By: Laura Minor
If the thought of going to the gym makes you anxious because of past experiences, don't let one bad egg ruin the batch....
Confession: Sometimes I have a hard time coming up with a topic for a column. I was a fitness journalist for the local paper The Broadripple Gazette for over nine years, so it's easy to see why this is possible. As a result I sometimes turn to the trusty internet for research studies on fitness/wellness related topics. I came across an article entitled "How the Fitness Industry Turns People off Exercise", so naturally my curiosity was sparked, and hence our topic comes to life!
The study out of Australia found that one in three people avoid exercise because they are embarrassed to be seen working out, and another third are scared of being hurt while at the gym. It cited an example from a female client of a clinical psychologist named Louise Adams: A personal trainer screamed at her "You'll never have sex again if you look like that!". It is no surprise that she ditched the gym and took weeks to recover from this abuse. The psychologist went on to explain that this is just one of MANY examples of the fact that people generally don't avoid exercise because they don't like it; rather it is because they don't like their bodies and fear they will be judged. In fact, out of 1400 people surveyed, 46% said they have anxiety when they think of going to the gym.
Adams explained this: "Part of why people are anxious to exercise is because we are supposed to be sexy and physically perfect when we do it. We see images of women in tiny shorts and crop tops and this makes people feel inadequate. Research shows that the more we are exposed to images of physical perfection, the more depressed and angry we get. This doesn't motivate; it makes us feel worse and we want to hide."
Andrew Meade, former trainer for the Biggest Loser thinks the exercise industry is often a terrible example for health and wellness. "It perpetuates the stereotype of ego-maniac meatheads who are totally obsessed with their bodies. There needs to be more places for people to workout in a comfortable environment where they won't feel judged all the time." he said.
The other third of people are afraid of exercise fearing they will get hurt, which is no surprise with our "No pain, no gain" and "Go hard or go home" mentality. And when they see people on the Biggest Loser passing out and vomiting from flipping tires during their first workout, how can they be blamed?
Meade said "People should be pushed to a level that is adequate for them, rather than smashing a person so hard that they leave by crawling down the stairs. They're not going to enjoy it or want to come back if they cannot walk. But there is a belief in the industry that we need to punish people during a workout and it needs to be addressed."
Okay, I'm going to stop quoting other people and speak for myself?. Let me first off begin my thoughts by stating I am not "self-promoting" or marketing myself or my facility. I am sharing my personal experience from being in this industry for 13 years and witnessing the fear I see in new clients both in the realm of their body image and getting hurt. I have heard so many people say that they won't look in the mirror or that they shouldn't be "allowed" to wear yoga pants because they are too overweight. Larger clients have told me of the disgusted faces they see from certain individuals while on the Monon while trying to be active. I have seen the anxiety in the eyes of new clients walking into their first session anticipating that I am going to slaughter them to become more "healthy". I have heard time after time afterward "That wasn't so bad...I was really scared."
As a fitness professional and gym owner, I personally couldn't even IMAGINE saying anything negative about a client's appearance in an attempt to "better them". I also couldn't imagine that pushing a new exerciser to the brink of exhaustion would, A. Be a good thing for them or B. be a good strategy to retain them as a client. When someone talks negatively about their appearance I immediately squash it with a positive statement about them. And yes, when we have new people we do want them to be slightly sore so that they feel that they are becoming stronger, but never to the level that they cannot function the next day. I have heard people say to me many times, thinking that they should feel like they were hit by a wrecking ball, "I don't think I was as sore as I should have been." Sore, yes. But fully functioning is the goal. Yes, I could make you not be able to pick up your coffee cup or drive home but that is not good for your body.
This is my personal take on this subject as well as every trainer I have or ever have hired...TURN AROUND AND RUN IF:
- If a trainer EVER body shames you or is verbally abusive about your physical appearance. This enrages me! This world is so judgmental as it is, so why would anyone resort to paying for more judging.
- If a trainer tells you that you will lose an enormous amount of weight in a short time (especially with the use of multiple supplements to their financial benefit). Losing weight isn't easy or fast, and the good old fashioned way with diet and exercise is the best way to ensure healthy and realistic results.
- If a trainer pulverizes you to make you feel like you need them to be successful. A lot of trainers take this approach for their own "job security" because they make people feel SO out of shape that they sign on the dotted line. Not being able to walk is NOT the picture of health. Building up slowly yet progressively is the key to strength and being injury free.
- If a trainer is not certified. This is a very scary point to me....You see in good ol' Indiana it is not a LAW that one must be certified to be a personal trainer. Yep, Joe Schmo could open up shop tomorrow, beat his clients up, verbally abuse them, instruct them with improper form, etc. and it would be totally legal. Nail techs, massage therapists, beauticians, and dozens of others require licensure. But someone would is physically exerting you does not?! How does this make sense?!
Sadly, these examples are not uncommon, but I do not have any of this in my work atmosphere. I sincerely hope other trainers and owners that engage in the above mentioned, would begin to take the high road to start to change the negative perception that some hold toward the fitness industry. It truly should be almost solely based on health and happiness. Exit my soap box. Till next time!