He’s tall dark and handsome. He’s dignified and dynamic. He’s fit and full of life. And he wants to share his secrets with you. But more than anything, he’s dedicated to the health and fitness of Canada’s First Nations.
Clay Bruno of the Samson Cree Nation is the motivation and single-handed hero behind the national First Nations Get Fit Challenge.
He’s gone to various sponsors for prizes and found strong support from the Alberta Diabetes Foundation as well as commercial sponsors like Flamman Fitness Equipment of Edmonton.
Bruno, a body builder and fitness buff, initiated the program because he saw a need — and he has so far developed it to a national level with no government or institutional assistance whatsoever.
“This kind of program has the power to change people’s lives for good and for a long life,” he says. “I am actively looking for sponsorship and grants to expand this nationwide movement to health and fitness.”
While obesity and the high rate of diabetes are epidemic in Canada, First Nations people face unique challenges.
Sugar and refined sugars were never part of their ancestral diets.
“Yet our ancestors were all strong, fit, and healthy,” says Bruno. “Healthy and fit is actually the natural way for us to be.”
Bruno has found some key supporters.
Dr. Rajotte and Joanne Langer of the Alberta Diabetes Foundation are whole-heartedly behind him.
“Diabetes is rampant among the aboriginal people,” says Joanne.
“We support the First Nation Fitness Challenge because it combines education, fitness and healthy nutrition. Clay’s enthusiasm and commitment is outstanding and his inspiration brings more and more people on board.”
Sponsor Bob Low of Flamman Fitness has known Clay for about 10 years.
“He’s a fantastic role model. Clay and I chatted and Flamman offered some treadmills as prizes.”
And it works! In just 12 weeks, First Nations Get Fit Challenge participants are learning to eat right, work out in a disciplined way — and the results range from a typical weight loss of 10 to 17.5 kg (24 and 39 pounds), to the record gold medal holder of 34 kg (75 pounds) weight loss by Neil Montour of Samson Cree Nation.
Walter Corey Metallic of Lustiguj, Que., found out about the Get Fit Challenge on Facebook.
“I entered during the sixth challenge, but didn’t push myself, however I lost 40 pounds (18 kg) by the time the seventh Get Fit challenge came around, and during that 12 weeks I lost another 24 pounds (20 kg). The hardest thing is being busy — it’s more convenient to get a burger rather than cooking your own meal, but once you start following the program, eating right and working out, you get great results.”
As well, a new crop of First Nations body builders is growing.
Participant Evan Wayne Metallic of Listuguj, Que., won in the Warrior body building category.
“It’s amazing the results you see, just working out four or five times a week.”
He and several cousins competed in the same community.
Women’s pageant winner Priscilla Levasseur, of Ebb and Slow First Nation in Manitoba, is a single mom, career woman and First Nations bodybuilder.
She heard about it through their health clinic and though she’d always worked out, she wanted to move into body building.
She says there are almost no First Nations competitors in body building.
Even though she was pretty fit when she started, she says: “I lost 10 pounds (4.5 kg) around my waist — about three inches (7.5 cm) — and I gained muscle mass. Clay is a big inspiration,” she says.
Participants are guided through a 12-week program that provides the basic steps toward improving health and wellness. Participants are provided instructions on how to exercise regularly and daily meal plans to help maintain weight.
They are also provided with encouragement and incentives that are intended to motivate them to complete the program.
“The good thing is that you don’t have to wait for the next challenge to start,” says Clay Bruno. “Just check out our website and get started improving your health today. The best prize is feeling great, looking good and being healthy. Take control of your life. God has given you your body as a gift; take care of it and it will take care of you.”
Everyone can access the website at www.firstnationsgetfitchallenge.com
Michelle Stirling-Anosh is a Ponoka freelance writer.