I do not know if everyone else is asking this question, but what in the world is going on in the fitness industry these days? Every time I look on TV, I see an infomercial for a new workout video or miracle product. Testimonials and success stories claim that their products and exercises are incredible, but results are not typical – imagine that. These infomercials started out promoting hour-long workouts that were fairly balanced. They would take you through an intense strength and conditioning workout while throwing in days for yoga, stretching and recovery. As the world became faster-paced, so did the fitness industry. Shaun T slowly infiltrated with “Insanity,” 30 minutes of plyometrics, intervals and strength training done every day at max intensity. Perhaps this program is called insanity because that is exactly what it is. Fast forward to present day and the competition in the fitness world is centered on 7-minute and 10-minute workouts intended to annihilate anything and every one in its path. Has the world gone mad or have we become so pressed for time and instant gratification that we can only think about our lives and fitness goals in 30-minute or 30-day increments? Does anyone think about their health and fitness goals a year from now? Five years from now? Ten years from now and beyond? What will you feel and move like at 60 years old or 70+ years old?
The fitness industry is inundated with programs and trainers encouraging clients to chase fatigue and a large calorie burn and nothing else. Everywhere I look, I see programs claiming to burn 1,000+ calories in 30 minutes, or programs that brag about leaving you nauseous and on the verge of collapse. When did that ever become a positive thing for anyone? In my personal experience, very few people go to a fitness facility to start a program to be completely slammed after the first workout. Most clients have specific goals such as a 10-pound to 15-pound weight loss, the desire to move and feel better, or just gain more energy on a day-to-day basis. This leaves the lingering question: Why are trainers pushing clients to the point that they cannot walk or straighten their arms for days? This is not the motivation clients need to make long-term progress; in fact, it usually terrifies them from coming to the gym for the next workout, and hinders them from making long-term progress.
I once had a client who went to a crossfit facility and did “Isabel” for his first-ever workout. For those of you who are unaware, that is 30 snatches for time. This is 30 Olympic lifts, in which you must move a barbell from the ground to overhead in a smooth motion. My client ended up with a herniated disc in his lower back during this workout and ultimately having surgery to repair the damage. He is now forever changed and impacted due to his experience in this facility. This is a complex movement that some people spend years trying to perfect. Why would a fitness facility choose that workout for someone’s first-ever training session? Would he have been better served by spending the first session to evaluate his goals and what he wanted to accomplish? Why not assess how well the person moves and asking about any health or medical issues? How much time does the person have to spend to work out? How much and how well does he or she sleep? How well does he or she eat on a regular basis? This information is the key to getting results for clients, not how hard can I work them on Day 1, as if I am auditioning for a spot on the Biggest Loser. Any trainer can make someone tired or beat someone down in a workout session, but not every trainer can make someone better!
At the end of the day, no matter how hard I train someone today, that person will not reach his or her fitness goals tomorrow. It is a long-term commitment, not a short-term proposition. I must focus on all of the variables that impact my clients’ goals and give them the best shot at being successful over the long run. Anyone can get motivated and make great strides in the short-term, but one must consider what happens in two to four weeks, when motivation wanes and life presents challenges. Have I instilled the skills and behaviors that will keep my clients engaged and successful for years to come, or will they fall back into old habits and lose all of their hard-earned progress? Ultimately, I want to engage someone and earn his or her trust. I want to build a relationship with each client and help that person make a lifestyle change where fitness and overall health is improved on a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly basis.
If any of this appeals to you, stay tuned for my next article on the future of the health and fitness community and where it is heading over the next five years to 10 years. It is my hope that this will motivate and excite you about your own health and well-being.
Chris McAbee is the founder and co-owner of Wilmington Performance Lab, a state-of-the-art personal training facility that offers a full range of services including nutritional counseling and corporate wellness. Wilmington Performance Lab was founded on the belief that personal training is not only about making physical improvements, but also building long lasting, quality relationships with partners you can trust. For more information, visit http://wilmingtonperformancelab.com or call 910- 399-5441.
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