James W. Askew is an ACE (American Council on Exercise) certified personal trainer. James is also Director of Operations for a company that provides materials to the oil industry for drilling purposes. He has managed production facilities for more than 25 years now. He has witnessed first-hand the effects of poor physical conditioning and nutritional habits on an employee’s job performance and injury risk potential.
TrainingTips.com: Can you expand on how your experience in managing an unfit workforce has fueled your passion to train and teach others how to beome more fit and healthy?
James: The well being of employees is one of the foremost responsibilities of any manager. Work related injuries and illnesses cost the company by lowering production rates, increasing insurance premiums, reducing morale, etc. Excessive health related events reduce profitability for the company, but primarily impact the employee sometimes both physically and emotionally for years to come. A good manager wants to see his or her employees succeed. A good manager has compassion for the person, while watching out for the well being of the company.
I’ve seen countless cases where employees literally could not function in jobs that required minimal physical effort. Example 1: An employee informed his manager that “this was harder than I expected” and quit his job after two hours on his first shift. His job was to push a mop across a concrete floor. Example 2: An employee’s job was to take 25 pound bags of material and stack on a pallet at a rate of four bags per minute. The employee complained that the job was too difficult and his back ached. Example 3: It is becoming more common to have candidates either a.) opt out of taking a job because the job description requires physical activity or b.) ask for a higher wage during the interview because of the pending physical activity.
This is why I want to help people live more fit and healthy lives. In most of the cases including those listed above, the individual is moderately if not highly overweight. These are people who could live happier, healthier lives with some guidance from a personal trainer. They are people with dreams and ambitions that could be achieved with a few lifestyle changes.
TrainingTips.com: You’ve witnessed individuals fail at holding down a job simply because of their poor physical conditioning and/or their poor nutritional habits. What are some simple changes that people can make to start making the shift towards a healthier life today?
James: The most obvious simple change that people can make is to improve their diet plans. Poor physical conditioning is somewhat subjective. Just because a person doesn’t look like an athlete doesn’t necessarily mean that they are not fit or that they don’t remain physically active. But more often than not, a person’s nutritional habits are in plain view for all to see. People can begin making the shift toward a healthier life today by paying attention to their diets. Drinking water instead of drinks loaded with sugar would be a simple start. Eating snacks made of natural grains instead of snacks with high sugar and saturated fat contents is another. Eating smaller portions several times per day instead of waiting for one or two big meals is another.
There are simple physical changes that can be made to jump start a person’s mindset toward more physical activity. Spend time walking through the store parking lot instead of spending time waiting for a closer parking space. Go for a walk or jog in the evening instead of sitting at a computer studying Facebook.
TrainingTips.com: Is it possible to incorporate small levels of fitness while in the workplace?
James: Yes, it is possible to incorporate small levels of fitness while in the workplace. Office employees can stand and move around while making telephone calls. Simple stretching exercises periodically throughout the day can improve flexibility. Employees involved in more physical tasks can focus on proper lifting techniques to incrementally improve muscle balance and reduce injuries. Employees can choose water for refreshment instead of drinks from the Coke machine.
TrainingTips.com: What is your philosophy when it comes to fitness?
James: My philosophy on fitness is not flashy or complicated. Anyone can improve their fitness level by simply doing something differently than they are doing right now. If you are not happy in your current circumstance, then do something about it. The key to success is building confidence in yourself. The only way to build confidence is through knowing you will do something differently to effect a positive change. Thinking about or wanting to become more fit is not enough. You must be willing to do something about it.
For some people, the doing something different part might involve quitting smoking or drinking alcohol to excess. Once they do quit, they realize that they feel better than before. And they function better both at home and at work. Then they begin to feel more confident in themselves because what they did was a success. For others, doing something different might involve committing to eliminating soft drinks from their diets, along with beginning some form of workout routine. Once they realize that what they’ve decided to do is working, they become more confident in their ability to improve. Success breeds success.
TrainingTips.com: Can you talk about the importance of Functional Fitness in an overall workout routine?
James: Functional fitness is important in an overall workout routine because the human body is designed to move in multiple planes synergistically. Therefore, we need to prioritize training both our muscular and neurological systems to work using compound movements. Bending and lifting activities require that the body’s muscles work in unison. Stabilizer muscles need to be trained too. So focusing alone on machine-based training can be detrimental when it comes to everyday activities. It is not practical in everyday life to develop strong muscles if the muscles they work with stay weak. Functional training teaches different muscles how to work together. The starting point for any functional fitness approach is training the body to learn stability and balance. This is a must for anyone, whether it be for everyday activities or work related tasks.
TrainingTips.com: What inexpensive steps can managerial staff take when it comes to looking after employee health and wellness?
James: Some steps are inherent in managing industrial facilities. Regular safety meetings highlighting common topics such as lifting and ladder safety procedures are the norm. Wearing personal protective equipment is another example. This is an inexpensive way of looking after employee health and wellness. Additionally, encouraging proper hydration with beneficial fluids is important. Taking the time to visit one-on-one with employees can have lasting impact. Explaining how to lift properly, encouraging someone to reduce or stop smoking, sharing a bit of knowledge about better types of lunches and snacks that would help them loose weight are all examples. But the key to it all is setting an example by being a model of fitness by eating right and exercising regularly. Employees will ultimately take notice because you will display a different attitude about health related issues. That sometimes leads to them asking questions. Then the door is open for you to guide them into healthier lifestyles.
Another very effective step could be to consider a workplace wellness seminar taught by a Health Coach or Personal Fitness Trainer certified by an NCCA accredited certifying agency like ACE.