Richmond Hill, ON
canfitpro PRO TRAINER: PTS, FIS, HWL, FMA, CPR
How has your mental health been challenged in the fitness industry?
Having been involved with the fitness industry for almost 32 years, I can honestly say I have had many challenges with my mental health. From the days of the early 90s, when you were expected to look a certain way and be a certain size to not only be employed to teach ‘aerobics classes’ but also to be seen as a successful Personal Trainer. This put a huge amount of pressure on the instructors/PTs to maintain a certain appearance and this was most definitely driven by the advertising and marketing in the industry.
I personally experienced two very debilitating bouts of post-natal depression, which took my family and I by surprise. Stripping me of my self-esteem, feelings of not being worthy and, ultimately, thoughts of suicide as I felt everyone would be better off if I wasn’t there. It’s hard now to even revisit those thoughts but at the time that was the reel that played in my head constantly. It took a lot of therapy, love, and support to pull out my lycra (it was the 90s!) and put myself back out there, but I am so glad I did as I have been able to connect and help so many others suffering with mental health.
What is the most important thing to consider when assisting a personal training client with their mental health?
Over the last few years, with so much being written about physical activity and mental health during and after the pandemic, our clients and class participants are a lot more open, and likely to share their mental health struggles. Using information, we have available to us regarding the benefits of physical activity, we can have crucial conversations regarding moving our bodies and getting outside to help not only maintain good mental health but also improve it. Letting people know it is not about how much, how fast and what they look like and more about taking time to feel and enjoy, making that connection between movement and mindfulness. This can take many forms and there is no one size fits all, for example some will find what they need to stay balanced and feeling mentally well after a high intensity workout while for others it will be found at the end of a gentle walk in nature. As a fitness professional with a goal of helping not only our clients but anyone who is looking for answers, we have the expertise to be able to help people find the joy of exercise that leads to better and sustained mental health.
As certified canfitpro Personal Training Specialists, how can we influence our industry to change the stigma around mental health?
Our industry is phenomenal in the way that it adapts to the changing environments of the world. Coming out of this past weekend at canfitpro 2022 Global Conference and Trade Show, we have seen and experienced a universal shift towards inclusion and diversity across the board, not just at one or two sessions, but everywhere it was obvious that walls are coming down and this includes the stigma associated with mental health. Our industry now actively encourages people to seek out fitness professionals to help with depression and anxiety, we have certifications and education for the consumer and the professional on Mental Health First Aid.
I know we are all looking to support society not only in adding physical activity to people’s lives and in being the first line in healthcare, but we also have a role to play now in encouraging and teaching people that movement is necessary for not only a healthy, thriving body but a healthy and resilient mind.