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Columbia Journal logoVolume Nine, Number Three    May 2004    www.columbiajournal.ca

    Inspiration and Health from an Athletic Scholar

    John Hughes

    InspirationThe last time this column was published readers were treated/subjected to the exploits of a professional sports handicapper who has managed to wager his way through most of his university education. To be sure, student loans and betting are not the only way to pay for school.

    Witness the efforts of BCIT student Nicole Mezzarobba who is working her way through a post secondary education as a personal trainer. The idea of doing those impossible-looking stretches merely to stay in shape is daunting enough; performing them professionally as a means to keep from drowning in tuition costs requires focus, know-how and courage. Mezzarobba has plenty in all three categories.

    During the time that she was earning a degree in human kinetics at UBC, Mezzarobba held a variety of sports training positions that ran the gamut from coaching speed swimming to personal training. Her lifelong involvement in sports gave her the training and experience necessary to become a high-functioning athletic trainer. The set of coaching and training positions she held were the perfect complement to her academic work in human kinetics. Unfortunately, a major glitch in the transition Mezzarobba was making between UBC and BCIT occurred last summer when she was rear ended in a car accident. The jarring her body took was so severe that now, 10 months later, the pain in her shoulders is still acute – especially when she swims.

    Car accident notwithstanding, the need to turn a buck persisted after the insurance company refused to help her out and Mezzarobba went back to what she does best; personal training. With the increased course load at BCIT, Mezzarobba was not in a position to do as much training work as she did during her time at UBC. She was, however, able to retain four clients who pay for her expertise as a personal trainer.

    Four personal trainees do not pay all the bills in this post-Liberal-cuts-to-education era and Nicole Mezzarobba is only one among a rapidly expanding demographic of Canadian students who spread themselves thin in order to finish their education.

    Working through these circumstances via sports is, for Mezzarobba, a way to make the experience as enjoyable as possible, considering the multitude of less than enjoyable jobs available to students.

    Despite the pain that no doubt often makes her think twice about the line of work she has chosen to get her through school, there are some lighter moments. Mezzarobba laughs as she tells the story of an older woman she trains who does not seem to be able to stop smiling. One day on the training beat when the day’s workout was to consist, in part, of skipping rope the woman’s pants came all the way down to her ankles but she kept skipping without missing a beat. Mezzarobba managed to call a quick time out while doubled over laughing. The woman kept smiling, pulled up her pants and resumed skipping.

    Although she is a professional, Mezzarobba has a few valuable pieces of advice she is offering for free to people who are too busy to solicit her personal training services but still want to stay in reasonably decent shape. The first thing is cardio exercise of 20-30 minutes per day.

    If this gives rise to thoughts of – ‘where am I ever going to find time for this?’ - fear not, walking from place to place can fill this bill. Mezzarobba assures us that any exercise you can do that raises your heart rate yet still allows you to continue a conversation adequately checks out as a good heart health workout.

    The second vital thing that too many people ignore in their daily routines is stretching and posture. Those big blue rubber exercise balls are excellent for people who spend long periods of time at their computers employing dubious posture methods. The big rubber balls force upright posture. The balls are only part of the regime though.

    The thing Mezzarobba calls “core work” is exercise for the lower abdominal muscle. This is key because the lower abdominal muscle, called the transverse abdominus, protects the spine. Tummy crunches are good for this purpose but what you really want is a palates class, she says. The final thing is a lightweight training program. According to Mezzarobba, the more muscle your body has, the more fat it burns, the more efficient it becomes and its metabolism increases.

    Yes, there is time for all of this – remember, a more muscular body is a more efficient body. And if a pressed for time student who has survived a painful car accident can work with this plan, anyone can.

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