The International Health, Raquet & Sportsclub has now been in the fitness industry for thirty years. This is the first year they will host a lecture pertaining to individuals with intellectual disabilities. Do I dare say “what took so long”? Nah, it’s not IHRSA’s fault. There are a number of reasons I am excited to be speaking at IHRSA this year. Many conversations I have had over the course of the last few weeks have also solidified why this is important to me (and some just made me laugh). I thought I’d share a few…
1. “When was the last time you did any public speaking?”
Does my sister’s wedding count? What about the eulogy at both my Grandma and Grandpa’s funeral? The response I got was “how many drinks did you have before your sister’s toast”? I did do a lot of public speaking during high school (I sang a speech about my Dad in front of about 1000 people…now most know I love to sing and most also know I do not have a good singing voice:) But that was 10 years ago. Then I was told “did you think about starting with some smaller groups?” I think I responded ‘ go big or go home’ to this one and then also mentioned my topic again because it will be awhile (and i’m hopeful of this) that the crowds come rushing in in the fitness world to hear about intellectual disabilities. Thom and I joked yesterday we could be giving the lecture to each other today but regardless, it will be a great learning experience and I am excited to “get my feet wet” as I actually like to speak to large crowds (I say that now:)
2. “An hour!? You have to talk for an hour!??”
Are you people trying to make me nervous!?? But really, have you met me? I love to talk. Timing was actually the hardest part for me in preparing. I just had no concept of how long an hour of talking really was and how much info. I needed. The first thing I learned is that when you are talking about something you love and are so passionate about, you can talk all day! I wasn’t worried about talking for an hour, I was worried about talking too long. We are the last lecture of the day, so we’re aiming for a strong 40-45 minutes followed by Q & A and then off to happy hour!
3. 2 years ago after applying to IHRSA, “we’re sorry but your topic does not fit into our conference this year.”
This year IHRSA approached me to see if I was still interested in presenting. I am excited and thankful for the opportunity and glad they changed their minds! The inclusive fitness coalition has been trying to bridge the gap between the fitness and special needs communities and this is just one step in creating more awareness around those with intellectual disabilities. We still have a long way to go but this is a step in the right direction.
4. “IHRSA is a global trade association that attracts many gym owners of larger corporations and higher end facilities. Don’t you think you should start smaller and focus on “community” gyms and facilities such as the Y?”
Nope. I’m pretty sure if you asked Thom and Tracey five or six years ago if they thought a program like this would be a good fit for their gym they would have said no. Part of what makes FITBuddies at FIT so special is the fact that you wouldn’t normally expect to see this population in a setting such as FIT that serves higher end clientele. It’s now a part of the norm around there and this can and should be the case in other places. IHRSA promotes community involvement and the importance of reaching out and expanding your community regardless of whether you are a high end facility or a large corporation- we fit in perfectly. Convincing gym owners to consider this program may take awhile so why not start today.
5. “What a great opportunity, but don’t you think you would be better off and have more interest speaking at a special needs conference?”
Yes and No. Of course I would have more interest and yes, I would like to speak at more special needs conferences as many parents still need to be taught the importance of promoting health and wellness programs for this population (and cut back on some of the after school educational tutors/programs, etc). But the majority of parents and caregivers are and will be on board in a second. They already know more programs like this are needed. They fight this fight everyday. I want to talk to people who may not otherwise be aware of such programs and those who may have an interest in the special needs field but don’t know where to start with their certifications and how to structure a program like this. It is the professionals I need to start convincing, not the parents. IHRSA is a great place to start if you ask me.
Thank you to IHRSA and thanks to everyone who helped prepare, listen and provide feedback for today. And thanks for all those who asked the questions above! Happy 30th to IHRSA, happy 26th to Jeremy and now it’s time to take a little ACTION…