Perspective features the opinions of prominent people in the fitness industry. Here, Australian Fitness Network’s Lifetime Achievement award winner, Lisa Champion, reflects on her role in our industry’s evolution – and her hopes for its future.
Winning the 2013 Lifetime Achievement award was a genuine surprise and a great honour. Having arrived in Australia from the US in 1987 with two suitcases and a triathlon bike to my name, I could never have imagined that 26 years down the track I would be so warmly recognised by my peers for making a significant contribution to the fitness industry here in my adopted country.
When I arrived, there was no such thing as personal training. The industry was all about freestyle aerobics, resistance training and cardio workouts at the gym. No one had thought of functional training, outdoor group ex or corrective exercise – let alone tools like suspension systems, Swiss balls or BOSUs. I’ve watched fads come and go, progressive changes take hold and recognition grow of the essential part we play in the health of our nation. It’s rewarding to see how our industry has grown and matured.
Winning the award has made me contemplate my own contributions and reminded me that each and every one of us is contributing to our wonderful industry in a unique way. I may not have been a TV celebrity, a famous club owner, or the inventor of a product or program that has been universally adopted, but I know that my many small contributions have made a difference to the evolution and professionalism of the industry. As an educator I have felt inspired to help others be the best they can be; as an author I have embraced the opportunity to share my learning and knowledge with others; and as an innovative thinker I have always been willing to put my thoughts and ideas forward.
More recently, I have grown to understand that technical knowledge is not the panacea in our quest to help others. We have to connect with people on an emotional level in order to build relationships that create platforms for change. Being understanding, compassionate and empathic is to the heart what breath is to the body and strength training is to a muscle. If we can build these qualities in ourselves we will build better relationships with everyone in our lives – be they family, friends, workmates or clients. Relationships characterised by honesty, genuine interest and positive regard inspire people to want to be the best they can be. With this as the foundation, a solid and stable platform for change is created.
When new clients or members come to us for our advice, we need to remember that they are human beings with a complex mixture of thoughts, feelings and behaviours that need to be respected and understood. Let’s not hit our clients over the head with the hammer of technical knowledge. Let’s listen to their stories, seek to understand their challenges, be patient and genuine with them, and encourage them that every change towards better health, no matter how big or small, is a good one. Then, a little bit of technical knowledge will go a very long way.
As you implement this knowledge to help others grow and change, never forget the importance of the feel-good factor. People stick with things – be they jobs, workout programs or new ways of eating – that make them feel good. Make sure you find out what makes your clients or members feel good and then regularly check with them whether or not you are hitting the mark. The combination of authentic connection and finding the feel-good factor is a winning one that makes people feel valued and capable of climbing mountains.
Each of us has the skill to educate, motivate, innovate and build relationships for the greater good of the people we work with, for the continued growth of our industry and for the health of our nation. Let’s use these skills to cast our nets wide, to reach out to our communities and entice those around us to tap into the power of exercise and good health. And when they come to us, let’s ensure their experience is rich with human understanding. Only then will we truly be agents of change.
Lisa Champion, MSc (Exercise Science), Grad.Dip. Counselling
Lisa moved to Australia in 1987 after meeting Nigel Champion at a US fitness convention. Since getting married in 1988, Lisa has served as a director of Australian Fitness Network. Her exercise therapy work with people suffering chronic pain led to her undertaking a Graduate Diploma in Counselling, and she now works as a counsellor. Lisa also founded Fit for Good, the fitness industry’s charitable foundation, which now operates as an online community connecting the fitness industry with Australians in need.