Monday, June 4, 2012

A Tale of Two Doctors on a Plane

Here is a story I share with my personal training students from time to time.

There are two doctors on a plane that is traveling out west to Arizona. The plane has over 150 passengers on it with 7 staff employees working on this particular flight. About 2 hours into the flight, the plane is steadily sifting through the sky about 35,000 feet above land. The captain shut off the "seat belt" indicator and passengers are free to move about the cabin. During the brief moments where passengers begin to get comfortable, one man begins flaying his torso and holding his shoulder. He shudders violently in his seat and grinds his teeth while making an eerie humming noise. As the back of his head continues to hit the seat, nearby passengers begin to scream and alert the flight attendant.


Someone shouts, 'I think he is having a seizure!"

Another passenger shouts, "He's having a heart attack!".

A nearby woman screams, "I think he is choking!"

A couple of the flight attendants ran up the aisle to the man, who had stumbled onto the floor of the jet and was having a hard time breathing. One of the flight attendants brought a first aid kit and water. Another flight attendant tried to calm the nearby passengers. Another flight attendant went to the back of  a curtain and talked to the captain. She alerted him of the situation and he prompted her to seek any medical professionals on board.

Within seconds,  the flight attendant stood a few feet away from the commotion and asked the passengers, "If there is a physician or any other medical professional among you, please step forward and please help us."

Many of the passengers looked around. One man in a business suit walked forward and announced, "I'm a doctor".

Another man, gently walked behind a flight attendant and whispered in her ear, "I am a physician".

By now, two doctors stood above the man who was beginning to stabilize; but was sweating profusely and looked delirious. Doctor #1 looked at the other and asked, "do you have supplies with you?"

Doctor #2 replied "No. Everything is in my office back in Rhode Island".

Doctor #1 responded, "Let's take a look at his vitals."

Doctor #2 was hesitant and still had yet to crouch down next to the man.

"I don't have my equipment. I am not prepared to help this man without having my tools."

Doctor #1 turned to the second doctor in bewilderment. His palm was clasped under the head of the victim and he was checking his pupils. He replied, "What do you need?"

Doctor #2 began to look uncomfortable. Both men were roughly the same age...somewhere in their fifties. But Doctor #2 was very detached from the situation and seemed to let Doctor #1 do most of the work. He said, "Without my staff nurses, I cannot follow my protocol to help this young man. I will be hurting more than helping."

By this time, the captain of the plane had arrived onto the scene and thanked everyone. The victim was able to sit down in a seat away from the passengers and was being further examined by Doctor #1. Within 30 minutes, he was talking, breathing normally, and coherent. By this time, Doctor #2 had sat back into his seat and was reading a newspaper.

Doctor #1 was praised by the flight attendants and nearby passengers. He shook many hands and made his way up the aisle to meet with Doctor #2. Upon approaching Doctor #2, he crouched down next to his seat and asked, "Want to expalin why you were reluctant to help that passenger out, Doctor?"

Doctor #2 responded, "I told you, without my tools, I cannot follow my protocol to evaulate a patient and ultimately help him".

Doctor #1 shook is head in disgust and walked back to his seat.

So what is the moral of this story? Many trainers think they need fitness gadgets to deliver results. But they don't. The newest suspension training device or the newest kettle-bells don't make for effective coaching.

What good is learning the best assessment screening model if the trainer is still lacking in other fundamental skills like communication or problem solving?  Unlike Doctor #2, who refused to help because he felt that he was ineffective without his tools nearby; a good personal trainer doesn't need to stand back from an opportunity to help someone just because he or she doesn't possess the gadgets will define his work. The tools that are relevant to helping someone are intangible. If you work to improve what you know and understand it; the tangible tools of your trade will simply accent your skills. Here are some ways:

1.) Attend conferences or seminars about things that are not what you particular specialize in. For instance, last year, I attended a seminar on Brain Function and was the only personal trainer in the room. I was among speech therapist, psychiatrists, and social workers. I felt uncomfortable, but I was fascinated by what I had learned. 

2.) Train people outside of your specialty from time to time. I'm sure we'd all like to train athletes and clients that fit our ideal "mold", but from time to time, it is important to get uncomfortable. It's time for you to uncover other skills that include patience, temperament, and empathy--that will make you a better trainer in the long term. Training an older client or one riddled with past injuries is a great way for you to utilize your bare essential programming skills. 

3.) Utilize body weight and understand it. I like how prisoners get creative when training in their cells. They learn functional anatomy and leveraging alot better than most trainers. Many prisons across America removed gyms and fitness equipment in their facilities for fear that prisoners would get too strong or use them as weapons. Now, prisoners are becoming creative and using whatever means necessary to make body weight exercises more effective using nothing but positioning and leveraging. When you don't have many tools at your disposal, it enables the mind to work harder at becoming creative with your programming. It is easy to spend hundreds of dollars on the newest fitness gadget, but like the sword...it is only as good as the person yielding it.


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