girl doing lat pulldowns

What Do You Expect From Your Workout?

I like to think of myself more as “personal health accountant” rather than a personal trainer to my clients. Making my clients accountable to their program and their results is of paramount importance to me. It’s also because I believe that the latter has become such a nebulous term. There are now so many different approaches to personal training ranging from those who’s service resembles little more than glorified babysitting to the upper echelon of elite athletic coaching . Heck, now even group exercise has entered the picture.

This unfortunate variability within the personal training service has always concerned me and was recently highlighted in an article from the National Post that a client sent me last week. The author rightfully questions the efficacy of popular fitness trends and suggests that the people who promote them may have insidious motives. Just as junk food companies have managed to influence what we eat, has the fitness marketing empire been carefully orchestrating how we exercise? I’d say yes and the result in both cases has been mass public confusion, frustration and utter disappointment.

If you’ve ever asked yourself  “what is my workout actually doing for me”? – you’re not alone. I’m sure the majority of people exercising regularly have pondered the same question at some point – even some who are under the guidance of a personal trainer! It’s truly a sad day when you reflect on all your hard work and sacrifice, yet can’t find any tangible evidence that it’s been worth it. If you count yourself among this group, it’s probably time to ask yourself some tough questions about your goals, your workout and the information you’re receiving about exercise.

The article in question points the finger at the fitness marketing conglomerate and even calls out personal trainers. Perhaps because they are in a position of authority and are generally trusted to be the experts on all things fitness related. So are fitness professionals intentionally setting their clients up for failure? I don’t think so, and not just because I am one. The conspiracy theorists out there would be quick to condemn the fitness industry as being unscrupulous but I would argue that the majority of fitness professionals are probably the most passionate and genuine of any profession out there – at least in the beginning. Where things start to go wrong is when the fitness industry and it’s endless parade of “gurus” get involved.

Influencing the “Influencers”

Fitness professionals, unbeknownst to themselves, can often perpetuate the generation of misinformation to the public. This depends on where they get their information from and how it’s applied. In the pursuit of keeping up with current industry research and trends, many fitness professionals turn to continuing education in the form of workshops, seminars and conferences. The problem stems from the fact that many major fitness conferences showcase workshops with clever marketing headlines to bolster attendance such as:

New and exciting exercises that your clients will love”!

Tool “X” will get your clients results in half the time”!

If you’re not doing “X” program with your clients, you’re outdated”!

When trusted fitness organizations are pedaling crap like this to their trainers, and they in turn pass it onto you (the public) and it’s the old garbage in garbage out scenario. While these conferences do showcase some informative and innovative sessions, I find that most of them serve as marketing platforms for the presenter. Sadly these are the sessions that tend to fill up with attendees the quickest.

There are also marketing gurus that prey on personal trainers and convince them they are not in the business of exercise, they are in the business of sales and fitness marketing. Motivated by promises of quick riches, many otherwise good trainers find themselves being led down the wrong path – one where sales dictates their service.

Information Overload

It’s not just a case of some trainers getting the wrong information. Oftentimes it’s the sheer volume information that’s the problem. With something as complex as the human body in question and in an industry with so much money at stake, it’s no wonder there are so many conflicting points of view. Fueled by cherry-picked research papers, anecdotes from the drug abusing athletic community and not to mention pure editorial fantasy, you can literally find support for almost any claim or argument that relates to fitness.

It’s personally taken me over 25 years to fully establish my current philosophy on wellness. I’ve been sidetracked and manipulated just like everyone else until I was eventually able to stabilize my views with truth. I still spend the majority of my spare time separating fact from the fiction and applying the knowledge in hopes of becoming a better educater. Sometimes it’s like a full-time itself, but one that I take very seriously.

Program Complications

All of this information can present a real challenge with program design. While physical capacities like balance, core strength, muscular conditioning, endurance, power, flexibility and soft tissue work are all very important, it’s led some trainers to take a shot-gun approach to their programs. This kind of makes sense. As a trainer myself, if I’ve only got 1 session a week to get a client in shape, my instinct might be to develop every possible physical capacity within the framework of my program design. This approach always fails in the long run – especially as you mature in your development. The saying “Jack of all trades, master of none” comes to mind here.

It becomes important to narrow things down to working on no more than 1 or 2 fitness capacities at a time. Over time you can work on others that are important to you as long as they are appropriately cycled in/out at the right times.

Fairy tales Can’t Come True

The public’s insatiable appetite for the next new and exciting formula for wellness is quite literally fueling the problem with modern fitness practices. From weight loss to fitness to wealth, most people don’t want to work for what they want. Their desire for quick and easy solutions to fix complex problems are as prevalent as ever. Chasing rainbows and magical potions will only guarantee that your goals will never be anything more than fantasy.

The Take Home

The unfortunate side effect of fitness innovation is that it generates so much confusion. It also causes many to forget the basic fundamentals of a well structured exercise program. Many of the experts you look to for guidance are either adding to the confusion are are a victims of embracing the false methods and ideology themselves.

There is something you can do about it though. If you keep demanding variety in your workouts at the expense of structure you’ll undoubtedly end up asking yourself at some point “what am I doing this for again”?  Yes variety is important, but only when your physiology demands it – not when you or your trainer feel like trying out some new exercises. When you’re out of shape, any program will get you some results. But beyond that point you’ll need a more focused plan.

You need to set expectations for the results you want within an individual workout and within a given frame of time. You need to be accountable to those expectations and your results. All of this must be built into the framework of your program. A well designed program should should demonstrate weekly, if not daily evidence of improvement – regardless of the goal in question.

This means someones’s got to be tracking your progress. Tracking provides data (good and bad), that over time will form your blueprint for development of whatever physical capacity you’re training to improve. Stop wasting time in the gym, expect more from your workout and start making progress today!

If you’d like to get serious about your training and your results, get started on your free trial today!

Craig Simms

Craig Simms

Craig Simms is a personal trainer and weight loss coach in Vancouver, B.C. Craig has been a fitness leader for over 21 years and has amassed over 25,000 hours of personal training experience in that span. He specializes in personalized weight management programs.
Craig Simms
Craig Simms

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