For the last two years, my oldest daughter and I have made it a point to take a trip to King’s Dominion in Doswell Virginia. It’s just the two of us and it’s a great daddy-daughter bonding experience. I am pretty sure we covered every square inch of that park at least twice. That’s a lot of walking. In the process of traipsing across all that ground, I noticed a few things:
- Walking around in wet shorts all day is a great recipe for chaffing. Also, wear good shoes.
- I was surprised by the number of people that looked relatively healthy riding around in those little scooters.
Now before anyone gets their pants in a twist here, I am not “fitness shaming” or judging these people. I don’t know what orthopedic issues they may have been dealing with. I don’t know what kind of health issues may have been present. But seriously. If you aren’t in a position to walk around the park physically, then a trip on the roller coasters might not be a great move on your part.
Now, when I saw this, of course the wheels started turning in my head. How did we end up here? It really bothered me. As an industry, this is our fault. At least partially. I know, I know. Fitness is very much a personal thing that people have to make a commitment to, or not. It is literally the outplay of “you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him/her drink.” I get it. Folks have to choose to get healthier. But…
As an industry, it is our responsibility to reach out to folks. It is up to us to banish the fitness misconceptions and stinking thinking that society holds to be true. Because if we don’t, nobody else is going to. What am I talking about? Here’s a list:
- Gyms are for fit people. I can’t tell you how many times people have said to me as a trainer “Once I get in shape, I’ll come and workout with you.” What? It’s kind of like saying “I’m going to get my life cleaned up before I go to church.” Seriously? Just typing this makes my eye twitch. The gym, like church, is where you go to improve, not a destination you use as a measure of how far you have come. Maybe as fitness industry representatives, we should spend more time reaching out to non-gym goers. The people that exercise will find the gym on their own. And while we are at it, maybe we should stop using pics of shirtless ripped guys and half naked women in our marketing. Those folks, more than likely, all ready know where the gym is. Just a thought.
- Fitness has to hurt in order to be effective. I love this one. “I feel like if I’m not sore, then I didn’t get a good workout.” Are there times where exercising and challenging yourself is going to leave you a little sore the next day? Yup. Should you be debilitated to the point of not being able to walk down the steps on a regular basis in order to make “gainz”? No. And frankly that’s just stupid. I could tie you to a tree and give you ten lashes with a bamboo stick. You’ll feel sore the next day, but there won’t be any progress made. Again, as an industry, we are part of the issue here. Trainers, and I am talking to all of us, myself included, when you go out to make a client sore because your workouts are so tough, it has become about YOU, not the client. Have I left a client a little sore the next day? Yup. But that is never the intention. Usually, it’s a side effect of doing something new or something the client hasn’t done in a while. A little bit done consistently over time can make for an effective program.
- I have to live like a monk and eat tree bark and drink water in order to make progress. Obviously, I’m using a little hyperbole here. But this is one end of the spectrum that we are going to cover in this post. We’ll talk about the other end in a minute. You don’t have to give up everything you enjoy in life in order to make progress. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that’s a great recipe for failure. Mostly because when we go on these spartan approaches, we can’t sustain them. Learn to do little bits. Rather than eating the whole pint of Ben and Jerry’s, get the small container. And just get one of them. That way, when it’s gone, it’s gone. You don’t have to “white-knuckle” the fight to not eat it. Eat just a little bit smaller portions. This will get you going in the right direction and is sustainable for a while. (Sidebar, if you are going to diet, do it with as much food as possible. 150 calories out of your daily intake leaves you room to continue after your body adapts. Cutting out 1,000 may get things moving faster, but where do you go after that? At some point you will run out of food.) Fitness industry folks, we need to be accountable here too. Your 1,200 calorie “meal plan” that you give to anyone and everyone is part of the problem. Let’s try meeting people where they are and go from there.
- If I workout hard, I’ll get hurt. There is a bit of truth to this one. But only if you are doing more than you are ready for. Or if you are attempting exercises you haven’t mastered the prerequisites for. Or trying weight that you haven’t earned the right to attempt yet (by putting in your time and perfecting technique). This is usually born out of an attempt to get results yesterday that won’t come until next year (if you work hard in and out of the gym that is). So we either jump in with guns blazing and get jacked up, or we are afraid to do anything and stay stuck where we are at. Of course there’s also the third possibility of just picking up the pink vinyl coated weights and moving them around. But after a point (like the second week) that won’t be very effective either. Fitness pros, this one is also on us. We need to educate and progress them safely. Give them exercises they need and can handle, not our favorite stuff. Just because you powerlift, doesn’t mean everyone should back squat.
- I have an orthopedic issue and can’t workout. I get it. I really do. Fear of getting hurt again or making an injury worse is a reasonable thing. But there is a work-around for almost everything. You just have to not use the injury as an excuse to quit working. Maybe you need to focus on a stretching routine for a while in order to help with recovery. If your shoulder hurts, posture and lower body work is still on the table. We had a lady at our gym once that had her knee replaced and was back in the next week. She sat on a bench and did upper body work, but she showed up. Again, fitness folks, this is on us. Reach out to the persons physical therapist. Call their doctor and get the scoop. Then help put the client at ease and let them know that you are conscious of the issue and will work around it. Last but not least, stay in your lane. You aren’t a PT. Leave the therapy to them. Do all the good movement stuff you know to do, but leave the “fixing people” to the trained pros.
- If I workout, I can eat however I want. This is the other end of the spectrum that we saw above. I say this in love, but stop it. You can only do this if you are Michael Phelps. What I mean is this works if you’re a genetic 1%’er and you physically train double digit hours a day as your job. Of course if you just want to sweat and not see any results, you can also take this approach. I’m really not trying to be snarky here but this is one of those things that people just can’t seem to wrap their head around.
- There’s only one way to get fit. This is only true if you are a Crossfitter. Or a kettlebell guy/girl. Or a powerlifter. Or a bodybuilder. Or a calisthenics person. I’m being a bit sarcastic here. What I am saying is that people like to get into camps. We see it in nutrition, religion, technology and lots of other facets of life. We get focused in on what works for us and miss the principals behind why it actually works. I love kettlebells. But not everyone does. Some folks like to just do bodyweight work. That’s cool. If you’re an Oly lifter and love snatching a bar over your head, go for it. The point is that pretty much everything works if you obey certain principals, like progressive overload for instance. If you constantly work at the same level, whether you’re swinging a kettlebell, pressing a barbell or doing chin-ups, you won’t make progress. It’s the principals not the modality that make the difference. And that is very much our fault as fitness people. We try to promote our way as being the best way. We do it to “build our tribe.” And you should be authentic. If bodyweight is your thing, then do that. But don’t lie to people and put other types of training down as long as its principally sound.
- Once I get fit, I don’t have to do this any more. Not really sure where this one comes from, but it’s there. It’s like the goal, losing 30lbs for instance, is a destination and once you arrive you don’t have to do what got you there anymore. The truth is that if you go back to what you were doing pre-weight loss, your body will go back to what it was before. This is one of the reasons that I am always talking about sustainability. You have to move for the long haul. So do what you like. Challenge yourself. Get out of your comfort zone. But do what you like. Again, fitness people, this is on us. Rather than finding out what works for that person, we try to force “our way” on that person. I’ve been guilty of this. We feel like we know better so the client needs to do what we tell them. Well, that person has a say too. More so than you do. Because if we don’t take into account what they like, they will quit. And that leads them right back to square one.
So as an industry, we really need to put these things to bed. I think doing so will help us reach out to more folks that don’t currently exercise. For people on the other side, those we are trying to reach, having the light of truth shined on these misconceptions will give them a more realistic picture of what the pursuit of fitness should look like. As always, I hope this didn’t come off as preachy. Just trying to share my thoughts here. Have a great day.