Frederic Fraré, the master of experimental fitness and functional training, is also an athletic trainer of the prodigious men’s basketball team ‘Limburg United’, a responsible for strength and conditioning at senior women’s volleyball team ‘Datovoc Tongeren’, a supporter of science-based healthy lifestyle, a leader of his own fitness studio ‘ICE Fitness’ based in Lauw (Tongeren). Known for developing fitness culture in Tongeren, Frederic spends much of his time promoting intellectual fitness and health literacy, stubbornly fighting the superficiality of huge commercially oriented fitness chains. His professional endeavours are always provocative, engaging, and challenging.


[caption id="attachment_410" align="alignnone" width="800"]Frederique Fraré at ICE Cool Fitness/Courtesy Anuschka Theunissen Frederic Fraré at ICE Cool Fitness/Courtesy Anuschka Theunissen[/caption]

A Small Cozy Fitness Studio vs Superficial Fitness Chains

It’s fun to have an unhurried car ride down the block, from Tongeren to Lauw, and take in all that a small family-owned fitness studio offers. And let’s face it, while the big chains might offer a bit of convenience with their endless options, a truly unique and delightful experience of real personal communication, without learned ‘customer service’ greetings, you get at your local small businesses.

You enter ‘ICE Cool Fitness’ and immediately experience the passion and customer centricity that neither of big chains can compete with. When you love what you do, it shows. Frederique greets you when you walk in the door. During the training he assists you when needed and provides thoughtful advice and recommendations based on your specific needs. What is most important he creates what I call “eureka moments”, moments when you suddenly understand a previously incomprehensible problem or concept, the experience that simply can’t be matched by those big fitness chains.

A Story of Conquering Professional Fitness Scene

Born in 1976, Frederic Fraré spent most of his young life in Hoepertingen, the province of Limburg. “When I finished high school, my parents wanted me to go to university and start a business career. At the age of 15, I was more than an average tennis player, but my parents didn’t see me combining studies and sports, so I had to finish high school and go to college to continue my studies. After spending 15 years mostly in petro-chemicals, I decided to realize my old dream and went back to school. I got a degree as a fitness instructor and during my internship in a commercial gym, I found out that a job as a fitness instructor wouldn’t really be what I was looking for for the rest of my life. When the responsible person of the gym and I talked about my internship, he told me I would be more fit for a job as a personal trainer. So I decided to take up an educational program for personal training. There I found all the answers I was looking for”.

[caption id="attachment_412" align="alignnone" width="800"]Frederique Fraré at group session/Courtesy Anuschka Theunissen Frederic Fraré at group session/Courtesy Anuschka Theunissen[/caption]

Having learned the rudiments of fitness from academics, he began to experiment on his own. “I started ICE in 2013 to provide personal training to people who were tired of traditional fitness or couldn’t achieve their goals and needed help in this. I also provided sport care services to sports clubs and did massages for individuals: athletes, recreational sports people and just stressed people that needed a relaxing massage. I was combining my professional activities with a half-time job but unfortunately due to crisis the company I worked for decided to end all the temporary contracts and I found myself without a job in may 2014. Therefore, in July 2014 I decided to give it a shot in fitness as a full-time professional activity. As I already rented a small part of the building in Lauw for my personal training during winter, I rented the rest of the space for my fitness studio”.

[caption id="attachment_413" align="alignnone" width="800"]ICE Cool Fitness in Lauw/Courtesy Anuschka Theunissen ICE Cool Fitness in Lauw/Courtesy Anuschka Theunissen[/caption]

Frederic was thinking a long time when choosing his company’s name ‘ICE Cool Fitness’. “To me, it needed to be short, so people would easily remember the name. It’s also a link to the surface on which I played my favorite sport: ice hockey. The company name is actually ICE, the abbreviation means Individual Care & Exercise. I wanted the gym to have a different name, but to still keep the link to my personal training and sport care business. As the gym is located in the village of Lauw, and the translation of ‘lauw’ is ‘cool’, I decided to just call it ICE Cool Fitness. I clearly wanted to take a distance from commercial gyms where they all have ‘Fit’ in their names, because I really don’t want to be linked with their way of working’.

[caption id="attachment_414" align="alignnone" width="800"]ICE Cool Fitness in Lauw/Courtesy Anuschka Theunissen ICE Cool Fitness in Lauw/Courtesy Anuschka Theunissen[/caption]

It is true that small fitness studios bring innovation to their community, open news ways of thinking and doing. Then, as they grow, they attract other like-minded talent who add even more value to the initiative and the community. When you choose a small fitness club you aren’t one of hundreds of clients. The business owner is going to go the extra mile to make sure you know it. Not only because they want to do a great job, but also because they know that if they do well for you, you’ll tell other people. “Before starting a fitness program at my club, every customer gets a thorough intake interview in which I want to get to know the person in front of me. We discuss the medical history and fill the necessary documents. What’s most important: I want to know their goals. That’s the reason they came to a gym or a personal trainer, because they want to improve something on their body, or to try to keep it as it is. I do a ‘Functional Movement Screen’ with them: this test shows how the person moves in a natural way and how the joints work. If I find a problem, I tell the customer immediately that he or she will have to work on that specific part of the body to stabilize or mobilize that specific joint. When I re-test after a couple of weeks, they definitely improve”.

[caption id="attachment_415" align="alignnone" width="683"]Frederique Fraré at ICE Cool Fitness/Courtesy Anuschka Theunissen Frederic Fraré at ICE Cool Fitness/Courtesy Anuschka Theunissen[/caption]

Just like an Osteopath, Frederique merely works around the joints, not around muscles. “I want people to learn how their body works. For this, you can’t put them in a strength machine for 6 months. People that don’t have any sports background, get a regular strength machine work-out during 4 tot 6 weeks, depending on the weekly active frequency”.

So, the question that every person should ask him/herself before choosing a gym is ‘Do I go to a gym to become healthier or do I choose a gym because it has fancy machines, sauna and audience to show off’?’

What Makes ‘ICE Cool Fitness’ Special?

In ‘ICE Cool Fitness’ a science-based individual functional training wins over generic fitness schemes of chain clubs that rely on mass market approach. “Basically, I’m a functional trainer, who likes to train people on their body weight. In a later phase, we start to include external weights. In functional training, you put the human body in a free space and make it move like it moves naturally, not from a seated position like you do in a strength machine. For the body to be able to move well, you need a strong core. Every movement you make with your arms or legs start from the core, the center of the body. If your core is not strong enough, you will start to overcompensate in one of the limbs, the back, etc, where you’ll get an injury. Or when your shoulder joint is not stable enough and you start lifting heavy weights above your head, the chance you might get hurt is far more bigger than when you start working on body weight and static joint work-out for the shoulder”.

[caption id="attachment_416" align="alignnone" width="800"]ICE Cool Fitness/Courtesy Anuschka Theunissen ICE Cool Fitness/Courtesy Anuschka Theunissen[/caption] You may think that Frederic’s fitness approach is too complicated for an average person who just wants to enjoy weekly exercises and to have fun time. But it is not true. ICE Cool Fitness studio has all sorts of customers. Some have done sports and just want to stay healthy. Others need to lose weight and never did sports when they were younger. “What I see in personal training is that a lot of people already tried gym memberships to work on their own but never reached their goals. They now want to give it a try at ICE. And some people just need someone who tells them what they have to do and how they have to do it. Not everybody is born with an athletic body and knows what to do in a gym”.

ADVICE FOR WOMEN

There are several details that women should take into account when looking to join a health club or fitness center: experience, knowledge and formal education of the instructors and coaches. “A lot of women are struggling with their body weight or figure. Especially after giving birth to their children they find it hard to get back to the figure they used to have, – says Frederic. – A very common mistake that is made when you want to lose weight is running on a treadmill for at least half an hour, that will burn the fats, or riding a stationary bike for half an hour…In other words: doing a cardio-vascular work-out on a cyclic, linear base. The problem is your body adapts very rapidly and the repetitive, cyclic movements make it easy for your body to adapt. Adaptation means in a lot of cases: no more progression, no more weight loss…Therefore, you need to take your body out of it’s comfort zone and make it work! If you want to run on a treadmill for half an hour, make it a fun run! Work with pre-programmed interval work-outs. The fact that speed and declivity are constantly changing, your body won’t have time to adjust because the conditions in which you’re moving are constantly variable. On the long term, your body will certainly adapt, but for sure not as quick as with a linear workout.

[caption id="attachment_417" align="alignnone" width="960"]Women in Fitness/Courtesy Anuschka Theunissen Women in Fitness/Courtesy Anuschka Theunissen[/caption]

Another common mistake made by women, also because in a lot of gyms they don’t know the difference between muscle growth and maximum strength, is that by lifting weights I will start to look as a bodybuilder. If you don’t cheat on your body you’ll never become a bodybuilder as a woman! It’s simple, the amount of testosterone produced by a female body is very low, compared to a male body. And that’s the hormone that makes your muscles grow (not some kind of protein like some gym owners like to tell just to sell some more products).

Burning fat and losing weight is about increasing heart rate. The heart rate will also increase, even faster, by lifting weights or working on body weight. Very important about lifting weights for women who aim to have a sharper figure is lifting heavy weights. I know it sounds funny, but bodybuilding is all about wearing out your muscle and rebuilding it for the next workout, so it’ll grow. Working on maximal strength or even on body weight won’t make your muscles develop that much, but just enough to make your figure look sharper”.

What Men Should Take into Consideration When Choosing a Fitness Club

“Misinformed for decades on how your body works by gyms that get their information just out of nowhere – these days they get it from the internet, especially, from youtube – men suffer a lot from their own mistakes, and it makes difficult to make them think in another way.

The big problem today is with the internet, a lot of false information is available, often provided by people that may look healthy, but in reality are often models or bodybuilders that didn’t make it. Men have to understand that bodybuilding and the fitness industry get a lot of money out of publicity. Do you believe everything publicity tells you, especially when it’s about the human body, your body?

[caption id="attachment_418" align="alignnone" width="800"]Men in Fitness/Courtesy Anuschka Theunissen Men in Fitness/Courtesy Anuschka Theunissen[/caption]

Before building up muscles, you should work on joint stability. It’s like building walls of a house before you build the foundation. The walls will collapse. I see too many men throwing around too heavy weights and starting to feel pain around some joint. The damage is already done. When they go to a physio, they work on posture and stability. Once they’re done with the rehab, they merely start to workout in the same way as they used to do….and find themselves in rehab again.

To conclude for both men and women. If you’re feeling well with the gym you visited and the people you spoke with, and the prices, go for it. Don’t forget you want to make your body healthier. If you’re ill, you go to see a doctor to make you better. Will you go to a doctor because he is cheaper than your regular doctor and then you find out he doesn’t know what you have? Remember you only have one body, so you better take care of it”.

Working with ‘Limburg United’ and ‘Datovoc Tongeren’

Beyond managing his fitness studio, Frederic’s professional experience extends into the professional sport arena as an athletic trainer of Limburg United’ and a strength and conditioning specialist at ‘Datovoc Tongeren. “I witnessed the birth of this beautiful basketball club we now have in Limburg for almost 2 years. So, I work for ‘Limburg United’ as an athletic trainer. My job consists of preventing injuries in the best ways possible. Taping players before practices and games, providing massages after practice. I’m also responsible for the sports nutrition. Every player has his own habits and needs in drinks and foods. So, I always try to give them what they ask for. I also help our head of medical staff (actually it’s our physio-therapist/ Osteopath) with post-rehab practices with players that come out of injury. One of my wishes was to work in a professional club and I’m thankful I can be around professional basketball players almost every day. Our physiotherapist is also the head of medical staff of our National soccer team, the Red Devils. He brings a lot of experience and professionalism to the club and for me it’s an honour to work with him.

[caption id="attachment_421" align="alignnone" width="638"]Frederique Fraré and Limburg United Frederic Fraré and Limburg United/Courtesy Limburg United and Johan Smolders[/caption]

Different story in volleyball where I am in charge of strength and conditioning for a senior team. My task consists of improving volleyball-specific movements. This means that I try to make the players jump higher, hit the ball harder, bending through the legs just enough to reach fort he ball or make them sprint fast enough to get that almost lost ball. It’s a huge amount of work, because volleyball is a very technical sport, where every position demands specific movements. And then you have the players who are all differently build…Coaching strength and conditioning is finding a good balance between producing power, gaining strength, having a good core stability, having a good cardio-vascular condition without having to run miles and miles, peaking in the right part of the season.

[caption id="attachment_420" align="alignnone" width="960"]Datovoc Tongeren Training Datovoc Tongeren Training[/caption]

Perhaps I was a little doubtful about the chance of success, also because I never worked with a women’s team before and it was the first time the team worked with a strength and conditioning coach. The start was a little hesitating – we had a difficult pre-season with some good and bad results, but since a few of months, the team didn’t lose a single game and we are even qualified for the Belgian Cup Finals. Actually, ‘Datovoc Tongeren’ is performing better than expected for now. I hope we can continue on this path for next season, with the same experienced technical staff”.

Travelling to Distant Places and Not Thinking Mainstream

Traveling to distant places gives Frederic breathing space that is often lost in our usual day-to-day existence. “My most favorite destination remains to be Iceland. I just love the way a rather small population is living amongst some of the biggest active volcanoes in the world. It’s amazing how they use the forces of nature on their own behalf, without harming nature, of course. Iceland gives me that free feeling…wide open spaces, great landscapes…just the way the lava sculpts the island. It’s still natural. That reminds me of Siberia, where I had a similar feeling, especially when we were driving our snowmobiles over Lake Baikal.

[caption id="attachment_422" align="alignnone" width="604"]Frederique Fraré in Siberia Courtesy Frederique Fraré Frederique Fraré in Siberia Courtesy Frederique Fraré[/caption]

That freedom of thinking, moving, you can certainly find in my way of working. I don’t live and think mainstream and I don’t work that way. Every human body is a piece of fine art. It was developed in a very sophisticated way. We, humans, tend to destroy our bodies with bad nutritional habits, sedentary life and try to fix everything with drugs, etc. Movement and sports are some of the best ways to free your body from bad habits and pains. But it’s too easy to go to the doctor and get a prescription for some pills. Having an active life can take away a lot of back pain due to a sedentary lifestyle. People who lead an active lifestyle have less chance to fall into depression. All in all, an active life is the best pill and you’ll never find it in a drugstore or a pharmacy”.

By Marina Kazakova

Marina Kazakova is a transmedia researcher, poetry visualizer, and a writer. She graduated from the department of Transmedia of Sint- Lukas University Brussels with an art-based research thesis on ‘How to Visualize Poetry.’ Currently, she runs her own artistic production «Seanema».

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