PASSION, and the INTANGIBLE
: A Window on the Future of Exercise
Tommy Boone, PhD, MPH, MA, FASEP, EPC
Professor and Chair
Director, Exercise Physiology Laboratories
The College of St. Scholastica
Duluth, MN 55811
Of all the mental and laboratory skills exercise physiologists
have to do their work, imagination and passion are least likely used.
When we think about it though, both are power and, when coupled, we have
conviction. So why is it that some of our colleagues are
not working overtime to know their future? This is the 21st century
question. Is it that they don’t know how to deploy the right thinking
or resources to convert their thoughts to a belief? Is it simply a
function of exercise physiology being a young science? And, if so,
this is surprising when we consider our strengths in past battles.
That is, the foundation from which we stand has been built on the backs of
many great men and women in exercise physiology. They developed a scientific
body of exercise physiology that is rare in such a relatively short period
of time. Their names are too numerous to mention. We have reason
to value their contribution and to honor their work. And, one of the
greatest things that has come from it is the education of so many good students.
Imagination is more important than knowledge. – Albert Einstein
Today, the possibility of a new exercise physiology is within
our reach. Backed by the power invested in imagery, the result of our
attention to professionalism is becoming a reality that is different from
yesterday. It is proper, right, and timely. It is what our great
teachers who came before us would want, even though some of them don’t fully
understand it. The past way of thinking is a beginning. It is
not the power of today’s thinking. This is why we must pay close attention
to the boundless opportunities of knowing and trusting our instincts.
It is part of the process of asking ourselves, “Who are we?” “What
is our future?” “Who is speaking for us?”
In this way, we never compromise our abilities for helping
others as well as perfecting our strengths. Now exercise physiologists
have the ability to choose what they will do with their body of knowledge.
But, they had to wait for the development of a new organization, the American
Society of Exercise Physiologists. As a member of the organization,
they can concentrate their attention on the study of professionalism.
Members are linked to seeing, believing, and expecting something different.
And, because they are using their imagination to find answers to how things
can be better, their ability to comprehend what the future will be like is
Imagine an entirely different exercise physiology, where
exercise physiologists locate professional jobs, and where exercise physiologists
who embrace a code of ethics and standards of professional practice are credible
healthcare practitioners. Now, try harder; conjure up the image of
a licensed exercise physiologist whose salary competes well with physical
therapists and nurses. Replay the event in your mind. Be specific.
Entertain yourself with the new reality. Work at seeing the new exercise
physiology. It is quite a different image. Think of it as clear
thinking that associates with passion for one’s work.
Imagination is Power!
We can use it to set our emotional and mental frame of mind
to think and plan to solve our problems. Mental simulations help to
make what is imagined seem real. They are useful as a window of opportunity
to anticipate the future by evoking a positive emotional state that is linked
to self-regulating activities . Consider, for
example, a great job in healthcare, making more money as a healthcare practitioner
than as a personal trainer in the local gym. We can also imagine the
title “professional” among other professionals. In fact, this point
is supported by several empirical investigations [2-4].
Imagination is not wishful thinking. The information
that is relevant to problem solving in mental simulations is constrained
by reality. It is therefore a plausible reality that allows for a new
view of exercise physiology. This is similar to virtual reality within
the context of real-time thinking, albeit in a modest form. And, as
this thinking shows, as a parallel in the literature from sport psychology
on mental practice, mental imagery improves physical performance . Perhaps, it is time that we harness the power of
mental imagery or simulation to improve work conditions by mentally practicing
As I awake early everyday before work, I go inside my head
to see the future. First, I see a professional with a unique healthcare
niche in the public sector. By this I mean that I see a person with
a scientific body of knowledge that is immediately applicable to health,
fitness, rehabilitation, and athletics. Then, I see the public going
to the exercise physiologist for educational counsel and analysis of cardiovascular
function at rest and during exercise. The next scene shows me in a
professional office guiding clients through different discussions and analyses,
including the application to real-life events with the equipment necessary
to ensure the client’s success and thus the conversion of the image into
reality. These images are a special key to my faith and concentration
in improving my professional life.
there is the anticipation of an answer resulting from the concentration,
particularly if there is both a mental practice and an action . The student who wishes to be a successful exercise
physiologist increases his or her chances by mentally imaging the steps to
get there and, similarly, by envisioning him- or herself already there . By seeing yourself there and upon realizing the
outcome of professionalism, the reality is that the end result is already
embedded in your mind. The outcome of this thinking is consistent with
numerous other research reports that mental imagery coupled with the right
planning, strategy, and action will get you where one want to be. Can
it be this simple? Not surprisingly, the answer is “yes”.
The sum of our thinking is that we have the power to be
successful. When we use our imagination to confirm our beliefs, old
ideas are no longer reinforced or strengthened. The ambiguity of the
public sector experiences is corrected with feelings and evidence that associate
with “seeing” and “believing” in a change in our attitudes and possibilities.
Our attitudes are important; they are learned and enduring predispositions
in response to particular stimuli . Are we prepared
to embrace the leader within us? Are we willing to encourage, mentor,
and do what it takes to be a leader? Are we willing to engage in serious
communication about our future? I have faith that we are ready and that
our time has come.
While there is no secret recipe for realizing our vision,
there is one basic concept that can be mastered – IMAGINATION. It is
what turns a great idea into action. The need for all exercise physiologists
to come together is tremendous. We need to support each other.
And, it is obvious that the need extends to the academy, to those who work
in the public sector, and to the undergraduates. Any place where we
can get together, imagination is one key to dealing with issues (large or
small). Without it, out ability to come together, to talk, and to listen
isn't likely to thrive for long. We need to be open to possibility
thinking . We need to sit down an draw a picture
of who we are! Again, in Schuller’s view:
The me I see is the me I’ll be. If I cannot see it,
I will never be it. Until I believe it, I will never achieve it. --
[9, p. 34].
believe that we have power over our future. That is where imagination comes
into play: However uncommon, it must be integrated into our everyday
communication. Telling others what we see and what we believe is an
openness that has not necessarily been our way. Given our sense
of purpose, we are performing extraordinarily well. The challenge is
giving us a reason to find answers, and it has encouraged us to take risks.
Passion: The Force Behind Exercise Physiology Professionalism
"Some exercise physiologists find fault with out commitment
to a set of standards. Quite frankly, it is the passion that raises
As we approach
the upcoming 5th ASEP National Meeting, there will be the opportunity to discuss
and hear other exercise physiologists talk about professionalism. The
21st century exercise physiologist can no longer turn away from the path
of academic integrity and credibility. It will always be necessary to
talk, write, research, and live professionalism. This is what members
of professional organizations do. Those who get the big picture help
with the reality of the work we are involved in developing. We have
no choice but to think differently if not radically if we are to discover
our true value in society. This is why it is so difficult to understand
why exercise physiologists have been so reluctant to recognize the path to
Perhaps the answer lies in an observation that: “It’s
a fact that working as a fitness expert does not require an understanding
of professionalism.” Meaning, exercise physiologists haven’t been educated
to think about professionalism, yet they are experts in health and fitness,
rehabilitation, and sports training. Just imagine the force behind
their work if they were recognized professionals. Imagine the passion
for their work if they were supported by other healthcare practitioners with
true networking strategies in place. Unfortunately, an inventory done
recently of the undergraduate programs in the United States revealed that
exercise physiology in relation to other graduates is nearly an afterthought
[10,11]. Despite the inertia of traditional thinking
that has resulted in our academic problems, there is hope.
The developers of ASEP meant it to be maximally inclusive
for exercise physiologists. Its very existence is inspirational, if
not an explosion of discovery and integration on a universal scale.
Nothing similar has ever attempted to clarify the role and direction of exercise
physiology. And, except for the occasional moments of the magnitude
of the quest, questions have been raised only to understand the timeline
to accomplish the assumed impossible. Defined broadly from the ASEP
perspective, this means simply doing what hasn’t been done before in such
a short period of time. That such is even possible is based on the
shared motivation and passion of the ASEP members. This is the simple
meaning of nothing more than understanding the members’ power when guided
by passion to realize their dreams as exercise physiologists. It is
also an understanding that is driven by passion so that our students may
find themselves not torn by confusion and conflict, but by the spirit of
possibilities. The hope of something better is embedded within the
One might reason that there is nothing new about another
organization. This is entirely incorrect. There is everything
new about ASEP and its vision . Its existence
is a transformation of exercise physiology that has never been tried, and
so it can easily be perceived as “new thinking” if not “unprecedented thinking”.
But, just as it is true that “to learn how to think is to learn how to live”
we must get involved with ASEP if we are to benefit from its truth.
Within us lies the hopes and dreams of many. The sky is the limit.
Yet, despite the discussions and debates (however minimal) and despite the
interest in health and fitness, the dichotomous distinctions between what
we are and what we should be still fail to challenge a significant number
of our colleagues to enlarge their perspective and connectedness. They,
too, will at some point in the future join ASEP to help with the professionalization
of exercise physiology. In this way, we draw others to us when we keep
the faith, conceive new possibilities, and build the roads to get there.
This is why we believe in ASEP and the essence of all its professional undertakings.
There is no occult trick here. The more we believe in what we are doing
is right, the more our passion will work for us in an overall constructive
good for exercise physiology.
Undergraduate education is a critical determinant of our
future. It is a springboard to advancing exercise physiology and students
who choose to major and then pursue the profession. It is also clear
that too many academic exercise physiologists have placed their bets on the
graduate program to define what we are. Please pardon me, but this
is sheer nonsense. One of the challenges ahead of us is how to trumpet
the engineering steps to ensure our accountability and academic respectability.
Here, the road to success begins with the undergraduate program of study.
Experience has taught us this with nursing. There is no mystery here.
The way to build exercise physiology into a healthcare profession is to start
at the bottom and work up. There is power in building a solid foundation
from which to re-build our graduate programs. Faith is power.
Passion is a certainty when our minds grasp the truth in an idea. It
stands, therefore, that our thinking and our actions have created unquestionably
positive steps toward professional recognition.
Passion that results from faith that neutralizes all doubt
is power, too. Time after time, we have read in novels, witnessed first-hand
in our personal lives, and watched movies about people who set out to do
something against all odds and did it. Just as a vision gives direction
to an organization, disciplined thinking directs the mind in advanced ways
to allow the flow of positive and passionate feelings through us. All
we have to do is believe that we have the power and, then we do! Few
people ever accomplish anything important without the willingness to believe
in the possibility of the task. The belief itself is empowering and,
perhaps, disturbing, too. Of all the healthcare practitioners, exercise
physiologists should recognize the truth in conviction more so than most.
It isn’t a great discovery in knowing that the path is uphill to grasp
the complete meaning of professionalism. Not until we know in our hearts
that we will make it will our minds come together in absolute truth and understanding
that we have made it.
It is useless therefore to play at being a professional.
There is no winning when only part of the heart has declared the right path
to take. There is a predictable win and a positive presence of
our actions when we work in conscious union, when we harness new thinking,
when we are compelled to build a future for our students and, indeed, when
we finally come to terms with the small voice inside each of us: “Know
thyself”. The proof of this thinking is in the doing. It is in
the building of bridges to those who have been unwilling to awaken within
themselves the spirit and passion of a new exercise physiology. It
is necessary for us to understand that we need to come together and agree
on the manifestations of our passion. There is something special that
we have. And, when it is actualized for all the right reasons, there
will be a vast difference between then and now and, most certainly, between
then and our past. This difference was, is, and will be the power within
us that is defining our reality.
The Intangible in Exercise Physiology
Men who accept different ideals and paradigms have really
no common theoretical terms in which to discuss their problems. They
will not even have the same problems: events which are “phenomena” in one
man’s eyes will be passed over by the other as “perfectly natural.” --
S. Toulmin 
up my father would say “Look in the mirror. You will see reality if
your dreams are driven by your actons.” There lies the power, that
is, action is power. Gaze for moment in your mind’s eye and reflect
upon the reality of your life. Is it a mirror image of deception or
is it reality? Do you share in the feelings of those who have gone
before you? Or, do you wish to ignore what you see? Our feelings
either make us strong or weak. They can help us or mock us. This
is the essence of understanding the strategy of the mirror. You can
either use it to your advantage or allow it to disarm you. All of us
have the same decision to make. This is simply the way it is, however
annoying. No one can escape it. No one can avoid analysis of
the real thing. Hence, it has remained both a charming and an unpleasant
task. Often times it is the undoing of many, especially those who are
caught on the slippery slope of indecision.
Indecision. What a price we pay? How has the
founding of ASEP changed exercise physiology? Are we any closer to
our vision? You bet we are! We have advanced a long way since
1997. But the development of a profession is always an ongoing process.
According to my father, it is better to see reality than to be deceived.
Our quest for professional status is fueled by passion not by opportunity.
It is a sharing of absolute excitement that our reality is emerging with
a concentrated success. The details of this point are clearly functional
parts of the ASEP home page. It conveys without a doubt a lot of work
on behalf of dedicated exercise physiologists who are willing to edit in
time and space the future of their dreams. Without the ASEP members,
neither this point in time nor our accomplishments could have been achieved.
In thinking of my father, it occurred to me that he was
born just 11 years after Albert Einstein. One was born in Germany and
the other in United States. Both were successful at what they did.
Neither was a child prodigy, but they did manage to alter history.
It is obvious what Einstein did. It is not obvious that my father was
a state senator of Louisiana or that he was a leading supporter of Governor
Huey P. Long. Talk about a "revolution". Whether it is the theory
of relativity or the reality of Louisiana taxes and roads, careful analysis
of both men defines the challenges they lived. It is as if every person
who is passionate about a struggle is in a battle of powerful conflicts.
Conflicts are part of all new ideas. They even serve to help direct
and accomplish the intended purpose. There is the conflict of whether
ASEP should have been founded in the first place and, yes, there is the other
side, too. If exercise physiologists should continue not to see
themselves in the mirror as they actually are, then the continued deception
will certainly keep us locked in the 20th century.
Because the body of knowledge of much of what constitutes
exercise physiology has always been viewed as part of sports medicine should
not be the reason to keep its head buried in the sand. We are living
in the 21st century now. Life is different. People are different.
We think about everything in ways we didn’t understand a few years ago.
This is why we can understand and support the determination of the ASEP members.
They have put their foot forward in confirmation of their right to be heard
and, therefore, to put their mark on the face of the emerging profession.
Look at the American Society of Exercise Physiologists, and you will
see the reality of exercise physiology Look at exercise
physiology from within a different organization and you will see a crude hoax.
Apathy is one answer for the existence of the latter. Another answer
is the failure of the academic community of exercise physiologists to check
out the details and other evidence that show why we need our own professional
organization. We need to better understand the role that conformational
bias plays in the outlandish thinking and behavioral that fails to support
It seems to me that it is inexcusable to continue mis-representing
the kinesiology degree with an emphasis in exercise science (as one example)
as though it is an academic degree in exercise physiology. A better
answer to this crude joke played on students is to update the academic programs
throughout the United States. I can imagine that those who might agree
with me simply have not made the effort. Is it simply because the topic
is too hot? Is there too much of a political controversy to try or
to think differently? The question of "Why smart men and women can
be so slow in understanding the ASEP arguments and evidence for its existence?"
raises yet another very important question. Is it justifiable to turn
away from the vision of the ASEP leadership? I suggest that, if the
goals and objectives of ASEP have been clearly constructed as the
path to helping our students, then we should consider the founding of ASEP
as both rational and reasonable even if it should go against normative standards.
After all, so far as I can tell, those who have become members
of ASEP do not believe that the correlation between ASEP and professionalism
is illusory. The reason for this lies in the very effort of ASEP members
who are helping with the board certification of exercise physiologists, accreditation
of undergraduate academic programs, and many issues that center on the professional
development of exercise physiology. Their mind-set is not self-defeating
by any stretch of the imagination. They have looked into the mirror
more than once, and they didn’t like the reality of what they had become.
As intelligent people, who have a high value of exercise physiology, they
took on the challenge to think differently (regardless of the resistance to
change). Their reality is now focused not on themselves, but on the
profound consequences of their actions.
Hence, those who believe that the undergraduate degree should
mean something (vs. a generic spin-off to yet another degree program) are
investing their time and intelligence to make it a reality. Strictly
speaking, they believe that if a nursing student can graduate with an undergraduate
degree and have respect as a professional, exercise physiology students deserve
the same. Since this isn’t the case in the United States, it reflects
badly on those who hold a hybrid belief that sports medicine and exercise
science is the right view. Those who believe that we can continue to
overlook the students in the undergraduate programs are mistaken. Students
are not dumb. Many view their education as a product paid for by tuition.
They expect a lifetime of reward in financial terms and in credibility and
respect from having attended a particular academic institution. But,
when the product is inferior and worthless, it makes them feel inferior if
not a loser.
For students, the intangible that they get from an
undergraduate degree is the boost in their overall self-esteem and their
hope of success. However, this is true only for those students whose
academic departments have direction and promise. Compared to students
who major in nursing, physical therapy, and occupational therapy, and who
graduate with the respective degree and professional title, those who graduate
with an emphasis in exercise science cannot call themselves exercise physiologists.
This means that only students who are enrolled in exercise physiology “academic
degree” programs have the right to the title. This is true across the
board academically. Why shouldn’t the same rules apply to our students?
Indeed, we have little recourse except to correct the academic
mess our students have had to endure. We can no longer avoid confronting
our academic deficiencies. I believe that this is so important that
should we fail to make the necessary curriculum and degree title changes,
we will almost certainly lose what respect we have from other healthcare
professionals. Perhaps worst of all, this 20th century view of keeping
things as they have been will rob our students of the opportunity to fulfill
their potential. Our students are intelligent. They relish the
challenge of studying the human body. They want to learn, and they
are willing to work hard. It is very much our responsibility to be
honest and ethical in our management and behavior with our own students.
The cost of not being responsible can be very high.
In order to avoid it, we must first need to understand the problem and the
disaster that awaits it. Such an understanding can be achieved by becoming
a member of the new exercise physiology of the 21st century. It is
"in the belief itself" that there will be change, that the problems our students
face will be corrected, that many members of ASEP look to the common sense
needed to befriend students. Otherwise, the harsh reality of mindlessness
that associates with no change would mean an even greater separation between
students and faculty.
The costs of foolishness can be very high. – Robert J. Sternberg
I’m an optimist.
I don’t believe we will continue thinking as we have. Just think of
the technological development in recent years, and there is no sign of slowing.
In 1950 there were 90,000 scientific articles published each year.
By year 2000, the number of scientific articles published each year increased
to 900,000 . The increase in the number of published
articles is not just impressive, but almost too large to understand.
Thinking today as we did 50 years ago doesn’t fly in the face of new knowledge,
ideas, and thinking of the 21st century. We have to be involved even
with that which we cannot easily define or grasp (i.e., the intangible good
will of ASEP members). Also, we must factor in as many considerations
as possible to get and sustained an intuitive feel for the right way to improve
our emerging profession. Our leadership must be change agents and innovators.
Their commitment (such as Drs. Kreider, LaGary, and Robergs) to the ASEP
ideals and plans to follow through the implementation of a 21st century change
is a prerequisite to our overall success.
The best plan is only a plan, that is, good intentions.
Unless commitment is made, there are only promises and hopes, but no plan.
– Peter Drucker
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