Free weights are key to proper fitness

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To the Editor:

Having worked as a personal trainer, pilates instructor and fitness studio owner for many years on Vancouver Island, I read with interest Lorne Eckersley’s piece on the new Creston and District Community Complex fitness centre’s impact on the two local gyms. I lived through precisely the same scenario when the local fitness centre in Sidney, Panorama Leisure Centre, was upgraded at taxpayers’ expense to the detriment of all local private fitness clubs. To Charlene Pompu and Shama Johnson, owners of our local private gyms, let me express my sympathy, for, indeed, you got shafted.

However, it is to Regional District of Central Kootenay director John Kettle, that I direct this letter. Kettle is quoted as saying, ”I also want to consider removing the free weights and anything else that moves the public facility away from health and wellness into bodybuilding and weightlifting.” I celebrate the spirit of fairness and open discourse that this statement represents, but I must also address the inaccurate assumptions upon which it is based.

We could delete from our collective purchase virtually every one of the dedicated range of motion machines, keep only the free weights, some benches, stability balls and flex bands, and with well-trained supervision, have all the equipment needed for everything from post-operative rehab to athletic cross-training. The machines are brilliant tools for a few reasons: they’re easy, safe, and allow the novice to take charge of their fitness routine. Also, from a marketing point of view, they’re shiny and look state of the art. However, from a point of kinesthetic education, they are extremely limited. They do not challenge the balance, do not require an essential core contraction and, let’s be honest, are just plain boring if used exclusively. Having said that, they have their place, when used in conjunction with free weights and other whole body exercises.

I specialized in fitness for the elderly and the injured and I can assure you that the squat rack and the dumbbells were among my most effective tools. If we never challenge our sense of balance as we age, we lose it. Plugging our bodies into these machines in the long-term has a dumbing down effect that exacerbates the natural degeneration of balance, proprioception and whole-body vitality.

Again, I applaud the willingness of our elected officials to address our local gym owners’ very valid complaints, but having free weights in the fitness centre is in no way a move away from health and wellness.

Daniel Kempling