Fitness Expert. Celebrity Trainer. Top Trainer.
These labels are tossed around so generously, they've lost all meaning. The health and fitness industry is one of the most rapidly growing industries in America. Given the rise of poor lifestyle-induced health conditions in the country, it's rather expected.
Here's the thing that no one wants to talk about- and particularly those within the industry:
Our industry is frighteningly unregulated. It's a big blob of grey matter with just a few obvious black and whites.
Sure, there are plenty of reputable associations and councils whose certifications do earn you a bit of fitness street cred, but in reality, there are plenty of ways to get "certified" as a trainer. I admit, we fitness professionals do have to flash their credentials as a formality to those outside the industry to give them a sense of our experience- because we don't have a universal version of medical boards or bar exam to quantify our qualifications. But not everyone knows that the Crossfit certification can be completed within one weekend. You can become a nationally certified personal trainer simply online through some organizations for crying out loud.
You might have never actually coached a client before, but nah it's okay, because you're nationally certified! See the shiny gold star on your chest? More than qualified. Have 100k followers on Instagram for your gym selfie-riddled account? You must know what you're talking about!
A well-respected fitness pro and writer I admire, Jen Sinkler, recently wrote an article for Men's Health about this phenomenon, highlighting the infamous Jen Selter.
This industry is one that almost grew faster than it could maintain itself. There is such a broad range of philosophies of exercise, fad fitness trends, and celebrities promoting things left and right that it's hard to keep up- I don't blame people for getting confused.
Because if celeb A claims that this new method of exercise or their God-sent trainer completely *transformed* his or her (probably already) svelte figure, that means it must work for everyone right? Of course it has nothing to do at all with the nutrition they follow, how active they are outside of the gym, their recovery, their genetics... It was all because of those specific 10 *Booty-Blasting* moves!
I believe that my industry should be one in which professionals learn from and support each other instead of cutthroat competitiveness. That being said, there are certain individual fitness personalities that have earned fame in Hollywood as "experts" in the field. I'm not going to hate on them because if they inspire someone to get moving and start trying to take care of their health, I will never discourage that.
But there are some very harmful perceptions that get thrown out there that are perpetuated because of this. The stigma that you should be dying at the end of workouts. That women shouldn't ever lift more than 3-pound weights. That it's **possible to tone and lengthen a muscle. That obese people trying to lose weight should be shedding 10+lbs per week and working out 5 hours a day even when completely new to exercise. That it's a trainers job to scream in your face, pushing you like a military sergeant.
**this is physiologically impossible- muscles originate and attach at fixed points aka bones. They can stretch and shorten for movement but permanently lengthen, no- think of a Chinese finger-trap
Many of these fitness personalities and media have built successful meccas through their catchy taglines promising results.
And as much as I dislike it, there IS an understandable reason they do what they do.
There is no one-size fits all when it comes to marketing fitness. Everyone has individual goals, and pre-conceived perceptions of what it takes to get there. So of course the headlines of most fitness articles are some version of "insert random number WAYS TO incorrect fitness verb (usually tone/lengthen) YOUR stubborn body parts aka butt, stomach, thighs, arms."
Because no one clicks on a link that says "EAT WELL, WORK HARD, AND RECOVER SMART." Because that's not sexy.
All of these taglines in the photo to the left I took in line at Whole Foods the other day make me sad. Eat more, weigh less. Slim Down Fast. Beach Body Blast. Bikini Ready Belly. Drop 2 Sizes Fast.
It's like a competition of who can alliterate with as many body parts and slimming verbs as possible.
Fitness is a product that needs to be packaged for different people. That fact will always remain true; however, it's important that the product isn't being sold with misleading claims and poorly-researched information.
I do still remain optimistic about the direction the industry is going overall though. I'm seeing that people are starting to seek out real information for themselves and establish a stable, healthy lifestyle instead of blindly following whatever seems to be trending.
This is one of my main motivations in creating Real Talk. That's what I aim to do here- talk about the truth and help make some of that murky grey matter a little less of a monochromatic grey.