectually that they should, but the apprehension about what might occur can be paralyzing.  They might tell you I know how I feel now and if I feel worst I might not be able to work or take care of my family.  Your first and foremost job as a fitness therapist is to DO NO harm and NOT make matters worse.  This is why having the client get prior approval and recommendations from their health professional can go a long way in motivating the client. In order to overcome a chronic condition, ask your clients to re-define their paradigm and focus on what they can do rather than what they cannot do! Ask them to think about the benefits of your successes.

Unfortunately, many people with a chronic condition are fearful that exercise may aggravate their condition, so they play it safe and do nothing. Too many people give up on an exercise program long before they experience the benefits of what regular exercise can provide. Be sensitive to your client’s concerns. Never minimize their condition, by saying, “You do not have it so bad I have a friend with ______ and she is doing fine.” What might be a small issue to one person could be a major issue to another. Always start the person where they are at and progress with care from there.

Very often improved fitness empowers the person with a chronic condition to live a richer and fuller life. Ask the client to decide what they want as an end goal of their exercise program and then design the program with small attainable steps to match their goals and abilities. Too often when a person with a chronic condition has lost control of their lives, everybody is telling them what medications to take, what to do and not do. Remind the client that they are the Captain of their wellness ship. You, their doctor and their family can be cheerleaders but they are the Captain.

As their personal trainer, do your best to make their body the best it can be. Never make promises that your program will cure them. Stay alert that many chronic conditions will ebb and flow with periods of exacerbations and remissions. While study after study supports that exercise, when done properly and prudently, produces good outcomes, exercise is never a replacement for medical care.

Regular exercise is therapy for the mind and body.

Some experts project that soon the integration of health care, fitness and wellness will intersect. The anticipated model of wellness and healthcare foresee the role of medicine will be to heal and fitness/wellness to restore health and vitality to those who participate in pro-active lifestyle.

Working definition of Wellness includes attention to the mind, body and spirit.

Today, doctors understand the importance of both passive therapies and rehabilitative exercise. While medical science continues to make great advances in surgical and pharmacologic treatments, exercise physiologists are also proving that simple interventions, such as proper body mechanics and corrective exercise, can play a significant role in decreasing the incidence and severity of orthopedic conditions and other chronic conditions. One of the goals of fitness therapy is to maximize the potential for full function and minimize the chance of re-injury.

Keep in mind that not every exercise is correct for every person or every condition. Depending upon diagnosis, certain movements will not be best for your client. Every program for a person with a chronic condition should be individualized and adapted as needed.

One size does NOT fit all in Fitness Therapy. The cookie cutter approach has no place in fitness therapy! Make the corrective exercise session a positive experience so the client will want to continue to make fitness an important aspect of their treatment plan.

It is important to stay mindful that “Recovery” of a condition may take weeks or even months depending upon the diagnosis or severity of the problem. Also, in the case of some chronic conditions, maintaining is all that can be hoped for. Slow and steady is the best approach. Progressing too quickly will only set the person up for re-injury. As the client embarks on the recovery process, you need to encourage clients to be their own health advocate and wellness trainer.

Exercise: The Miracle Cure All?

It can:

  • reduce cardiac mortality by 30%
  • improve self-image
  • reduce prostate cancer progression by 50%
  • assist in decreasing hypertension
  • reduce the risk of type-2 diabetes by greater than 50 %
  • reduce bowel cancer by 45%.

For more information see aomrc.org.uk/publications/reports.

Some General Guidelines for Working with Clients with Chronic Conditions

The world of health and fitness is a complex one. Lack of exercise contributes to diabetes, high blood pressure and other assorted sedentary health concerns, but too much exercise causes overstress and injury to joints and muscles. While exercise can make us feel good, too much can bring on pain and soreness. The answer is to train smart. If a client is hurting, let them know it is OK to back off.

  1. Consider asking the client to consult their health professional for suggestions regarding exercise and their condition. The information given by their health professional supersedes the information in any textbook, because the health professional is familiar with their unique situation.
  2. Perform their exercise program when they are having the least amount of pain/discomfort. Teach the client to listen to your body and heed what it says. Keep in mind the 2-hour rule; if the client hurts more 2 hours post-exercise, back off until they are pain-free, but don’t quit. Avoid any activity that aggravates your client’s condition. If they say, “I am fatigued”, don’t force one more repetition.  If they say, after a workout, “I hurt!” Back off!
  3. Never allow the client to mask pain with pills or lotions. Pain is the body’s way of informing them that something is going on inside. To prevent a re-injury or unnecessary pain, execute motions in a pain-free range of motion with proper form. If you suspect a re-injury, ask them to schedule an appointment with their doctor. If you suspect the person is abusing pain medications, seek advice. The client is more important than any exercise program!
  4. Encourage them to carry ID and medical information with them to sessions.
  5. Always teach and ideal proper posture and proper body mechanics in all movements when possible given their health status.

Exercise Do’s And Don’ts for Your Clients

  • DO carry identification when you exercise.
  • DO check heart rate before, during, and after exercise.
  • DO listen to your body, if it hurts, STOP!
  • Do prepare the body for movement and stretch and relax after a session.
  • DO drink plenty of water before, during, and after each exercise session.
  • DO consider solitary versus social aspects of your chosen program.
  • Do teach mindfulness when exercising.
  • DON’T bounce when stretching, and stop a stretch if it hurts.
  • DONT squeeze a week’s worth of exercise into one day.
  • DON’T overestimate your client’s capacity to exercise. However, DON’T underestimate it either. Remind the client that the body is designed for movement, but let it adapt slowly and gradually.
  • DON’T allow the person to hold their breath during exercise.
  • DON’T allow the person to go directly into a sauna, hot whirlpool (Jacuzzi), or steam bath after exercising.
  • DON’T use perspiration (sweating) as an indication of how good (or bad) your workout is: we all perspire at different rates and in different amounts.

Reprinted with permission from Karl Knopf.


Karl Knopf, Ed.D, was the Director of The Fitness Therapy Program at Foothill College for almost 40 years. He has worked in almost every aspect of the industry from personal trainer and therapist to consultant to major Universities such as Stanford, Univ. of North Carolina, and the Univ. of California well as the State of California and numerous professional organizations. Dr. Knopf was the President and Founder of Fitness Educators Of Older Adults for 15 years. Currently, he is the director of ISSA’s Fitness Therapy and Senior Fitness Programs and writer. Dr. Knopf has authored numerous articles, and written more than 17 books including topics on Water Exercise, Weights for 50 Plus to Fitness Therapy.

 

Reference:

Arthritis Today Sept/Oct 2015

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Do Vacations Change You for Good?

Did you ever think after your vacation you’d come back a transformed person?

lori-michiel-vacationWhen my husband and I returned home from our vacation last month, I noticed, other than the obvious feelings of content and relaxation, my clothes felt looser and I felt recharged. No challenge was too big. A bit grandiose, I know.  However, it was short-lived, except I kept the weight off, and refrained from consuming caffeine and sugar. Around the time I had finished three loads of wash, I felt practically back to normal. Time fades. I still felt reinvigorated, but the shift towards normalcy was advancing.

Vacations are supposed to be about creating balance in our lives. Who am I, what is my purpose and why do I do what I do? I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but at 61, I have more than I did at 16. I know that a timeout and real rest is healthy for the soul. It is not so important whether you take a trip or not, as long as there is some form of escape.

In the meantime, I plan to seek some form of meditation I can stay committed to (no luck so far). I have returned to work, continue to read my business journals, and create fun and educational videos for my friends and clients. I am doing the best job I can.  So for now, since none of my favorite TV shows are on, I may even pick up another novel to read.

Prepare yourself for the things that matter and have fun when you can.

Reprinted with permission from Lori Michiel. Read more from Lori at her website, lorimichielfitness.com


Lori Michiel NASM-CPT is the owner of Lori Michiel Fitness. She is a trainer, teacher and passionate advocate for fitness. I specialize in helping active adults and seniors fulfill their physical potential and experience the joy of being healthier and more active in their lives.

 

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The Feet: The Body’s Foundation

The feet are one of the most overused and taken for granted parts of the body. Since the feet are the foundation for the rest of the body, it would only be logical to begin developing strong, aligned, and full functioning feet from the start when developing a personalized fitness program. The feet should be a priority for developing sound fitness education in order to prevent injuries. Most fitness and sport injuries usually involve the feet. Even when the injury is to the knee, hip or back it can usually be traced back to a misaligned foot pattern.

In the fitness and wellness world there is hardly ever a designated focus on the feet. Since the feet are involved in almost all fitness activities it would make sense that starting with a careful assessment of a person’s feet would be the best place to start. Observing how a person stands, walks, runs, and moves normally can tell you why a person might have a hip, knee, or lower back problem. People who have difficulty with balance almost always have a foot alignment and gait which cannot support the body in movement. Maintaining and working foot function is crucial for insuring continuous mobility, and independence in populations who are handi-capped, have had strokes, who have M.S. or Parkinson’s, or diabetes.

Feet often are good indicators for what is going on in other parts of the body. Abnormalities or pain in the feet can often be a precursor for more serious health conditions. This means that we as wellness practitioners and fitness experts need to pay attention to the feet so much more than is commonly done today.

As wellness/fitness educators it makes sense to understand the anatomy of the feet. It is easy to understand and be able to explain to clients that there are three posterior muscles which go into the plantar foot, three muscles into the dorsal foot. There are three muscles which attach at the calcaneus stabilizing the ankle, heel and lower leg to knee. Both the tibialis posterior and anterior are major stabilizers and the flexors and extensors can only reach their insertions based on the full function of these two muscles. It is not difficult to give people simple and clear understandings of these basic muscles and how they need to be in balance in order for the muscles of the legs to work correctly.

Throughout the body we train muscle groups and chains to function and support the body in movement. These muscles are largely unrestricted by outside forces. Only in the feet are the muscle insertions cut off and thus, restrict the muscles from their full function.

This means that over time the muscle chains will slowly contract upward from these restricted insertions. Wearing shoes to train restricts full function of the feet and legs. This in no way means you should train people barefoot, however, it does mean that part of each training session should be focusing on the feet without shoes worn.

Here are simple facts about the feet:

  • There are 52 bones in your feet which makes up 1/4 of the bones in your body. This means that it pays to focus on the anatomy of the feet and to best understand how to transfer weight through them.
  • Each foot has 26 bones, 33 joints, 107 ligaments, and 19 muscles and tendons which are supposed to hold the structure and allow it to move the rest of the body. The more you can analyze a person’s gait and standing position and observe which muscles are not being used properly and where weight is impacting and damaging the foot, the easier it can become to correct the problem and prevent injuries.
  • 75% of all Americans will experience foot problems at some point in their lives. This is epidemic. More people are living active lives and more foot injuries are occurring annually. Starting at the feet is essential for avoiding foot injuries.
  • With a foot injury, without education about how to change the way a person is using his feet, the injury will continue to occur and worsen with time. Using orthotics and other devices does not re-educate the feet. They are temporary fixes. Over time a person will continue to breakdown in the same pattern while weight bearing into the orthotic.
  • When walking the feet receive more pressure into them than the actual weight of a person and when running it can be up to four times the weight of a person. Learning how to use the entire foot when walking allows a transfer of weight throughout the foot. This can mean a person stops walking into the same point repetitively breaking down. Weight needs to be transferred equally through the feet.
  • Only a small percentage of people are actually born with foot problems. People blame foot problems on their genetics. Genetics in the feet as well as in any other structural part of the body can be identified and improved upon to avoid repeating the family pattern.

Bringing the Best Foot Practices into the Medical Fitness Community

It is important to bring the feet into your client’s fitness/wellness program. Learn how to break foot education down so it is mindful and allows a person the ability to understand how to use his/her feet. Here are some pointers:

  • Observe how your client stands, walks, and runs to see the most used foot pattern.
  • Observe where this pattern might be repetitively stressing and impacting the joints of the feet and above in the body.
  • Teach a client how to walk and stand in parallel with feet at hips distance a part.
  • Train people how to transfer their weight from the heels, through the outside of the feet, through the transverse arch from lateral foot to medial, from fifth toe to big toe. The knee must stay in line with the middle foot when the big toe presses down into the floor.
  • Explain what pronation and supination are. Explain the difference between pronation and collapsing the feet medial breaking down the arch.
  • Train clients how to activate and strengthen and stretch their toes.
  • If your client is weight bearing into the medial knee, focus on the feet to realign the knees and avoid a knee injury.
  • The more you bring a foot practice into your program, the better your results will be and the less injuries will be experienced.

Learn more from Yamuna on this topic! Join her for the upcoming MedFit webinar, How to Rebuild Healthy Foot Function


Yamuna Zake is a visionary healer dedicated to demystifying the body and providing simple, powerful tools that make lifelong fitness and well-being a reality for everyone. She has developed her deep knowledge of how the body works over forty years, starting at sixteen, when she became a certified hatha yoga instructor. She is the founder of Yamuna, a leading source of education for teachers, therapists, and fitness instructors interested in expanding their knowledge in BodySustainability which can enhance their core expertise, and often lead to a longer term interest in becoming a certified Yamuna instructor.

*Information taken from Illinois Pediatric Medical association – Simple facts*Yamuna Foot Fitness Training Manuals – Bringing best foot Practices

Walking-Sneakers

A Clearer Vision in Training

As fitness professionals, what we can expect is the unexpected. Often the last person we think may send an inquiry, does. If you’re like me and the majority of your training is in-home, you often get the privilege to work with so many you may not otherwise in a traditional gym or studio setting.

The Unexpected Client

While I was used to receiving various inquiries from those with different chronic conditions or disease, disabilities and other limiting factors, the one I didn’t anticipate was a blind client. The first thing I did before responding was see what trainers in my area may be willing to work with this individual, no response, no one was interested. My first thought was my “scope of practice”. Surely this wasn’t in that category for me. While I took time to reflect on how I could possibly help this person, I did some asking around to a well-respected fitness professional not in my area. I asked him, “How do you train a blind person?” He responded by saying, “I have never had the chance to do that but I would say you train him just like anyone else.” That made complete sense to me in that moment. What I didn’t know I would research. Next, I would fully disclose that I did not have prior experience with training a blind person, but I would be happy to take him on. So, I did.

Learning Curve

In researching training the blind community and speaking with a few people in various agencies, I couldn’t get much beyond the science and statistics. No methods, no accommodations, no modifications, no advice, not much to guide me. I did learn about Orientation and Mobility Specialists and while that was needed in the beginning for my client, it was not needed for him to have at the time for the training to take place.

You adjust everything you know about training. A huge eye opener for me was learning that I had a vision dependency on cueing. My verbal cueing was subpar. Too often I was used to saying, “Watch me first, then you try,” then correcting form as needed. In programming for my client, I needed to better learn to be descriptive so that what he could not see, he could imagine in the mind. It had to make sense.

Tips

What helped me to make progress, not just with my blind client but in general, was to really read the descriptions of exercise, movement and anatomy. Even if I had to read it continuously to better explain, that is what I did. When something didn’t make sense, we just eliminated it and found a better option.

Learning to count steps was another big deal. It was critical to know how to express inches, feet, yards when walking or moving around. For example, we are 2 yards from your driveway, in 2 feet there is a table, it is 35 steps to your mailbox.

Blindfold yourself. Close your eyes when exercising. Have another trainer, family member or friend, tell you some of the exercises that you find hard to describe and learn from those examples. Get a real feel for what your client may experience. Learn how they use their cane and the types of canes (sticks). One wealth of information came to me from a blind athlete. He took time to talk to me and just reinforce how important it is for my client to be independent.

Announce what you’re doing before you do it. It’s the same with asking to touch a client, “Is it okay if I touch your elbow?” Or, “I am going to pick up these dumbbells.”

Challenges

Learning to not be so protective, smothering and motherly, as was my nature as a mother of five. I was scared every moment, what if my client falls, trips, bumps into the wall, anything. I felt I had to always be on guard and with the slightest change in movement or awkward movement, I would have my arm ready to catch if I needed. Too much! It was very helpful that a few times I had another trainer in training (my husband) come along with me and he brought it to my attention. I told him, I know I can do it, but what if something happens? He said, it just will and I can’t spend every minute in protection mode. It’s not good for me or the independence of my client.

Programming always changed. There were days we just walked because that was as much as my client could handle. Cancellations due to various reasons required me to step up and not be taken advantage of as well. Adapting to all of that and being patient in what my client needed took time.

Addictions (substance abuse). While I won’t get into much depth on this topic, there were many other challenges within this area that I was exposed to and needed to refer out and gain help for. Again, it was the unexpected.

Nutrition problems. Making sure my client was eating, what and when. There were many discussions we had regarding proper nutrition. Much of it would lead back to other barriers, such a cigarettes or substance abuse. It required other professional intervention, as I am not a Registered Dietitian, but we did review general eating habits and good vs bad. Occasionally, we got it just right.

Dawn working with her client

The Workouts

While the primary goal was weight loss and increased strength for my client, we tackled everything. We incorporated cardiovascular activities and ones we did often were running together with a rope (tether), jumping jacks, and walking. But every part of the programming goals were to incorporate functional exercises which all required flexibility, balance, core, resistance, strength training, and what my client could focus on doing alone. We used dumbbells, resistance bands, sandbells, medicine balls, jump ropes, tires, picnic table, stairs, Airex pad and simply bodyweight. The most important use of all the exercise was in how it would further benefit my client and the goals we set. Nothing should be useless training.

In closing

While there is so much more to be said on how I trained my blind client, the most important message to relay is to not be afraid of what you can’t do, but do what you can. We should always ask questions, always expand our knowledge and do what we as fitness professionals are here for — to assist in living a healthier, active lifestyle. We can’t promise the moon, but it is our responsibility to do the very best we can within our scope, and what we are hired for. If you’re doing that, than you are probably doing it well.


Dawn Baker is an Independent Contractor Personal Trainer, founder of One Accord Fitness LLC and has been changing lives in the fitness industry for 6 years.