Neil Featherby: It's time to unite the fitness and medical industries
Carrying on from where I left off last week with regards to us trying to be more aware of our health and the wellbeing of others, particularly those who supervise group sessions, where the ages and abilities vary greatly, this week local exercise expert Chas Allen lends his thoughts to the subject.
Exercise is fantastic and we all know the benefits of being active. However, we also know how addictive it can and how easy to bury your head in the sand, fobbing off an injury as a little niggle which will go away and an illness as nothing more than feeling a little under the weather.
I understand this as well as anyone and have done lots of stupid things over the many obsessive years of my running career to keep my streak of running every single day for 37 years going. Needless to say this means that I have ran through some pretty bad injuries and even raced at times when I was ill.
With this in mind, I also recognise similar traits of mine in others, but have to be careful when pulling them up for it as they will always point at my own addictive behaviour. Nevertheless and most importantly, when all is said and done, those who come along to my sessions or ask for advice aren’t quite as extreme as I have been and after explaining the pitfalls of trying to run through illness or injury they have taken it on board and taken the sensible option.
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As it happens, I have had to tell one of my Wednesday group this week that she is not allowed to come along due to her suffering with a cold and I am currently considering whether to pull two runners from another one of my groups out of a big race which they are preparing for due to illness and injury.
When you talk to Chas, it is so obvious that his understanding of the effects of exercise on our bodies is on another level and he has a huge desire to help everyone when it comes to health, fitness and wellbeing. His knowledge of all things medical and the effects of the stresses applied to each and every one of us individually during exercise is amazing.
He can most certainly see potential risks well in advance of them happening and as for running with any form of illness, he has some very strong views on this.
When working in the NHS, one of his many visions was to try and unite the fitness and medical industries to reduce the risk of people damaging their health or getting hurt when partaking in exercise particularly those who may have been more at risk.
However, what with certain politics which existed, as one door opened another would close which needless to say led to much frustration for him. Four years on though and upon reflection he can now see why barriers may have been put in front of him.
“Trying to achieve one driving force and one common goal is not always easy,” he said. “Team work is the key and whilst we know those at the very elite end of sport have a team of professionals covering all aspects of their needs, it is further down the scale where coaches and medical professionals should come together to combine skills and knowledge.
“I am now trying to set up a network whereby there is the right person for everyone and every potential requirement whilst working with specific experts, coaches and those in the medical profession who all have specialised skills in their own fields.
“A good coach or advisor will know that he or she cannot control all the mechanics, the steering or the fuel supply. Nevertheless and before a system can work, everyone needs to be in total agreement.
“The fitness industry is booming which is great, but there is no true regulation for this industry. By simply providing an environment where people won’t die is a poor aim when trying to develop excellence and long term lifestyle change.
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“It’s a bit like the silly Ab Cruncher advert which you might see at 4am in the morning on the TV guaranteeing quick success. Such claims are wrong! “Whilst we need to be encouraging everyone to try and do something for the good of their health it is also about people having the right qualifications or indeed knowing who does in any given area hence my earlier quote about team work.
“Be it for the beginner or indeed the people who are having a go after years of inactivity right through to those deemed to be excellent athletes, it is so very important that any guidance given is done so correctly. It is one thing ticking boxes in the short term, but another when making sure that boxes are also ticked in the much longer term.”
Whether his dream of uniting so many people together ever comes true is something which only time will tell, but he will do everything he can to make it happen.
At the same time he has most certainly made me think so much more deeply about my own actions before I now act.
One final footnote, my thoughts during the last week have gone very much towards that of Norwich Road Runner and all round super athlete Sze-Ming from Hellesdon, who was in a tragic accident last week when out training on his bike.
The shock of his untimely death has most certainly touched so many people. Like so many others I send my deepest sympathies to his partner Alex, brothers Jack and Dick and of course his mum and all other family members.