I'm a Fixer. Why I Switched To Becoming a Hybrid Personal Trainer/Instructor

I've been mulling over this particular blog post for quite some time.  I am regularly asked what I do for a living or to describe what I do here at Pain Free Posture MN on a daily basis.


It's really hard to come up with a job title.  I'm a University of Manitoba graduate of both Physical Education and Recreation Studies.  I took the kinesiology and biomechanics track, which is now called a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology.  In addition to my university degrees, I am certified in a pile of therapeutic modalities including:

  • The American Council on Exercise Group Fitness
  • Egoscue University Certified Posture Alignment Therapy
  • The National Posture Institute Posture Specialist
  • The BioMechanics Method Corrective Exercise Specialist
  • STOTT Pilates Comprehensive Certified
  • Core Strength Vinyasa Yoga 
  • [See About Deb]


When people ask me what I do for a living, I tell them I am a Corrective Exercise and Posture Alignment Specialist.  When I can see that this doesn't register, I just say, "I'm a fixer", or I help people get out of chronic pain in a way that is different that the regular medical community normally teaches, then I see some glimmers of understanding.  The best description of what I do for a living is help my clients

  • Eliminate chronic muscle and joint pain
  • Improve posture
  • Maximize performance in activities of daily living and/or athletics 


But none of that really resonates.  All the training and description of what I do blankets the myriad of personal training instruction I do here in my studio.  Every single modality I've studied and certified in has a proven track record helping people accomplish all three of the goals listed above.  That's precisely why I chose to study and certify in them.  


I'm happy to be able to offer a variety of complementary therapeutic services to my clientele.  I have many clients who come in wanting to do just one of these particular modalities as part of their training.  Each works really well if the client is wanting to improve posture and physical fitness and not currently in chronic muscle and joint pain.


However, once the chronic pain cycle is triggered, singular modalities don't always work for every client.  

I've been privileged to have worked with people with very serious physical movement challenges over the years, and pleased to say there's been many successful outcomes.  However, in each of these chronic muscle and joint pain cases, I'd be the first to tell you that some were successful with singular modalities (Egoscue or pilates), but most accomplished their goals with a hybrid approach.  


Having been in the health, fitness and wellness business now for over 25 years, I can tell you that my teaching philosophy has changed with time.  And thank goodness for that!  I've learned that although the science of movement analysis plays the major large role in the healing and goal accomplishment process, the reality is there is a mind and spirit connection.  If you don't acknowledge the person as a whole, then in my experience, your best efforts and analysis will not meet the entire needs of the client.


That's precisely why not every specific singular modality works for every client, and why there's so much conflicting information out there on the market.  I mean just Google the term "Pain Relief Exercise" and you'll be overwhelmed at the possibilities.  There's thousands of sites, companies and training programs selling something or some training program and promising that their program is the best at offering 100% relief!


If that promise was really true, then we wouldn't all still be searching now would we?


Personally, I've never believed that ONLY ONE modality is (or should be for that matter) the "miracle cure" so to speak for every client that walks through my studio doors.  I've studied, trained and certified in many modalities where the certifying organization preaches and teaches that their method is the only path out of chronic pain.  While I agree, it can and does work for some, but I'd be a liar if I said it work for everyone as a whole.  Perhaps be view is what keeps me a bit of a rebel.


I simply don't agree with the philosophy that only one methodology is the only or right way to get out of chronic pain.  Personally, and professionally I don't believe you can pigeon hole a human being into parameters like that.  Why?  Well, I believe you are MORE than just a body.


In my opinion and experience, I believe that a great instructor should choose the best tool for the job.  Sometimes, a singular modality is the right tool and it works.  That's cool.  But more often than not, the best tool for the job requires a hybrid approach.  


I can't in good conscious say to a client, 

  • 'only this one particular modality is the right fit', or 
  • 'this program is the only choice for you to overcome your pain and help you accomplish your goals', or 
  • 'my program is right and the rest is harmful' or 
  • 'I'm not going to talk about nutrition, sleeping habits, your fascial system, or your emotions/attitude/beliefs about healing because none of those things have a factor in your pain'.  


Absolutely Ridiculous! As a person who helps people heal from chronic muscle and joint pain, I have to be balanced and open to the best options for that individual client.  I won't deny that some people accomplish their goals by doing a singular modality.  However, that pigeon holes both my ability to help a person, and the unique needs of the person his/herself.  

 

Perhaps it's best summed it up in this lovely Facebook Recommendation I recently received:


In my 8 years of receiving treatment/therapy for chronic pain, Deb is the only person who has taken the time to identify the root cause of my alignment issues and to address the cause instead of the symptoms. Deb has the education and knowledge to teach both physical healing as well as the mind/body connection to healing. Every time I leave a session with Deb I feel energized, empowered with my new "tools", and hopeful regarding a pain-free future. Deb has a true gift, and an obvious passion for healing and helping others heal.


I'd be the first person to tell you that I don't always have the right answer to a pain problem.  But I'm honest, stubborn and open-minded enough to tell my clients that when we hit road blocks, and I'm also committed enough that I will work on coming up with a creative solution to the challenge we are presented with.  


And that's exactly why I consider myself to be a Hybrid Personal Trainer/Instructor.  My job is to make my clients aware of what they didn't know about their body is put together and how it is 'supposed' to work normally.  In fact, three of my favorite sayings are 


'You don't know what you don't know'

'You can't correct what you are not aware of'

'You can't fix what you can't feel'


I help clients understand how their body should move when in perfect working order, where it is now (for whatever the reasons), and then develop a plan to help them restore it one their own.


I would say that I am a catalyst.  My clients ultimately have to bring all the reactive components together with a willingness to learn.  My job is to figure out the chemistry, align them, and then stand back and light the match.


Instructors can impart only a fraction of the teaching.  

It is through your own devoted practice that the mysteries are brought to life 

- Morihei Ueshiba Osensei


Anthony Carey is one of my favorite corrective exercise educators.  He is the owner of Function First in San Diego, CA.  He too came from a similar education and experience path.  Like me, Carey got to a place where he acknowledged that a "one size fits all approach" to overcoming the complexity of chronic pain relief is a limited and restricted view of how to best help a client who comes to us for help.  


Over a year ago he wrote a column that I've paraphrased and would like to share.  I believe it perfectly sums up What I Do here at Pain Free Posture MN.


What I Do (by Anthony Carey)


I want to teach something that will last your entire life.  It's my desire to:

  • Teach beyond the session to create personal responsibility and independence
  • Personal responsibility and independence fosters empowerment in one's health and well being
  • Empowerment in one's health and well being increases confidence and improves quality of life
  • Confidence and quality of life foster happiness and success


Actually, I′m often at a loss to nail down the specifics when people ask me what I do for a living.


What I do does not fit neatly into a clearly defined field such as "pilates instructor", "personal trainer" or "posture alignment specialist".  While I do teach all of those things as singular modalities, if I label myself as such, it keeps me in a very small niche, and I do so much more than that!  


I′m certainly not a physical therapist, although I've been told many times I perform just like one.  (NOTE:  I desperately wanted to be a PT, but was not accepted into the program at University of Manitoba back in the day - and I might add I'm very grateful now that I wasn't looking back and connecting all the dots), nor do I claim to be one and I′m not a chiropractor, nor do I claim to be that either.


I am a Corrective Exercise Specialist, and I use terms like biomechanics and posture alignment which better describes what I teach and do.  But here's the truth.  I get lots of blank stares. 


Sometimes I just say, "I help people get out of chronic muscle and joint pain", but that also limits me since I do so much more than that!  


In addition to helping people get out of pain I also work with children and athletes with dysfunctional movement patterns, and help them correct them so they can perform better in their sports.  I help people avoid cortisone shots, joint replacement surgery, pelvic floor disruption, spine impingements and misalignments, osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia and more...


I love that about what I do.  I love to help people with creative and efficient ways to help them perform better.  But then I′m always asked if I′m a chiropractor, physical therapist or doctor. I hate that about what I do.


My clients don′t look much like your personal training client. Often on the outside they look normal, often very athletic, but on the inside they have pain that affects every aspect of their daily lives.  As much as I′d like to help people with goals like getting fit or, improving sports performance, that′s just not why the majority come through my doors. 99% of my clients have one goal: chronic pain relief.  


I am truly blessed that I'm able to help these people and that they put their trust in my skill set. It is one of the most rewarding professional experiences you could ever have when you can show someone the path to a pain-free life. I love this about what I do.


I am a catalyst.  For the most part I am a "hands off" therapist.  Aside from some palpation of landmarks to educate and assess posture, I never touch my clients.  I provide no hands-on soft tissue work, no manipulation, no direct mobilization, and no assisted stretching. Nothing. It′s all exercise, and I teach and empower my clients to do all that for themselves.


Since I don′t touch my clients, there is no need to come back to see me three times a week. Once a week is usually more than enough, because if my clients do their homework on their own every day, they start to get better.  


If they don't, I will terminate the working relationship, because I don't believe that I should be just like every other modality where you come to me to manage your pain.  I WANT my clients to get better!  That means YOU have to take the primary role in healing.  Otherwise, I'm just another cog in the sick-care system.  


I'm not ashamed to say that I am extremely good at what I do. I′ve helped clients who had not been helped by some of the most trusted institutions and practitioners my community.  I′ve had clients who work with me via Skype in different states and countries, and worked with elite athletes, heads of industry, medical doctors, chiropractors, and blah, blah, blah. 


I′m not telling you this to boast. I'd be the first person to tell you that with as much success with clients that I've had, I'm not always the right person for each individual.


I′m telling you this because for the past 25 years I have been fascinated that the right sequence of corrective movement exercises can take away decades of chronic pain in a short amount of time.   It's my passion to continue learning so I can help more people.   I love this about what I do.


After their pain is gone or mostly gone, then I can transition into more of a traditional role of personal trainer, Pilates, group fitness or yoga instructor.  My clients have clarity on the long term strategy for their health and wellness goals, and if they chose to stay, I can help them with their next challenges. 


But, it doesn′t work that way. I am now imprinted on the client′s mind map and they forever link me with their ability to live pain-free.  I hate that about what I do.


Many physical therapists and chiropractors see me as a competitor.   And sadly, most medical doctors have no idea what I do.   I can get clients from the United States, but often I don′t get clients from my own neighborhood simply because of the sick-care system.    I really, really hate this about what I do.

Doctors and physical therapists have never referred one client to Pain Free Posture MN.  And in my 11 years of operation, only one chiropractor has referred, and he has admitted that he will only do so when either insurance runs out, or he has tried every possible adjustment possible first.  Why? I could list multiple reasons why I think they don′t….but only they know.


Sadly, in my opinion, the traditional western approach to dealing with pain and the medical community in general is slow to accept the role of the fitness community as part of the health care continuum.  Probably because our services are under valued, and let's face it, not all certifications are created equal (which is a whole other topic).  Although the opinions of doctors and medical professionals may carry more weight than mine, I truly believe that YOU know more about your health than anybody else.


I truly believe that if given the right circumstances, the human body can heal when the problem is addressed from a WHOLE person (mind, body and spirit) approach.  But that means you have to be treated as more than just a pain, problem or symptom.  Exercise under the right sequencing is medicine, is healing, and finding the right combination of modalities to meet the unique needs of each individual is VITALLY important.  That is why I practice Hybrid Personal Training/Instruction.


It gives me the freedom to truly help people.  I'm a FIXER.  And that is what I love what I do.  

 

Stock Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com

Head Photo Credit:  Melissa Thome Photography

Author:  Deb Preachuk is the founder/owner of Pain Free Posture MN.  A CF-L1 Trainer, Certified Foundation Training & STOTT Pilates Instructor, Corrective Exercise & Posture Alignment Specialist, Deb has over 25 years experience in the health and wellness field.  

You can follow her on Facebook, Twitterand LinkedIn, or subscribe to her YouTubePinterest or Instagram pages.