Earlier this month, at the University of California-Irvine, the MedFit Professional magazine (MFP) honored 12 personal trainers who’d been nominated for Trainer of the Year each month in 2019. I, personally, was given such an honor last Spring, and felt that the MFP had some reason for bestowing it on me.
Over 10 years ago, in Los Angeles, while doing a weekend fitness training program for Exercise ETC, I had an opportunity to meet with a mini-dynamo of fitness and vision, Lisa Dougherty. She had this wild idea that those of us who were serious about our profession and our career needed to have a network that would act as a clearinghouse for referrals. Doctors and ‘patients’, or people with medical or orthopedic issues, needed to have a way to find a trainer near their homes and offices who could help them with their conditions. MedFit Network (MFN) was to be that source.
By compiling a list of trainer-members with interest in and qualifications for working in the realm of medical fitness, perhaps the last but not least important link in the continuum of care for medical management, Lisa was fulfilling a dream, a fantasy. The MFN would, first, compile this member list, then link with national and international health organizations with missions to educate and help those with medical conditions like osteoporosis, diabetes, cancer, etc.
Then she’d branch out to provide education for existing and future trainers to help them coordinate with medical and health providers in their neighborhoods. Eventually she’d develop a program by which educated, experienced trainers could be certified by an organization with the credibility to interact and link up with medical providers themselves.
Why did she contact me before that fateful conference in LA? Because she’d read about me on the Exercise ETC site and felt I might have some insights that could help her. And, after a lengthy lunch meeting in the sun, she asked if I would serve on her advisory board. Either in a state of weakness or post-meal daze, I accepted.
To be honest, I was skeptical this could work. Getting doctors to willfully refer to personal trainers vs physical therapists or even massage therapists, both of which are licensed and regulated by their respective states, was, I believed, a long shot. Furthermore, getting doctors to believe that a trainer actually knows what he or she is doing enough to give them confidence that their patients would be safe to exercise under the latter’s supervision is a risky proposition: if a doc refers a patient to a trainer and things go awry, who’s gonna get sued, the trainer or the doc? Deep pockets win that bet.
Second, how can a Southern Cal woman access enough medical providers and trainers to build the kind of network she was hoping to develop? That it had taken me nearly 20 years of growing my business right here in Nashville, with a Ph.D. in exercise science and ACSM and NSCA certifications at the highest levels, and still not able to sync with many doctors in my community, gave me pause.
Yet, as I said on video – in response to the MFN’s video interview of all the 2019 candidates, Lisa is like a virus or bacteria, but the good kind: she enters the body and mind and, like an infection, takes it over, inflames you (in a good way) and empowers you. Think of Lisa as the microbiome of your gut; you can have a healthy gut or a sickly one. Lisa is the healthiest of microbiome that makes your body work better. A good infection.
Now, back to my honor. So 30 years as a personal training studio owner, operator and trainer is credible enough to warrant some recognition, and last December, STEPS Fitness celebrated that milestone. As to whether that qualifies me for Trainer of the Year, I don’t think so.
Serving on the board of MFN, providing educational content for MFN, etc. may also be insufficient reason for a nomination. So in all humility, I accepted it but never expected to win the big award.
Eleven highly-qualified, highly-talented peers deserved their nominations and, for three of them, their awards as much if not more than me.
I say this not to diminish my contributions to the business and promotion of fitness, exercise and wellness locally and nationally. I say this because I truly believe in the mission of Lisa and the Medical Fitness Network and its education wing, the Medical Fitness Education Foundation, and now the MedFit Professional magazine to further the educational sources for trainers. But awards are not why I entered or stayed in this field. Nor why I support Lisa’s mission.
I say this because medicine and the medical paradigm are unable to address such things as prevention, lifestyle management, and appropriate exercise guidance for the general population let alone those who have special needs. The MFN is trying to answer the call. And it’s kind of cool that 12 of us got acknowledged for trying, too.
Finally, for my fellow trainers out there, follow this link to join the movement.