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The new reality of fitness and health promotion studies

First launched in 1987, the Physical Fitness Management program at Cambrian College, FLBU as it has been dubbed for many years now, has become a core offering in these parts, very much a component of the fabric of the Sudbury landscape of athletics and their studies.

It was time for a change - and program director Marty Dubuc, for one, could not be happier.

While leaving the comfort of the known can be fraught with anxiety, Dubuc, a native Sudburian with a Laurentian degree in Education Physique et Sante and masters in Human Kinetics, is confident that both the timing, and the direction of this particular change is right for the program that he has called home since 2013.

"I'm very proud of the process that we took to develop this new program, deciding what new courses we might include, and if we carried courses over from FLBU, what needed to be changed within the course," said Dubuc, speaking to the Cambrian College announcement last week of the unveiling of the new two year Fitness & Health Promotion (FPRO) program.

"We surveyed our alumni, we surveyed our current students, we surveyed employers and people in the industry, we surveyed our part-time faculty. The question we posed to them was: what do you think this program needs? We actually asked them which courses they felt contributed the least to their careers, to their professional development, and what courses contributed the most."

"That really shaped a lot of our decisions."

Where the existing program, which was one of, if not the first programs of its kind when introduced, and which will graduate its final class in 2022, was a three-year undertaking for the students, the FPRO is tightened into a two-year timeline.

Dubuc insisted that this is an important move forward, that the new and revised version of a similarly based line of study is aimed at being both more efficient, but also more flexible. "I think one of the strengths of FLBU, but something that some could consider a weakness, was that we tried to do a little bit of everything," he said.

"FLBU was a little bit more holistic in its approach. Our new courses are much more targeted. In certain respects, we go less in depth, but in other respects, we go more in depth. This is more customizable. It's also allowed us to reinvigorate some of the FLBU courses that might have become a little stale."

The whole area of the inclusion of core business courses is a perfect example to the point Dubuc wishes to stress. Where the intent was to provide solid footing for graduates who might want to operate as self-employed personal trainers, fitness professionals, or even just target management as a goal, the truth is that the business-specific studies struggled to connect with the majority of enrollees who had no interest at all of branching out on their own.

"The idea now is that you can do two years of Fitness & Health Promotion, but then take another year of a business graduate certificate if you wanted to start your own business," said Dubuc. The trade-off lies in areas of study that are far more aligned with the world in which the graduates of 2020 must operate.

"The students strongly identified the need for more nutritional content," Dubuc added, explaining the genesis of the new "Nutrition for Performance" session. "It addresses how you need to fuel your body to perform in a sports environment, versus just for healthy living. And it will teach the kids far more about the world of supplements."

In terms of preparing his students for the marketplace, Dubuc believes the new program is clearly a win-win situation. "In terms of potential careers, I really don't feel that we have closed the doors to any potential career pathways by moving from a three year to a two year program."

"FLBU was the only three year fitness program in the province," continued Dubuc. "We have now fallen in line with the ministry standards."

And it's not as though the variety of courses that remain on the docket do not provide a great deal of scope in terms of defining a more specific role that graduates might wish to undertake once they hit the work-force.

"We are not just a strength and conditioning program," said Dubuc, addressing one of the misconceptions of FLBU that occasionally circulates in the area. "Canada is getting older and we had already started to lay the groundwork, within FLBU, to start adapting to that. We created an Exercise for Older Populations course, because we know how much of a market that is going to be."

Within the Lifespan Exercise programming, students will garner a greater appreciation for the role of a healthy and active lifestyle, using long-term athlete development as a base, and enhancing their knowledge of the importance to understanding and incorporating physical literacy into day to day living.

Exercise for Special Populations addresses modified ways to remain active. Recreation Management still touches on the ability of these incoming freshmen (and freshwomen) to oversee employees and programs.

And as for those whose goals lie within the world of high-end athlete training?

"This isn't a program that is going to see grads get hired by the Toronto Maple Leafs as their strength and conditioning coach when they walk out the door," said Dubuc. "You will have the knowledge that it takes to train athletes at a higher level, but you also understand that the majority of the market are people who are not at that level."

"The truth is that even if you took a strength and conditioning program, the industry is evolving so quickly that continued professional development is key. I would venture to say that no graduate of any fitness program is 100% ready to be dealing with the most elite athletes on the planet. There are so many things that you need to be researching, staying up to date on."

Fitness and Health Promotion can't be all things to all people - but Marty Dubuc, for one, is more than happy with exactly what he will have to offer, come September of 2020.

Orendorff and Associates