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Above and beyond: your audience expects nothing less

Should you endure ice water, electrocution and mud in an attempt to know your audience?

Dive headfirst into an ice bath, wade through waist-deep mud and run the gauntlet through electrified dangling wires – is this a scene from an Arnold Schwarzenegger film, or just another day at work. For Alexandra Middleton it’s the latter.

Rewind a couple of months and I’m sitting in a cushy armchair in an air-conditioned room happily chatting away to Northcott Disability Service Centre Manager Tony Warner and Northcott client and powerchair football player Ben Keyte. I’m here in my capacity as editor of Fitness Australia’s Powered eJournal to discuss the inclusiveness of the fitness industry and why it’s not just about physical access, but the need to create a welcoming atmosphere in fitness facilities.

Practising what they preach, I couldn’t have received a better example of a warm welcome. Both Ben and Tony are funny blokes and I’m having a fabulous time chatting away – that is until, the pitch. The team at Northcott are participating in Tough Mudder in a matter of months and they would like me to join them.

Tough Mudder is a 20-km run that sees you tackle 20 gruelling obstacles. Designed by the Special Forces, its sales pitch is that it’s the toughest event on the planet. I beat around the bush and then politely decline; but Ben won’t take no for an answer. To put this next line into context, Ben has been confined to a wheelchair his entire life. So when I tell him I can’t do it he simply replies, “we know why I’m not running Tough Mudder, what’s your excuse?”

The fact that I’m writing this reflective piece means I obviously survived to tell the tale. Despite voluntarily waking up at four am to meet my impending doom, it turned out be a really enjoyable day and for the days following I wore my war wounds (minor cuts and bruises) with pride.

As well as learning that I’m a little tougher than I thought, it solidified for me the importance of doing whatever it takes to understand your audience. For me, that audience is 30,000 Fitness Australia members who are a mix of group fitness instructors, personal trainers and fitness business owners. What matters most to this group is the success of their clients and their ongoing commitment to fitness, which in turn determines the longevity of an exercise professional’s business. At Tough Mudder I ran alongside thousands of individuals who fall into the target market of Fitness Australia’s members. I found out what attracted them to the event, their training in the lead up to the day, the pep talks that kept them going throughout the course and saw the satisfaction on their faces as they crossed the finish line.

While it’s not in my job description that I have to do burpees at my desk or survive on a diet of kale, it’s difficult to offer valuable insight to my audience if we’re essentially speaking a different language. If I can understand the landscape in which their businesses operate, I’m better equipped to produce content that will actually help them to meet their aims and position Fitness Australia as the go-to source for industry information.

At the end of the day, what’s an electric shock between friends if it makes for a good story?

Ale Tough Mudder_above and beyond
Our magnificent Ms Middleton (bottom row, third from left) killed it at this year’s Tough Mudder, competing alongside some of Fitness Australia’s more adventurous members.
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