The Fitness Industry is in chaos. Never before, in human history, has there been more money spent on fitness-related products and services. Yet, according to many studies – the rate of obesity has never been higher in the United States. This may seem like a insignificant statistic, but it’s significant. While the commercial part of the industry is thriving, the consumer is NOT reaping the benefits of the money spent. Something is amiss. There’s plenty of blame to go around. All of us – in one way or another – have contributed to this situation.
Let’s begin with the simple fact many people have difficulty stating, with any real clarity, what “fitness” is. Sure, they might give a canned definition – but do they understand it? Do they pursue it? Do they preach it? Typically, no.
Part of the problem is that while “fitness” can be described in scientific and practical terms, it is rarely that description that inspires people. People act on inspiration, more than they act on a scientific and practical definition. In other words, people tend to pursue an impulse, rather than a clear and specific goal. But impulse is often unrealistic – perhaps even irrational.
METHODS & GOALS
Another part of the problem is that people don’t know what methods of training are most conducive to the achievement of a particular goal. How could they be expected to know? The average consumer is not a student of “exercise science.” People tend to seek short cuts. As a result, they spend enormous amounts of time and energy exercising in ways that WILL NOT move them in the direction of their goal. That’s even assuming they have a clear goal to begin with.
How does this happen? Misinformation, immediate gratification, ego, peer approval, and unrealistic expectations. Many people are mislead by fitness magazines and by unqualified trainers. Fitness magazines want to sell more issues. So they sensationalize every article, every “new” method and trend. Rather than stating in scientific terms, “here are the advantages and disadvantages of using this particular method of exercise”, they pronounce every method as “SURE TO GET YOU RIPPED AND MUSCULAR FAST.”
TRAINERS – PART OF THE PROBLEM?
Many well-meaning trainers are mislead by an industry that thrives on selling “new” methods to them. Even when those “new” methods are less effective than older, more established methods. Trainers want to pay their rent and put food on the table. They may be afraid they won’t seem “cutting edge” enough unless they “teach” clients something they’ve never seen before. Trainers are often not educated enough. Nor are they experienced enough, or old enough to know the difference between what sounds good, and what is good.
THE NEGATIVE END RESULTS
As a result of poor training and bad articles, we see people in gyms doing exercises that seem to be a cross between acrobatics and ditch-digging. And they do all this without making any progress for months or years at a time. Clients assume trainers know what they’re doing, so they don’t ask any questions. But they should! They should ask lots of sensible questions. They deserve to know why the trainer has selected the exercises they are having them do. Especially if those exercises feel uncomfortable or awkward. But again, clients just don’t know what a sensible question is, and what is not.
LOOKING COOL VS. GETTING RESULTS
There are always going to be those in the gym who are concerned with looking heroic while they’re “exercising.” Unfortunately, they aren’t as focused on the results those activities produce. This includes using far too much weight, and then barely moving the weight a few inches. Another one is jumping rope with double and triple jumps. I’ve seen people performing acrobatics on a chinning bar. And a guy doing hand stand push-ups. There are a variety of other “feats” that are intended for display, more than they are for fitness results.
Which brings us back to the question – how do we define fitness? For some people, it’s being healthy, feeling stronger and more flexible, and looking good. For others, it’s about looking fantastic – never mind health or safety issues. Some just want to lift heavy objects. Others go to the gym to hang out with their friends, and challenge each other to see who can do what better than whom. Of course, let’s not forget the people who go to the gym, but exercise little. They spend most of their time texting, walking around and flirting. This is all well-and-good, in one way or another. But don’t be surprised if they don’t get results. At least, not the results they thought they’d get.
EDUCATE YOURSELF – ASK “WHY?”
The body will only change in response to specific types of exercise. If someone says “this is a good exercise”, we need to ask “why?” and “for what purpose?” Friends, trainers, fitness magazines, etc… tell us the “truth” about how to achieve our goals. But usually it does not happen that way, for one reason or another. We need to be educated, informed consumers, so that we won’t have the wool pulled over our eyes. Plus, who wants their money unjustly taken from their pockets? Don’t assume all trainers are good; many are not. Ask them about their education, certification, past results with other clients, years of experience, personal accomplishments within the field, etc…
Define fitness for yourself. Be specific – as well as realistic. What would you like to change about the way you look, and/or the way you function? Are those reasonable goals? How will you know you’re making progress? Don’t dive into a fitness program without having a clear idea about your goal. Establish that your exercise and diet plans are correct. You’ll be investing a lot of time, energy – and money. It’s foolish to do so without knowing whether what you’re doing is the correct path for your goals.
About the Author
Doug Brignole is a veteran competitive bodybuilder, currently in his 38th year of competition, still competing at age 55. Having started at the age of 16, and winning numerous teenage competitions in addition to the Overall Mr. California, and his weight division in Mr. America and Mr. Universe. He has been an enthusiastic student of biomechanics for many years, writes for a number of websites and magazines, and is now working on his second book. He has been certified by the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Council on Exercise.