approximate reading time: 6 minutes

I’ve written a fair amount of articles that place a dual responsibility on fitness professionals and the gymgoers who make the decision to get in shape.  This one takes a different turn, and puts the microscope a bit more on those gymgoers in specificity.  Time and again, such ones are lauded for their efforts in aiming to make a lifestyle change that can mean long-term results in favor of a healthy, more enjoyable and longer life.  And it’s well deserved. Any actions intended to live healthy warrant a pat on the back.

Walk into any commercial gym the first two weeks of January, and you won’t be able to find an available machine to save your life.  For years, however, people have been led by a spirit of independence that seems to reach an all-time high when it comes to their exercise and diet habits.  I don’t know why this is.

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Well, it’s a start… And that’s all it’ll ever be.

Actually, let me rephrase that – I can speculate why this is.  It probably comes from an amalgam of a few factors; the fond flashbacks of the sports they played in high school when they were in the best physical condition they can remember being in, the fitness propaganda that’s publicized mainstream by misleading experts who are after people’s money, and all the overused “truths” about getting results that people repeat like mantra all over society – “it all comes down to diet”, “muscle weighs more than fat”, and more recently, “you have to do weights”.  What also may contribute are a couple of basic facts: training experts are a young crowd in general, and we work in a playground for a living. We don’t carry briefcases, and in most cases, we didn’t need grad school to land our jobs.

It’s not fair to say that the above is a clear cut case to have a fitness enthusiast look down his nose at the industry’s professionals or assume their incompetence. But it’s reasonable to think that above many other industries, these characteristics create the perfect storm for someone who’s inclined to that kind of judgmental thinking, and lends to the idea that there’s not much to know. 

When we have legal issues, we talk to a lawyer. If we have a toothache, we hit up a dentist. Passing some blood in the stool on a crisp Monday morning warrants a prompt visit to the family doctor. Renovating the kitchen? You can bet your bottom dollar that if we don’t call a professional altogether, we’d at least study the hell out of an instruction guide before putting sledge to drywall. But, funny enough, when it comes to losing 15 pounds of body fat or gaining 5 pounds of muscle, every part of the intake process is magically taken care of. It’s a bizarre confidence that has been proven time and again to make the head-turning results an overconfident fellow may seek, to become nothing more than a mirage.

“There’s a Lot of Crap out There”

I’m tired of hearing this statement because fitness experts – myself included – have made the mistake of thinking that such an idea is polarized to our industry. Ask any true professional in any other service-based occupation if there’s not a widespread mainstream circulation of horrible information that misleads the public, and you’ll get resounding affirm.  And this still leaves you – the avid gymgoer – at the same level of ignorance towards true training methods as when you started.  You can’t rely on a quick Google search or morning show segment for deep truths about training, and conclude that you’ve got the game figured out. It just doesn’t work that way. At least not yet.

You’re Not Really Serious about your Training if You Haven’t Learned the Basics

This sounds like a condescending subheading, but I’m sure we can all name members of the commonfolk who are self-proclaimed fitness and health nuts.  I’m not about to pick apart every workout protocol – that’d make for a much longer article. What I will touch on is the fact that most reasonable professionals won’t argue with the following points if their goals include being healthy and able-bodied all the way through older age, having low body fat, pain-free joints, and a personally satisfying physique.  The so-called “health nuts” who have formed the habit of just getting out and doing their favorite activity may be in for a rude awakening that they’ve been slowly setting a stage for since they put on their gitch for their first 5 A.M. jog.

  • It’s not “strength training” just because you’re doing movements while holding on to weights.
  • Running is not an ideal form of training for anything but your heart and lungs.
  • It takes a significant amount of time to create sustainable results from workouts.
  • Workouts don’t need to be brutal death camps in order for them to deliver benefits.
  • 3 total hours of effort towards your health and fitness per week will hardly improve your health or fitness.
  • Working out with weights won’t beef you up and make you bulky, unless you want it to.
  • If you want to get past a certain level of health and fitness, “getting up and just being active” isn’t going to cut it.
  • There no basic exercises that are “bad for people”. That’s far too subjective to determine.
  • When your goal is fat loss, the first place you should look shouldn’t be the treadmill. 
  • Unstable surfaces generally don’t positively contribute to strength training.

Like my examples in the previous subheading, sound-minded people who have an issue would take action by first gathering more information. The same should be true of fitness. Saying the industry is permeated with “bad information”, in my opinion, is no longer an excuse and crutch that a member of the general public who’s concerned with his health can use to avoid acquiring a basic idea of what to do. You don’t have to look deep to know the basics of what you’re getting yourself into – but you still have to look.

The Falsity of Fitness Classes

I can almost hear my instructor friends cracking their knuckles in preparation for the litany they’re about to unleash against this subheading. Before filling my inbox with hate, it’s important to differentiate something: training versus exercise.

Training is individualized, goal oriented, and trackable. It has a purpose, it’s usually not sexy or flashy, and long-term benefits are derived through repetition, which create adaptations.

Exercise is more about the moment. It could free the mind and feel good at the time, and even leave you completely exhausted by the end of a session. It could elicit a sense of accomplishment that usually doesn’t far exceed the duration of the day you had that session – if you’ve got your head on straight, that is. It’s less measurable and more sporadic in nature, with limited consistency.

Sadly, the latter category is what many group fitness classes possibly even unintentionally fall under.  It’s not to say fitness classes don’t provide “good workouts”. I’m sure I wouldn’t even last halfway through many that I’ve seen.  The problem comes when the wrong mentality towards such classes is promoted to the consumers as it concerns their bodies and their results.

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Exercise makes for solid workouts that might not deliver sustainable results. That’s cool if all you’re after is a good pump.

The implication that working out, fitness, and health should be “easy”, or “fun”, and always contain all the things you love is ambitious and quite positive, but off the mark.  Building a better body isn’t as simple as 1 or 2 hours per week spent joining in on what is in most cases a glorified cardio session – and should never be promoted as such.

This situation makes a turn for the worse when applied to lower-intensity class approaches like yoga. Before I go on, I’ll reiterate that I’m certain all of these things can deliver results, but I raise an eyebrow when I hear that these are sometimes being propagated as the should-be hub and spoke of one’s health and fitness endeavors.  Rather than turn into another apoplectic strength coach as I’m faced with this and many other issues of the blind leading the blind, I’ll chalk it up to the very same misinformation in the industry finding prey in naïve consumers. It’s a placebo effect that keeps them coming back – and the reason places like Planet Fitness are thriving as one of what I assume to be very few businesses that celebrate goalless mediocrity.

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Maybe it’s a bulk strategy?

But hey. All of that stuff makes you feel better about yourself and more comfortable working out. And that’s what it all comes down to at the end of the day. You may have noticed in many an article that that’s a statement that I decidedly opt against addressing.

It’s because I can’t address it.

Bad Information isn’t the problem. You are.

If getting in wicked shape was as simple as doing your own thing based on stuff you heard, the world would be jacked. There’s a reason there are 3 year diploma courses in Fitness and Health Promotion, 4 year degree programs in Kinesiology and Health Science, and graduate programs in Exercise Physiology. Sadly, the “physical” part of Physical Education serves as most people’s ticket to downplay the many academic demands of this discipline that deserve everyone’s attention.

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Maybe this guy heard that deadlifts are good. Looks like he’s got this.

It’s true – there’s bad information circulating to lower the quality of the fitness industry, but it won’t ever stop circulating if you’re not willing to ask for a second opinion. Or even a first one.

It’ll sure beat giving up on fitness altogether when “walking to work” stops being effective.

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