Most of the fitness industry is based on sales and marketing, not getting you actual results.
Kind of scary, huh?
As I’ve stated before, there is a lot of marketing garbage that most fitness companies use in order to get people to spend money and not get anywhere. This is how profits are made. If people who owned gym memberships used them frequently, gyms would go out of business. Their pricing model is even based on it being JUST expensive enough to have one and not cancel it for years, even though you never use it.
And how many fitness gadgets have you purchased over the years hoping that one would finally get you to be consistent, just to order another one that’s almost the same for Christmas a year later? An Apple Watch, a FitBit and a Garmin all do almost the same things when it comes to exercise recording. But some of you probably one of each.
I’ve compiled a very basic and sometimes downright frightening list of stuff to watch out for, either in person, on social media or especially through careful marketing tactics:
Most personal trainers are very under-qualified to design proper exercise programs.
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 fact, this is how they are recruited to work there.
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 frequently it is just “who is available?”. Your money should go towards what you are paying for – quality, qualified attention with proper program design. If you decide to get training at a chain gym, buyer beware.
That ideal physique online or in magazines doesn’t really exist.
Having trained many fitness competitors and bodybuilders in the past decades, 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 and require a ton of restricting.
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 body weight 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 then 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.
Instagram is rampant with this. What the girls and guys there don’t tell you is that their photos are highly filtered and it took them about 20 shots to get the perfect angle. Don’t think for one second that they stepped into the gym looking like that.
You really don’t need a gym membership at all
I design workouts for clients all 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 need in order to start the process of getting healthier. And choose weight training over cardio – every time. Walking and the like is a good start for most people, but once you can transition into strength, do it and stay there.
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 (ideally strength work of some type) 4 days a week, 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), creatine or other supplements 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 a workout. We just tend to believe marketing hype and “research” from companies like Gatorade and Nutrabolics. More money = more ads. It does not equal better results. For people strapped for time, these things can be worthwhile and sometimes I actually recommend them based on the person involved and their situation. But please, don’t make it your 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 that training is 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 for many years. That’s how you get results for life.
There are no quick-fix solutions (that really work) short term that isn’t incredibly unhealthy or dangerous or requires 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 super 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.