a special program of the National Emergency Medicine Association (NEMA)
Week: 559.7 Guest: Mitch Batkin, Nat'l Dir. Fitness Svcs., Bally Fitness International Topic: A new year at the health club. . . how to stick it out Producer/Host: Steve Girard
NEMA: Welcome again to The Heart of the Matter. It's that time of year again....when the health clubs and gyms are full of New Year's resolution makers...but how long will they last? We're with Mitch Batkin, the National Director of Fitness Services for Bally Fitness International....
BATKIN: I think that during the holiday season of Thanksgiving and Christmas combined, people tend to eat a lot, get off their normal exercise routines, or they gain a couple of pounds. So, they feel that when January comes around, let's make a new year's resolution...let's start fresh and get into shape. So, of course, that happens.
NEMA: Does membership really fall off drastically as we head into spring...
BATKIN: We do find that there's an increase, and then it doesn't necessarily disappear as of February, but you'll often see...a few months before the Summer rolls around you'll see another wave of people, because they want to look good for the beach season...and then you'll see another wave around October, when people are going back to school. But I would say that January is probably our best month because of the New Year's resolutions.
NEMA: What have you found is the biggest reason people drop away from the gym scene....?
BATKIN: I think most people say they just don't have the time. They have a busy life, and their priorities are somewhere else...and a lot of it becomes a job, and the family is very important, no question. But I think what we should focus on though, is yourself...and you're top priority should be your health, because there's really nothing more important than that. And I think if you increase your health and improve upon that aspect of your life, you'll find that you're more productive at work, and your relationships could even get better because your stress levels are a little less, and you just feel good about yourself.
NEMA: Tell me about the people who staff athletic clubs...especially yours, of course. What type of qualifications do they have to help people beginning that uphill climb into fitness...or reinforce and improve behaviors in people who are already used to working out?
BATKIN: What we look for when we hire somebody is some kind of background in a related science, it could be exercise physiology, kinesiology...that kind of thing. Many people have a four year degree from college, other people go through a national certification, have a more specific education that's shorter, but geared and focused right on working in a health club setting. And there's many decent, nationally recognized certifications, such as the American Council on Exercise...called ACE. And there's the American College of Sports Medicine...it's called ACSM. And there's several others, a whole list of them. So, if someone has a national certification, as well as some kind of background from a college or university...that's what we look for. And if someone gets hired because their personality is perfect and they're a hard worker, their character is great for the club setting, we require that they have a certification if they start dealing with members and they want to become a personal trainer, and someone who works on the floor with the clients.
NEMA: And do you have classes to offer an accreditation?
BATKIN: What we've done is we've joined with the American Council on Exercise, and they have accredited us to teach the preparatory course, in order to sit for the ACE exam.
NEMA: How about some tips or rules to help prevent those injuries that might keep someone from reaching fitness goals?
BATKIN: The number one rule is make it safe. If you're injured of course you're not going to enjoy it because you're not going to be able to do anything. The second rule is make it fun. Because if it's fun, you're going to like it and continue that activity. And then, number three is do an activity that is conducive to reaching your goals. You know, often you can go into any health club and see people that say they want to lose weight, but they're doing an exercise that really doesn't provide that benefit. So what we like to do is make it safe, make fun, make it effective. And you'll hear so many experts all over the world say, "If you want to succeed, make some short term goals, start slowly", and that's wonderful advice, I encourage that. And I think one of the most important things is to bring a friend, because that's a motivating...that's a real motivator. If you have someone waiting for you, whether it's a friend or ....nowadays a personal trainer is highly recommended, because they'll teach you how to do things safely, and progress slowly enough so you don't get hurt....and when you have someone waiting for you, it's a great motivator. So I encourage all those things.
NEMA: What are the most common types of injuries that could sideline people at the beginning of their fitness program?
BATKIN: The real susceptible parts of your body that get overused are your knees, backs and shoulders. So, the knees because we use them all the time, everyday...we walk, we sit, we stand. I think your back is sore constantly for many of our people because they sit at a desk...and if you sit at a desk for eight hours a day, you're stiff and your back needs some relief. And then, your shoulders because they're also....it's a wonderful joint that moves in tremendous angles, tremendous versatility...but because of that it has a little bit of weakness to it...in general, it's susceptible to injury because it has so much movement. And the best way to avoid it...the same kind of things: you really, really need to warm up, you need to start slow, you need to progress slow...and if you choose exercises that are balanced, for instance, if you work the chest muscles, you should probably work the opposite to that, which would be the back muscles. If I don't combine a balanced routine, then I would have imbalance in my joints and in my muscles, and you'll find that injuries occur much more frequently.
NEMA: Yes, I have some friends who have come to me and said, "you know, I hurt my back, and I don't really know why...I don't think I did anything to it". And I'll go over and pat their belly hanging over the belt, and tell them there's a real balance the body wants to see...and when the stomach muscles are so out of shape, it puts your back in constant stress, and increases the risk of injury with just everyday activities. What about people who are interested in getting in shape, and are fifty or older, what does the health club offer them?
BATKIN: We have a lot of pools in our clubs, which people love when they're over 50. When you go to our clubs, you see people who are 95 years old that are lifting weights, riding the bike and walking on the treadmill and they're doing fantastic. And there are times of the day that, let's say someone has the opportunity...they're retired with a lot of free time, so many of the health clubs are extremely quiet during that 10 a.m. to noon, and that one o'clock to four o'clock time frame each day because most people are at work. So if someone has free time, and often it's people who are retired, they can find a wonderful gym, an enormous place with so much to do, and no intimidation factor whatsoever, as far as people thinking they have to work out with young kids and they feel intimidated. That's really not the case in many circumstances, and we find all ages in our clubs, and we have aerobics classes that are low impact...we have water aerobics classes in the pool with virtually no impact. And I think the treadmills alone are a wonderful place because many of the treadmills we have have a cushioned deck for very low impact if they feel like walking...and we have many tracks in our clubs which are rubber surface, so there's low impact, and that all contributes to avoiding injury. And we find that the elderly do wonderfully. You don't have to be young to reap the benefits of exercise. I think the elderly can do fantastic, and stay young feeling and young looking.
NEMA: Anything specific in the way of a class or a program for folks over fifty?
BATKIN: Well, we are trying something in Phoenix, and it's called the Pacesetters...and they have a special orientation, which is like an introduction on how to work out, they have special low impact aerobics classes and aqua-aerobics classes and we have special people hired that have certifications in dealing with people in that age bracket. And when we find that that becomes successful, I think we're really going to spread that across the country.
NEMA: What about people who really would rather work out at home. What recommendations do you have for a type of equipment or regimen that works best?
BATKIN: There's an old joke in the fitness world that most people probably have heard...and it's based on the question of, "Sure, there is one exercise that is best for you...and do you know what it is"? It's the one that you like...because that's the one that you'll do. So for me, my personal favorite is a treadmill if I have to work out indoors. For you it might be a bicycle...for someone else it might be a rowing machine or a stairclimber or a cross country ski machine. It doesn't matter. Whichever one you like...whichever one you will spend the most time on and do regularly and have a good time with it, that's the best one for you. So, there's really no one choice, if I told you to buy a treadmill and you hate treadmills, that advice will not really help you. It's so often that people will buy a 2 or 3 hundred dollar machine, and it gets to their home and it becomes a clothes hanger because it's not something they love...they did it because it looked great on TV. So I encourage people to get into a club, and for a few reasons. The atmosphere is very high energy, because there's a lot of people working out. And there's such a variety of things to do...and you're talking about equipment that is very expensive, so it's very smooth and it works well. For instance, people don't usually have the money to buy a treadmill for home that they would find in a club, because the club treadmills are five thousand dollars. The ones that you buy for home, most of them are five hundred dollars. So the mechanics of it are so much nicer to use, and it'll work much better and smoother. But we find that people don't like the equipment they get at home, they don't use it because it doesn't work that well. Unless they have the money to buy something really expensive.
NEMA: Mitch Batkin of Bally Fitness International. Hope you get active, and stay active, whatever you may decide to do...you'll feel better for it! For information on this topic, visit the National Emergency Medicine Association home page at:
or you can call NEMA for more information on how you can play a role in the battle against stroke, heart disease and trauma. 800-332-6362. I'm Steve Girard for the Heart of the Matter.