Our greatest achievements continued- Shannon Kale

My Purpose of ZUU

My name is Shannon Wilton (Kale) and I am a member at IRON ZUU HQ on the Gold Coast. I was first introduced to ZUU around 8 years ago by my then-boyfriend and now-husband Ben after he was sick of me complaining about not being challenged by the group fitness classes I was regularly doing. I remember being slightly intimidated by the YouTube videos Ben made me watch before my first class and slightly judgemental around the lack of equipment in that humble green shed on my first ever visit to HQ. Yet, that first session really began my journey with ZUU. Not long after that first session, I quit my gym membership and have never looked back. ZUU has become a major part of my life and in those early years was my stress relief from the demands of university, my study break when writing my Thesis and today is my balance between work and home life.

Throughout my journey with ZUU I have been privileged to watch it evolve, thrive and succeed not just in that humble green shed (that is now black!) but now on a global scale that seems unstoppable. On a more personal level, ZUU has become my constant, my centre. ZUU has always been more than the physical moves, bigger than the physical fitness it builds. For me, it is not the physical fitness that has been my biggest achievement from doing ZUU, it is the mental resiliency and toughness I have developed. It is learning to challenge that voice in your head that says you can’t, it is pushing past your physical limits and learning you can. It is these life lessons I have learnt from years of gruelling sessions that have truly made me the person I am today.

Today, ZUU serves a different purpose to each and everyone one who does it, teaches it or endorses it. That is what set its apart within the fitness industry – the possibilities are endless. Unlike so many other fitness approaches, ZUU really can be for anybody. With a solid background on injury prevention, ZUU can be tailored for rehabilitation and chronic disease to promote health and well-being, for young children to promote team work and physical movement as well as elite athletes with specific goals to achieve and for everybody in-between.

When I’m not at ZUU, I work as a Clinical Psychologist working with children, adolescents and families. In Australia, 1 in 5 adults will experience a mental illness within their lifetime and in children and adolescents age 4-17 years there is a prevalence rate of mental or behavioural disorder of 14%. These statistics demonstrate the increasing burden of mental health on society. In my experience, some of the most common issues plaguing children and young people today is around anxiety and low mood. Specifically, there seems to be a fundamental lack of resiliency amongst our children and young people. Resiliency is the ability to bounce back from stressors, it is being able to cope with stress, being able to be adaptable to change.

Physical activity and social support are considered key aspects of evidence-based interventions for these concerns, yet remain under-utilised and often dismissed by clients and parents. Physical activity is often prescribed as part of a treatment plan for low mood and/or anxiety symptoms as it can provide similar changes in brain chemistry as an anti-depressant medication. Social support and connection with others is often considered essential to assisting with improved mood and reduction in anxiety, yet often due to the symptoms of low mood and anxiety, people tend to begin to avoid others and withdraw from social activities.

ZUU is the culmination of physical activity ,social connectedness and resiliency training. ZUU brings people together in a safe, supportive and ego-free environment and then together we exercise. From a health professional’s perspective the concept is unique and could be highly beneficial to a person albeit a child, adolescent, adult or older person who is experiencing low mood, high levels of stress and anxiety and feeling socially disconnected or isolated.

The foundation of ZUU has been and always will be its culture. The culture of ZUU really does need to be experienced to be understood. The culture of ZUU is founded in breaking down barriers of age, race, religion, gender, language and ability. It strives to create an atmosphere that is founded in cohesiveness rather than individuality. It reintroduces a forgotten social norm of human contact through its focus on “Get a Touch”. This simple high-5 gesture can turn a room of strangers into friends within minutes. The physical touch helps people to feel connected, to feel as if they belong and it can significantly reduce anxiety and stigma. The sense of teamwork and team spirit and being bonded through suffering all play a part in creating ‘synergy’ – where the power of the group is stronger than the individual. I experience this during every session when the camaraderie, the motivation and the joint purpose allow me to push myself to a level I would never get to training alone.

ZUU is a multi-faceted and diverse phenomenon where the fundamentals of the culture and physical movement are universal and are applicable in any setting in any country of the world. The physical benefits of ZUU are well-known and often speak for themselves. Less discussed are the possible mental health benefits from the endorphins of physical activity, to the sense of belonging and social connectedness that the culture of ZUU provides. The possibilities are endless…

Shannon Wilton

Clinical Psychologist (Australia)

B.Psych Sci (Hons.) M. Clin Psych, MAPS

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