We are all teachers, we are all students

Hey everyone,

hope you’re all gearing up for the happiness that daylight savings will bring. It will be upon us within the week and I know it just puts me in a better place. I keep saying it’s like having a second day in addition to your work day to get things done. You can actually go to the park or for a run on the beach after work and its warm and its light; it’s just a good time of year. Not to mention we’re coming up to the season where you wouldn’t rather be anywhere else in the world than Hobart (you could twist my arm and force me to go snowboarding in the Rockies I suppose). I can’t tell you how much I love the Taste festival and all the things that go on there, we are so lucky to live in a place where this can all happen, which sort of crudely segues into what I want to harp on today.

Hey everyone, hope you’re all gearing up for the happiness that daylight savings will bring. It will be upon us within the week and I know it just puts me in a better place. I keep saying it’s like having a second day in addition to your work day to get things done. You can actually go to the park or for a run on the beach after work and its warm and its light; it’s just a good time of year. Not to mention we’re coming up to the season where you wouldn’t rather be anywhere else in the world than Hobart (you could twist my arm and force me to go snowboarding in the Rockies I suppose). I can’t tell you how much I love the Taste festival and all the things that go on there, we are so lucky to live in a place where this can all happen, which sort of crudely segues into what I want to harp on today.

I am a personal trainer. I’ve also been a pretty active Karate instructor as well. I see myself as much more than that though, I feel like a huge portion of my job is not standing around watching people do the exercise I tell them to, but to impart my knowledge. I see myself as a coach and a teacher. I have no formal qualifications to be a teacher but I feel strongly about taking a holistic approach to fitness and lifestyle and it doesn’t work if you don’t know about things, or why you do things. Personally, I am very much into knowing why. Why does this work? Why doesn’t this work? Why do I have to keep my hands off my thighs when I lunge or wall sit? (Most of you have, with a pained expression, asked me this question). I feel very strongly that we are extremely lucky to be in a place where we can come to group sessions or PT and learn. I feel that you must not take it for granted. I don’t mean you’re lucky because I’m so amazing, but because this is not an opportunity afforded to most people in the world. I’m not about to go on a bleeding heart crusade and suggest we all sponsor a child (although we could, and that would be pretty cool), but we have to take advantage of it.

I would hazard a guess that there is no bigger (pun not intended but I’ll take it) issue in our privileged, mostly Western, lifestyle than….our lifestyle. We’ve seen a process of increased wealth and academic inflation transform most of the manual labour jobs into office jobs. We’ve had a population explosion which has meant we now rely on mass produced, overly processed food (most of which we waste anyway). We have been innovative and creative and done amazing things, but we have also created a culture which has a systemic lifestyle issue. People in the weight loss and exercise business to a large extent are treating the symptoms and not the root of the problem. How many times have you heard of someone losing weight and then putting it all back on again? So I feel, very strongly, that we need to get to the heart of the issue. Lifestyle is an ingrained thing. Lifestyle is a collection of habits and routines that you perform on a regular basis. This is what needs re-tuning.

It is really hard to learn a new habit. It gets harder as we get older. It gets harder again when you have to unlearn another habit first. If we are getting to the stage where it’s about unlearning and relearning a lot of the basic things we do, we have missed the point. For the record, the more basic the behaviour, the harder it is to change. Ask someone who has bad posture how difficult it is to fix and have it stay fixed. We are most malleable as children. This is where we can really save the day and start changing the groundwork, start attacking the problem and not the symptoms. The first generation of children who are expected to die before their parents are alive today. That alone should tell you we haven’t got it right yet, and in fact we’re probably going the wrong way. Change at this level isn’t going to happen from big corporations or anybody turning an obscene profit from people’s struggles with health and weight. The diet industry needs you to be unhealthy to survive. It needs you to raise people to be unhealthy. I tend to not be a mass conspiracy theorist and believe the diet industry hates you and wants you to suffer and be unhealthy. You cannot buy their products if you are dead. But I do believe that it means their focus is not where it should be. So it falls to us, on a community level, to address this problem, not symptom, so that we never have to listen to people tell us that our children will die before we do.

The way we do it is through education. I am passionate, as you may be able to tell, about education. I think the current model is outdated and a massive overhaul is due. We’ve simply gone past the point where the traditional education model is in the best interests of the next generation. I’m certainly not the first, smartest, or last person to think this. This change will not be driven from the top though, I can guarantee that. The current system is what got the people who are at the top to where they are. So this brings me back to my initial point. I love what I do, and I feel it is my responsibility to pass on my knowledge. We can all help. Traditional education is not getting it done when it comes to our lifestyle crisis. I say crisis because what we have already sowed is collecting interest and as the next generation retires, our entire landscape is going to shift, and not in a good way. I genuinely fear for what this will mean for Australia in 30-40 years (when I’m going to look to ride out into the sunset) if we don’t start changing things from a fundamental level.

To do this, we need passionate, creative thinkers and educators (we are all educators) to start…educating. We all need to take advantage of our opportunities and learn as much as we can. We are then absolutely obligated to pass on that knowledge. I think the key is slowly beginning to turn, but not quickly enough. We need to do more, or this will happen more, and not less.

Hopefully I have impressed on you why I think it is so important to not just go to sessions and train, but to try and learn and pass on your knowledge. This is a serious passion for me, I love talking fitness and diet and lifestyle. Love it. I also believe it’s critically important. It doesn’t matter if you’re a King, a Queen or living out of the boot of your car; we all only have one body, and if it isn’t working then your life will be miserable. You need to take care of yourself, and that, in a nutshell, is the problem. I shouldn’t have to tell you that. This is where we start fixing the problem. Kids need to grow up knowing and living in a healthy and sustainable way. We are all doing a great job being students. We need to start being teachers now too.

To tell you more about that, I’m going to leave it to a couple of people I have a lot of respect for. I only saw Tim Minchin’s speech recently, but I found it quite poignant, and he says exercise is important, so of course this gets a run. The other speech I saw a number of years ago and I believe it’s pretty widespread now, but I don’t think I’ve heard anything that resonated with me quite so much. I think it is absolutely amazing, I hope it strikes a chord with you too.

Yours in fitness,

Dan