The State of the Fitness Industry: Australian Edition – Part 2

In part 1 I gave a broad overview of what in my opinion are a few of the major problems currently in the Australian fitness industry, and then went on to discuss a few options for circumventing this from both a consumer standpoint and from that of the fitness professional.
In today’s post I’ll dig a little further into the specific areas of the industry to identify some of the problems and propose a few solutions, as I see it.

So let’s take a look at a few of the major players that make up the fitness industry. 

 

The commercial gym

The Cliff’s notes version is simply this: They’re doing it wrong.
The overwhelming majority are still employing a broken model whereby the gym relies on a majority of “sleeping” members who pay money for a service they never use, intended for results they’ll never see, as a means of funding their ludicrous overheads for masses of equipment that no competent trainer wants and members do not need.
Rather ironically, they also typically employ trainers lacking competence and fail to educate them further.* Left to their own devices, said trainers perpetuate the use of said useless and expensive equipment, thus further confusing the broader public as to its efficacy. This, in turn, increases demand on said gym to maintain masses of superfluous equipment and high operating costs.
Follow that? Ah well, the gyms don’t seem to be able to either…

Consumer take home point:
Choose and use the gym solely for the facilities it offers, and be observant and patient when shopping for a PT from the facility.

*Before I’m bombarded with hate mail: yes, I’m fully aware that there are many competent trainers, even some excellent trainers, who have worked and do work in a commercial gym setting. I cut my teeth as a trainer working in a major gym chain for four years and , in fact, actually think that starting out in a commercial gym is a great option for a PT career.
Still, these PT’s are the exception rather than the rule, and I stand by my statement.

The private facility or boutique studio

As private by definition, these facilities are run their own way and with wildly fluctuating success.
My advice to the prospective client: choose the trainer, not the facility.
A vast disparity of trainer competency often exists within a single facility. So, don’t automatically assume you’ll be getting a great trainer just because you’ve strolled into a flash new boutique studio.
Too, don’t automatically assume there aren’t any great trainers hiding away in a modest facility located largely out of sight, out of mind. A ninja maybe lurking within.

Consumer take home point:
Commit to the trainer, not the facility. Again, spend some time shopping and asking around to find the right trainer for you .

Group fitness classes

How do we best describe group fitness instructors?
For me, in a word, I’m going to go with “unique”.
Successful GF instructors are almost universally passionate, extroverted and charismatic folk who work incredibly hard behind the scenes – learning ever-evolving choreography, organising their own audio, and oftentimes travelling back and forth to multiple facilities within a single day.
Unfortunately, this is usually not a highly paid vocation, save for the instructors that have their own facility with a focus on a single modality such as Yoga or Pilates.
Accordingly, GF instructors rank lower on the fitness hierarchy, requiring only a certificate 3 in fitness, without the need for the cert 4 and, typically, further education is rarely sought.
The issue we run into with this situation is when GF instructors are, as one would expect, approached by class attendees for more specific fitness advice. We now have a hit-and-miss situation based on the level of education and competency of the instructor at hand.
On top of this, most class attendees also assume that the exercise techniques taught during classes are automatically correct and professionally instructed.
In fact, the overall standard of exercise execution and instruction among GF instructors is typically very poor.
I certainly don’t want to tar all instructors with the same brush – much like PT’s, there are a few shining examples that elevate themselves. However, the unfortunate reality is that most GF instructors aren’t truly fitness professionals, but rather part fitness enthusiast and part performer.

Consumer take home point:
Enjoy the classes for what they are: a fun way to sweat it out to music with some friends. Don’t use group fitness as your go-to source for fitness knowledge and, when it comes to training techniques that you intend to use in your regular training, take instruction on board with a grain of salt.

Bootcamps

Sitting somewhere between group fitness, above, and the fitness cults, below, bootcamps offer all the social support and accountability of group fitness classes, and much of the “My way or the highway” mentality found in the cults, along with the fresh air of the great outdoors and a little pseudo-military flavour.
If you get your fitness rocks off on a little army role play, then that’s just fine.
If watching Damon Wayons as Major Payne struck an inspirational chord with you rather than a comical note, then more power to you.
There are some legitimately well run bootcamps around the country that understand and apply key tenets of training such as screening, appropriate regressions and progressions, and that pushing clients to the point of hurling up their small intestine does not a successful session make.
Unfortunately, for every one of these intelligently run bootcamps, there are perhaps ten that have no concept of appropriate loading protocols, fatigue management, and who take the drill instructor character just a tad too seriously and believe that because they have a few tractor tyres and battling ropes in their training kit that this makes them ‘hardcore’.

Consumer take home point:
Shop around and ask questions. Find out about the bootcamp’s screening process, their protocol for dealing with injuries and medical conditions, their method for introducing beginners into the classes, and any other concerns you may have about signing up.
Hopefully you’re sensing a theme by now.

Cults

And that category title really is the most apt.
CrossFit.
Yoga.
Zumba.
Kettlebells.
Spin.
While each of these training modalities, like any other, comes with its own inherent set of pros and cons, a salient feature of these in particular is their cult-like following.
A social environment that cultivates passion in any realm is absolutely fantastic.
When that passion boils over to obsession and doctrinaire, we soon run into a Maslow’s Hammer scenario: When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

Best way to lose fat?
CrossFit!/Yoga!/Zumba!/Kettlebells!/Spin!/Insert other cult here!

Best way to build muscle?
CrossFit!/Yoga!/Zumba!/Kettlebells!/Spin!/Insert other cult here!

Best way to build functional strength?
CrossFit!/Yoga!/Zumba!/Kettlebells!/Spin!/Insert other cult here!

Best way to save the endangered Sumatran Rhinoceros?
CrossFit!/Yoga!/Zumba!/Kettlebells!/Spin!/Insert other cult here…

If we align our beliefs with a sole modality we develop a myopic point of view, and we soon find ourselves running around futilely trying to bash square pegs into rounds holes.

Consumer take home point:
Understand that confirmation bias is at play here. Take what you need from your chosen cult and apply it where it best fits into your overall training and health regime. Just don’t drink the Kool-Aid.
That’s my take on a few of the major sections that make up the fitness industry.
Hopefully my report doesn’t come across as entirely doom and gloom for anybody about to embark on their fitness journey, but rather encourages the idea of becoming a healthy sceptic, an understanding of the importance of asking questions, and the willingness to say “no” to a trainer, class, or facility that you don’t feel comfortable with.

I’ll be back in Part 3 to wrap up this series by addressing the fitness industry’s governing bodies and trainer education at a foundational level, so be sure to check back soon.

And if you found this blog post interesting or helpful (or if you know any other fit-pros who could benefit from having a read) then please comment below and share accordingly.

Thoughts, questions, hate mail, or anything I missed? Feel free to drop a comment below. And of course, sharing this article will naturally help you jump the queue in your wait for karmic justice to start paying out. 

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