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April 14, 2011
What a far stretch
from the past
Fifteen years since LT Rob Orr wrote his first column on health
and fitness, he reflects on the changes, writes Simon Gladman.
from overtraining and pro-
tecting them from misinfor-
mation are two of the main
challenges for physical training
instructors and health professionals
today, says columnist and fitness
guru LT Rob Orr.
Marking 15 years since his first
column for the Defence newspapers,
LT Orr has reflected on the develop-
ments in health and fitness issues in
the ADF since his first article appeared
in the Army Newspaper in April 1996.
He said the advent of the 'informa-
tion age' had posed many new
challenges for physical trainers in
managing the health and fitness of
In particular, physical trainers need
to combat the amount of incorrect
information that personnel are being
bombarded with on the internet and in
advertisements, and need to manage
"Personnel are a lot more aware of
physical training these days and are
influenced by the physical training
media," LT Orr said.
"If they are curious about some-
thing, they can go online and get the
information they want. Beforehand,
running was just about running. But
now there is so much more informa-
tion out there and it includes what
drugs and supplements you can take,
what methodologies to use, and even
what training shoes and clothing to
"Unfortunately, though, there is a
lot of misinformation. Before it used
to be us providing information; now
it's about controlling misinformation."
LT Orr's first column outlined tips
for warming up and cooling down.
He said a lot had changed concern-
ing these and all matters of exercise,
and said that the ADF was at the fore-
front of new change.
"Techniques in the 1990s that were
considered best practice, such as tech-
niques for resistance training exercises
(like bench presses), or how to stretch,
have changed," he said.
"With stretching for example, we
no longer hold static stretches for long
periods in warm-ups, but use a range
of motion. That change came from
research on Australian Army recruits
by Professor Rod Pope, a pioneer in
establishing injury surveillance. We
were leading the world in some of
Looking forward, physical train-
ing can be expected to focus more on
health issues instead of
ness as the interrelation between the
two becomes more apparent.
"A lot of personnel know how
to get fit. We have to control how
they get fit and even how fit they get
because we have servicemen and
women for life, and need to avoid
overtraining them," he said.
LT Orr said education and con-
ditioning programs would help to
achieve this goal, and also introduce
healthy habits to new personnel who
might be less physically fit.
"For people who are joining the
armed forces, they are generally less
fit than before because they have
higher academic pressures and recrea-
tion has shifted from physical play to
electronic play. This is not to say they
don't have potential; it just means we
have to adapt our training methods and
"We may be getting more academic
airmen, but at the same time we may
be losing their life fitness. Even long-
time Defence personnel are feeling the
change. Fifteen years ago, very few
airmen had a computer on the desk.
Today it's more common than not, and
this means less time being active and
more time spent working at desks."
f solely on fit-
have changed dra-
matically since LT
Rob Orr, pictured,
wrote his first column
in the Defence's
Photo: LS Paul Berry
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