By Jon Ingram
This is going to sound crazy coming from a gym owner, but I’m about as anti-gym as it gets.
Something has gone very wrong with modern day gym culture the way that fitness is marketed to the public. Despite better awareness of the importance of being fit, the free and easy availability of fitness facilities (there is a gym on virtually every street corner in Geneva) and advances in science and technology, the world is facing an ever increasing problem in obesity.
I don’t think that Switzerland has as big a problem as some other big industrialised nations such as the USA, United Kingdom and Germany, but my own experience is that people are becoming less and less fit.
I see lots of people come into my fitness facility who regularly do some kind of traditional fitness activity like jogging, aerobics or a 30 minute circuit of weight machines at the local gym. Despite this, the majority have the mobility of a cement block and are about as strong as my 15 month old daughter. They are, by any objective measure, very unfit.
Personally, I put the blame squarely at the feet of the commercial gyms which are on the front lines of educating the general public about fitness.
Gyms should be service providers that take care of their customers’ needs
Gyms are business and as such should make money. However, they should also be service providers that take care of their customers’ needs. Unfortunately they have gone down the route of purely profit making enterprises that care little for the goals and desires of their members. In fact, their ideal client is one that pays for a year’s membership in advance and never actually turns up!
Most commercial gyms simply rent equipment to their customers. Beyond this there is no relationship, unless of course you forget to pay your dues. If that happens you can be sure you will hear from somebody! Despite making huge promises like buying a membership will give you the body you always wanted, there is no desire on their part for this to happen.
How many people do you know who have had this type of experience at a gym?
Customer: “My membership runs out in 6 months and I know that if I want to cancel I have to do it by tomorrow, otherwise it will automatically extend for another year (what is the deal with that by the way? 6 months in advance? Is that really necessary??). Here is my letter of resignation.”
Gym: “That is correct, but you have to send your cancellation notice by registered letter to our head office.”
Customer: “Ok, but I’m right here and I’m giving it to you now. Can you just pass it on?”
Gym: “No, our policy is that a letter must be sent by registered post.”
Customer: “But it is Saturday afternoon now. I can only send it on Monday, which is past the deadline. Can you please just take it for me?”
Customer: “So now I have to pay for another year, even though I have no desire to come back?”
Gym: “That is correct, yes.”
Fade out to the thwack thwack sound of the customer repeatedly banging his head against the reception desk.
It’s one thing to tie people into long term contracts, but gyms also do a horrific job of educating their members on how to achieve results. Everyone gets the same program of 3 sets of 10 on the machines followed by 20 minutes of cardio. Folks, this program did not work in 1970 when strength machines were first marketed to the public, it sure as hell is not going to work now.
You should look forward to going to the gym
I firmly believe that going to the gym should be a community-based experience, a place where “everybody knows your name”. A place where people work hard, support and encourage each other, compete where appropriate, compare notes, get results and have a good time in the process. You should look forward to going to the gym, not dread the prospect of 30 minutes of tedium on the treadmill (provided you can even find one free) surrounded by people just a little bit too in love with themselves.
I also believe that it is entirely unnecessary to join a gym if you want to get in shape.
So what’s a fellow to do? Self educate is a great option. The internet is a fantastic place to learn about proper fitness and how to achieve it and there are plenty of excellent resources out there.
Get out of the gym cycle entirely by going to a bootcamp or hiring a personal trainer for a few sessions. There are plenty of great trainers around, they are not hard to find. Do they have a web site, a track record of testimonials and success, a passion for fitness and education? A trainer with those qualities can change your entire approach to fitness all for the price of a few sessions.
You don’t need expensive equipment like treadmills or leg press machines. All you need is some enthusiasm or a willingness to learn. There is a whole world of options out there away from the traditional gym so get out there and see what you can find!
Jon Ingram owns a small fitness facility in Geneva, CrossFit GVA.
by Kerri Walker
Ed. note: Kerri Walker, who ran the marathon, moved to the Lake Geneva region from New Jersey, USA, a few weeks ago.
This year marked the 18th running of the Lausanne Marathon. Marathon runners from over 60 countries and cities took off from Place de Milan in Ouchy, Lausanne at 10:10 Sunday 31 October. Marathon runners enjoyed optimal conditions from start to finish, with just some headwind through Cully en route to the finish at the Olympic Museum back in Ouchy. The marathon course, composed of rolling hills, went out to La Tour de-Peliz at which point runners turned around to go back to Ouchy for a picturesque finish in front of the Lausanne Olympic Museum.
There were 1,163 men and 180 women running the marathon. The first male, Hailu Begashow (1984) of Ecublens in canton Vaud, finished in two hours 20 minutes and two seconds.
The first female, Di Marco Messmer Magali (1971) from Troistorrents, finished in two hours, 54 minutes, and 10 seconds. Prize money was given to the top five men and women finishers.
Geneva was well represented at Lausanne’s marathon: about 300 Genevans raced last weekend. The highlights came from the 10km and marathon.
- Genevan Antonio Texeira (1956), who ran the marathon, placed first in his class of 205 men. His time was two hours and 51 minutes.
- Marc Baudat (1977) ran the 10km, finishing second in his class in 32 minutes and 50 seconds.
- Also in the 10km: Oliveira Narciso (1957) finished first in his class in 34 minutes 24 seconds
- Felfele Testay (1985) finished third in his class of 2,036 with a time of 30 minutes three seconds.
Lausanne and its people made for exceptional hosts to marathon runners. The night before the race, all runners and walkers were welcome to enjoy a complimentary pasta party held on the Lausanne paddlewheeler docked in Ouchy. Fuel was provided along the race course, with water, power gels, and powerade provided at 10 revitalization stations. Marathon runners were also fuelled by live music and enthusiastic spectators: “Hop! Allez!” they shouted to runners all the way to the end, in front of Le Musee Olympique. Runners could enjoy a free entry to the museum on marathon weekend. All who finished received a Suisse medal, and results of finishers were posted immediately.
For me, the Lausanne Marathon was especially memorable, being my first European marathon (I am from New Jersey and moved to Thoiry in France two months ago to work as an au pair). I ran three marathons in the US (Philadelphia, New York, and Miami). I try not to compare the marathons to one another; they are all different based on location and size of the race.
Lausanne stood out in my mind as the marathon with the beautiful scenery and traditional laid-back European Sunday atmosphere. The out and back course had an amazing backdrop of the mountains and lake. People waved and cheered along the streets and in their homes they shouted out the window. Many kids got their hands clapped by runners. I soaked up the spirit of the Lausanne Marathon—I clapped hands, said “Merci” to the spectators, and smiled for the pictures being taken. I did not feel like I was competing but rather just out for a long, Sunday run in a beautiful part of Switzerland.
While enjoying myself, I managed to PR (runner’s lingo for personal record) in three hours and 25 minutes. Ecstatic to have run so well, and feeling great, I went back to the finish just a half hour after my race to visit the Olympic Museum. I spent about an hour marvelling at the history of the Olympic Games then returned to see the results, already posted in Ouchy.
The Lausanne Marathon was very well organized and runners were excited to see the standings immediately. And to commemorate the weekend and the achievement, every runner’s medal is engraved with a picture of the Lausanne boat where we dined the night before the race. From start to finish, the marathon was well organized and I was able to concentrate on my run and enjoy my time in Lausanne.
I give the Lausanne Marathon Weekend two thumbs up!
At the end of my last blog entry, I
suggested three ways to lessen or even eliminate the mid-life slump in
yourself for who you are, after you figure out who you are
2) manage your
emotions, especially the negative ones, and
express your gratitude for all the wonderful things around you.
Adrian White, an analytic social
psychologist at the University of Leicester in the UK has discovered three more components of happiness or as he calls it subjective well-being:
health, wealth and education. He studied data from 80,000 people in 178
countries to gage their overall well-being and life satisfaction.
Based on the results of his surveys and
research, he has ranked the countries of the world and has produced a Global Projection of Subjective Well-being. Denmark and Switzerland came out on top, tied for first place. The top 12 happiest countries are:
Most of these countries have life
expectancies between 65 and 80 years old, most closer to 80, as evidence of
excellent health care. Wealth was measured by per capita GDP which averages
around $30,000 in the top 12. Luxembourg
is the highest at $55,600. Education was measured by access to affordable quality
education and the literacy rate. Most of the countries on the list are over 90%
literacy with Finland and Luxembourg at 100%.
However, there is one striking exception
that begs for an explanation. Bhutan, tied for 4th happiest country in the world has a life expectancy of 55
years, a per capita GDP of $1400 and a literacy rate of 47%! White argues that Bhutan‘s strong national identity,
their beautiful scenery and intact culture explains their high level of
happiness. So maybe there is more to happiness than good health, sufficient wealth
and quality education.
In my next blog, I’ll explore in more detail Bhutan’s secret
David Schiesher is a psychotherapist practicing in Geneva.
Happiness, or lack thereof, has been
getting a lot of press lately. The
latest one was a story covered by Reuters about the greatest likelihood of
depression occurring during midlife. The famed “mid-life crisis” has been
Watercolor by Laura Logan
Economics professors David Blanchflower and
Andrew Oswald, from the University of Warwick in the UK, found an inverted U-shaped curve
showing that European men and women reach a peak of unhappiness around the age
of 46. An interesting gender and geographic difference among the Americans
studied is that American women reach their highest probability of depression at
38.6 years while American men reach their peak at 52.9 years. The researchers
cannot explain these differences.
The researchers looked at statistics in 76
different countries all along the development continuum. The U-shaped curve
existed in countries all along the continuum. Only 21 of these countries showed
no U-shaped happiness curve. But since these countries tended to be developing
countries with small sample sizes, conclusions could not be drawn.
The researchers also cannot explain the
causes for the dip in happiness in middle age. They do, however, take three very
tentative stabs at an explanation.
The first is that we get to know ourselves
along with our strengths and weaknesses as we age. We are able to accept our
weaknesses and maximize our strengths. We are also able to more accurately
assess whether our lifelong dreams will be attained or not and adjust our
At no other time of the year do so many people think about personal growth
all at the same time. Fifty percent of Americans make resolutions to improve
themselves or their lives in some way during the yearly transition. There is an
overwhelming perception that change is possible. The hope for something new,
different and better in their lives is higher than at any other time of the
This tradition of celebrating the New Year goes back at least 4000 years to
the ancient Babylonians who celebrated it during Spring equinox. The tradition
of making New Year’s resolutions goes all the way back to 153 B.C. Janus, a mythical king of early Rome was placed at the head of the calendar.
With two faces, Janus could look back on past events and forward to the future.
Janus became the ancient symbol for resolutions.
Have you been swept away in this wave of
positive intentions and made your New Year’s resolutions yet? If not, here is a
list of what other people resolve to do. This may just spark your
introspective self to aspire to new heights. Of the 10 most popular New Year’s goals, four involve physical health related issues, three involve
mental health, two involve social activity and one deals with financial
improvements. Here are the top ten:
- Spend more time with family and friends
- Work out regularly
- Lose weight
- Quit smoking
- Enjoy life more
- Quit or reduce drinking
- Get out of debt
- Learn something new
- Help others
- Get organized
Research shows that 60% of these resolutions will be
broken as of the 6-month mark. The most important factor in preserving the
change is in the process of goal planning and writing.
The most comprehensive assistance for
writing effective resolutions comes from Gary Ryan Blair, “The Goals Guy.” On his site, you are able to download a free
21-page report which details the five stages of successful resolutions, taken
from the psychology of behavior modification, and also lists four important
resolution guidelines. Gary
also provides forms to guide you through the process.
If you don’t want to spend that much time
with it, I suggest that you at least use the S.M.A.R.T. guidelines in writing your resolutions. These
traditional goal-writing guidelines are used to insure that your goals are
specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound.
- Feel and
- Express your goal.
Whereas S.M.A.R.T. goals may appeal more to the analytical left-brain
dominant types, S.A.F.E goals may appeal more to those who are generally more creative
or right-brain dominant.
Once you have your goals written, check out
these seven recommendations from two University of Maryland psychiatrists
on how to maintain your resolutions.
If you need free online assistance to reach your goals, check out this impressive collection of web application tools at the
website lifehacker, specifically designed to help you manage your New Year’s
resolutions online including the goal areas of financial gain, weight loss and
fitness, calorie management and goal tracking.
And finally, here are some suggestions to stretch those of you who live more from your heads than your hearts. Inspirational personal development expert James
Arthur Ray , featured on the movie, The Secret, gives
the following five suggestions for self-actualizing yourself in 2008.
- Find inspiration and something you are excited about.
- Specify your intentions. Use the S.M.A.R.T. or S.A.F.E. goal
- Maintain attention and focus. “Energy flows where attention goes.”
- Be grateful. See www.gratefulness.org for more information.
- Be enthusiastic! Go three for three by aligning your thoughts with your feelings with your actions.
Happy New Year!
David Schiesher is a psychotherapist practicing in Geneva.
I don’t know about
you, but I’ve been receiving many messages about ways to ‘survive’ the
holidays, as if the holidays were a war zone or a deadly plague. Certainly
buying thoughtful gifts, cooking big dinners and sending greeting cards is not
lethal. In fact, it’s supposed to be the “most wonderful time of the year.” But
for some people, the dashed expectations and roller coaster emotions can
provoke intense stress to the point of a panic attack.
Some of my clients
dread going home for the holidays because of the family gatherings and the
‘inevitable’ unresolved and perennial conflicts that occur. Others have high
expectations of Christmas or memories of dashed expectations of Christmases
past. The current one just never seems to measure up, they say to themselves.
It’s just not like it used to be. Of course it isn’t. How could we exactly
reproduce an experience from the past? Scientists haven’t yet figured out how
to clone experiences.
theory reveals that our thoughts create our emotional state. Therefore, if we
can control our thoughts, we can also control our emotions. Controlling our
thoughts takes a bit of practice however. It takes constant awareness of what
we are experiencing from the inside out. The distractions around us make this
difficult. Meditation is one way of focusing on what’s inside.
So at this point in
your preparations, three days before Christmas, take some time to become still
inside. Become aware of your expectations of what you would like to happen.
Even if it’s only for a few moments before you fall asleep, tune into what
really matters for the next few days. Prioritize the things you would like to
accomplish or the people with whom you really want to spend some quality time,
and let go of the rest. Tomorrow is another day.
But don’t take my word
for it. Check out some of these Holiday Survival Guides to help you navigate the emotional waterways of the holidays.
- About.com gives a wide array of advice on eliminating some of the stress
that comes with holiday cards, meals, parties, shopping and family gatherings.
- Here’s another
survival guide from a runner’s point of view in Runner’s World Magazine.
- The American Chiropractic Association gives advice on how to keep your body aligned during long hours of shopping.
- Here’s a great
collection of articles containing holiday advice for step families from The
- Kiplinger provides tips to help
keep your holiday spending under control.
- If you are a caregiver, here are some good suggestions for managing family visitors from Caregiving.com.
- Dr. Wayne Dyer helps you keep positive intentions about family gatherings in Natural Health Magazine.
- The 50+ community, Grownups, gives good advice on reducing holiday stress.
- A marriage and family therapist in Ontario writes about maintaining your relationship in Canadian Living.
David Schiesher is a psychotherapist practicing in Geneva.
For therapy to be
effective, you need a really good to great relationship with your therapist. The
therapeutic relationship is one of the most curative factors in psychotherapy.
The father of modern American psychotherapy, Carl Rogers, based his work on
this principle. In his classic book, On
Becoming a Person, he explains that therapists must be genuine, have
empathetic understanding and unconditional positive regard for the client. When
these three conditions are met, therapy has the best chance for success.
Dr. Wu’s Healing Art – Peach
You know that feeling
when you’re in the presence of someone with whom you can just let your hair
down? With whom you don’t have to be at your best? With whom you can just be
yourself? With whom you can show all your imperfections and be accepted and
appreciated all the same? That’s the feeling that you want to have when you’re talking
with your therapist.
How do you find such a
healing relationship? Well, how would you find a new friend? Talk to a number of therapists, just call them
on the telephone, until you find one where you are saying to yourself, “I
really like this person.” Of course it would be prudent to also ask them about
their professional experience, training and therapeutic methods. But go with
your intuition on this one. It’s not uncommon for someone to try one or two
before finding the right one.
English-speaking therapists in Geneva,
take a look at these on-line directories: AngloInfo; Counseling in France; XpatXchange. Also, the American
International Women’s Club magazine, Courier, has a good selection of
therapists in the Petites Annonces section.
David Schiesher is a psychotherapist in private practice in Geneva.
procrastinate forever with this decision. They think it will cost too much or take
too long or
be too painful or too scary. Many people think that they can handle
the stress, sadness or anxiety by themselves. Let’s look at each of these
‘Healing Weight’ by Daniel Minter
The cost for 60 minutes of therapy
in Geneva varies anywhere from CHF85 to about
CHF160. The average is somewhere around CHF120-130. Your health insurance
will usually reimburse a portion of the fee. I’ll write more about health insurance in a
future post. Many therapists offer a free telephone consultation or a free
first session to answer your initial questions.
The number of sessions
needed varies considerably depending on the issues which you bring and the
degree of resolution or relief from symptoms that you desire. It’s important to
remember that you are the consumer of the service and you are in control of the
number of sessions you purchase. Some therapists ask you to commit to a certain
number of sessions. Other therapists leave it totally up to you to judge when
you are feeling better and no longer need professional support. Brief therapies
can be anywhere from four to twenty sessions. Classical psychoanalysis can last
from one to five years. I’ll write more about types of therapy in a future post.
Many people can handle
the everyday stresses and disappointments on their own or with the support of
family and friends. Others don’t feel comfortable sharing personal struggles. Self-help
books and resources on the web can also be of assistance as long as you find reputable
sources. Look for resources that originate from universities or therapy
Yes, dealing with and
resolving problems in your life can be scary and painful. Living with these
problems can often be worse. Working on the issues with someone who’s there to
support you or help you find solutions makes the journey easier and more enjoyable.
David Schiesher is a psychotherapist in private practice in Geneva.
If you are like most
people, you dread the thought of ever having to step foot into the office of a
psychotherapist to sort out problems of the mentally and emotionally perplexing
kind. So now you don’t have to. The psychotherapist comes to you on GenevaLunch,
in the privacy of your own home or office!
Have you ever wondered
what a session with a therapist is like? Have you ever wondered whether it
could truly be helpful; asking someone to help you solve what seems to be an
unsolvable problem that has always existed and always will exist? How could
anyone help you change what seems to be a permanent character trait that has
been passed down for generations in your family? How would you go about finding
a psychotherapist that’s right for you? How much should you pay for a session
with a shrink? Does your Swiss insurance cover these services? What modality of
therapy would be right for you; cognitive behavioral, person-centered,
solution-focused, psychoanalysis, Jungian, transpersonal, etc…? What are the
latest approaches to healing disturbing memories?
These are some of the questions which will
be the subject of Shrink Rap in the coming weeks. Join us in the discussion!
Ed. note: this is the first contribution from GenevaLunch’s new blogger, David Schiesher, one of a small number of professionals, journalists and experts who make up the GL blogging group. Visit his web site to learn more about him and his work.