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Exercise Physiology

The following content is a recent presentation at the 9th ASEP Annual Meeting in Milwaukee, Ohio.  It was presented by Dr. Tommy Boone, a professor of exercise physiology at The College of St. Scholastica, Duluth, MN.  You may find it interesting in several respects.

The Power of a Vision


As I look around this room, I am happy to share with you the secret of life (as written by Sculptor Hency Moore:

  • The secret is to devote your life to one ambition. Concentrate everything you know, everything you can summon, to accomplish this one desire.

I believe this quote expresses a truth that isn't fully understood.  The bottom is this:  I know the cost is going to high.

Obviously, there will be resistance, opposition, and difficulties, but those with passion are willing to pay the price.

  • Vision always demands a cost.
  • Someone has to pay the price.
  • Are you willing to do it?

The ASEP vision is real and future-focused.

  • It is all about seeing things as they should be, not as they are!

I believe it was Vince Lombardi who said, “The joy is in creating, not maintaining.”

To create and give credibility to exercise physiology as a healthcare profession is something altogether different than staying as a discipline of researchers.

  • "Exercise is medicine” and we are exercise physiologists!

ASEP is the way; we must learn to live it.

Others have gone before us. Working together we will fulfill our vision.

But, there is no way to succeed without exposing yourself to risk, just as other healthcare professionals have done and continue to do.

What is your vision of the future?

To think about it for a moment, what do students want from their undergraduate degree? Perhaps, stated somewhat differently:

  • Will they be successful with a sports science degree?
  • Do they see themselves as a fitness instructor and, if so, is it likely they will be able to raise a family, buy a house, and send their children to college on the “fitness instructor” salary?
  • Do they see themselves as a “healthcare professional” – having earned the title, Exercise Physiologist?

I wonder what students are thinking when they major in non-exercise physiology degrees, yet they are very much interested in exercise physiology.

I wonder why they aren’t more interested in sitting for the EPC.

  • Is it because the academic EPs have not yet given their support to the EPC exam?
  • If so, what is the problem?
  • Is it indifference?
  • Is it politics?

There is a need in asking these questions, and others like:

  • Why didn’t my professor talk about ASEP?
  • Why is it that most jobs don’t require the EPC exam?

Of course, what is not so well appreciated in regards to power plays and political struggles between organizations is this:

  • When power is hoarded it atrophies and blocks achievement.

For this reason, it is important to have a clear vision for one’s professional life.

One practical effect of a vision is a sense of stiffening one’s resolve and setting a direction, which brings us back to several additional questions:

  • What is the value of a vision?
  • How does a vision shape what we will be doing in 10 or 20 years?
  • As exercise physiologists, do we have it in us to stay the course?
  • If so, are we willing to continue building the ASEP professional infrastructure?

From the ASEP perspective, much like the NSCA perspective for strength and conditioning….

….we must believe that our future lies in our vision, which is (in short):

  • To be recognized as a unified, leading professional organization of exercise physiologists in the study, promotion, and application of exercise as medicine to fitness, health promotion, and rehabilitation.

Often we are not comfortable with change or thinking differently, such as (for example) that exercise science is not exercise physiology (as is true of the other “related” degree programs).

To believe otherwise cannot help students who are interested in a career in exercise physiology. And, to feel uncomfortable towards me or others who may agree with me is unrealistic and unfair.

After all, people do have the right to disagree even when it runs counter to the majority way of thinking.

The political philosopher, John Schaar, of the University of California said:

The future is not a result of choices among alternative paths offered by the present but a place that is created. Created first in the mind and will, created next in activity. The future is not some place we are going to but one we are creating. The paths to it are not found but made, and the activity of making them changes both the maker and the destination.

Translated, this is exactly why ASEP created the exercise physiology infrastructure of professionalism.

It is why the ASEP leaders developed the first-ever “code of ethics” for exercise physiologists, as well as the:

  • Accreditation guidelines
  • Board certification
  • Standards of professional practice, and much more.

All of which is “professional activity” essential to our success.

ASEP is already successful (even though it is small). It has done everything it set out to do, even just recently with an entirely new website.

If you believe exercise physiology is in your future…

  • Why not talk about ASEP with your friends?
  • Why not encourage others to join the organization?
  • Why not tell everyone why accreditation and board certification are important to our professional development?

The trade-off is simply this:If we are willing to share and support our professional organization, we will avoid sacrificing our identity in the obvious mediocrity that abounds.

It is up to all of us to create the future of exercise physiology. The ASEP “path” is easy to see.

The power in a vision isn’t posturing, that is, attempting to keep others guessing. It is what makes the impossible possible! But, there must be vested interests.

Perhaps, all of us can learn to take greater responsibility for own thinking and beliefs (especially when your beliefs go against the shared beliefs of a different organizational culture).

Prior to 1997, we didn’t have a professional definition of exercise physiology. Now we do:

Exercise Physiology is the identification of physiological mechanisms underlying physical activity, the comprehensive delivery of treatment services concerned with the analysis, improvement, and maintenance of health and fitness, rehabilitation of heart disease and other chronic diseases and/or disabilities, and the professional guidance and counsel of athletes and others interested in athletics, sports training, and human adaptability to acute and chronic exercise.

I believe this definition generates hope, provides endurance, and motivates the discouraged (particularly, graduates without financial stability, medical benefits, or respect).

The essence of the definition is to see the future; a better future where there are credible and financially stable, unified exercise physiologists who have their own professional organization that promotes the practice of exercise physiology as credible public healthcare professionals.

There will always be challenges. None of the members of the three Boards would argue that it has been easy.

For those of you here today, you need to ask yourself the question:

  • What is it that you want out of life?”
  • Is it a job or a career?
  • Is it the opportunity to indulge in self-serving activities?
  • Or, is it to serve – your colleagues, your profession, and the public sector?

Novelist Robert Louis Stevenson said, “To be what we are, and to become what we are capable of becoming, is the only end of life.”

Nearly all people would like to become who they are capable of being, yet many people don’t.

One reason is that they don’t take responsibility for their own growth. Why not share the vision with your colleagues and students?

In the long run, it is your persistence and courage that ensures the future of exercise physiology as a healthcare profession vs. a research discipline at the doctorate level.

I’ve heard that “uniqueness fosters pride.” For certain, ASEP is unique. It is not just another organization.

  • It is “your” professional organization.
  • It conveys to others a sense of identity.
  • It facilitates a commitment to something larger than anyone of us.
  • It enhances professional stability.
  • It shapes our behavior.

When you understand, accept, and commit to the ASEP vision and definition of exercise physiology, “your organization’s ability” to reach its potential will soar.

Individually and collectively, we will better picture the future, hear it, sense it, recognize it, and live it.

The heart of professionalism requires the understanding that, “No one has eaten an elephant in one bite.”

It takes time to grow, but let us remember that the value of something is determined by how rare it is – pearls, diamonds, gold, oil and, similarly, why not board certified exercise physiologists!

Time is on our side and, equally important, there is no value in mass-producing exercise physiologists.

Hence, no matter how small ASEP is today, if you believe in it, you will create what no one else has done.

You will be known for your contribution. No matter what else you will do in life, your contribution can and will make a difference in the lives of others (students, faculty, colleagues, clients), both in and outside of exercise physiology.

Remember, it is always better to make a decision that will prove to be wrong, but which you can learn from, than not to make any decision at all and never learn anything.

Thus, the bottom line: If you are not making mistakes, you can’t succeed. Do not be afraid to fail.

  • Do not be afraid to make a difference in the face of indifference.

Stay focused regardless; it doesn’t matter how young or old you are.

The vision of something better will (if you let it) stir you to act, to find those who will help, and how to deal with opposition, especially statements such as:

  • You can’t do that.
  • You don’t have enough education.
  • You’re too young.
  • You don’t have the right skills.
  • You don’t have the right connections.

Aside from believing that “every opposition strengthens us rather than stopping us…” -- my response to the critics is this:

  • Disassociate from colleagues with negative thinking. This is an important priority. They cannot help you. They can hurt you. Do not be afraid to ignore the critics and keep on doing the best you can for exercise physiology.
  • Associate with colleagues who have the same philosophy and discipline that you do, people who exhibit the kind of concerns for students and exercise physiology that you believe are important.

Do not worry about the future. There will always be challenges and pressures.

When you find your challenges are getting too intense and/or too frequent, you will find yourself smiling and saying,

  • This won’t last.

And, when you learn to draw on strength from your ASEP colleagues, you will have the strength of many.

Keep the ASEP vision before your mind’s eye, in your heart, and remember, destiny demands diligence.

It is just a matter of time before we are recognized, in addition to our research expertise, as healthcare professionals.

Exercise belongs to us or, at least, it should, or we should change our title.

Until we are absolutely sure of what we are, we must police our own ranks to ensure accountability, credibility, and ethical behavior in all interactions with others.

The latter point is particularly important, given that there is an inescapable ethical dimension in any profession.

The ASEP Code of Ethics is one of the most visible (but, perhaps, least understood) parts of the commitment to professionalism.

So, let us agree to support the ASEP mission:

  • That we represent exercise physiology.
  • That we are responsible for promoting the professionalism of exercise physiology.
  • That we are committed to professional development, advancement as healthcare professionals, and credibility of exercise physiologists.

Let us learn to trust in our ability to do the right thing for the right reasons.

In summary, I want to finish with the following quote written about two centuries after the death of Jesus:

  • If we bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.

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