Saturday, 20 March 2010

Personal training is interesting

Institutionally as well as substantively

Lisa Gombinsky


One part of why I went for the personal-training qualifications in the first place was to find a way to be insured as a conductor without relying upon the local cerebral palsy association, The Spastic Centre – the only organization in New South Wales employing conductors. As a personal trainer I am covered for movement work with people in special populations – geriatrics, children, pre-post natal women, and people with injuries or disabilities. There is a stipulation regarding my insurance that says trainer cannot do rehab stuff that they are not qualified to do, or to diagnose. Like most trainers I work within a referral network that includes physiotherapists and other allied health care folk. As it works out now, Conductive Education is offered as a speciality within my personal training business. Though I was – am still am – uncomfortable about 'private practice fees' for CE and about running a CE service that would only be financially accessibly to very few people, I have been privileged enough to be able to work through Fighting Chance Fund. This is Sue O'Reilly's charity, launched only a few months ago. Through this charity, those who need support to access Conductive Education and other therapies or interventions can receive funding for services of their choice that they deem vital.

This 'private-practice CE' may or not be great for 'the integrity of CE or the establishment of permanent CE in Australia' but others have offended against CE more blatantly without apparently considering that. It is good for my participants, however, who get to access me. They don't care about the politics or the long-term establishment of Conductive Education – they care about being able to access a service that helps them in their day-to-day lives, and about being able to access a service that is flexible and can meet their present needs. And, my being burned out and exhausted from fighting ' the good fight' within a non-conductive institution had not been helping anyone any either.

I do not regret having spent the first decade of my career in Conductive Education fighting for the integrity and the long-term establishment of the practice, not at all. I am proud to have been a part of it and wholeheartedly salute those who are now carrying torches and making waves. But what is right for me now is getting to focus soley on my individual clients and their particular wants and needs, to be a conductor in the moment, not worrying whether funding for my program is going to get cut or what the people making the decisions really think, or about building something huge that might rely on me to run. Tending to my own little garden, watching it flourish, I work the hours that suit me, I provide the service the way that I think it should be provided and answer only to myself and to my participants. I have found a way to be insured and for people who need help to be funded to access me, and I am loving CE again.


A second reason for getting started in personal training was that there was never anyone willing or interested in taking on my participants with disabilities when I wanted to refer them out to mainstream personal-training settings – so I wanted to be able to meet myself on the other end.

It is funny, there are 24+ trainers at the gym, and I get the referral for anyone who is a bit different – not just 'motor disorder' but all those who walks in with anything wrong with them:
  • blind – 'Send them to Lisa'
  • schizophrenic – 'Lisa can handle them'
  • hip replacements – 'Oooh, better refer to Lisa'.
I would guess that I am at about 60% disabled participants now, including my private CE.

Personal goals

I was also tired of not being able to work with participants because someone decided that their goals were 'non-CE goals'. This was defined where I worked by the people who decide what goals are valid enough for therapists to take on. You just would not believe the detailed algorithms and decision-making trees that took so many hours hours and a fortune to develop, to justify why a requested service is not something that the organisations is able to provide. SHAME is all that I can say, SHAME. People with disabilities who want to lose weight, get fitter or stronger, manage stress with exercise and movement, feel good – were getting told that they did not qualify for CE. People who said that they couldn't explain it, but that they felt better when they were 'doing CE' were being told that their goals were not valid when there were limited resources.

Now I decide, or more truly, my participants decide whether what I have to offer is something that will help them. Now,I do not have to say No to anyone I think I can help, and I can work with people however and wherever they and I think will be best for them. It is great – no stress or bureaucracy, no formal referral processes, no standardised objective data-collection instruments asking questions about the wrong things – just getting on with it.

It has been great to be able to bring people with disabilities into the mainstream gym environment. People have almost stopped staring when I 'help' them out of their wheelchair and then stand back while they struggle to get back up from the floor. I still get other people – including fellow-trainers – commenting about how nice and patient I am to do this special work. I have to laugh because I have infinite patience for this type of work and minimal patience for coaxing lazy able-bodied people on to treadmills, or for being a trinket for someone who has a trainer because all the other ladies at the golf club have one.

Plus and minus, mainly plus

There are a few things that I do not love about private practice:
  • I miss the groups and the opportunity to make groups, and the dynamic of the class setting
  • pne-to-one practice is very energy-consuming
  • I sometimes find it hard to be in people's homes where I cannot control the environment
On the other hand:
  • it is very useful to see people in the environment that you are trying to help them manage better
  • I like the relationship that I can have when I am in their homes – I don't have to follow rules about being 'objective' and not hugging people for example
  • I can sit down and have a cup of tea or see people's gardens that they are so proud of – the little things that make everything human and real
  • I know that people's families and my participants, can contact me directly when something comes up. They do n'o have to go through a complicated referral process and waiting list, they email or text, or call me directly
  • I even see some clients from my former place of work in the group homes that it runs. I can work with them to make sure that things practised and learned previously are maintained, instead of being let slide because an individual's service was over and maintenance was not deemed a goal.
What next?

So private practice is interesting. For me it is still early days

The long-term plan is a private gym, actually more of a private personal training studio – accessible of course – for people with or without disabilities, big enough for me to be able to run Conductive Education groups again, and in a space respectable enough for me to proudly invite in people with disabilities who would prefer not to be in a large gym environment, to access either CE or personal training.

I hope that this will be opening by the end of the present calendar year. It will make me grin and giggle to see Conductive Education' as a group fitness option alongside Yoga and Pilates. We shall see.


Fighting Chance Fund

Previous published report:

Gombinsky, L. (2010) In A. Sutton, Maguire, G.  (eds.), The physical me,  Just do it! Young conductors in their new world, Birmingham Conductive Education Press, pp.11-17

Sutton, A.(2010) Australian-Canadian, Conductive World, 14 March

1 comment:

  1. Your plans and achievements so far sound very exciting, Lisa. To be able to povide CE without any of the usual financial, organisational and political difficulties must be every conductors' dream and although they try to do this, I am sure it is not always possible. I hope you achieve your future plans and manage to get your services including groups. I am sure it will become an example of one of the ways conductors and CE can move forward into the 21st century.

    If I was still at the National Library this piece would have been printed off and added to the stock for all to access.

    Good luck and do keep us updated regularly on your progress.

    One last note, your reference to your chapter in 'Just Do It' is missing its title of 'The physical me'.