Chris Denny, a qualified personal trainer who has been in the fitness industry for 25 years and ran his gym on the Gold Coast, Australia, for seven, noticed many Cook Islanders who wanted to be active were too shy to go to the gym.
So he came up with the idea of sending out trainers to the people, through Rarotonga Personal Trainers.
“You can’t take the food away from the locals, but you can implement exercise, to keep them active.
“What I’ve done is form a group, and we’ve been going to the hospital, Tereora College, and a few locals that form groups.
“And so far it’s been fantastic. I also have seven classes a week here at Top Shape.
In his time as a trainer, Denny noticed some fitness classes were far too advanced for many people, especially those carrying excess weight. As a result, they were scared off from further exercise, he says.
“It’s all right for the younger people who are flexible and can recover faster. But the mamas and the papas are the ones that need it the most.
“That’s why we run exercises like Boxfit, that is more suited to people in their 40s, 50s, 60s, and they won’t leave thinking ‘aw, stuff that, I’m not doing that again’.”
Finding a personal trainer on the island is difficult, as there are virtually none, and although Denny was able to handpick a number of energetic and passionate locals, he wants to develop the venture more in the future.
He plans to talk to the Cook Islands Tertiary Training Institute to see if he can get a training course going so he can recruit and train the younger generation.
As he looked to extend his business by training tourists at resorts, he was shocked to find out that no one had thought of the same thing.
“What I found out is that no one had approached resorts to say, ‘hey I’m a personal trainer, I want to train your guests’.
“The manager that I spoke to at the Nautilus said people had always asked, and he just gives them a voucher to a local gym.”
As with the locals, he isn’t looking to make tourists train his way, but rather aims to cater for the level of activity they are looking for.
“If they want to go to the gym, then we’ll take them there. If they want to go to the beach, we’ll drive them over there, and swim to one of the little islands, and make them swim back with the fish biting them, that’ll speed them up,” he laughs.
His main goal with Rarotonga Personal Trainers is to have a Boxfit session in every village, so that he can work with the locals who he feels have become unfairly maligned over the years for generally being overweight.
“I think that a lot of people bag the Cook Islanders, by saying 80 per cent of the population is obese. But it’s just part of the culture, the way people eat. I’m not here to take the food away from them.
“Instead, I’m giving them exercise, because ultimately it is a health issue. And a lot of people say that it’s because they’ve had kids. But you also want to be alive to see your kids grow up.
“And it’s not just about the shape. It’s about working on their hearts, on their lungs, their blood pressure. We work from the inside out. And if they lose weight, then that’s a bonus.”
Denny mentions a client who recently approached him, unsure if the 10kgs that he had lost was a good thing.
“He had been enjoying the programme and hadn’t even realised that he had been losing weight. I hadn’t suggested anything about a diet or cutting down on food, I just told him how proud I was.
“I think that it’s a mentality. Because once people start something like that, they start to think that 10 donuts are better than 20. And so on.
“Then that mentality rubs off onto the children. They see the parents are active and eating healthy. So it really is the parents that we need to work with.”