And while their charitable efforts certainly flow from their ongoing success in the sporting arena, there’s new evidence to indicate their donations may actually contribute to their sporting prowess. Research by the University of British Columbia suggests that altruism – actively caring for others – can replicate the effects of high-frequency workouts and healthy eating. In the study, participants were allocated a sum of money, with half told to spend on themselves and the rest to spend on others. After several weeks,
with no change to diet or exercise, those who spent on others experienced statisically significant drops in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
Other research into the act of giving has identified philanthropy as an antidote to isolation – a poison most have known all too well recently. Which might explain why online sweat-and-donate sessions have seen the likes of US-based trainer Will Moroski go viral during the pandemic.
As Moroski discovered during lockdown, a 45-minute workout with an added set of altruism provides a potent training mix for lasting results. Add in 21st century tech and these new wellness pioneers are connecting on a global scale, sweeping up Australians in their wake.
“I feel like that’s something unique to Australian culture: a kindness that comes through even through social media,” Moroski tells us via Zoom from his home in Portland, Oregon.
It’s no surprise Moroski has struck a chord with his clients and followers with a delicate blend of technology, physical expertise and philanthropic ambition. He’s a man who knows the science of health, having majored in biomedical engineering at Oxford University. “I feel it combined a lot of the things I love, which is connecting with people and using innovation and technology to better people’s lives.”
Following his stint in the UK – and a brutal jaunt exploring MMA in Indonesia – Moroski returned to Portland and saw things starting to shift.
“I was a little bit disheartened by the health industry,” he says. “Clients become numbers; numbers become data. I was missing that human connection that I was so into.” It was all the impetus Moroski needed to open his own spin studio.
“My goal was, and still is, to empower the people in the room to be better together. That’s what I love doing. That’s what I’m inspired by. That’s the gift I think good trainers can give.”
And then COVID hit, hard. Like most of us, Moroski struggled to stay motivated. He’d had his fill of bodyweight squats and push-ups.
“The biggest struggle for myself and most of my clients is motivation,” he says. “At home, self-motivation is extremely hard. It’s not as easy to get motivated compared with signing up for a spin, bootcamp or CrossFit class, where you just have to get there and you’re put through the workout. Whereas at home, especially when people were just Googling ‘at-home workouts’ . . . you needed the motivation to find a workout and then push yourself to do it.”
It was that lack of motivation, combined with his tech know-how and an engaged following, that gave Moroski the idea to start a weekly virtual workout. However, it wasn’t until the Black Lives Matter movement really took off that he realised the extent of what could be achieved with his pandemic project.
“All over the world, but specifically in the US, I felt really helpless because I felt I wanted to make a difference, I wanted to do more than run an Instagram workout and yell at my followers. I wanted to talk about how Black lives matter and how we all need to be better.”
It was at this point Moroski decided to up the ante by aligning workouts with donations to causes of the moment – issues that his followers could relate to and organisations
that were making a difference. “What if we took this live-workout idea and we added in a new charity every week that I felt was relevant to what was going on in the world, so I could educate myself on a new charity? But then also bring attention to it through the people who are doing the workout.”
NO STOPPING NOW
BLM, wildfire relief, the LGBTQ community, mental health charities and, more recently, Asian American and Pacific Islander causes have all benefited from Moroski and his online following. At the time of print, Moroski had raised more than $55,000 over the course of 40 workouts.
Though COVID restrictions are easing fast across Australia and the situation is improving in the US, Moroski has no plans to stop his virtual charity workouts given the results he and his clients have achieved. Moroski is fuelled not only by the social change he’s facilitating, but by the growing passion of his followers. His DMs are reportedly flooded
with enthusiastic viewers, keen to continue.
“There was no expiry date, but I was also thinking, ‘Should I just end it as COVID comes to an end?’ But with the amount of money we’ve raised, why would I stop now? Maybe it becomes more than once a week. Maybe it’s a case of once COVID is done, we do something in person. I’m really open and just want to take it where I feel like the community wants it to go. It’s a super-exciting thing for me because it’s like I have my career, and then I have my fitness career, and then this has been something
that’s new for me. It’s a new path and I’ve always loved a fresh challenge, and that this is good for me.”