Brown Buttabean trainers getting their fitness skills recognised through hands-on education

January 20, 2021

Thousands of people have regained their health and fitness with the help of the Brown Buttabean Motivation bootcamp and its founder, Dave Letele. Now BBM is supporting its staff to broaden their horizons with on-job exercise qualifications through Skills Active Aotearoa.

Dave’s story is well-known in the sport and fitness world and among his many thousands of participants. A former professional boxer and league player, he started the online BBM community six years ago, as part of his own efforts to get his life and health back on track.

It exploded into a thriving fitness bootcamp operation, delivering classes across south, west and central Auckland.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, BBM also made the news for distributing food parcels to whānau in need.

The aim of BBM is to get people healthy rather than to turn a profit, and the classes are free to attend. They include advice on healthy living and nutrition, along with a workout.

Many, many thousands of people have come through the free classes, Dave says.

“Pre-Covid, we were getting between 2000 and 2500 every week.

“People come to us for a whole host of reasons really. Health, weight loss, mental health, wanting to be around good people.

“A lot of the time, the 45 to 60 minutes they are with us might be the only time they are around positive people on the same journey.”

He says the BBM motto is ‘No excuses’ – but there is also no judgement at the classes.

“You’ve got people from all walks of life, and all shape and sizes. These people have been through the same struggle. It’s not just about the exercise, it’s the culture that we’ve created.”

BBM has now enrolled its team leaders, who lead the bootcamp classes, into the Skills Active Exercise Foundations (Level 3) programme. About half of the 40-odd trainees have completed their qualification already, with the remainder underway.

To support the zero-cost bootcamps, Dave notes that the team leaders give their time for free.

Gaining the new qualification will help them build on the significant knowledge, skills and professionalism they bring to their classes, he says.

“If you can teach one of our bootcamps, you can teach anything. You might have someone who’s 300kg, training with someone who's really fit, and you’ve got to structure it in a way that everyone is safe and gets a workout.”

Dave wants to see BBM scale up and start working within the health system to reach even more people.

“As we’re looking to work with the government and with district health boards, we need to make sure that our team leaders are certified. It’s about having that piece of paper that shows we are qualified, it just legitimises everything we do, and opens doors,” Dave says.

“My goal is to be all through the health system, and across the country. There is a massive obesity epidemic and we are not going to wait for the government to fix it.”

He adds that for some of his team leaders, the Skills Active programme will be their first formal qualification.

“It’s all about creating pathways to employment for my people. We’re educating them; they are getting skills and a qualification, and as we grow and get contracts within the health system, they will be able to get paid for the work they do.”

Dave says BBM recently commissioned a study by local research firm Impact Lab, which found that for every $1 the NZ government invests in obesity, mental and physical health, the return on investment is $13.50.

“I always say that what we do works, but now we’ve got the research to back it up,” he says.

Photo credit: Faanati Mamea