Fit Human Series: Anthony Whitty
Australian Catholic University
Each month, we will bring you an in-depth profile on someone in the fitness industry who has stepped outside the traditional fitness industry field to use their skills and experience in other areas. Our first interview is with Anthony Whitty; a member of our Industry Advisory Committee, a PT and an educator who works with communities in Timor Leste. Anthony kindly took some time out of his busy schedule to share his experiences and offer new trainers some words of encouragement.
You have 20 years industry experience. Tell us how you began and why you stepped into the educational sphere.
I have always had a real interest for sport and exercise. So I really began with the idea that I could train people to be really fit, lose weight over a short period of time and then they could do it on their own. Not the best business model but that was my head space when I started. What has changed over that time period is now I really enjoy learning and understanding how being healthy is more important than trying to be fit and lose weight all the time. After 15 years of training clients and mentoring other trainers I got an opportunity 5 years ago to move interstate and lecture in the Sport Science department at the Australian Catholic University (ACU). The great thing about the education aspect of the industry is that you can influence and assist more people at the one time as compared to training people one on one. I really like working with people and trying to help them follow their passions and be better versions of themselves.
What is ‘that thing’ about your work that keeps you passionate? Your ‘why’ for staying in this industry?
I really enjoy developing the students as individuals no matter what course they are studying. I enjoy teaching without taking myself too seriously and at the same time allowing myself to learn every year from the students I work with. They really teach me more than I teach them half the time. If you really try and be as authentic as possible as a teacher or leader in your industry then you are able to receive so much in return and that’s what keeps you going. The area of leadership is something that I am really interested in researching and developing at the moment
You have just returned from Timor Leste. Tell us about your trip.
On behalf of ACU I manage a project called Future in Youth (FIY). We take staff and students to a city called Baucau in Timor Leste and assist them in running an after school community soccer program for about 1200 disengaged youths. We work directly with community football coaches, administrators, Parish leaders, government officials, youth centres and schools. It is an amazing opportunity for us to work with a community to assist their youth. To see the smile on the kids’ faces is awesome. It is a fantastic program; just one of the many that the University facilitate in developing nations.
What do you think this opportunity provided the students who participated?
Programs like FIY teach the students the really important skills that they need in life that exist outside of the lecture rooms. As part of the program, ACU students participate in cultural workshops run by local community members educating them about community structures and functionalities. These workshops allow the students to better understand local family and community structures, cultural differences, and barriers to change. In turn the students help run courses to train the local community football coaches, school teachers and administrators to increase their capacity in running the program. I see the students change dramatically after their 3 week experience, you can literally see them grow and it is just an amazing experience for them and for us. It is a massive challenge for them to leave their secure lives in Australia in their only real break from their studies for the year and travel to an area with the local people don’t speak English, having very little infrastructure and participate in an environment that is completely foreign to them.
As an educator, what do you think is most important to ensure growth as a developing trainer?
The most challenging aspect for developing trainers is to keep up to date with all the latest information and trends surrounding fitness, health and exercise. It is such a competitive market these days you have to make sure you continue to understand the people you are working with and keep developing their trust. Make sure you take the time to understand the information that is out there and have the skills sets to be able to critically analyse it. Don’t just accept someone as being factual because someone said so. If you are able to do this then you decipher the information that is relevant for your clients and at the same time filter out the latest fads that don’t adhere to any of the scientific principles that you are learnt in your own educational framework.
What do you think are the biggest obstacles to trainers just starting out? What can they do to overcome these obstacles?
Probably the fear of just how many trainers are out there. When I first started the gym I was in had 5 trainers, when I left to go interstate to teach 15 years later there were over 40. The way to overcome this is to firstly make sure this is what you really want to do, that you want to work face to face with people to assist them in getting healthier Once you really believe that is what you want to do then just try to be the best you can be.
With the current expansion in the industry, what do you think really helps a trainer stand out from the crowd?
Someone who is really comfortable in their own skin. Someone who shows they actually really care about the wellbeing of their clients. Someone who focuses more on health than just fitness measures and weight loss techniques. Also someone that really wants to be there. It is so easy to see the trainers out there that are more interested in themselves than their clients; you can even here it in their conversations. The trainers that always stood out to me are the ones that really care and bring that energy and passion with them on a daily basis. Other clients see that and it is the best form of advertising.
Everywhere we look there seem to be motivational and inspirational quotes. Give us a one-liner that motivates or inspires you.
I don’t really do one liners or pin them up on walls or offices.
But what I do say a lot to the students I work with is in the wise words of Nemo’s friend Dory, “just keep swimming”.