I’ve worked in a few different settings within the health industry already- even having just begun my career. From small, local focused gyms to the big box franchises I’ve seen how the health and fitness industry is simultaneously on the verge of regulation and positive science, but also becoming ridden with fads and poorly educated “professionals”. With a largely unaware population, fitness and health professionals become the go to source for guidance when it comes to improving fitness, weight loss, and health benefits… When those professionals don’t have much education themselves, things can get dangerous. The fitness industry, like any industry, has many who see the potential to earn money. Everyone wants to be their best selves, however many look for the “easiest” route possible- so those who can market and sell fad diets and quick fixes find opportunity, and the client falls into a cycle of quick improvements followed by relapses.
The truth is.. long lasting results take long lasting lifestyle changes. Accomplishing lifestyle changes takes rebuilding habits, and that often takes the guidance of a trained, certified, and educated professional dedicated to their own furthering education, and their client’s needs. Each client is different, and will respond differently to different things. A proper assessment and plan is needed to identify what is going to best suit them, both in the nutrition and movement realms.
Where many big box gyms excel in accessibility (24/7 hours, huge spaces and many locations) and seemingly low cost memberships/training contracts- they fail the client in other ways. Often staff working in the gym are not required to hold professional certifications (those that require a degree in a relevant field), and training staff (often only holding a weekend course in a science that should have years dedicated to understanding) are encouraged to make sales instead of better their clients. There also is a trend to underpay those responsible for the client’s results and wellbeing. For instance, in a facility I work in I was told in my interview that there would be no pay difference based on my amount of training, – I am one of few training staff hired that holds a degree in kinesiology/exercise science (most only hold a weekend course or less), plus a international strength and conditioning certification (CSCS through the NSCA). Many of the clients I took on upon beginning at this facility had never worked with a certified or degreed trainer, and expressed how big a difference they noticed almost immediately in program design, and my ability to give educated advice, and if I didn’t have an answer immediately- to research it for them.
While there are good trainers and consultants out there who don’t have formal education, it is a system to be wary of and make sure you investigate and interview appropriately.
Whether we intend it or not, we are a catalyst of change for our clients. If they have chosen to start working with a trainer- they should be expecting someone who has the knowledge and ability to help them make a change. Health is dynamic, and it takes time, experience, and lots of education to understand fully.
All of this being said.. if you’re looking for some guidance in the new year, here’s a few top things you need to look out for on your search:
- Background check your trainers and consultants. I’m not talking criminally, but hey- I guess that’s not a bad idea too.. I’m talking how much knowledge of the profession do they have. What are their certifications? Do their certifying organizations require a degree within the field? If they don’t, be wary.. they may only be able to offer a minimal amount of education for you.
- Know what you’re buying into. Whether it’s a gym membership, a training package, or a consult- what exactly are you getting and what are you locked into. Many gyms require a sign up fee, as well as a contract that locks you in for the duration of the membership. If you’re new to the scene, do they offer an intro session to get you started? Some smaller gyms won’t require a contract, and have more flexible options. Trainers or gyms often offer a free session to make sure it’s for you. Talk to your potential trainer and see what their policies are on missing sessions, cancellation policies, and what bang you’re getting for your buck. I always give my clients a full breakdown of what their paying for, because nobody likes surprises.
- Build a team. One person doesn’t always have all the answers. If you know you need more guidance in one area, seek the advice of a few professionals. Talk to your trainer- see if they recommend other professionals in other areas, staff at your gym, or look online for blogs or articles (and always do some research of your own). Knowledge is power, especially when it comes to your health- and having a good network surrounding you helps in building that knowledge.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions. That’s what staff and consultants are there for. If they don’t have educated answers, or don’t have the time to help you.. you’re in the wrong place. Facilities that don’t have time to properly educate their clients, or hire the appropriate professionals to do so, aren’t worth your money (or time). Research those who work at your new facility (preferably before you buy in), and make sure they can help you when you need it.
- Commit to yourself. Hiring a trainer, nutritionist, or buying into a gym membership or fitness classes is a big step.. but now it’s up to you to commit. The professionals around you are there to support you, but you also have to be willing to put in the work. All good trainers are good enablers, and should guide you in the right direction- but it’s your duty to keep your feet moving on that path. Involving a motivated friend can be helpful, but be wary if that friend starts to suggest wine nights or movie nights instead of gym dates (we’ve all been there).
- Be aware of the “fads”. Unfortunately there is a lot of pseudo-science in the health industry. There is a lot of self-made gurus too. Some of it is on the cusp of legitamized research, and some of it comes from personal experience that’s “trending”. Fad diets don’t work long term. Know that. They may be a starting point to kick your butt into gear, but don’t expect the results to last. Lasting results take serious lifestyle modifications. In the gym, it takes at least 4-6weeks to notice physical/visual changes in how you look. It also takes about 3-4 weeks to build a habit… so getting into the workout habit won’t be immediate.. that’s sometimes the biggest benefit of having a trainer. Now you’re accountable to show up to meet another person. It’s easier to commit when someone is expecting you, isn’t it?
- Don’t get discouraged, good things take time. There isn’t a immediate weight loss trick that will last long term, and the number on the scale isn’t a be all end all. In the end, it’s how you feel. And how you feel will be determined by the habits you build with the appropriate education and guidance. Also- just cause I’m sick of the request- there is no such thing as “toning” one particular part of the body. AND, ladies, you will not get huge and bulky if you start lifting more then 2 pound weights. You just won’t. That’s not how the body works. So stop worrying about it.. your bone density will thank you.
I hope some of these tid-bits help you in the season of resolutions. If you’re interested in some guidance that’s affordable, mobile, and easy to access (oh, and very educated), check out my membership options. Let’s make a plan that works for you. What’re you waiting for?