Motivational messages were the theme of the Inspired Insights speakers on the final day of the 2015 Club Industry Show in Chicago.
Fitness Beyond Borders and Playgrounz Founder Jeremy Strom spoke of building communities, club owner and former "The Biggest Loser" contestant Marty Wolff detailed the mindset of those fighting obesity, and Gainesville Health & Fitness Founder Joe Cirulli shared his harrowing story as a pilot and the lessons it taught him in business.
Strom, the former director of education for FreeMotion Fitness, was the first speaker in the Inspired Insights set. He talked about growing up poor in Salt Lake City before taking up running, which sparked a love of fitness and led him to a career in coaching and later the fitness industry. During a trip to Sweden, Strom found himself sitting with other fitness professionals from warring countries and that conversation changed his life.
"Be full of self because the only way to have passion is to be full of self," Strom said. "And the only way to create community is if you present yourself with passion - as if you present yourself as your greatest, most powerful being. It's terrifying."
Strom talked about not getting much sleep the night before speaking at the Club Industry Show and feeling nervous. He closed out his speech by channeling fears from the audience, then suggested taking the exercise back to their clubs and trying it with staff.
Strom started the exercise by directing the audience to stand up and face the center of the room.
"I want you to think about your greatest asset as a human being," Strom said. "What is the most absolute thing you're proud about you, that you say when nobody is looking?"
The challenge, he said, was for each person to say their greatest asset louder than a whisper or so loud it could be heard in another room. The audience obliged and shouted in unison.
"Was that scary for anybody?" Strom asked. "Did anyone not go after it? Here's the lesson. That opportunity is gone. Remember next time when you have the opportunity - Go. Go. Go. Go. It all starts with where you are today, with community. That is what builds on tomorrow."
Wolff, the owner of Square One Health Club, followed Strom. Wolff's club caters to people of size in Omaha, Nebraska, and he uses teachings learned from "The Biggest Loser" as well as methods developed while working with overweight clients into a community-centric approach.
"When people walk in the doors of Square One, they are normally there to start working out or start eating better, and they are almost always there out of negative motivation," Wolff told the audience. "They just got a diagnosis. They're tired of feeling like crap. They never walk in the doors because they say 'I love this health thing. I'm so good at it, and I just want to keep doing it.'"
What those clients don't understand, Wolff said, is that the reason they are at the club is because of a mindset. Wolff has a class at Square One called "Train Your Brain" developed from what he called his own "eclectic mishmash of research." He called it unique because the research is translated through his eyes as a food addict for other food addicts.
"It makes it practical to my population," Wolff said. "From day one, I set out to stop a sabotaging mindset. What every person of size has in common is a mindset that has continually sabotaged their efforts. I call it their 'seed of doubt.'"
If the fitness industry does not take time to understand how people of size think and feel, it could be left behind, Wolff said.
"It's about people who see and experience the world differently," Wolff said. "I don't think one chapter in a personal training manual under obesity, under the whole chapter of special populations, is enough to fully understand this population. I don't see how you can call the whole two-thirds of the county special. I would call it the norm. I would call it the majority."
Wolff called himself a food addict in opening and closing his speech, but he also identified himself as a "fighter."
"That's what I think this industry needs more of. That's what I think the world needs more of. Plus-size fighters leading the charge and opening up," Wolff said.
Cirulli, who was Club Industry's Lifetime Achievement Award recipient in 2012, closed out the Inspired Insights series. Cirulli is also a pilot, and he described how he landed safely when the battery in his plane exploded midair during a flight in Florida, causing a catastrophic electrical failure that knocked out his communications system and all his instruments.
The first lesson Cirulli learned from the experience: when things get tough, do not overreact. Cirulli said he did not panic as he composed himself after the explosion.
"I immediately started thinking," Cirulli told the audience. "Once everything was gone, I knew I had to make decisions and make them fast."
He started searching for an interstate to guide his way. Once he realized he flew too far and was in a military area, he decided to change course. Cirulli stayed positive and focused on maintaining proper elevation.
With the electronics out, Cirulli had no way of activating runway lights at nearby airports, which he could do at smaller airports if his electronics were available. As he was in the air still searching for a safe place to land, lights came on at a runway at what he later learned was an airport west of Jacksonville.
"Before I left Tampa, I remembered that I filed a flight plan, and I gave air traffic control notice about what I was going to do," Cirulli said. "It's like laying out our plans in business, which allows other people to help us accomplish our goals."
When Cirulli landed, he discovered an air traffic controller from Jacksonville who had his flight plan had been tracking his plane, and thinking the lack of communication from Cirulli's plan meant he was in distress, the controller triggered the runway lights for him as he approached the small airport.
"I know having a plan, staying calm, making a decision, changing a decision when I realized it wouldn't work, staying positive, focusing all of my energy and believing I could do whatever was necessary to create the type of outcome I am searching for not only applied to me that night, but also applied to me in everything that I do in my plane and in my business," Cirulli said.