for exercise physiologists
3 No 6 June 2000
Our Exercise Physiology Future
Tommy Boone, PhD, MPH, FASEP
Professor and Chair
Director, Exercise Physiology
College of St. Scholastica
LET ME MENTION FROM the beginning
what this article is not. It is not a quick-fix, feel-good, and certainly
not the final word on understanding the complexity of human organizational
behavior. Neither is it yet another analysis of fitness, health,
or rehabilitation. There are far too many reports and academic papers
published in a multitude of outlets on these subjects. This article
is about what it takes to change, to grow, and to challenge our assumptions
of what is exercise physiology. Its focus is professionalism, and
on helping you understand the emerging field of exercise physiology.
The professional assumptions
you live by create “your” definition of exercise physiology. If you
want to change the definition and, thus your reality, then you need to
change your assumptions. But, of course, such thinking assumes that
you are interested in a new reality! We all confuse personal thinking
with the thinking of everyone else. The sole advantage of thinking
like everyone else is that you feel part of a larger picture. This
is important for a lot of people, especially when a better way doesn’t
seem possible outside of group power. However, groups are not necessarily
the best force to realize the change we seek in exercise physiology.
Groups are frequently too self-centered to understand what it takes to
make a difference at the individual level. This article therefore
is written to help you link better with your feelings and beliefs and what
you can do at a personal level to professionalize exercise physiology.
It is about doing something that is good for all exercise physiologists.
It is about your ability to influence other exercise physiologists.
Its about you, and the choice (and power) you have to represent the new
exercise physiology community.
While not having a choice
erodes our self-esteem and destroys effective communication, having a choice
allows for new ideas, productivity, and demonstrated capabilities.
Choosing to make a difference offers a flip side to a previous one-sided
view of how to think or relate to others. It is more than just convenience;
instead, it is your right to make a clear decision between one direction
and another. Having the right to choose is liberating as well as
overwhelming. As to the latter, when you can choose between two situations
when only one existed for decades, it can become too much. You may
simply fail to choose out of fear or misunderstanding. This type
of powerlessness or indecision is consistent with years of one-way thinking.
But, after some period of time when you start to think for yourself, your
creative processes surface when questions such as “Is this the right organization
for me?” or “Am I isolating myself from others by remaining joined
emotionally to what I’ve been comfortable with?”
These questions and more
are an outcome of your need to be accepted by the members of the organization
or, perhaps, you enjoy the sense of family and belonging. Whatever
the reason that keeps you from choosing a different path, camaraderie by
itself is a poor substitute for not doing what you know is right.
Poor choices can also keep you in an emotional state of mind where you
learn to doubt yourself. Your fear of what others may say discourages
serious reflection and, in the end, you surrender to “what is” versus “what
could be”. And, so it is, we go through life settling for less because
we don’t know what is just around the corner. Why? Why do we
let our professors, friends, and mentors determine our future for us.
Part of the reason, I think, is that we haven’t learned how to think for
ourselves. We have been too dependent on the “expert” to show us
the way. Also, many of us operate from the unfortunate position of
“I can’t” or “I don’t think I can”. Beliefs like these are very damaging.
They set the stage for failure.
in the Possible
We can either give in to
others and suffer the worst possible outcome, or we can believe in ourselves
because we think we can come through for ourselves. All we need to
do is commit to action, regardless of the challenges. A commitment
to decide what must be done, a belief and trust in ourselves to do it,
and a learned responsibility for all exercise physiologists will make a
difference. We can believe in the possible now. All we have
to do is realize there is a future in exercise physiology, that we have
a choice in the kind of future we wish for ourselves, and that through
a common vision, we can make a difference. This thinking applies
to everyone, including you regardless of your background, no matter what
your situation, you have a choice from feeling helpless to doing something
about it. Starting where you are, you can change the assumption of
Is there a risk? Yes
and no. Sometimes it is not a matter of being ridiculed or belittled
that really matters. Rather, if things “stay the way they are” –
what’s the point? Without change, you stand to loose, be replaced,
or maneuvered into a way of thinking that is less than your dream.
Is it fear? Is that why you are so guarded in your consideration
of a new organization? Is it being labeled? We are all grown
ups, and life isn’t fair but we don’t have to keep following the wrong
path. Is it the embarrassment by associating? Get over it,
really. There are no short cuts to doing what is right. The
price of not managing your thinking is to let go of your power to define
your future. If you’re like me, leaving your future to somebody else
or a collective body of individuals who don’t have your best interest in
mind doesn’t sound like good thinking. The foundation of professional development
is fairness across the board, and independence in thinking. You may
think a non-exercise physiology way is the better approach, but trust me,
What is Right
In this age of technology,
people have come to believe they can get what they want. If it is
available, they can get it. If it is not available, they can create
it. If you need friends, then you can decide to cultivate friendships,
and jump through whatever hoops necessary to get them. This is also
true in exercise physiology. The threshold isn’t so big that anyone
with a little “fire in the belly” can move mountains and, if necessary,
the threshold can be lowered by “believing in yourself”. Simply stop
thinking negatively about whether something new can make it. It is
already a success if it exists, and is doing what it was intended to do.
Get rid of the old paradigms. Buy into the idea that your energy
and motivation can make a difference. Doing what is right is honorable
and, even those who disagree with you, as long as it is done with honesty
and integrity, will respect you.
Doing what is right is consistent
with sharing our reasons and the rationale behind our decisions to join
the American Society of Exercise Physiologists (ASEP). It is a mind-set
that is willing to “walk to talk” and thus pay the price for transforming
our exercise physiology future. No transformation is fast so we must
be patient with those who lack a similar mind-set. This point is
poignantly described by Edward Bulwer-Lytton (1) in the following: “The
best teacher is the one who suggests rather than dogmatizes, and inspires
his listener with the wish to teach himself.” Hence, to suggest the
need for a transformation of exercise physiology, along as it is not hard
or forceful, may help win support to build up the field. So be flexible
and sensitive to the feelings of others.
It has been said many times
that we find in life what we are looking for. Stated somewhat differently,
“The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” (2) Yet, throughout
time people have come face to face with this slogan without the willingness
to believe and/or commit to transforming their future. The reality
is that your future lies in your hands, but only if you have a dream and
if you are dedicated to making the dream come true. The dream (the
ASEP Vision) must be something that gets you out of the bed in the morning.
Your ability to transform the future of exercise physiologists depends,
therefore, on your agreement with and support of ASEP. The vision
is the ASEP hope and the belief that the members’ actions are worth the
risks. Are you willing to make a difference? For most new ventures,
few are willing to take the risks. To do so requires courage.
Are you willing to get outside of your comfort zone?
As Blaine Lee wrote, “Willingness
to risk means giving up something that is easier for something better;
it means a willingness to go without certainty for an uncertain, but likely
prospect. It means to consider the loss if you do not take the risk.
It means counting the cost of risking and counting the cost of not risking.”
(2) Remember the introduction and what was emphasized: This article
is not a quick-fix, feel-good, and certainly not the final word on understanding
the complexity of human organizational behavior. So, while I don’t
have the knowledge it takes to win you over and promise a smooth ride,
I want to help you make the transition to a new way of thinking about exercise
physiology. That is, if you are still interested after reading up
to this point, I want to help you feel good about the leaders in exercise
physiology across the past three or four decades while considering new
possibilities. That’s right! This article isn’t about putting
down your professors or the authors of your texts. It’s about gaining
a new view and hope for all exercise physiologists, not just the PhDs or
those in cardiopulmonary rehabilitation (however important).
This article is about trying
a new way of thinking that is more congruent with a genuinely solid professional
base from which all graduates can grow in professionalism and trust that
the community of exercise physiologists is truly a family of professionals.
It is about commitment to a new way of thinking. It is a wake-up
call even to the PhD professor who is comfortable in his/her college office;
a call to consider changes and transitions that are believed to work very
well in helping us become what we want to be. Most of us realize
the importance of being open to change and, thus we are psychologically
in relationship with doing something different. We look forward to
the transformation, although we realize that it will take time.
Have you considered how
ASEP could increase your influence throughout the work force? Have
you written off the possibility of change and the hope that a better dialogue
could exists between you and the bosses? If they only knew your desire
to grow in the organization and your capacity to perform, new choices and
possibilities may surface without being blindsided by status quo.
You have options that can be acted upon. For example, you can talk
to someone you trust or, perhaps, an ASEP professional. You can even
pray about it or read a self-help book. There are countless ways
to reshape your thinking, although with many ways you will encounter even
more challenges. The answer(s) you need aren’t easy to find (or least
don’t appear to be). The end result is that you will in all likelihood
continue with the same old way of thinking while continuing to be loss
and uncertain about your future in exercise physiology.
Well, I’m here to share with
you that I know of a lot of people like yourself who are facing significant
uncertainty every day at work. They are knowledgeable and have academic
degrees, but someone still considers them individually and collectively
less than professionally prepared. They realize that their bosses
are just playing with their minds. The bosses understand the exercise
physiologist's education, hands-on laboratory experiences, and internships.
But, since the young professionals don’t belong to their own professional
organization and the bosses do, then they are easy targets. Oh, you
may think that playing it safe will pull you through, but it won’t because
in the long run they realize it is absolutely essential to have professional
credentials. They understand the importance of certification, but
are not impressed with certifications without specificity whereby only
those individuals with the academic background are allowed to sit for certification.
They understand as well the importance of accreditation, and no “registered”
exercise physiologist and/or plan, however well done will take the place
the Professional Movement
So, what are you thinking
now? Are you upset? Are you ready to get a different major
or change professions? Better still, maybe you are beginning to understand
that there is hope. Yes, it is possible to move from where you are
to where you want to be but only if you believe that it is possible.
Change requires work, and who wants to work hard at something if he/she
doesn’t believe that it has a purpose and that something good will come
from it? You are not by yourself. There are a lot of exercise
physiologists who want a more secure future, a future with respect, and
one whereby it is possible to financially survive. Some of them have
joined ASEP. They are no longer a victim of how they have been encouraged
to think and feel about themselves. They now realize that it is possible
to do something and many are doing so through ASEP committees and boards.
Why don’t you make the decision to help transform the future of exercise
physiology? Your actions will help others to become more aware of
the ASEP Vision. It starts with your decision to help create the
critical mass to transform exercise physiology. Why not just take
a leap of faith? You can believe that the members of ASEP will be
there to help you. The decision is yours. It is an important
next step in your development and, with it, there is the realization that
it will influence you, your friends, and your future.
The support of ASEP colleagues
will help you further hone your professional proficiency. They not
only believe as you do, they have been practicing it daily. My association
with the ASEP has enlarged and defined my perspective on professionalism
and the belief that we have the right to direct our future. ASEP
has provided me with a favorable environment for carrying the message forward,
some of which is reported in this article. As with most professional
organizations, it will help you grow and achieve your dream. It exists
because exercise physiologists are tired of the ultimate alienation of
being reduced to just another group of professionals among many.
Exercise physiologists crave a partnership with the public sector and a
professional identification with an organization sensitive to their needs.
They yearn not for power but for respect. Hardly a day passes that
I’m not aware of this shared interest in exercise physiology.
My aim is merely to move
ASEP in the forefront of professionalism in exercise physiology.
I haven’t forgotten the great work of our well-known leaders in the field.
We should respect them for their efforts in developing exercise physiology.
But, during my many years as an exercise physiologist, the bulk of our
work has been in the area of research. I don’t recall one meeting
during the past 30 years where exercise physiologists were encouraged to
attend a workshop on professional meeting on professionalism. If,
however, had we done so years ago, we would be further along the professionalization
of exercise physiology.
The lack of discussion and
debate about academic programs, courses, hands-on laboratory experiences,
exercise physiology degrees, certifications, and accreditations equals
to a professional tragedy concealed only by the fact that we have for years
been associated with a group that has little to do with the reality of
exercise physiology. I am convinced that we need our own professional
organization. It is astonishing that we have not done so before now.
My aim in relating the content of this article is not only to emphasize
the value of optimism and of communicating certainty, but the fact that
you are a vital link in the nitty-gritty of professionalism. This
was succinctly captured by Bernard Lown (3), winner of the Nobel Peace
Prize, that “Once a new paradigm takes hold, its acceptance is extraordinarily
rapid and one finds few who claim to have adhered to a discarded method.”
Your Mind's Eye
In his book The Business
Bible, Rabbi Wayne Doscik tells us that "..vision alone is not enough...but
vision realized is imagination coupled with drive and determination, with
courage and creativity, with sweat and hard work." To have a vision
is good. Success depends on our vision. But vision is more
than something written on paper. It is opening not only your eyes
-- your mind's eye -- to possibilities, but giving your heart to that inner
place where you see and dream and, then, create and realize. It is
"rocking the boat" and "making waves" and, yes, overcoming every obstacle
necessary to ensure that all exercise physiologists can derive great personal
meaning and fulfillment from their work.
1. The Forbes Scrapbook
of Thoughts on the Business of Life (New York: Forbes, 1976), p. 166.
2. Lee, B. (1997). The
Power Principle: Influence with Honor. New York, NY: Simon &
3. Lown, B. (1996). The
Lost Art of Healing: Practicing Compassion in Medicine. New York, NY:
4. Dosick, W. (1993). The
Business Bible. New York, NY: William Morrow and Company, Inc.
©1997-2000 American Society of Exercise Physiologists. All Rights
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