Fitness, Health, and Business Blog

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What Can You Do to Help Families Make Better Food Choices?

In our last blog ( we discussed the childhood obesity epidemic and introduced recommendations for childhood movement. So what happens if students see no weight loss improvement? It all comes down to the 23 hours they are not with you.

Implementing Choose My Plate for Family Dynamics


“Old habits die hard?” But these are young people! When it comes to diet, are you comfortable coaching healthy eating habits? Can you provide reputable nutrition resources for parents? Are you prepared to refer clients to another professional? You NEED to be prepared for these conversations, for the adolescents’ health, and to be seen as a competent professional.

Create a Coaching Foundation:

Parents may take these conversations “personal.” How can we make these topics more comfortable to discuss? The International Coach Federation talks specifically about creating rapport with your client (the family). Let’s face it. Anyone can use tips when it comes to coaching parents. Create a foundation for the coaching environment first, then provide tools.

  • Build trust and intimacy: They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.
  • Be honest using positive terms: “Johnny is performing below average at his sessions. I think he has great potential and we need to figure out what types of activities he prefers.”
  • Ask to coach the parent on issues that could be considered sensitive: “I noticed that Johnny came in with donut holes for a snack. Would you be interested in hearing some grab-and-go options that could help his performance in school and in the gym?”

There you go! Creating these positive conversations builds a platform for more serious topics. You can observe the parents reaction and learn how to approach future topics like whole family nutrition.

Choose My Plate

my plate

Seriously, check out This website has so many resources, and it is perfectly legal to refer to it. You can also refer to a well-respected glycemic index researcher (Jennie Brand-Miller) who writes books about adolescents with type I and type II diabetes and has been cited in several nutrition medical journals.

Do Not…

…Prescribe daily meal recommendations to your clients. Snack or meal suggestions in line with choose my plate are fine, but do not recommend a meal-for-meal plan. That is out of our scope of practice as fitness professionals.

Two of the best tools from the government site are the SuperTracker, and the picture of a plate. The SuperTracker is an online profile, which requires more set up, but gives more detailed information for that person.

But my favorite is the picture of the plate because it is universal and a great visual. Hey, have your clients hang this on their fridge as a reminder before meals!


Refer And Refer:

Are you still within your scope of practice after looking at Are you worried about losing clients to a dietician referral? Relax. Most professionals are on board with the fitness profession, so refer to a dietician, a life fitness coach, or a therapist. They are more qualified to discuss diet and goal-setting, and parents need to hear a team of professionals’ advice to help make important decisions for their family.

Who knows, they may even respect you more for your confidence to refer so start talking more in depth with those parents today!

Paulette Kowalski, MS ATC cPT


  • Faigenbaum and Westcott; Youth Strength Training, Human Kinetics 2009.
  • Gavin and Mcbrearty; Lifestyle Wellness Coaching, Human Kinetics 2013.
  • Brand-Miller, Foster-Powell, and Gilbertson; The New Glucose Revolution Pocket Guide to Childhood Diabetes, Marlowe & Company 2004.



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Activity and Inactivity in Youth: Dodgeball vs. Dodging Requirements

Activity and Inactivity in Youth: Dodgeball vs. Dodging Requirements

In our last post I introduced some issues regarding childhood obesity-–and want to continue discussing this important topic.

Do you know the current recommendations for today’s youth? Do you know how much activity children receive in the schools? While organized sport programs have their place in youth fitness, participation in physical activity should not start there. Chronic diseases mentioned in the previous posts are being diagnosed earlier, and finding activity that prevents these diseases is a multi-faceted problem due to safety, funding, parents, and several other reasons. Today we explore the history, controversy, requirements, and touch on our role as fitness professionals in meeting recommendations for youth movement.



Talk to Baby Boomers and Beyond

I really mean it. Have a conversation with someone who knew life without cable or cell phones. Do you remember planning activity as youth? Remember, activity is any movement outside of planned exercise, so we are not talking about a pick-up game or organized sport. I am willing to bet Baby Boomers would say no, they did not plan activity. These were the days when you came home as the street lights turned on. It was a regular part of our day to run around the park, play hide and seek, hopscotch, build forts, and bicycle to our friends’ houses. We did not know the role these activities played in our bodily health, strength, cognition, motor skill, and social development. As society began to understand the importance of movement, Physical Education (PE) started changing in the schools.


Dodgeball vs. Dodging Requirements

Fast forward. Does anyone remember the Dodgeball Debate? In 2001, there was a movement to take this out of PE classes, a debate misunderstood. Some schools banned it from playgrounds, PE, and the media compared it to violence in America. Unfortunately, the latter became the take home message. As I understand it, this debate was an example of Darwinism, survival of the fittest and meeting requirements.

The most athletic kids tended to stay in the game the longest, and therefore, met requirements of having their heart rate in aerobic zones for 20-25 minutes. The less fit kids, the first out of the game, would not sustain their heart rate. Hence, PE teachers removed it from the curriculum. Though this is an example of planned exercise, the point remains that physical educators recognized that all kids needed to meet minimum aerobic requirements for health and wellness benefits. How did violence become the issue? America in denial?

Though many people may not connect this, PE became more about participation and socialization, but dodgeball took the fall. Activities in the PE classroom were redefined. Unfortunately, funding has been an issue and recess has been greatly minimized (20-30 minutes per day, if at all). This is why we as fitness professionals need to educate parents on requirements for their children’s health and wellness outside of the schools.



Improvements in musculoskeletal health, body composition, cardiovascular fitness, performance, and psychological well-being result with regular (5-7 days/week) participation in 60 minutes or more of moderate to vigorous physical activity including aerobic & strength training. I think this is a good time to point out that it does not have to be sport related as parents from other generations may remember. Please emphasize this!

The Youth Fitness Pyramid illustrates the importance of FUNdamental fitness conditioning. This includes FUN strength, power, aerobic, flexibility, and agility exercises. All conditioning you can get from non-competitive games and movement on the playground. This will prevent mental and physical burnout or overuse injuries. Our job as fitness professionals is simple: Create programs that are developmentally appropriate and enjoyable in our fitness club! Try relay races, tag games where “frozen” participants do crunches or jump jacks, or take your youth on a hike for the day. Please feel free to create discussion around this topic and stay tuned for Blog 5 & 6 where we will discuss several other ideas for recreation games and lifestyle fitness programs!



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Childhood Obesity: It’s Time for Us to Do SOMETHING!

W.I.T.S. is pleased to introduce, Paulette Kowalski! Paulette will be our guest blogger for the month of October as we focus on childhood obesity. Paulette is a member of the W.I.T.S. faculty, on our curriculum development team, and also runs her own successful Personal Fitness business. WELCOME PAULETTE!

In October, W.I.T.S. will focus on the childhood and youth obesity epidemic. It has happened before our very eyes, and the information presented in the next month will enlighten you on a variety of topics from the history of this epidemic, motivating children and parents, your role as a fitness professional, and more. This series goes beyond business strategy and focuses on how to change youth lives, the heart of why people choose fitness as a profession. I urge you to stay tuned each week for our posts and create discussions around this topic, not only with us, but among your fellow fitness professionals. Read on for the October introduction…

“Video Killed the Radio Star” AND started the Childhood Obesity Epidemic?

So how did we get here as a Nation? Let’s face it, the American lifestyle is much different than it was leading up to 1980. Some would argue that electronics started the epidemic, as big names in gaming (Nintendo, Atari, etc.) were just becoming popular, and television was going through major changes.

We went from playing sports and dancing, to viewing ESPN’s first broadcast and the first music video on TV in 1979 (Video Killed the Radio Star). Shortly after, in 1984, Cable launched several stations. Our rise in inactivity occurred just as packaged foods became popular. After much research, these foods were found to have additives, preservatives, and trans-fats, which did not show up on labels until 25 years later (2006). Let’s not forget the intake of red meats and sweets (high in saturated fats) was also on the rise during this time. It’s a fact, our abdominals had no choice in their disappearance. Taking these facts into consideration, it is no surprise that the prevalence of obesity among children and adolescents has almost tripled since 1980.

We have more opportunities to move, why are we less fit?

Shouldn’t we have seen a decrease in obesity over the past 30-40 years with the implementation of government programs and regulations? For instances, Title IX gave women the equal opportunity to play sports at academic institutions starting in 1972. This resulted in greater movement opportunities for female school-aged youth and young adults. Think about it, half the population was given greater opportunity to move in their younger years and it did not prevent the adolescent obesity epidemic. How? Why?

Are we teaching young people to enjoy active lifestyles?

Part of the problem is mentioned above, but the other problem is that not everyone enjoys competitive aspects of movement, or movement at all. That’s where we come in, but our profession wasn’t thought to be in great demand until recently. So our activities of daily living were decreasing and our endorphins for movement weren’t being stimulated. A vicious circle that leads to disease. To be drastic, we do not sow seeds in the fields anymore, and our lifestyle changed from walking to school or work, to play dates at the McDonald’s playground and parent meetings at Panera. I know, I know, you get the point and I am preaching to the choir.

Is the Let’s Move Campaign getting us moving?

While there is momentum towards a healthier Nation, the problem could be viewed as an existing snowball effect that puts our children at risk for type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and asthma; not to mention depression and anxiety at a younger age. All of this is taken into adulthood, and our healthcare system is forced to lean toward treatment instead of prevention. Some would speculate that this could lead to a change in our nation’s economic growth and security, and increase the socioeconomic barriers that are thought to cause obesity. The “Let’s Move” campaign has recognized these issues and placed an emphasis on prevention. Fitness professionals have been heard!

Recently, statistics have come out from the “Let’s Move” campaign that obesity rates have dropped by 43% in ages 2-5 over the past 10 years. We should note that more research needs to be done to replicate these statistics, but this gives health and wellness professionals hope that we are moving in a very positive direction and prevention programs are working.


Our responsibility as fitness professionals, is to keep this momentum the same way we would during a sporting event. It is Fitness Professionals vs. the Obesity Epidemic. We need to focus and motivate these young people to move in the present and future. This goes beyond Title IX and the “Let’s Move” campaign, though this campaign has created several financial avenues for our business.

With momentum on our side, we need to take action. We need to create programs in our fitness centers and schools that encourage both parent and child involvement, youth movement outside of sports camps, awareness of lifestyle sports (i.e. walking, golf, tennis, bowling, etc.); I would even group music and art involvement in this category because it is movement, and stimulates the brain in similar ways.

We need to teach the youth what activity vs. exercise means, and most importantly, we need to become the coach/mentor we admired growing up. Our youth need examples to follow, phrases and patterns to fall back on during hard times, because of the very reflections you are having now. Movement does help our youth manage life in adulthood and you know from experience!

So, if you are on board with my points above, help W.I.T.S. help you to set foundations for today’s youth and stay tuned for the following, and shorter, blogs this month:

  1. Activity and Inactivity in Youth Obesity: Dodgeball vs. Dodging Requirements.
  2. Role of Diet in Youth Obesity: Implementing Choose My Plate for Family Dynamics.
  3. Socioeconomic Issues: Resources Revealed.
  4. School, Sports, & Community Recreation Programs.
  5. “If You Build It, They Will Come:” Personal Training for Youth & Parents.
  6. “When I Was Young We Walked Uphill, Both Ways:” Adopting Lifelong Exercise Habits.
  7. Fitness Professionals as Role Models: Be the Coach You Admired.

If you are interested in learning more about Childhood Obesity, sign up for our monthly webinar. There are spots available in our October 2nd: 3pm EST; October 15th: 2:30pm EST; and October 16th: 3:30pm EST. To register, contact

Paulette Kowalski, MS ATC cPT



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Health and Fitness Facilities: NSF Standard WITHDRAWN!

If you have been following this story, you know that this is REALLY big news!

In this month, we’ve been talking about raising the bar in the fitness industry, with regards to education, training, and professional practice. Of particular interest were the standards for the education, training, and certification of Personal Trainers. Given the timing, I think it’s appropriate to talk about health and fitness facilities and the recent announcement that NSF International has withdrawn the NSF 341 Health/Fitness Facilities Standard.

NSF 341 was introduced a couple of years ago with the intent on establishing standards for the operation of fitness clubs. According to an article published by Club Industry, “[the fitness club] industry is in the process of creating a standard for a voluntary certification that some people see as crucial to establishing the legitimacy of the industry. The goal of the standard, some in the industry say, is to help make fitness clubs a more respected resource in the eyes of the public.”

Of course, none of us would argue about that in theory. However, since NSF 341 was introduced and published for public comment, many concerns regarding the development of the Standard have been brought to light. Of greatest concern was that the group that created the Standard was not representative of the industry and didn’t reflect the needs, interests, and concerns of the different professionals, businesses, educational organizations and certification groups. In fact, some felt that the group itself was not at all inclusive and created a Standard that served the interests of those who were invited to participate.

So, fast forward— after the Standard was presented for approval and went out for public comment, it was eventually withdrawn. I recommend you read the full article in this edition of Club Industry.

My take-away, and I hope the lesson learn–is that WE ALL must be involved, engaged, and informed. Had this Standard been accepted and implemented (or enforced!) many could have lost their jobs. Clubs could have possibly been forced to shut their doors. The potential impact is significant! We cannot be passive observers in our industry and our profession. We must stay involved and participate in the process of shaping our industry!

Are you involved, informed, and engaged? Read the full article and let me know what YOU think about it!

AND PLEASE –Register for our upcoming webinar to discuss important and time-sensitive industry issues. You don’t want to miss this one–but space is limited!

Webinar Title: Professional Standards Past, Present and Future For A Self Regulated Fitness Industry.

When: Sept 18, 2014 3:00 PM EDT

Register at:



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Space Is Limited: REGISTER TODAY! Professional Standards for A Self-Regulated Fitness Industry

Make sure you register for our upcoming webinar to discuss important and time-sensitive industry issues. You don’t want to miss this one–but space is limited!

Webinar Title: Professional Standards Past, Present and Future For A Self Regulated Fitness Industry.

When: Sept 18, 2014 3:00 PM EDT

Register at:


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Personal Trainer Certification: What Does it Mean?

Our focus this month is on professional standards in the fitness industry. In any credible profession, there should be a “path” one must follow to become “certified” and steps to ensure that anyone calling themselves “certified” has the requisite qualifications, education, and training. This seems like a pretty simple, undisputed concept. However, it does not reflect the reality of the fitness industry.


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Raising the Bar! (not barbell!) Fitness Industry Standards!

[caption id="attachment_209" align="aligncenter" width="547"]We're calling the fitness industry to raise the bar when it comes to certification requirements. We’re calling the fitness industry to raise the bar when it comes to certification requirements.[/caption]

Tomorrow is Labor Day! We are about 6 weeks away from the 4th Annual Personal Trainer Summit at the Club Industry 2014 Convention in Chicago. This is a perfect time to reflect on where we are as an industry, and a profession—and how far we still need to go!

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Facebook: Not Just for Friends!

shoestring This month we’ve been talking about marketing strategies—but specifically, how to market on a shoestring budget. As we discussed, we may not have much time or money to focus on our marketing efforts, but without at least some investment, how can we expect any return? The key is to come up with ways to market to your clients and prospective clients in a way that helps meet your business goals, while staying within your time and funding budget.


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Fitness Marketing on a Shoestring Budget

[caption id="attachment_188" align="alignnone" width="625"]Shoestring marketing is easier than you might think! You just need to have a goal and create a plan. Shoestring marketing is easier than you might think! You just need to have a goal and create a plan.[/caption]

Most fitness professionals start their mornings by getting dressed and lacing up their shoes. They live in a world dominated by sneakers rather than loafers and heels. Those shoestrings are important for more than just getting dressed for the day however; they also tend to represent just about every aspect of fitness marketing. Shoestring budgets, shoestring staffing and shoestring timelines are all part of the plan for everyone from management to trainers.


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When You’re Selling: You’re Educating!

[caption id="attachment_171" align="aligncenter" width="625"]From start to finish-- personal trainers are EDUCATING their clients From start to finish– personal trainers are EDUCATING their clients[/caption]

This month we’ve been focusing on different ways to improve our selling skills. We may be the best personal trainer in our club or community; we may know every muscle in the human body and how to strengthen those muscles; but if we don’t know how to sell and get clients to use our services—all of our knowledge will go to waste.