Over the years, one of my clients’ frequent struggles with weight loss is the concept of a number on a scale. Unfortunately in our society we have been taught that this number means something, when really it is a function of gravity (when you come right down to it). While there are some considerations that need to be taken when you’re dealing with obese people, for those who are within a healthy body weight range the idea of how much they weigh can still be an obsession, and not a healthy one.
I can’t count the amount of times I’ve heard “I just need to lose another five pounds.” No you don’t – you need to get into a smaller pant size or you want to look better at the beach. Or there’s another fundamental reason that you want to be thinner, smaller or have visible abdominals. I want to be more attractive. I want to have people pay more attention to me. Or, on the flipside they want to stop the negative thoughts they have running through their heads constantly about themselves..
The weight on the scale actually has little to do with it. When I’m judging fitness competitors, do you think weight has anything to do with it? One person who is the same height could weigh ten pounds more – and actually look a lot better. I have many friends who are high level performance athletes who don’t think twice about what a scale says – it’s all about how they can do the things they need to do in order to win a race or lift what they need to lift. Runners aren’t classified by weight, they are classified by speed. Fitness models and bikini girls are based on height. Even different clothing manufacturers have different sizes based on demand – you can be a size 4 in one store and a size 8 in another.
Your body changes day to day and month to month. This is a good thing, and it is based on how you move, what you put into it and even how much stress you allow yourself to experience. The good news is that these are all things you can affect easily if you simply make a decision to do so.
So my main point to people who obsess about a number on a scale is simply this: do you walk around with that tattooed on your forehead? Of course, the answer is no. And even if you did, do you really think that the people who care about you would judge you based on that number? I can only imagine a horrible society where if you drifted into the upper range of BMI you would be labelled with a red flag and your coworkers, friends and family would shun you because you are a horrible person. Some people seem to think this is going to happen to them.
This just doesn’t happen. Fundamentally, the only person that really cares about how much you weigh – is you. And you’re insecure about it because at some point in your life you decided that words from someone else or a number on a scale meant more than feeling good about yourself. Or you think that by dropping that number you’re going to look better to yourself and other people. Here’s a news flash – they don’t care. Or at least they shouldn’t, and if they do then you’re probably hanging out with the wrong people.
Your conversation with yourself about that is usually based on what you have been told by other people, some of whom are too stupid to realize that when you were a kid or an adult or they were supposed to care about you they were actually beating you down. I have a very blunt way of dealing with that: forget them. You should always be trying to improve, but in my opinion it should be for your own reasons, not one that another person gave you.
Too much today we focus on what other people think, and in a book by Dale Carnegie I read many years ago he summed it up best: Why are you letting other people decide how you are going to feel? Let’s be happy with who we are and what we have before we allow any type of words (which mean nothing) to affect our daily lives and how we feel about ourselves.
Let’s focus on the right things:
Feeling better every day.
Performing better every day.
Maybe looking better (for yourself, not someone else).
Come from a place of support for yourself.
Every day try to make yourself and the world around you a little bit better.
If you feel like it, take a picture of your scale weight and post it on your forehead for the world to see. Maybe we will start a trend so people will figure out how silly it is that they are defining themselves by a number.
Apparently there is a certain portion of the fitness community that has learned nothing about the tragedy that took place about a year ago. Kevin Ogar, who was competing in the Crossfit OC Throwdown in January of 2014 severed his spine during the competition and is now paralyzed. A video of the moment it happened went viral and the whole fitness community mourned along with extensive analysis of what happened. By many it was considered a freak accident, unless you consider the fact that he was three workouts into a ten workout regime, likely already exhausted and throwing a heavy weight over his head. I’m not posting a link but it is easily found, and is disturbing.
First and foremost, this is not an article about CrossFit, bashing anyone or doing anything other than taking a look objectively at the situation. From what I have read nobody can seem to properly determine if Kevin’s spine was just ready to snap, or if he was hit by the bar (or both) – either way, it is a horrible accident and my thoughts and prayers go out to him and his family.
However, apparently the people who run the OC Throwdown didn’t learn anything, as this year they decided to have their participants jump over successive hurdles that were set at heights way too difficult to get over, resulting in many competitors falling – it is unknown if any of them seriously injured themselves but judging from what I was watching it was highly likely. There was a video that went viral about it and many people within the community complained that it was irresponsible and idiotic (which it was), and you would think that the organizers of this event would have known better. By the way, if you want to see the video, it’s here.
Maybe if just one person had stood up and reminded them of what happened the year before and simply refused to do something so risky they might have changed their whole workout and everyone could have done it safely. But that’s not cool, and it’s not hardcore, and it’s not something that you can post on YouTube.
This article is about the responsibility we all have towards our bodies, and the stupidity that sometimes arises when people get competitive. I can’t count the amount of people I have dealt with who have experienced major injuries, usually because they decided to “push through it” or they wanted to “suck it up”. Your body sends you signals for a reason, and it usually isn’t to tell you “hey, maybe you should think about stopping.”
I have many people on my Facebook feed who perform (to be blunt) horrible lifts. Absolutely brutal lifts. But they get the weight up and cheer themselves and get tons of likes on Facebook and Instagram of course. One poor girl who is all of 21 regularly hurts herself and almost brags about it, and then two days later posts videos of herself lifting, and the only thing I can see is her knees buckling and her spine ready to collapse. She doesn’t realize that in 20 years – or sooner – she’s likely going to be suffering.
Tragedy comes in many forms, but to me one of the most tragic things is seeing a mistake made and then doing absolutely nothing to correct it simply for the sake of ego. You only get one body and one life. You have a choice if you want to let yourself live it to its’ fullest for the whole time you’re on the earth, or possibly have that one moment of glory (or one moment of stupidity) and pay for it for years. I’ve fallen victim to it myself when I was younger and stupid. Many of my friends who have “tweaked” things 20 years ago have recently had to have surgery to resolve things and can’t do what they want to do any more. It’s inevitable if you keep treating your body like a punching bag.
I’d rather see people lifting 50 pounds less and able to do it for 20 more years, which is why I run my practice the way that I do. I’ve taught women in their 50’s to lift over 150 pounds, but do they really need to do more than that? My people squat and lift and push and pull just like anyone else, but they do it with care and responsibility to the body, and funnily enough they rarely have a problem, now and ten years from now. I fix people who have had crippling injuries on a regular basis – the only people I’ll refuse to work with are those who haven’t learned the rules of the body and to respect what it tells you and do something about it.
Strength isn’t something that you can easily define. Figure out for yourself what it means. Hopefully it doesn’t mean sacrificing your long term joint health for the sake of making one massive lift, or almost killing yourself to be able to pose on a stage for 30 seconds, or dehydrating yourself so you can have abs just that much more visible for a photo shoot, or doing something idiotic to be able to post an edgy video on the internet. Wake up.
As always, comments are welcome.
Recently I was provided with several examples via clients and just various internet sources of people who are “fitness experts” on YouTube throwing up videos on various topics. Most of them centred around exercise and technique for the best possible application for whatever body part they are focusing on. I’m not even going to get into the amount of nutrition videos that exist (and have information that would make you laugh) because we would be here all day.
Just as an example, one was provided by an IFBB Figure Pro and was talking about changing the angle of the leg press in order to “isometrically” stimulate the glutes. Not only did she realize that isometric doesn’t mean isolation when it comes to exercise, but she also stated such gems as “this is all glute – no quad and hamstring at all” (hmm, I wonder what was helping your knee extend and flex during that press?) and also had you positioned on a leg press lying on your side – something that is not only risky, it could also be really harmful for somebody’s back if the load was high enough. A gimmick position designed to take a regular movement, and make it fresh and new – and potentially dangerous.
Another was a video about bicep curls. Very slick, very well produced and of course full of buzz words like “kinesiology” and “biomechanics” and “concentric” but at the end of the day, it was about bicep curls. Barbell bicep curls. And it was over 6 minutes long. The person who produced it used pretty much every buzz word they could pronounce, and made it seem like something as simple as using a barbell to perform elbow flexion was something that required a ton of attention from the average gym person.
Pretty much every YouTube fitness “expert” has videos of the “best [insert body part here] workout”. These videos will typically show you a circuit of exercises that you could find in any magazine on a shelf this month put in an order that isn’t anything new or different than has been said 100 million times previously. Movement is movement, and Arnold was talking about bicep curls about 40 years ago – surprisingly, the movement hasn’t changed. If anyone ever tells you can that they have come up with a brand new way to stimulate a joint, they are full of it. I’ve read papers written over 2000 years ago about human movement – odds are, things haven’t changed that much. Elbows are still flexing exactly the same way. Force is force. What changes is the way people try to repackage fundamentals so that they can sell it to unsuspecting people who don’t know any better.
Now, before people jump on me for being critical, I’m not saying that these videos are wrong or that they don’t provide some good information for exercise variety for the average person. I’m saying that there is a TON of inaccurate information out there, and you have to be aware of it in order to be able to sift through all of the crap. Just recently a study was done on Wikipedia articles that dealt with medical information and it was found that across 20,000 articles, 90% of them had false information in them that could potentially lead to misdiagnosing an illness. Since most people these days get their information via the internet this could be fairly serious. I’m sure that I can spot inaccuracies in over 90% of videos on YouTube as well, making it also a potentially dangerous source of knowledge, especially when you consider that people will hop on there, watch a video and then try a movement without any real coaching. Many of these videos also encourage people to run through a very challenging circuit that likely they have no business performing at that stage in their fitness evolution. I’ve written before about people who push way too hard way too soon, and YouTube is a great place to get ideas for that.
I know that when I have a client come in and they tell me about something they read on the internet, my answer usually is that it wasn’t wrong – it was misleading and not totally accurate. Part of my job is to provide accurate information to people and explain exactly how things work – then it is up to the person to make their own decisions. One of my mantras is that there is no “good” or “bad” – there are varying levels of appropriate and how things are applied to whom, where and why. Are leg presses sideways bad? Probably – but it depends on who is doing them. Is there a better, safer way to do almost exactly the same thing? Yes. Are bicep curls being done wrong in every gym across the country? I have no idea. It probably didn’t require a six minute video to explain, but obviously this person thought that it did and is using it to market themselves as a “fitness expert”.
You also have to consider the motivation behind the videos that you watch. Are they just marketing fodder, sponsored by a supplement company and starring an attractive figure model? Are they telling you that a “revolutionary” new technique is going to get your results to you even faster (especially if you take/wear/drink their product at the same time)? 98% of the time that person is there to market themselves or a product that they sponsor and the more hits they get, the more money they make. Some of the videos know that sex sells so their model is wearing next to nothing. Again, more hits = more money. And a lot more people who might just believe that lying sideways on a leg press is a great way to isometrically use your glutes.
With all of this information being thrown at you, it is really not easy to pick out the accurate information from the inaccurate without having someone to point out what the truth is. If you sit and watch videos long enough, suddenly you start to believe that if you just try this new technique that your results will change drastically and that you will vault into the stratosphere of fitness without putting in the appropriate time and effort. That’s what makes you dumber. I’ve had fellow trainers message me asking “is this right?”. The point is that this inaccurate information makes people question if what they are doing is actually what they should be doing. This applies to both trainers and people who are looking to get fitter. Then someone watches a video, gets on a leg press at a sideways angle and wrecks their back (or hip or both) and wonders why.
Here’s my suggestion – get off of the internet and start reading books. NOT Dr. Oz books. Textbooks, manuals, journals with published research, things written by people with track records and credentials to match their publishing history. Odds are they are going to be a TON more accurate than somebody who looks great in a pair of tight pants or tank top and is showing you a nice booty exercise. There are actual web sites where you can open source whole courses on anatomy, mechanics and movement or at least the textbooks for reference – for free (if you want to know some feel free to message me). Be a little more proactive about your knowledge. Read books on workout routines written by actual coaches and people who have been doing it for thousands of hours with hundreds of people. Not someone who only has a fitness following because they are on TV or look really hot in a set of tight pants. And if you have a question – find someone who knows the right answer and ASK THEM. I’m always happy to answer questions for people even if they aren’t my client, because part of my job is to help people, and to me that means providing accurate information to the best of my ability. And if I don’t know the answer I can direct you to someone or somewhere who does.
The fitness industry is full of marketing ploys and terrible information and it can all be found just a click away and make you dumber as a result. Please, don’t fall for this stuff and don’t allow the internet to dictate what you do or don’t do in a gym or to your body (yes I realize the irony of writing this on a blog). Find an expert, consult with them and get it right the first time. Don’t let anything that affects your body be as simple as believing someone with a slick video on the internet is anything close to an expert on the body and what it does. I’m happy to help if you need it.
Feel free to like, share, but please don’t publish it on YouTube.
Due to the fact that my industry is unregulated and anyone can call themselves a trainer after taking a weekend course, it is generally filled with some pretty interesting characters. What still amazes me to this day is the fact that people will blindly walk into a fitness centre and sometimes invest thousands of dollars, simply under the promise that they are going to lose weight, get ripped or be able to perform like a high level athlete in no time – and not even interview the person properly! Some trainers prey on this like a lion devouring a carcass, and take advantage of people who are emotionally vulnerable as a part of their selling process. You can see examples of this all over YouTube if you just search for “personal trainer sales”.
Other trainers will use a personal relationship to take advantage of their clientele and drop their service level – sometimes to the point of completely neglecting them and what they were hired for in the first place. Because they now see the client as a friend, they allow themselves to forget the professional side of the equation. Trainers generally aren’t good business people, which is why they get into an easy entry profession in the first place, and chain gyms pretty much guarantee that even a totally incompetent idiot can get clients if they just stick around for long enough.
This bothers me. I tend to take my job as a trainer seriously, and what a lot of trainers (and clients) need to learn is that when you a trainer is affecting someone’s body in a positive or negative way they are impacting a lot more than just their physical well-being. Also, I don’t know many people who can afford to waste $60-100 an hour and not get value for it. I know I can’t. Our industry is also rampant with unprofessionalism. Trainers texting, eating, or ignoring clients to chat with other people during workouts. Trainers who talk more than they coach. Trainers who come in to work hung over and brag about it. Believe it or not, this is actually common – and it really shouldn’t be.
So in a nutshell, here are some very good reasons to fire your trainer. If you are a client reading this and can relate to one of these, fire your trainer. Today. If you are a trainer reading this and get fired (or have been in the past) well then odds are you should probably stop doing one of these.
1) They don’t show up for work.
Trainers who constantly cancel, take loads of time off and always make excuses or reschedule should be fired immediately. You are paying someone for a service and they are supposed to be focusing on you and your results. A trainer who no-shows for any reason in this day and age should likely be fired right away. With texting, email, easy ways to communicate there is no excuse beyond a legitimate emergency and this should happen once in a blue moon.
I personally know a trainer who took over 65 days away from work last year and constantly cancelled sessions last minute – but then would charge his clients if they did the same thing. That’s 13 working weeks away from his clients, and for some reason – he didn’t get fired by some of them. Good thing he got paid up front! As a client, don’t let your trainer use a personal relationship to abuse the fact that they are hired to do a job.
2) When they do show up, they act like you are hanging out with a buddy.
If you are talking more than you are working then the session probably isn’t doing you a lot of good. A skilled trainer can maintain a conversation (if you really need them to) while you are doing movements. Frankly, if you are resting too much because you are chatting, why are you paying that person? Most trainers cost over a dollar a minute – make sure you are getting value for your time. Personal training also isn’t a therapy session or a “nutrition consultation” where you pay the person to solve problems that are outside of their scope of practice. Doing ten sets of exercise in 45 minutes isn’t going to get you very far either. There should be a plan, and it should be executed properly. I know that often I don’t even have time to get everything in that I want to do in an hour long session, never mind chatting.
One big test – if your trainer is talking to you about their own personal issues a lot, get rid of them. The session should be about you and what you are accomplishing towards your fitness goals. Be serious about your physical fitness and health and find a trainer who is too.
Oh, and if they ever pull out a cell phone during a session except to use it as a timer or they have an emergency, you might want to think about how much they respect the time they have with you.
3) They don’t have a plan, long term or even during a session.
“What do you want to work on today?” was a normal thing I heard when I worked at some gyms. Um…it is your job to figure that out and tell me, that is what I’m paying you for. Can they modify or change a workout in the moment if it is needed because you ended up moving furniture the day before and your back is sore? If your trainer doesn’t have a plan for that workout and then moving forward odds are they really aren’t focused on getting you what you want – results. If you tell them that you don’t want to work a particular body part because it is already tired and they give you blank stare, run for the hills.
Part of the skill as a trainer is also being able to figure out what is appropriate for that person in the moment and constantly be assessing ability. This can change even movement to movement. If a client comes in and hasn’t slept, didn’t eat right or has another problem and the trainer just goes ahead with a hard core circuit workout (that they have likely done with every client that day) then they are putting you at risk of injury. Is someone who either doesn’t know better or doesn’t care worth investing in?
I actually heard of a guy who would put a daily workout on a wipe board and have every client do it that day – no matter their condition, age, size, etc. Ridiculous. And not worth your money.
4) They have no experience dealing with your specific issue.
I know you have a personal relationship with your trainer and would never want to leave them, but honestly sometimes if your goals change or something happens you may need to find a new one. An example would be a client who gets pregnant and their trainer has never worked with a pregnant woman before – is that really a good idea? If I suddenly decided to enter a powerlifting competition and my trainer was a marathon runner that might not be a great fit. If I seriously injure myself and my trainer has no background in that particular injury, is it really wise to hope that they learn with you as a guinea pig?
A trainer with integrity will refer out when situations like this come up, not simply wing it hoping for a good result. Don’t be afraid to suggest that maybe they could find you someone more suited to your needs. Likely the money you invest will get you a better result. Personally I’m never insulted if/when this happens and I have a good network of other professionals that I can refer to.
I know that sometimes I am negative on my industry, but realistically these things happen less often than you think. Just make sure that they aren’t happening to you! In order to improve your results, you need to make sure you are working with a top quality professional, and they are definitely out there. Sometimes you just have to weed through them a bit before finding a good one. Let me know if there is anything you would add to this list and feel free to comment and subscribe!