Bridging the Gap
Learning about lifestyle habit formation and digital health platforms for the future health of clients is essential to personal training in the years ahead.
Michol Dalcourt is an internationally recognized expert in human movement and performance. He is the founder and director of the Institute of Motion, inventor of the ViPR™ fitness tool, and cofounder of Personal Training Academy Global (PTA Global). An international lecturer and educator, Dalcourt has written numerous articles on human design and function, and he has developed a widely used model for high-performance training. An adjunct professor of sports science at the University of San Francisco, Dalcourt has given hundreds of international lectures at top fitness conferences, clubs, and several colleges and universities. Dalcourt received his exercise science education from the University of Alberta. He also holds certifications from the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiologists and the Canadian Association of Fitness Professionals.
ACE: How do you personally see the obesity epidemic affecting our society? As professionals, how do we need to create and deliver fitness programs, and how should we be interacting with clients?
Michol Dalcourt: Technology has touched every facet of our lives and has created a living environment that is foreign to our physiology. Our health has suffered as a consequence of this sedentary lifestyle. Gyms, for the first time, have become locations where many get their only dose of movement, as opposed to places where they train to improve an “outside the gym” performance. It is very clear that future health care will not be mathematically viable, since fewer payers will need to support more users (because of the aging population). This does not add up.
The future of health care will be “self-care,” and part of that delivery will fall to health and fitness professionals. The fitness professional of the future will not only create programs in the gym but also teach lifestyle habit formation (e.g., moving throughout the day) using technology that quantifies the self. Moreover, a personal trainer in the future will coach habit formation during and outside the session. This means he or she will not simply train clients for two to three sessions a week but coach them 24/7. This will all be made easier with technologies such as activity trackers and data health metrics. I invite all fitness professionals to begin learning about digital health platforms.
ACE: What are some unique obstacles with regard to movement that overweight or obese clients have to address when beginning their journey to health and fitness?
Michol Dalcourt: Notwithstanding the fact that movement deficiencies and tissue demands may plague the system when an overweight person is first introduced to movement, these difficulties will be exacerbated if the overweight client has been sedentary. If this is the case, it is important that a fitness professional take two ideals into account:
- Manage the stress of exercise. Tissue load stress and physiological stress are exactly that—stress. If a person cannot move well, or has not moved much over a long period, it is important to manage physical stress so as not to unbalance the system to a point of dysfunction. Proper expectations around regressions and adaptation time should be taken into account.
- Eliminate deficiencies as they relate to physical activity. Having good strategies for movement, hydration and nutrition is of upmost importance. Aspects such as introducing intermittent movements throughout one’s day, drinking adequate water, and tailoring a nutrition strategy with the help of an appropriately credentialed and qualified nutritional expert will help the work clients do in the gym.
ACE: What misconceptions—if any— do you believe health and fitness professionals have about people who may be struggling with their weight or finding it hard to adopt healthy habits? Why is it important for professionals to overcome those misconceptions before they can truly help people?
Michol Dalcourt: We in the fitness industry assume more times than not that weight management comes down to knowledge and strategy around weight loss. I have found that the most effective fitness professionals have good coaching techniques that help lead an individual toward success.
ACE: How do you feel loaded movement and performance training can help health and fitness professionals meet the needs of their overweight or obese clientele?
Michol Dalcourt: Proper progression and inclusion of loaded movement and performance training will have a metabolic and tissue advantage for an individual. However, I must caution that for the obese individual, we must begin with regression.
Our morphology is set up to adapt to movement-based resistance work (what we call “loaded movement training”). Think of performing chores in activities of daily living. This sparks the metabolic engine and enhances movement ability and efficiency. When we begin to regain movement capacity, we are generally empowered to move more. This positive cycle has a myriad of health benefits (one of which is obviously weight loss). Inactivity impacts our joints, muscles, bones, fascia, metabolic system and more. It reinforces the desire to remain inactive. Recapturing movement and strength (accomplished with loaded movement training) promotes a feeling of well-being, both in mindset and physiological structure.
ACE: What advice would you give to health and fitness professionals who may be having trouble engaging with their overweight or obese clients?
Michol Dalcourt: As with a primary care physician and a patient, if the expectation is that the professional is going to “fix” the client, then success is rarely achieved. Good coaching requires ownership and accountability by both the client or patient and the professional. Goal setting, tracking, coaching, mindset and enthusiasm need to be shown by both sides. It begins as simply as creating a relationship with the client and understanding both the outcome and the desires behind that person’s goals.