I Call Bullshit: 5 Fitness Trends That Need To End
I’ve been very ranty lately. I think I was inspired by a phone call that Kyle had with the owner of our building a couple of weekends ago. For months the building has been on our backs about putting up a sign so our members know which entrance to use. We finally arranged for our graphic designer to paint up the name of the gym on the door but she got stopped before the first brush stroke. In a bout of unfortunate timing some other work was going on in the building and the contractor got pissed that she’d need access to the door. He called the owner of the building who not only shut down our sign painting operation he pulled a power play and said we’d need to get approval for whatever we’d want to put on the door.
Kyle Flipped. The. Fuck. Out.
“No, Steven, we are painting the door today.”
“I don’t give a shit that you’re at your kid’s birthday party.”
“You don’t like my tone? Well, you’re not my Dad, Steven.”
“No, I’m not sending over anything. It’s just going to be the words “THE FORT”. Do you want me to text you over the words “THE FORT” to your phone. What do you think, I’m going to put a cock and balls on the door?!?!”
I was only hearing one side of the conversation but it was awesome. I’ve subsequently called it the best moment we’ve had in the gym since we’ve opened.
Steven called back 10 minutes later and relented. He didn’t want us to have a bad relationship and asked that we send him a pic of the finished product.
“No problem,” Kyle replied.
Kyle 1. Steven 0.
I think aggressive energy like that can be positive sometimes. I used to go through phases where I flipped out about every stupid Facebook post, magazine article and cocktail party conversation about fitness I came across but I’ve mellowed in the past year.
But hearing Kyle chew out a multi-millionaire real estate mogul - and win -flipped my switch. So you are now the beneficiary of my rant of the five worst trends plaguing the fitness industry at the moment.
In the words of Taylor Swift, haters gonna hate.
Stop The Insanity: HIIT Workouts
I actually have no problem with High Intensity workouts or High Intensity Interval Training. My issue is that too many fitness classes and programs rely solely on high intensity at the expense of everything else. There are two general principles that every workout program should follow: specificity and progressive overload. For most people, specificity is not a concern as they are looking for general health, strength and body composition improvements. However progressive overload (adding more weight, reps, etc. in some sort of fashion over a specific period of time) is completely missing from these classes. This means that you are not getting stronger which is one of the foundations of improving your fitness. I’d even venture to call it the most important foundational quality. And even though it is poo-pooed, working other energy systems like the aerobic system with longer bouts of slower cardio has been proven to be beneficial for your health and recovery.
So while it can be a good idea to add HIIT training into your program, you should not be doing it exclusively. No matter what the hot trainer in the tank top and rad headset tells you.
Class Pass is a monthly subscription service that allows you to take unlimited classes or sessions at participating fitness facilities throughout your city at cut-rate prices. It’s a veritable fitness sampler and seemingly perfect for those who would like to expose themselves to various workout offerings while saving a bit of cash.
If you are a member of Class Pass you can only attend any participating studio a maximum of 3 times in a month. Which means, at best, you are a class hopper who has no real interest in becoming part of a gym community or sticking with anything long enough to actually get results. At worst, if you do find something you like and think will work you will suffer from restricted access to your fitness match and you will now have to toil through other less beneficial offerings for the rest of the month. To put it another way, once you blow through the allotted 3 CrossFit or vinyasa yoga classes that you think are really helping you, you will now be relegated to spending the rest of the month playing dodge ball or in a competitive rowing class even though you might hate those.
If you are a facility that accepts Class Pass you are pretty much the equivalent of the high school slut who was cute but would sleep with anyone because you had no concept of your self worth. Why are you suddenly valuing your services at 50% of your original pricing structure (which is what CP pays the facilities)? Did you suddenly lose faith in the fact that you were worth what you were charging? And what about the poor souls in your facility who are paying full price to do the same workout as the girl next to them who paid half? Have some self-respect and belief that you are actually worth what it is you want to charge.
Finally, I think Class Pass’ business model is deeply flawed and eventually the concept will disappear. But if some venture capitalist comes around and pumps money into it to the point it sticks around for a few more years it could ultimately destroy the service-based fitness industry. Which, interestingly, is at the core of what Class Pass needs to be successful. Oh, the irony.
Social Media Revelations
We can all admit that there is very little that is new in the world of strength training. Sure, research and studies expand the way we look and think about exercise, mobility, energy systems and a host of other topics. But getting stronger, improving work capacity, decreasing body fat are all pretty straightforward processes. Yet every week on social media and on blogs someone will take a concept that is already generally accepted as fact, reword it slightly and then claim they have invented the holy grail of training. Even better when they add a lot of science-y terms to make it ultra complicated.
“I just discovered that if you hip hinge slightly while simultaneously flexing at the knee while keeping an extended torso until the knee joint closes and then reverse the process by extending the hamstrings and rectus femoris via Lombard’s Paradox until both the knee and hip are extended you will have performed what may possibly be the most comprehensive lower body exercise of all time!!!!”
Yes, we know. It’s called a squat. We’ve been doing it for a while.
Equally as frustrating and prevalent is taking a long established training principle, finding some tenuous research that supports the opposite idea and then defending that idea in a “we’ve been doing it wrong the whole time” article. Not that we should not challenge accepted principles if evidence states otherwise, but the general public is confused enough about what makes for sound training and nutrition protocols. Putting out contrary information for the sake of website clicks just makes the situation worse. And kind of makes you shitty.
The Mighty 1RM and Failed Lifts
Initially I blamed CrossFit for this phenomenon and they certainly can still shoulder some of the responsibility. But now I think it is more a function of the 15-second Instagram video era. What I’m talking about here is the over emphasis of one rep max lifts in training programs. Sound training principles and programs rely on a variety of load intensities throughout a training cycle. Even sports where competition is solely comprised of one rep max lifts such as weightlifting and powerlifting utilize higher rep, lower intensity work for the majority of their training blocks. Yet if your IG is filled with lifting videos like mine is you will see people maxing out seemingly on a daily basis.
And what this constant maxing out leads to is a lot of missed lifts. And while technical misses in a sport like weightlifting are more common, if you are missing squats, deadlifts, bench presses and other compound, CNS demanding lifts that often you are essentially teaching your body to regularly miss lifts. This is not only a bad strategy for getting stronger, it’s a repeated psychological kick in the crotch. As humans we tend to do best when we build on success, so my advice is to limit the amount of misses you have in any training phase.
Gym distractions used to be limited to a couple of TV’s showing the Price is Right in front of a bank of treadmills and recumbent bicycles. But now some facilities are completely outfitted with distractions like flashing lights, pumping music, huge multimedia displays and a host of slick devices designed to make you feel and think about anything other than training. The problem with this should be somewhat self-evident. First, it’s hard to get any meaningful coaching in this type of environment. Secondly, there should be a level of focus and intention when training and that is just nearly impossible when you are in the gym version of a Chuck E. Cheese combined with Studio 54.
Not that we don’t pump up the music during the conditioning portion of our workouts or get fired up when someone is going for a front squat PR. Plenty of facilities use motivating tools to get clients emotional about doing difficult tasks and we certainly believe in that. Fitness should have an element of fun. But not at the expense of well-executed movement, smart training and all the other tenants we hold dear. I know it may be hard to get your head around, but you should feel something during training.
A final, related note on this: many trainers and class instructors develop a cult of personality, if you will. Their entire process and philosophy revolves around gaining a following and, in some instances, becoming a celebrity themselves. And in some regards I appreciate the ambition. If nothing else these people are trying to make a life and career as a fitness professional rather than merely training some clients while they pursue their true passion of becoming a novelist or a rodeo clown or whatever. But when developing a following and media coverage start to outpace the desire to acquire relevant knowledge, to hone your craft and to actually help people, you’ve become more of a problem then part of the solution. So get as famous as you’d like, but not at the expense of being good. Please.
Could I rant about 5 more topics? Probably. But then you’d walk away thinking that I’m negative on everything and I don’t want that reputation. Nor is that how I actually feel. And if Kyle’s outburst taught me anything it’s that sometimes letting people know how you feel is the first step in getting things done.
Now go enjoy your kid’s birthday party, Steven.