So I’ve been working in or around the Fitness Industry since the late 80’s. Yes, I was around and training in the days when there was a lot of lycra, a lot of really BIG guys and a lot of my early experiences came from only a handful of industry ‘superstars’ (today we call them influencers). But the overwhelming majority of my early learnings were from my supervising instructors and managers, other gym instructors, training buddies and what I gleaned from talking to members in the gym, writing good and shitty programs and trying 90% of the stuff out myself.
Essentially I learnt by listening and doing, not by talking, commenting, posting and posing (picture cynical face)
So essentially I was a sponge of everything in fitness and training around me. I read anything I could get my hands on. The more tattered and used the book appeared, the more it appealed to me. The older and more knarly a gym user looked, the more I wanted to talk to them and quiz them about how they trained. From the very start I paid particular attention to the old and the experienced, rather than the shiny-new-thing that just waltzed in the door.
I watched, I copied, I asked, I tried and I decided for myself, but most of all, I shut the hell up and didn’t offer any advice, guidance or comment about ‘the best way to…’ I figured that until I had a significant field of experience, some runs on the board, best I just quietly go about my business until I had personally produced some solid results.
Either with my own training or for someone else.
Now, after 30 or so years in the game, I feel like I do have some answers, not all, but many more than back in the day, and I have seen many thousands of programs, many hundreds of bad, good and great PT’s and trained and worked in gyms all over the world. So now I can pass judgement, I have the qualifications, experience, (both practical and theoretical) and knowledge of the mistakes and masterpieces that I have created over that time.
I continue to learn, grow and develop, but all the while, I continue to watch the newbies come and go, (on average they last around 18 months) and I watch with high anticipation where the industry will be in 1,3 or 5 years. And my gut feeling is the more things change, the more things will stay the same.
Here are 5 things that I have learnt about the Fitness Industry in 2017.
1. NEW GYMS AND GYM FRANCHISES CONTINUE TO OPEN AT RAPID RATES – BUT ARE NOT A LICENCE TO SIMPLY PRINT MONEY.
If you want to open up your dream club, go ahead, but PLEASE do yourself a favour and do your due diligence first. It’s great that there are lots and lots of different training and gym options open to the public these days, but as a profitable and solid business opportunity to own, best you understand what you are getting into.
Industry saturation is a thing, and whilst many will succeed and survive long term, most wont. It’s just simple economics, supply and demand. I learn’t in 2017 that if some is good, more is not necessarily better, so if you’re looking to get into the industry as an owner, think deeply and carefully and make sure you have a very very sound business plan and even deeper pockets. A half baked approach to establish yourself could cost your dearly. Oh, and one more thing, if you open a business, work in it for a while, not forever, and not necessarily 70+ hours per week, but DO spend a significant amount of time in the business. Get to know your members, your staff, your neighboring businesses, the larger community, at some point you will need relationships with all of them. So start building those bonds now!
2. PERSONAL TRAINERS – THEY STILL RANGE FROM ORDINARY TO AWESOME.
Like any industry, professionals will range from bad to good and everything in between. In Australia we have tended to produce mostly good, but as social media and online avenues to market grow, it gets harder and harder to quality assure the vast numbers of PT’s, fitness experts, coaches and online trainers that are operating and claiming that they can all help to transform you into the magazine model, fitness model, or workout warrior that you always wanted to be.
In many cases, this isn’t there fault. The consumer, you, are not asking some or any of the pertinent questions that need to be asked to make a logical and accurate assessment of who you are dealing with and whether or not they can indeed help you (and not break you) on your fitness quest.
Here’s 3 questions I would be asking before you committ to any program or purchase. 1. What are your qualifications? 2. How long have you been operating as a fitness professional? 3. Who have you assisted in the past, and what kind of results have you guided them too? If you can’t get a satisfactory answer to all of these 3 simple questions, look elsewhere.
Caveat emptor – Buyer beware.
I’ve learn’t that in 2017, the Fitness Industry has many trainers available, but not many of the highly qualified and experienced type.
3. ONLINE PROGRAMS and EXERCISE APPS ARE EVERYWHERE – IS THIS A GOOD THING?
Well yes……and NO! Like any exercise program, they are only useful to you if you use them. Downloading the newest exercise App promising rapid and mindblowing results in just 4 weeks isn’t going to do jack s*&t for you. Some Apps have some really good content, some are pretty useless, unfortunately it’s a little bit of trial and error in this instance. It also depends on what style of training you like to do, bodyweight, traditional strength, cardio based?
My advice is if you see someone in your gym using an App and what they are doing looks appealing to you, pull them aside and politely ask them about their resource. Most people are quite happy to talk about their training programs / Apps and what they do and don’t like about them.
Do bear in mind though, that many exercise Apps are generic in nature. They are afforbable and sometimes free because the developer has simply created just a handful of programs that everyone does, the old ‘one size fits all’ approach. And, just like clothing, with exercise program, one size does simply NOT fit all. Whilst Apps are convenient, directional, transferrable and transportable, the more generic ones can’t accout for individual issues, injuries, limitations and goals.
As for the massive increase in Online Trainers and Coaches. Well this too, is a mindfield to be negotiated. Once again, we see various Instagram and other social media coaches and celebrities pushing and promoting their latest programs, complete with daily emails, Facebook posts, and ‘individual’ programs. These too, vary in both quality and content, and for that matter, price as well. Shop around, ask your friends and training buddies what they may have used (or are using) and dig deeply into the online coach or program that you are considering.
My advice, look for a program that can be tailored directly to you and your goals, needs and abilities. Sure, a cheap online program might be initially tempting, but if it’s too hard, too easy, boring or just not ideal for your goals, then it’s a waste of money anyway. Pay a little more upfront, ensure that it can be targeted to you, hopefully there is some contact with your “coach” and you should be a lot happier with the outcome.
I’ve learn’t that in 2017 Apps and Online Training can be a bit of a minefield to negotiate! Understand what you need and make a considered decision about what App or online program works for you.
4. PRE-WORKOUT, POST-WORKOUT, PROTEIN, SUPPLEMENTS AND SHAKES.
Reportably, Australians spend somewhere in the vicinity of $4.7 Billion a year on supplements! Don’t worry whether its 3 or 4 Billion, once you start talking Billion, it’s mind blowing. Especially when most authorities and research suggest that most of these have no proven benefit. I myself use a protein powder post training, but apart from that, my gym bag is devoid of anything else, minus perhaps a mult-vitamin.
We continue to search for literally, the magic pill! Maybe I’m just too careful with my money, maybe I’m a sceptic, but until some significant and scientifically robust informaiton shows me that they latest “Fire and Fury” pre-workout has some proven validity, I’m not touching it!
It seems the regular Australian fitness gym enthusiast is one seriously gullible individual. The mere promise of elevating testosterone, energy or growth hormone, seems to have a simulatenous effect of elevating their wallet from their pocket. They don’t know why they are paying for this supposed magic powder, they just are…..seemed like a good idea at the time.
Once again, social media has a lot to answer for here. Many fitness models, trainers, coaches appear in their Insta feeds with a strategically placed jar or bottle or container of their “must have, all time favourite” super supplement. Forget the fact that they have probably achieved the bulk of their results well before, or inspite of this perfect product, or maybe without it at all.
And don’t get me started on the influx of new products that you can purchase, and then onsell yourself for outstanding financial success and to become a part of a “bigger, fantastic community of like minded others”. Please……it’s called multi-level marketing and I’ve been in the industry when this was a thing in the 80’s.
I’ve learn’t that in 2017 more than ever, we need to get back to the basics of a balanced, appropriate and individualised diet of health whole foods, largely prepared by yourself.
5. GROUP FITNESS IS BACK, BUT NOT IN THE WAY YOU THINK.
It was massive in the 90’s, died off a little through the early 2000’s, but it’s back! However, this time, it’s not so much about the pre-choreograped exercise to music, there will always be fans of this, but the current trend is group PT or simply groups of people training together.
It’s just that these groups of similar interests find their style of choice and work together to drive, suppport and battle on together. There are Cross-Fit groups, Outdoor training groups, distance running groups, obstacle course groups, powerlifting and weightlifting groups, and the list goes on.
Really, it’s just people with similar interests, hanging together and training.
In my own club we get great attendance with our group exercise classes when we get ‘the formula’ right. Any by formula I mean, class type, great instructor, right time of the day, and class variety. Variety is the key. Some people need to turn up and not know what they are going to get thrown at them, and they love that. Others like to know exactly what they are going to get, these are the McDonalds fans, same bun, same burger, same sauce, same taste……..no surprises.
In these crazy days of social media, texting, messaging, snap chatting, ironically, now more than ever, people want to “belong” to a group, they are craving connection and they find this through their exercise and training.
I’ve learn’t that in 2017, if you have the skills and space to conduct group exercise training sessions (which reduce individual cost and improve social connection) you should definately do so.
6. PEOPLE STILL PREFER TO BE MOTIVATED, RATHER THAN COMMITTED.
For me, 2017 was still a frustrating year of dealing with clients, customers, and human beings around the process of creating long term transformation and permanent change. At the end of the day, people exercise and train to improve some aspect of their physical capability (health, function, strength, fitness, aesthetic).
Underpinning all of this though is their mental transformation. Are they ready to change, are they prepared for the sacrifice, the lifestyle change, the need to say no to certain things (takeaway, alchohol, processed foods, desserts) and yes to others (more protein, salads, water).
Are they completely ready to get uncomfortable and do the ‘hard things’ consistently (exercise, eat well, prepare meals) in order to achieve their physical outcomes.
The answer to this I fear will be the same this year as it was last year, and the years befor that.
I’ve learnt in 2017 that getting in shape physically is about getting in shape mentally first!