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Future of Fitness

Jul 8, 2020

In this episode, I am interviewing Eric Chessen about fitness in the autism population. 

Eric is the founder of Autism Fitness, which is a fitness framework dedicated to providing fun and meaningful fitness outcomes to individuals across the spectrum. 

How has your life, and business changed over the last three months? (01:14)

  • Eric says he has lived in New York his whole life. He and his wife decided that it was time for a big change, so they relocated to Charlotte, North Carolina.
  • They relocated on the first of March, and three weeks later everything changed. They had three autism fitness certification level one courses coming up, which were two-day events. While hoping for the best, they soon realized that they weren’t going to be able to do the seminars. 
  • Eric and his business manager put their heads together and agreed on two main concerns; one was purely from a business perspective, they knew that they had to keep their revenue stream going. Their second concern is that the valuable information they provide can’t be found anywhere else. 
  • His goal is to provide the best possible fitness programming principles, concepts, and strategies to the autism community. They realized how important their information is to people and the community, so they completely restructure their level one certification. 
  • They now offer a four-week online course on Zoom. They have certified professionals attending the Zoom calls. Doing the course online has been proven to be more advantageous because they have more time to spend on concepts and asking questions. They were forced into this situation, but it resulted in the production of something that is even better than the original version. 

Do you agree that people will make the best out of our current situation and that it may even become a more permanent arrangement? (05:50)

  • Eric agrees that someone who has been successful in a space away from home, also knows what it takes to be successful, even without that space. 
  • He looks at the psychology of choice; it has been proven that people are not only fatigued when having too many choices, but they are also never satisfied. 
  • People get confused when they have too many choices. Ultimately they end up being unhappy with their choice because there were too many options. 
  • When you start putting in constraints, it improves focus and eliminates “noise”. When there isn’t a lot of choices, you pick one and go with it. 
  • For the entrepreneurial-minded, it means making things happen even when you don’t have a lot of options. You don’t have a perfect course of action, but it eliminates a lot of variables. 

Describe the type of people that enroll in your program, what is the ideal? (08:34)

  • He says the high caliber of people that enroll in the program continues to astound him. 
  • Autism fitness certification is not something you get into by accident. There’s almost a barrier to entry, and they see a cross-section of the fitness and the wellness community.
  • The people that enroll consist of fitness trainers, PE coaches, physical and occupational therapists, speech pathologists, and parents. 
  • Eric says the parents in the program are some of the most remarkable people because they do this to empower themselves, as well as to make it possible for other parents and families. 
  • The trainers consist of those who are really interested in working with this niche population, but they need more guidance. There are also trainers who have been approached by parents or schools to develop fitness programs. 

What will I gain by doing your certification? (15:51)

  • The fitness professionals that take the course are already familiar with the principles of movement, biomechanics, and exercise selection. 
  • The difference between general programming, and programming with the autism population, is that there are adaptive and cognitive variables with the autism population. There are also physical challenges involved because most of the autistic individuals that they work with tend to have gross motor deficits.  
  • He says the adaptive and cognitive areas are where they really make a difference for fitness coaches because they’re looking at adaptive functioning as motivation. In other words, they assess the athlete’s level of motivation to participate, and what steps to take if the athlete isn’t motivated. 
  • The entire course is set up on a contingency basis, meaning that they observe, and then react based on what they see. They provide positive behavior support to a population that generally doesn’t want to engage in vigorous physical activity. 
  • What they are trying to deliver through the course, is having methods that work, and can be implemented immediately.

What personal challenges have you encountered on your journey? (24:18)

  • Eric says his biggest challenge is listening to people’s advice. 
  • Another challenge was transitioning into the online world. He never wanted to do anything online but believes that a lot of fitness professionals feel the same way. 
  • It comes back to the psychology of choice; if he wanted a viable and continuous business he had to do it online. 
  • He started embracing it when the certified professionals, whose opinions he values very much, came back after the first few sessions and said that it was even better than the first course. 
  • He just had to listen to what people had to say, and believe them when they said that the product he is producing now is better than the previous one. 


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