First, I try not to say the word “hate” it’s so full of negative energy and should be saved for really foul, distasteful things. Instead of saying the h-word, I tend to use the phrase strongly dislike to express my disdain for something or someone.
Second, I’ve spent the past fifteen years working in the fitness industry, it’s where I’ve made my career. Overall I’ve enjoyed it, there aren’t too many other places where you can have people pay you to tell them what to do and when I say “jump” my clients literally jump. There are many things I love about the fitness industry (a future post), however these things really bother me about the fitness industry.
1. It’s too appearance driven.
Yes, exercise (and healthy nutrition) is the best way to have a ‘picture perfect’ body but that alone should not be the only reason to exercise. Regular exercise provides many benefits such as improved memory and thought processing, improved health, managing stress, improved sports performance and, most importantly, having the energy to enjoy fun activities. In my experience people who exercise purely for looks are vain, narcisstic and shallow. Same with the personal trainers who advertise their services by displaying half-naked pictures of themselves better suited for the ‘adult services’ section of craiglist. Many people who could benefit from joining a health club or working with a trainer don’t because they are intimidated by the thought of having to look perfect. “Exercise can’t make me look like that, so why bother” or “it will be way too hard to look like that, so never mind” they tell themselves and stay home on the couch instead of starting an exercise program which could provide numerous health benefits.
2. Too much emphasis on exercise for appearance instead of performance.
This falls along the same lines as the previous post but from a slightly different point of view. Muscles do one of two things: produce force or reduce force. That’s it. An individual muscle has no idea how it looks in the mirror, that all comes from your psyche, if you’re not comfortable in your own skin doing exercise won’t necessarily help but that’s a whole different topic all together. Rather than exercise for appearance, exercise for performance. The reason why many athletes and dancers have buffed physiques is the fact that they train to be masters of their craft. Form follows function, so an athlete (or dancer) at the top of their game will have a body that reflects their commitment to training. This is one thing I think crossfit down extremely well, rather than focus on appearance they challenge participants with demanding workouts. As the participants get better at the workouts, their appearance changes as a result. It’s performance first, appearance second. Use performance goals as your training objectives, as your performance improves moving you closer to your goal you’ll be amazed at the results in the mirror.
3. Don’t believe the hype
Will certain exercise equipment help you get results quicker? Yup. Is equipment necessary to follow an effective exercise program. Nope. Don’t believe what marketers and late-night infomercial pitch-people tell you, the only things needed for a great workout are some space and the knowledge of how to challenge your body. Doing lunges in all different directions can help you develop lean, sculpted legs. Crawls on the ground and various push-up variations can help your shoulders develop a sleek appearance. As I write this I need to make one minor change, the one necessary piece of equipment is a pull-up bar. Pull-ups and associated variations are great for backs and arms. The most effective equipment leverages gravity to increase the challenge to your muscles (think free weights). When you see an ad for a piece of equipment ask yourself: “how does this use gravity to challenge my body?” If you can’t intuitively answer that, keep your wallet in your fanny-pack and save your cash.
4. Just because ‘this is the way we always do it’ doesn’t mean we should keep doing ‘em that way.
For anyone old enough to remember Reagan in the White House you’re also old enough to remember what it was like when people could smoke in planes or in their offices. Yup. That’s right sonny, once upon a time people could freely light-up cancer sticks once a plane was airborne or while toiling away at the office. As we learned more about the dangerous effects of second-hand smoke more and more places banned smoking. However in the fitness industry too many things are blindly rooted in random dogma that should be discarded to the trashcans of history. For example: muscle isolation exercises. All muscles in the body are interconnected, during upright movement when one muscle or body segment moves it effects all others around it. When using a machine it isolates the force into only one segment at the expenses of others. You can be very strong in a machine like a leg press yet pull a back muscle lifting a 25lb bag of dog food because the muscles in your hips and back don’t know how to work together. Focus on doing exercises that involve many joints and muscles working together at the same time. The cool thing is not only will your overall strength improve BUT because you’ll be using more muscles you’ll be burning more calories in a shorter period time.
There you have it, just a few things that bug me about the fitness business. Don’t get me wrong, I love what I do and I love helping people change their lives through exercise. However, in my personal opinion, getting rid of these four things can only help the industry get better and help more people experience the benefits of exercise.