'I’m a great believer in the power of movement'

Midleton man Martin Forrest has set up a business called FITTSTICK which is aimed at exercising at home with a stick — be it cane, crutch, umbrella, brush... whatever. EMMA CONNOLLY finds out more about the wellness venture
'I’m a great believer in the power of movement'

AN IDEA WAS BORN: Martin Forrest had a full hip replacement two years ago that sowed the seed for the FITTStick idea.

IF you face the sun your shadows will fall behind you.

That’s the advice — borrowed from the Maoris — which Martin Forrest, applies to his life and which a lot of his newly-launched wellness system is based on.

The Midleton man has set up a business called FITTStick, which on one level is a way of exercising at home with a stick (crutch, cane, umbrella, golf club, brush, whatever); but which goes much, much deeper.

FITT stands for Fun, Inspiration, Transformation and Triumph, and it’s all about using movement and mobility to become ‘unstuck’ in your life and find a positive path forward.

“I’m a great believer in the power of movement and mobility to help people get excited about their lives again, turn things around, and move forward. And that can be greatly helped by simply standing up, putting a stick in your hand and going for a walk,” he said.

With a background in Tai Chi and Zen meditation, Martin worked in Japan and Taiwan for 12 years, where he was also a Toastmaster champion!

He’s now a mindfulness tutor with the HSE and a community wellness tutor with Cork Education and Training board, and also teaches Tai Chi with virtual clients as far as the UK.

Suffice to say he has vast experience in wellness, and creating a powerful connection between the mind and body.

It was after he had a full hip replacement two years ago, that the seed for the FITTStick idea was initially planted.

“I was on the flat of my back for eight weeks and on crutches for a time afterwards so I know how that feels. Momentum is everything,” said the 58-year-old.

In fact, he goes so far as to describe sitting and lack of movement, which so many of us are doing more of during lockdowns and working from home, as ‘the new cancer’.

“My objective isn’t at all about helping people become athletes, it’s about avoiding stagnation. This is an all-inclusive approach for all ages too,” he said.

Martin admits to experiencing many a challenge in life, just like everyone else.

“And there were times when these challenges robbed me of my smile and inner sense of joy. It was replaced with much darker feelings of anger, hopelessness, powerlessness, sadness, anxiety, and basically a looming depression.

“Looking back on my 50th birthday I began to notice a list of health issues such as: chronic fatigue, listlessness, severe joint pain, heart flutters, an overall sense of weakness, and a serious inability to think clearly and remain decisive.

“My doctor decided to do a comprehensive blood test, especially after my complaints about pain in the region around my liver. I still remember the call from the nurse the day she said that they had found an issue in my results and that the doctor would like to see me in person to go over my options.

“That issue was haemochromatosis, also known as the ‘Celtic Curse’. Subsequently, I learned that this is the most common inherited condition in Europe. More importantly, perhaps, is that Ireland has the highest prevalence of the disease in the world.

“When the doctor told me about it, my first reaction was denial and shock. However, I ploughed through and decided to embrace it and instead become an advocate for my own health by seeking out supports and solutions. First, I started to give blood every three months. Next, I designed my own body-mind system. Finally, I am sharing parts of the system in my current work to help empower others on their way to remaining healthy.”

Martin brought FITT Stick to life with the support of Social Impact Ireland who helped with training and the development of the idea. The organisation believes in the power and the potential that each person can have to make a difference and benefit their community. It works closely with social entrepreneurs, like Martin, at various stages of their journey by providing one-to-one support to help them fulfil the potential of their endeavour.

Pauline Gannon, Co-Founder of Social Impact Ireland, said: “The majority of people we deal with are focused on and driven by the ‘social good’ they wish to achieve, and therefore their self-identity is centred around being a person who creates a positive social impact through their business, rather than an entrepreneur, who is perceived to be commercially focused.”

That’s a good description of father of three Martin, who promises participants will leave his classes with a “smile on their face and hope in their hearts”.

“It’s about helping people to find fun in their lives and building from that, moving to a place where it’s not just about survival but thriving,” he says.

Martin says a person’s entire physiology changes when they smile and he wants people to do more of it.

“One of the corner-stones of my FITTStick system is to anchor the mind in activities that are fun and inspiring for the individual. A very powerful part of this is to identify things that are robbing you of your happiness.

“In my work I help you to clearly identify your ‘smile robbers’ and design a programme with you on how to live a happier and more engaging life.”

Martin will be holding a free taster FITTStick class on April 9.

For more information see martinforrest.com

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