Before you read on, please note that this is entirely my own opinion.
I have been an exercise professional in the fitness industry for almost ten years. I started my career within the military and now run my own business. I teach exercise rehabilitation and run courses based around injury prevention.
When I first started out, social media had only just begun the immense journey it has taken to get to become what it is today. There was no such thing as selfies, before and after photos, etc. The industry cared less about the cosmetics of what exercise produced and more about the hard work it takes to get in shape and stay in shape.
These days, people do a 90-day challenge that puts them at a low body-fat percentage because they have restricted their macros (or traded them for some meal replacement) and increased their energy output. All of a sudden, they’re trading as an expert within the fitness industry (usually titled ‘wellness coach’ or some other name made up for marketing purposes).
I am not saying that I haven’t fallen into this category at some point in my career. What I am saying is that I am now awake and truly seeing the industry for what it really is – A FRAUD!
Don’t get me wrong: there are some great professionals out there putting some awesome stuff into the public arena. But let’s face it – we are plagued by a lot of charlatans.
People selling a healthy lifestyle (we can define this later) by enticing the public to invest in the latest fads and replacing real food with some manufactured substance containing a list of chemicals that I can’t even pronounce – where are the lasting results in lifestyle? Where is the sustainability?
Yes, there are many ways to achieve a plethora of fitness goals depending on the needs of our clients and students – but swinging from one discipline to another never actually achieves anything (such as weight loss etc.) that lasts.
I have recently reflected on my own past behaviours and contemplated how I may be perceived within the industry. I have checked back over my Instagram and realised I am falling into the same trap – and I am supposed to be the one giving the advice! Yes, variety is necessary, but sticking to some principles is equally important. Expecting your client to stick to your programme when you can’t stick to it yourself is hypocritical.
If we want lasting change, why do we write 30-day programmes or 90-day challenges? Surely the better thing to do is teach the students/clients the best way to manage their variables and give them guidance where needed. This will mean that we empower the student/client rather than have them depending on us for the rest of their lives. (If you are in it for the money, you’re in the wrong industry anyway.)
The curse of Instagram
I get the pros and cons of social media. It’s great when you’re on top form, lean and mean. You can sell your theory and programming to clients and students who admire your form. But what about when you are not so great; when you are off-season because life takes over, and fitting your own personal fitness into your life is almost impossible? (Having children will certainly do this to you.) What then? Where are the selfies? People relate to our humility, our honesty and our compassion for others. If we are going to post selfies as practitioners, why don’t we be honest and post one a week throughout the year? I love Instagram, as the stuff I have in my feed brings nothing but education – I follow people like Brett Contreras, The Squat University, Perry Nickleson etc. They are all really down-to-earth practitioners who are passionate about what they do and give you no bullshit on what it takes to achieve your goals – whatever they are.
Where Instagram/Facebook can be misleading is when an off-season physique model takes a picture and then gets in season, takes another picture next to some protein shake, and tells you that his/her results are from drinking that shake daily. This is wrong and unethical.
This leads to my next point – a point I wish to prove to those who buy into the dross out there which states that all you have to do is take this magic pill and exercise for 15 minutes a day and you will look like a Greek Adonis carved out of stone, bullshit.
Getting some principles: sticking to the fundamentals
Sticking to a programme is tough; there are no two ways about it. But it achieves the desired goal when absolute adherence is involved (usually). I recently had a look at all the books I have read and used over the years, by authors such as Dan John, Mel Siff, and Paval Tsatsouline – the big hitters in the industry. What do they all have in common? They stick to the fundamentals and are rigid with their own philosophy. This lets everything else take care of itself.
This motivated me. When working with clients, I get them to take a video diary for five days of everything they eat (this is as basic as I keep my nutritional game plan for clients – keep it simple stupid). If they are online, I screen them by getting them to send video footage of some basic fundamentals (squat included). I use no gimmicks, fads or any other nonsense that might distract us from the goal, which is ‘leading people to a better way of moving, more constantly and in shapes that mimic real life’.
Revisiting your own philosophy once in a while always puts you back on track. Lifelong Movements was heavily influenced by reading stuff from Paul Chek and realising while I was still working within the military what is actually meant by ‘functional training’. Lifelong Movements was the progression from the:
I relate activities of daily living to standard exercise movements. Why, over the past few years or so, did I start to wander away from this principle? I was distracted by the new shiny things (HIIT and all the other cons made out to us), that’s why.
Enter the kettlebell
Sharping up my principles of Lifelong Movements with kettlebells. Kettlebells are a great discipline and (as I previously mentioned) I am a huge fan of Paval and his principles. His foundations resonate with me and I enjoy his no-nonsense attitude (which is similar to that of Gym Jones – Mark Twight). This year I decided this was going to be my weapon of choice. To take it even more seriously, I loaded on the Strong First Certification in October 2017.
Through the Strong First Community, I met my current coach (yes, that’s right – coaches have a coach). Claire Booth, UK lead and team leader, has programmed me to stick to the absolute basics (since meeting her my practice has never been so good). At first, I asked myself: surely I have moved on from this after being in the industry for ten years? But she was right: the basics allow us to do the shiny stuff by creating a solid base. As Gray Cook says, ‘The seed won’t grow in soil that isn’t nourishing’. Our soil is the fundamentals (squatting, lunging etc.) and the seed is the shiny new stuff (Crossfit, sports etc.).
For the past twelve weeks, my discipline in the kitchen has tightened and my commitment to training sessions has been 100%. My plan has been based around four movements:
TGU – Turkish Get-Up
Just drilling these movements repeatedly has progressed my mobility and strength more than any other discipline I have ever followed.
Aesthetically, I have reduced body fat and increased lean muscle mass (although this has a lot to do with my rigid nutritional game plan too) and on paper I have gone from using an 8 kg kettlebell for the TGU to using a 32 kg kettlebell (currently my 1RM). More importantly, I am almost pain free!!
More than anything, in the last twelve weeks I have rediscovered the fact that regardless of how complex and interesting you want your programme to be, the basics always win over anything else. You do also have to have a certain degree of good mind management (a term stolen from Dr Steve Peters – Chimp Paradox) and believe that the results will come, or you will not succeed.
‘Move more, move better’