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Interview with Okinyi Ayungo, CSCS

I have always had an appreciation for personal trainers and what they can do for the

Okinyi Ayungo, CSCS

Okinyi Ayungo, CSCS

individual in terms of overall health and well being.  I personally do some aspects of personal training as a coach. I had the opportunity to talk to a good friend of mine, Okinyi Ayungo, a rising young personal trainer, fitness educator and innovator (co-creator of the Functional Training Group Exclusive program) in the Maryland area who specializes in functional movement training.  Below is the e-mail interview:

(Me): Thanks for the interview.  First of all, tell everyone why you decided to become a personal trainer.  You obviously had many options in terms of employment.

(OA):  Thanks for giving me an opportunity to share with your readers.  I decided to become a personal trainer for two main reasons:  I love science and I want to help people.  Throughout most of my academic years, I was “told” (by parents, teachers, etc.) that I should consider going into medicine because I enjoyed the sciences.  However, I was always drawn to how the human body worked especially when it came to movement and sports.  In my quest to improve my own athletic interests, I began to learn as much as I could about the human body’s response to exercise.  Then, because I knew a lot about exercise, friends in college started asking me to design programs for them.  My first job was in biomedical research, but I also was a part-time personal trainer to help pay my student loans.  It was then that I realized how much of an impact I could have on people’s lives doing something that I truly enjoyed.  And the rest is history…

(Me):  Describe your philosophy of training.

(OA): I base the majority of my training on functional movments.  This means that we focus on improving the individual’s ability to perform some task (or series of tasks) outside of the gym that he/she needs or wants to become better at.  This could mean strengthening and stretching certain muscles to improve one’s tennis serve or golf swing; or it could mean improving strength and balance to be able to get off of the floor easier.  Whatever the goal of the individual, I always emphasize creating better, more efficient movement.  When people move better, they naturally become more active and get more joy out of life.  This makes them feel better.  When people feel better, then they are ready to make the positive behavioral changes that lead to looking better (the primary goal of the majority of personal training clients).  so you can say that my philosophy is:  Move Better, Feel Better, Look Better.

(Me): My big interest is in rehabilitation and prevention of injuries.  How do you accomplish this when working with your clients?

(OA): Proper screening and proper progression.  Every client does a health history questionnaire prior to any training.  If there are any unresolved injuries or pain, the individual must consult a medical professional before proceeding with training.  As part of my screening, I also conduct a Functional Movement Screen (FMS).  The FMS ranks and grades seven movement patterns that are important for normal function.  The FMS system identifies an individual’s limitations and asymmetries that could lead to injury.  This lets me know what corrective exercises need to be done before doing more aggressive training.

The other key to injury prevention is proper progression.  I start with mostly body weight movements to see how a client can control their own body in different positions before adding weight to a movement.  It’s always better to start off with a lighter resistance and progress in 5-10% increments once the exercise becomes comfortable for a given number of repetitions.  But the overarching premise is control.  If going up in weight compromises control of the movement, then that client is not ready to progress.

(Me): How do you incorporate stretching into your workouts?

(OA): Every workout begins with some dynamic flexibility (stretches that are only held for a few seconds in a rhythmic pattern) to warm-up the muscles, tendons and ligaments in the ranges of motion that we will be using during the workout.

For clients that need to focus on a particular flexibility issue, we will often stretch throughout the session.  For example, someone with short pectoralis (chest) muscles may do a brief stretch between each set of push-ups (or whatever chest exercise we are doing).

And at the end of the workout, we will do static stretching (holding the stretch for 20-30 seconds).  For clients with particular needs, we will do assisted contract-relax stretching or PNF stretching at the end of the workout.

(Me): Do you use a team approach, i.e., working with a massage therapist, chiropractor, etc., with some clients?

(OA): Yes, I have a physical therapist that I refer clients to that have musculoskeletal issues that are beyond my scope of practice.  For my clients whose main concern is weight loss or weight management, I have two nutritionists that I work with.  And for clients who are training for a specific goal that I do not have experience in (e.g. competitive bodybuilding) or may need/want other forms of specialized exercise (e.g. boxing), I will refer tham to someone in the network of other trainers and instructors with whom I have built relationships over the years.

(Me): Of course, there is a big debate about health care reform these days.  I firmly believe that prevention of these chronic diseases would be the best answer to reducing the health care costs.  Do you thing that you have a role in the the health care community?

(OA): Absolutely.  The way I see it, the money that someone spends on personal training now will prevent them from having a much more costly coronary bypass surgery or a hip replacement in the future.  Not only that, but I think that we are just now beginning to understand the mental health benefits of exercise.  A few weeks ago, one client of ten years said to me, “Thank you for saving my life.”  I did not realize it, but when she came to me to start personal training, she was still mourning the loss of her mother.  She credits regular exercise with preventing her decline into major depression.  The funny thing is that her stated primary goal was to “look more toned”.  But by MOVING better, she started FEELING better.  And now she is one of my best LOOKING clients as well.

(Me): Any future exciting plans or announcements for your company?

(OA): I am working on a comprehensive on-line resource for functional training.  It will be a website dedicated to fitness for real-life.  It will be ready in early 2010. I will keep you posted.  But in the meantime, you may go to to get a feel for the type of fitness that I work towards for each of my clients.

I believe physical fitness should be a vital part of the treatment plan for my patients. This keeps them out of my office and enjoying life.

Happiness and good health!


October 11, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , ,

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