I compiled this list in order to expose my readers to some of the biggest things that I see people falling for within my industry. As I’ve stated before, there is a lot of marketing garbage and crap that my industry uses in order to get people to spend money and not get anywhere over and over again. This is how profits are made. Can you count the amount of gyms you have joined over the years? That “revolutionary” diet or exercise program you read about online or in a magazine, tried for ten weeks and then gave up on? I’m hoping to put a stop to a lot of that. So here’s a list of things you want to watch out for:
Most personal trainers are very under qualified to design proper exercise programs.
I know, the first thing is bashing my own profession. Most commercial chain gyms sell a lot of personal training, simply due to the fact that sales of training are pure profit for them. Unfortunately this has also led to some companies (and any major chain does this frequently) having trainers on the floor who haven’t even taken a certification course yet and simply “know how to work out”. In my career I have worked with every level of the spectrum, from a high school dropout who was recruited to be a trainer because of her looks, to a kinesiology grad who actually couldn’t coach someone through a bench press or name any of the muscles involved beyond “the chest”. Even those who have one certificate have had about 25 hours of classroom instruction, which is less than one course for one semester at any post secondary institution. However, some trainers go above and beyond this and are constantly looking for new educational opportunities – these are the ones you should be investing your money in. There are some brilliant people out there who really care about their craft and are willing to take the time to really learn the why behind what they do to people. Seek these people out and you will reap the rewards. Don’t just accept any old trainer that a gym throws at you, because more often than not it is just “who is available?”. Your money should go towards what you are paying for – quality, qualified attention with proper program design.
That “fitness model” is airbrushed, starving and dehydrated.
Having trained many fitness competitors and bodybuilders in the past years, I know a lot of methods to help people drop fat fast and get more defined so they look great under lights or in front of a camera. The trouble is that absolutely none of these methods are in the slightest bit healthy or realistic for most people. When a competitor is so lean that they are about to step on stage, they typically have manipulated their sodium and water levels dangerously and are on little to no carbohydrates, sometimes for up to weeks at a time. They will also gain back massive amounts of weight in the form of water and carbohydrate after competing, sometimes up to 10% of their bodyweight in a matter of two weeks. This is not anything close to what an average person should go through. When you see someone in a magazine they are typically not this bad, but are not too far from it – airbrushing takes care of anything else. Never, ever look at a person in a magazine at more than a model and believe the promise that if you follow their “super effective” diet they you can look like them unless you are willing to suffer through the same regimen that they do. There are also trainers out there who swear up and down that if you follow their “magic program” you can look just like them, which is ridiculous. And, on that note…
Celebrities and models are paid to look good
Whenever you see celebrities or models in print or on screen, know that in 99% of the cases they have a personal trainer (who doesn’t know any more than your average trainer, they just have the right contacts) 4-5 days a week, and they also have personal chefs or meal delivery services. Plus, they are paid to look great. If it was my job (because I didn’t work otherwise), or a studio was paying me several million dollars to take my shirt off, or I knew that by being in good shape it would get me product endorsements and other lucrative things, you’re damned right I would work out daily and eat right (I already do that and I don’t get paid for it!). It is a different level of motivation and they are on a completely different financial playing field. Brad Pitt for his role in Troy worked with a trainer two hours a day five days a week and was on a competition diet. You had better believe he looked great (and it cost him over $1000 a week). Don’t ever try to compare yourself to these people or think you are going to look like them. Be happy with what you have and make it the best it can possibly be with the time and resources that you have. And you would be surprised at what you can do. That leads us to…
You really don’t need a gym membership at all
I design workouts for clients all of the time using simple bodyweight movements, with no equipment and very little time invested. If you are truly motivated to make a change, it takes nothing to put on your shoes and go for a fast walk, do some simple bodyweight squats, modified push-ups and mild planks and believe it or not – that’s a workout! The things that gyms have is lots of fancy equipment that 75% of which you never need to touch and for some people, they enjoy the social aspect and group exercise, which is great. But it’s not anything that you really have to have in order to start the process of getting healthier. As I said in one of my previous articles, if you can just clean up your eating and get in 30 minutes of (extra) activity almost daily, you will start to see some significant changes. You can work every muscle in your body easily with bodyweight and resistance bands if needed. Once you are in the habit, a small investment can get you a really decent home gym without having to worry about lineups or travel (or monthly expense).
Very few supplements have been proven to do anything useful and are mostly a waste of money.
Often I’m asked “which protein powder is better?” or “I heard that x is good for you.”. According to scientific research, and not the studies done by the supplement companies themselves of course, there is little evidence to show that any supplements will actually make a big difference for you physically when it comes down to quick changes. There are exceptions to this, but when you think of protein powders (eat animal protein or vegan options), pre and post workout drinks (chocolate milk, anyone?) and one type of brand versus the other, the differences between them are at best negligible. You can save a lot of money by going for something less expensive without the marketing hype behind it. And for athletic performance there are very tried and true methods to increase the ability to perform for any workout and recover from said workout. We just tend to believe marketing hype and “research” from companies like Gatorade and Muscletech. More money = more ads. It does not equal better results. For people strapped for time, these things can be really great and sometimes I actually recommend them based on the person involved and their situation. But please, don’t make it a first choice and don’t fall for marketing hype or ads in magazines, or what is recommended by the latest “fitness pro”.
That really fit person has been training that way for a very long time.
Most really fit people that you see winning races, have ripped abs and big muscles or just look great in an outfit have more often than not been going through years of exercise and eating properly (or had artificial help – but I’m really trying not to go there for this article). Sometimes you will get people who were athletes when they were younger and they tend to respond very well to exercise, but for the majority of people just stepping into a gym, it is a matter of years to see big changes that will stick with you for a lifetime. And, if you have never been active before you need to give your body time to adapt to the physical changes you are going to put it through. This only adds to my previous posts about training being a long term solution and that you need to give yourself at least a year of consistent training for about 3-5 hours per week at a minimum to see long term results. If you have a friend, co-worker or relative who is really fit, ask them how long they have been regularly working out for. The answer will probably be many years. That’s how you get results for life. And another segue…
There are no quick fix solutions (that really work) short term that aren’t incredibly unhealthy or dangerous or require surgery.
Going on a crash diet? Your body will pack on whatever you lost plus reinforcements. Desperate and going for bariatric surgery? Have fun not being able to eat properly or absorb proper nutrients – for the rest of your life. Going to train really hard for that sport or event because you started really late? Risk of injury increases exponentially. I can’t say it enough, but I’m going to again.
There are NO quick fixes when it comes to the human body. It takes time, effort and proper guidance to get to where you want to be, and how long it takes depends on what your body will allow and how effective your program is. Your body is not stupid. It will tell you when anything is too hard, when it is not happy and cutting something out, depleting it or taking it beyond its capacity is asking for trouble somehow. Give yourself proper planning, time and apply things consistently and you will get there. Instead of months, it might take years, but the only way you’re NOT going to get there is by stopping.
Why doesn’t the industry want you to know this stuff? Because then you won’t spend your money on supplements, poor personal training and cash grab quick fix solutions. Don’t fall for it. Get into a habit, make it a permanent change and give yourself time. Being healthy isn’t something you do for a little while. It should be something that you do for the rest of your life in order to live longer, healthier, not have aches and pains and be on medications and be a good example for your family and friends. Feel free to comment if you disagree.