Fitness in Chaotic Times | What Really Motivates Us | Fitness Professional Megan Usui | SDP190

What motivates people to seek and maintain fitness and wellness? How do expectations for fitness and wellness differ for younger people and older people? Do chaotic events, such as a pandemic or health scare, catapult people toward action to increase fitness and wellness? What feedback or rewards help people to stay motivated and act in ways to promote fitness and wellness? In this show, fitness professional Megan Usui helped us to understand and find answers to those questions. In addition, Megan and David time travel to March of 2020 to inform a hypothetical national fitness campaign.

IMAGE: Episode thumbnail with image of Fitness Professional Megan Usui. Credit Megan Usui.

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ABOUT MEGAN USUI. Megan Usui has over two decades of experience as a fitness and wellness professional. She has worked as a fitness director, personal trainer, weight loss coach, gym designer and group fitness instructor at health clubs, weight loss and biofeedback centers in California, New York, Virginia and Washington State, including the Washington Athletic Club in downtown Seattle. She is the owner and operator of The David Workout in Snohomish, Washington and is an expert in personal and relationship coaching.  Practicing what she preaches, Megan has lost and kept off sixty pounds for twenty-five years while raising two fit and active boys. A graduate of Sweet Briar College with a degree in philosophy, Megan is fascinated by history and human culture.

WHAT MOTIVATES PEOPLE TO SEEK AND MAINTAIN FITNESS AND WELLNESS? Megan begins by asking, “How can I help you?” She also guides people to define the concept of “fit.” Most of her clients aren’t seeking to improve their time running a mile or increasing their oxygen levels. Neurolinguistics programming is core to Megan’s profession. Are people carrot-driven, or are they running away from the stick? People who pursue fitness due to urging from their doctor will do what they need to do, such as increase fitness levels and lose weight, but that’s not what they want to do. Megan educates clients about better eating habits. What are carbohydrates, proteins, and fats? She shared how she made a color-coded food type and portion wheel for her own sons.

HOW DO EXPECTATIONS FOR FITNESS AND WELLNESS VARY FOR PEOPLE OF DIFFERENT AGES? Megan shares that BOOMERS want to do basic things like get down on the floor and play with their grandkids or walk up the driveway without huffing and puffing. Boomers also want to preserve muscle mass and mitigate osteoporosis. Megan talked about a program called “Silver Sneakers” that is available from Medicare at no cost for adults age 65+ and honored by most gyms. A key to that program, per Megan, is greeting clients by name at the door. Recognize that a lot of seniors are terrified of just walking through the door to a gym. GEN X wants to stay active. These are people in their 40s or early 50s and want to look better and keep up with their now-in-their-20s children. MILLENNIALS tend to plug into whatever app or fitness equipment is available to them. They buy expensive Peloton bikes and are happy to stay at home. TEENS associated fitness with ‘coolness,’ although that doesn’t seem to be true today. Megan shared that frustrated parents come to her asking for ways to get their screen-addicted kids out of their rooms. Teens are more interested in their virtual presence than their authentic presence. Fitness for them might be found in virtual reality games or Pokemon GO, although those are just pieces of the fitness puzzle. What is the incentive for a MOM? For one, Megan states that a mom tends to put the needs of others before her needs specific to fitness. Megan might say to a mom, “You’ll be a more productive mom if you stay fit and you’ll have more endurance to do activities with your family.” Furthermore, Megan noted that GRANDMAS put everyone before them and fitness is left at the wayside. To help them discover their motivation, Megan might say, “Wouldn’t it be a great gift to your family if you were fit and able to take care of yourself ten years from now?”

DO CHAOTIC EVENTS, SUCH AS A PANDEMIC OR HEALTH SCARE, CATAPULT PEOPLE TOWARD ACTION TO INCREASE FITNESS AND WELLNESS? At the onset of the pandemic, some people hid under a blanket when their gym closed. Other people bought all the fitness equipment that they could. Are we a fighter? Or, are we someone that flees? Chaotic events don’t motivate the populace toward fitness. That’s counterintuitive, as fitness increases the capabilities of the immune system, but such behavior is in line with people being more willing to do what they want to do and not what they need to do.

WHAT FEEDBACK OR REWARDS HELP PEOPLE TO KEEP MOTIVATED AND ACT IN WAYS TO PROMOTE FITNESS AND WELLNESS? Megan reminds us of Socrates’ quote, “Know thyself.” Most of her clients have tacit wisdom and identify true north. If Megan asked them, “What would a friend say you needed to do to become fit?,” they would accurately answer the question. Some people are data driven. Others ask Megan how they are doing and numbers are less important. Megan learns what frightens people and what inspires them – motivation is revealed in those areas. As for FitBits, wearable monitors, and online fitness leaderboards, Megan believes those appeal to some people, but, again, they are incomplete. And, who are you accountable to? An app? An app is not a fitness professional who knows you. App-based folks might not focus on nutrition and the “Big 3” of fitness – squat, push, and pull. So, they might get 10,000 steps a day, but are they improving their overall health? Observing peers become fit can be motivating, but also can be demoralizing. Megan states that ‘specificity’ helps people to remain motivated. What specific biomarker do they want to achieve? Do they want to lose 20 pounds? Do they want to be able to wear clothes that no longer fit? With her logbooks and whiteboards, Megan drills down to objectives and goals with a celebration of initial results. She uses a deck of 40 flashcards to make clients decide if (1) This is something I need to do, (2) This is something I might do, or (3) I won’t do this.

FITNESS AND FORTITUDE CAMPAIGN. How might the American government introduce a civilian fitness program designed to encourage people of all ages and abilities to improve their health and fitness through formal physical exercise training and other wellness activities? What was possible in March and April of 2020? (The following excerpt is from ‘The Velocity of Information – Human Thinking During Chaotic Times’ (2022). “We know fitness and nutrition are good for everyone, for all living creatures. Not just good for the body, but good for the mind. The statement, “fatigue makes cowards of us all” has been attributed to both General George Patton and Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi. Without proper exercise and fuel, both the body and mind are more easily susceptible to fatigue. The COVID-19 fitness research was falling into place, too. In a July 2020 study published in the Journal of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, researchers wrote, ‘The practice of physical activities strengthens the immune system, suggesting a benefit in the response to viral communicable diseases. Thus, regular practice of adequate intensity is suggested as an auxiliary tool in strengthening and preparing the immune system for COVID-19.’” Megan noted that music is a motivator and also important in group exercises. She suggested that a contemporary national fitness campaign might be similar to the 1985 charity song “We Are the World” that was played around the world with a message to prompt the listener to make a decision to give support and save others’ lives (famine) because in doing that, they are indirectly saving the whole human race. Perhaps 20 iconic recording artists, celebrities, and media influencers could partner with Nike or other companies for a “Just Do It” type of song about moving and in that song, demonstrate squat, push, pull. Just listening to the song might evoke some volitional muscle contractions! Perhaps the tune could be called “The Pandemic Shuffle.” David added that Megan’s color-coded food wheel could also be showcased throughout grocery stores – helping guide shoppers to informed nutritional purchases, instead of having them stare down at direction arrows at the end of aisles.

This is episode 190 of The Safety Doc Podcast published on 10-12-2022. This podcast and blog post represent the opinions of David P. Perrodin and his guests to the show. The content here is for informational purposes only. Please consult with your safety professional regarding the unique needs of yourself or your organization.


Purchase Dr. Perrodin’s books 

School of Errors – Rethinking School Safety in America

The Velocity of Information – Human Thinking During Chaotic Times