Tag Archives: personal training

Mistakes to Avoid in the Gym

You’d think that January is the busiest time of year in the gym but I’ve found that it’s the fall. Approximately two weeks after Labor Day, to be exact. That’s when the momentum rises and gyms get packed. Everyone’s eager to kick-start the school year with a bang, tackle their fitness goals before the holidays, and shake the lazy feeling of summer. To help ensure you make the most of this season (or any, for that matter), I’m here to offer up some professional suggestions for mistakes to avoid in the gym. No one likes to look foolish…or get hurt!

 

 

Lack of Awareness of One’s Surroundings

The most surefire way to get injured in the gym is to be a space cadet and walk around in a daze. Heavy metal is being hoisted and dropped, people – pay attention!  I know this sounds so “duh,” but you’d be surprised at how many people walk directly into the path of someone who is doing reps. For example, I’ve had people saunter right into the space where I’m doing lunges, kettlebell swings, leg lifts and more, all while I’m exercising and at risk for hitting them! Most recently, I had a personal trainer and her client step directly into where I was working out. It was a major “for shame” moment in my book. She’s supposed to protect her client! 

 

Avoiding the Free Weights

It’s easy to get stuck in our comfort zones, especially if that’s on a piece of cardio equipment. But it’s of the utmost importance for our bodies that we move them functionally. That means putting your feet directly on the ground and moving! Free weights are a great add-on for functional exercises because they take up the intensity and allow you to get your upper body and core more activated. Full body workout in less time. What’s not to like?

 

 

Forgetting to Wipe and Wash

I’m a crazy person about personal hygiene in gyms. (I’ve seen people sneeze into their hands and then continue using equipment…gross.) Even in the most state-of-the-art facilities with full-time housekeeping staff there just isn’t any way to clean as quickly as equipment gets contaminated with microscopic germs. So, not only is it important to wipe off the equipment that you’ve used after you’re done, but it’s also imperative to wash and/or sanitize your hands upon leaving. If you want to go to the next level of paranoid (ahem, which I do), then switch out the water bottle or container you’ve used while working out with one that’s clean and use a phone-friendly cleaner or sanitary cloth to gently wipe down your phone since chances are that you were using it during your workout.

 

Improper Use of Momentum

Momentum is one of those things that’s tempting to rely on when working out but that ultimately takes away from pure strength. If you’re doing a plyometric or power workout then sure – use momentum per your training. But if we’re talking about gym equipment like lat pull downs and leg presses then it’s a different story. People using momentum to power through these exercises aren’t demonstrating proper control over the weight being lifted and are more prone to getting injured in addition to getting less bang for the buck for their muscular strength. It’s my personal theory that this is the issue at the core of many CrossFit injuries [over-reliance on momentum].  

 

 

Not sharing equipment

Remember the personal trainer I mentioned who dangerously stepped into my workout space with her client? Yea, I’m not done with her. She could have properly communicated with me and asked me to share the open/free space, to which I should agree. Alas, she made two mistakes; putting her client in physical harm’s way and not following one of the unspoken rules of the gym (taking turns between sets). It’s important to acknowledge that just because you have three sets to do on a shoulder press machine does not mean that it’s yours until you’re done. Gym etiquette 101 is to let people “work in” on machines. Aka preschool manners 101: SHARING IS GOOD!

 

Sticking to the Same Equipment

Changing up your routine is important for growth and accelerating results. If you’re a free weight person then try switching things up and seeing if one day a week of treadmill sprint intervals feels good. Or, you could change your workout game from 10-12 reps per set with free weights to working towards 3-5 rep max sets with heavier weights on machines where you’re stable and less likely to get injured. If you’re a cardio person then please, see the section above; “Avoiding the Free Weights.” Change is your friend.

 

Rounded Posture on Cardio Equipment

We’ve all seen it – those people slumping forward on cardio equipment, expressions of strain as though they’re working extra hard by leaning on the handrails. But that’s simply not the case. In the majority of these situations a person is working less hard, burning fewer calories, and hurting their necks and backs in the process. So, don’t be tempted to mimic this foolish posture. There’s not much good that can come of it.

 

 

Holding Your Breath

Holding your breath can be dangerous. Period. Especially if you’re doing an overhead maneuver or working at a hard pace. It may cause you to become dizzy! Nausea and lightheaded issues aside, holding your breath should be reserved for underwater swimming and athletes who have been properly trained in how to do this for power lifting maneuvers. The rest of us need the exhale breath to help get through the “sticking point” of an exercise and to help us engage our core. We need the inhale breath for…you know…oxygen.

 

Skimping on Core

It’s easy for a lot of people to skip out on core work or to hastily add it in at the end of a workout. But skimping on core work can hurt you in a number of ways. For example, did you know that runners who are prone to plantar fasciitis often have very weak cores? Did you know that a strong core can help you reduce back discomfort while also making you look taller and leaner? There are so many benefits that come with keeping our body’s center stable and strong. Finding creative ways to add core exercises into the beginning, middle and end of your routine will always be worth it.

 

 

Skipping a Warm-up

Please don’t give warm-ups the short end of the stick. They are an integral part of the workout, just as much as the “meat and potatoes” are your exercises. In fact, think of a warm-up kind of like the time when the meat and potatoes get warm and cooked so that they’re ready for you to eat! Weird analogy? I digress. The times when people are most tempted to skip the warm-up are when they’re pressed for time or running late, but even 3-5 minutes of limbering exercises and dynamic stretching is better than none.

 

Releasing too Quickly Through Eccentric Phase

The eccentric phase of a workout is when the muscle is lengthening. And it’s often rushed even though it has a lot of potential to benefit your strength gains when it’s approached with just as much attention as the shortening phase of the exercise. For example, many people take their time pressing dumbbells over their heads for a shoulder press but then allow them to quickly drop back down to shoulder level. Taking your time for both parts of the exercise is important for optimal strength and muscle building. The best way to ensure you’re doing this is simply to pay attention to what you’re doing and take your time in every part of the movement.

 

Happy Fall Y’all! 🙂

 

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

 

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Exercise Tips for the Flat-Footed

This may seem like a strange topic, especially if you aren’t sure whether or not you’re flat-footed. Unfortunately, statistics point to there being a strong chance that you fall into the flat-footed crowd, also called individuals who “overpronate.” Running Warehouse claims that between 50-60% of people overpronate and 20-30% do so severely. So forgive me for nerding out on you today…this science is important.

 

Pronation (also called eversion) is a desirable movement of the foot as it strikes the ground. The foot’s arch “collapses” in a controlled manner towards the ground and helps the body absorb shock and send the force up through the muscles of the body. This is an integral part of anyone’s gait cycle in both walking and running.

When someone overpronates their foot’s arch flattens excessively and their tibia (lower leg bone) is driven into unnecessary rotation that leads to torque on the knee, stress on the hips, poor utilization of the gluteal muscles and more (see diagram below). There’s a classic chain of muscular compensations that occur up through the body in response to overpronation. Unfortunately, this places excessive stress on the joints and causes some muscles to be overly tight and others to be inappropriately weak. Hence, overpronators are highly susceptible to running injuries, the formation of bunions, medial ankle sprains, shin splints, plantar fasciitis, MCL and meniscus tears, hamstring and hip flexor tightness, IT-band syndrome, lower back pain and more.

 

Image Source: http://healthlifemedia.com/healthy/what-foot-ankle-over-or-underpronation/

(Note: This is a basic diagram for a complex foot movement and does not accurately reflect what’s happening at the forefoot in addition to rearfoot.)

 

Traditional remedies for overpronation include getting custom orthotics, wearing supportive athletic shoes and kinesio taping of the foot to control pronation. These are all great and generally effective but I notice that they don’t solve the issue entirely. A lot of regaining comfort and function in the body comes down to awareness of how to intentionally correct misalignments and gait patterns, and how to appropriately strengthen and release muscles that are negatively impacted by this pattern.

I’ve taken people in their 60s and 70s and helped them correct overpronation simply by focusing on how they walk – and I’ve got to say, I feel confident that these corrections are going to keep them walking longer and without the use of aids like a cane. I’ve helped strengthen weakened muscles in young athletes who are overpronators and seen them take their performance to the next level – qualifying for the Boston marathon, passing military physical assessments with flying colors, and entering athletic competitions free of injuries for the first time in seasons. This stuff is powerful. It can mean the difference between daily comfort and function or pain and diminished performance.

 

Read on for how to correct overpronation and strengthen/stretch affected muscles in the body.

 

 

Gait Control

It’s very common for people who overpronate to walk with their feet “pigeon-toed” out, almost like a dancer in plie (though not quite so dramatic). Some people are only flat-footed/overpronators on one foot and thus, one foot finds a way to turn out while walking, running and even standing still. The problem with this is the asymmetry it creates throughout the whole body, leading to the aforementioned cascade of injuries, aches and pains. The nice thing is that it’s quite easy to correct for this turning out of the foot through active awareness. In other words, watch your feet while you move throughout your day and/or workout and make sure that both toes are pointing straight so that the feet are both in a neutral stance. You’ll be shocked at how unnatural it feels to walk with both feet straight at first but with some increased awareness and effort over time, this can do wonders for injury prevention and balanced strength.

(Fun fact – I’ve helped fix shoulder pain by teaching someone how to walk without turning out the feet. That’s how connected the muscles in our bodies are – that an issue at the foot can affect all the way up to the shoulder and neck!)

 

Go Barefoot

Walking and exercising barefoot (when safe and sanitary) can actually help overpronators. That’s because it forces people to avoid a heavy heel strike, which is something many flat-footed folks do without realizing it. You see, there’s not much soft cushioning in our heels but we can’t feel how much discomfort this causes when we wear heavy running shoes. By ditching the sneakers we can suddenly acknowledge that striking the ground heavy with our heels doesn’t feel so great. We naturally adjust our foot strike so that ground force is absorbed through the arch (which was “built” for just this purpose) and the muscles of the foot and leg.

Note: If a physical therapist determines that you have a bony alignment problem in your foot then going barefoot won’t help anything. So if barefoot work feels like it’s worsening the problem then go see a professional to get an accurate diagnosis.

 

 

Lace Up Those Shoes

This tip is pretty straightforward. To help correct overpronation you can lace your shoes all the way to the top eyelet and make sure the fit is snug. Many shoes come out of the box without being laced all the way to the top because it’s easier to try them on this way but don’t be afraid to lace farther up. You may decide you need to swap the shoe laces for a longer pair or you can try a few workouts with the current laces and tug on them to help them stretch out (which most do).

 

Roll Out the Foot & Lower Leg

Foam rolling or using a firm tennis or lacrosse ball can be very useful in helping tight muscles release. The flat-footed crowd is notorious for tight calf muscles and for shin splints, so applying gentle pressure (pressing upwards – not downwards – to avoid varicose veins) will help release fascial tissue and prevent/help heal shin splints. I also recommend rolling out the arches because as someone works to correct overpronation they are strengthening through the arch and causing new tightness that we want to be sure doesn’t become plantar fasciitis (again, this is all assuming the pronation isn’t caused by a mechanical/bony alignment issue that can’t be corrected via exercise).

 

Roll Out IT Band

Foam rolling the IT band in a combination of long and short/pinpointed strokes (like near the top of the hip) can help release this long band of fascial tissue. When the IT band is tight (which it often is due to the excessive rotation that’s happening with overpronation) then the knee is placed under undue stress and the glutes can’t function optimally. It’s common for foam rolling to be very uncomfortable due to extreme tightness of the IT band so it may help to start by having someone else move the roller up and down the sides of your legs while applying the amount of pressure you can handle.

 

Calf Raises

Although the calf muscles are generally tight for overpronators, they are often tight due to weakness, not strength. In my professional opinion, it’s important to work on calf raises and other exercises (such as practicing running on the balls of the feet while sprinting) to increase strength and thereby decrease tightness associated with weak muscles. It’s kind of a paradox, I know. But this is how muscles work – they can be tight from being over-utilized OR underutilized. *Pause for confused head scratch.* 

 

 

Balance Exercises

Something that’s highly interesting to the exercise science nerds in the world (ahem, like myself) is that overpronators overuse their big and second toes for balance instead of all the toes. While it’s true that the big toe’s primary role is to aid in balance, it’s detrimental to muscular balance to only or heavily rely on that for balance aid and “pushing off” the ground while walking and running. So, exercises focusing on using all the toes evenly for balance is a great start for strengthening neglected body parts.

 

Strengthen Quads (& VMO)

Many flat-footed individuals run with a tiny bit more flexion in their knees than their counterparts. Often there is also medial stress added to the knee thanks to the excessive rotation happening in the lower leg that drives rotation of the upper leg (femur). Thus, it’s important to strengthen the quads through isolated quad extensions and other functional movements such as squats and lunges. To help correct the medial knee stress, strengthen the most medial compartment of your quads (the vastus medialus oblique – VMO) by doing quad extensions with the feet turned out. This targets that medial muscle and allows it to activate. You can even try pulsing up and down gently to get this muscle to burn – which in this case, will be a very positive thing for your body.

 

 

Stretch Hamstrings and Hip Flexors

Tight hamstrings and hip flexors are routinely the result of glute (aka booty) muscles that aren’t working at full steam. Holding 60-120 second stretches will help release these tight muscles and any associated pressure they’ve created on the lower back and glutes. These long sustained stretches should be done at the end of a workout but you can do shorter stretches of 15 seconds or less to help them limber before a workout.

 

Glute Med Exercises

Think clam shells, side lunges and side lying leg lift series from Pilates. These exercises will help strengthen the “outer thigh” muscles located at the top and side of your legs. This area is a part of your glute muscle group and it helps decelerate rotation of the leg when walking and running. As mentioned, with overpronation there is excessive rotation and thus, these muscles are often stretched out and weak. When they’re strong we can better control overpronation and also decrease IT band tightness. Woo! 

 

 

Glute Max Exercises

The powerhouse muscle in the body (aka booty muscle) needs to be strong and in control at all times. The musculoskeletal system’s chain of command gets thrown off for the flat-footed crew so it’s important to place strength back where it belongs. Exercises can include hip bridges (see above pic with the modification of adding a leg lift – which makes it harder), squats, lunges, plie squats, side lunges, leg press, hip extensions, dead lifts, single leg dead lifts, incline work on cardio machines, and more. Don’t forget to do these with the toes pointing straight – not turned out!

 

Back Extensions

Last but not least, maintaining flexibility and strength in the lower back is important for preventing lower back pain that may result from excessive strain and ground-force impact associated with flat-footedness. Try back extension exercises on the mat such as supermans, roman chair back exercises, yoga extensions and chest openers, and more.

 

Cheers to moving better and feeling great!

 

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

 

 

 

 

The Similarities Between Parenthood and Personal Training

Happy Spring, WellnessWinz Readers!

I’m officially back from maternity leave! *Deep breath.* Let me tell ya, it has been a whirlwind. This entire lifestyle shift means that I may not be able to blog as much as I would like to for a little bit, but I will do my best to produce meaningful and relevant content when and where I can until a better rhythm is established (and my son is letting me get more than a couple hours of sleep at a time, lol).

To kick off my return to the blogosphere, we have a somewhat humorous post: The Similarities between Parenthood and Personal Training. That’s right guys, I went there. I’m bold enough (or crazy enough) to compare my experiences as a new mom to the personal training experience. It turns out that my little one can be just as tough and demanding as a boot camp sergeant! He is my new little boss man and he kicks my butt. I’m like “No more! Have mercy, pleeeaaasseee!!” and he’s all “You WILL NOT rest until you climb the stairs 50 more times to check on me, change 20 more diapers, and feel like your back is going to break from rocking me!”

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Just following his lead! 😉 

A lot of the lessons I’m learning as a mom parallel ones I have experienced through exercise. For example, oftentimes anxiety over a situation as a mom is worse than the situation itself. For instance, within 24 hours of writing this my husband and I experienced one of the biggest fussy streaks in our son’s life. Every 45-50 minutes (one sleep cycle), he would wake up wailing and would be inconsolable. He did this all day and all night. None of us slept and we were all extra tired and cranky as a result. I began franticly googling all sorts of mumbo-jumbo and determined that he was experiencing a sleep regression. I was so sure of this that I texted some of my mom-friends and asked how on earth they survived such episodes in their children’s lives. I had resigned myself to sleeplessness for the next few weeks and was depressed thinking about the cloud hanging over all of us, bleeding into my birthday week and my first Mother’s Day. A bit selfish, but true.

When the crying escalated to an off-the-charts level, I felt desperate. Surely this wasn’t just something weird about my son’s sleep development, right? I mean, I get it – any change in my sleep patterns and I’m a crazy person. I called the pediatrician and we agreed to have him looked at. It took the doctor all of a couple minutes and a handful of questions to get down to the bottom of this stressful situation: he was constipated. My mind spun a million miles an hour over this simple explanation behind the manic day we barely survived. As I calmed down I realized that the simplest explanation was the right one. It wasn’t a complicated situation with his sleep. It was simply a need to poop. Poor baby. Apparently mama’s milk is so easily digested and turned into little baby parts that pressure doesn’t always build up in a baby’s system to help eliminate waste. 

AEBC2C5C-A537-493C-86D0-A44BC4D0990F Crazy how he went from this tiny preemie …

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…to this happy big boy!

Similarly, a lot of people come to me wanting to lose weight via personal training and pour out all sorts of complicated reasons for why they have been having challenges with it. I get it; losing weight is a physical, mental, emotional and sometimes spiritual process. Unfortunately though, we can get so caught up in thinking of the reasons that we AREN’T losing weight (job, time, family, convenience, etc.) that we bypass the simplest explanations for what WILL help us: controlling our diet and managing an exercise schedule and/or active lifestyle. The anxiety over trying to find some complicated solution for weight-loss troubles can blind people to the simple truth: they put a fork into their mouths one too many times a day and never hit the gym! Not exactly a mind-boggling revelation, right?  If only we could drop our anxiety as parents and/or people looking to feel good physically, then we would see the answers to our problems with more clarity instead of fishing for complicated, far-reaching explanations. Or turning to Google for the umpteenth time.

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Creative ways to stay active! On-the-go napping!

As a mother and personal trainer, I’ve learned that wellness is a balancing act, that change is a universal truth we can’t shake, that hormones are boss, and that your own opinion is the most important in determining what is right for both your body (and baby). Another very tangible lesson is that perseverance pays off…

Moms are encouraged to do “tummy time” with their babies; 3-5 minutes a couple times a day placing the baby face down so that neck, back and chest strength can develop through the baby’s effort of trying to lift his head and press away from the mat. When my son was first born, a month early, he was way too little to even consider trying tummy time. At just over 5 lbs he would just lie on the mat like a fragile little bird fallen out of its nest. At best, he might occasionally lift his head a tiny bit. We’re talking an inch or less. It was hard to imagine he would ever be able to do more.

Like a good personal trainer mom, I kept putting my baby on the gym mat for tummy time a couple times a day. Some days he wouldn’t tolerate it and would squeal and cry until I picked him up and other days he seemed to get the idea. He would attempt to lift his head and look around (complete with grunts and pitiful gasps). Around two months of age he was able to press up and look around while also cooing. Cutest thing ever. And at three months he surprised us one day and decided to roll over! The personal trainer in me beamed with pride over this early accomplishment. Bit by bit he grew before our eyes and today the gym mat is his favorite place during play time. In fact, many times as soon as I lay him down on it, face up or face down, he breaks into a big grin and squeals with joy as he works to grasp toys with his hands and kicks his legs playfully. It’s hard to imagine that this evolution will also turn into crawling and walking one day!

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Tummy time pro!!! 

Isn’t it funny though…that a person (even a tiny one) can accomplish feats they were never physically capable of with just a little bit of effort on a regular basis? Like adults attending the gym or working out, there are days when my son just isn’t feeling tummy time and there are days when he loves it. It’s normal to have days when we don’t feel like exercising, but persistence will go a long way. All we need to do is bite off a little, manageable bit at a time and we will see results emerge.

In my first three months postpartum, I’ve taken a similar approach. I’ve stayed consistent in being active but have taken things gradually. Thanks to having realistic expectations for my physical abilities day by day, I’ve actually been able to exercise 78 days out of 102 so far. That’s only 24 days postpartum without some form of movement. Mind you, a good number of the early days were focused on simple things like going on a walk, doing basic (and safe) core exercises on a mat, and performing yoga balance poses to regain stability after labor and delivery. Let’s not ignore the fact that there were Kegels too…LOTS of Kegels. Around three weeks postpartum, I was able to resume light weights at the gym and light resistances on cardio machines for short periods. Around five weeks postpartum I went for my first run – and wow it felt incredible!! Especially since I no longer had a baby in my belly to carry along! Although these days I do push him along in the stroller and it ain’t easy!!! 

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Stroller workout adventures!

Today, three months postpartum, I’m able to do almost everything I did before pregnancy – maybe even more! I feel like my emphasis on core conditioning (which I used to not prioritize as heavily) has left me stronger than ever in my stomach. Also, I’m shocked at how my cardio conditioning never felt like it took a hit since I stayed active during pregnancy. On my first run I felt like my lungs and adrenaline could have carried me through a marathon (although in reality that’s probably a euphoric disillusion). Staying active has not been easy in the wake of caring for an infant and suffering major sleep deprivation, but exercise has been a life saver, just as it was for my mental and physical health during pregnancy. I would be stir crazy and cranky without it.

When I left the hospital after having my baby I was shocked that I still had about 17 lbs to lose. Today, I only have about 3-4 lbs of that left. The short 30-45 minute long exercise sessions combined with eating about 200-300 calories less a day (than needed for weight maintenance) has helped me shed a few pounds a month. Honestly, it hasn’t felt like the exhausting post-pregnancy weight loss journey I feared. This is thanks to taking things slow and approaching the process with balance – something I’m confident all of my readers can do in their weight loss and fitness journeys if they approach them with patience and perseverance. Any good personal trainer or parent will do the same, approaching things on a daily basis, not trying to rush through rearing a child or getting a client fit. There is a due diligence and process to both. It’s all about the little steps. The small things DO add up – for babies trying to lift their heads up off the ground and for adults trying to see one pound melt off at a time.

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Leaving the hospital 17 lbs heavier than before pregnancy

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One month postpartum

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Two months postpartum

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Three months postpartum thanks to just a little effort adding up!

Happy to be back with you all in the blogosphere!

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

wellnesswinz blue sea

 

The Fitness Industry Landscape and How It Impacts Your Health and Body

Fitness trends are always fun to talk about…like is the bosu ball dead and is HIIT still hot? But, these are easy, high-level topics to explore. Today, I’d like to take you deeper. I’m using my inside knowledge of the industry to explain how the overall landscape impacts you, the fitness enthusiast. These are not trends, they are industry truths, and they have stronger implications for your health and body than the latest craze or funky piece of exercise equipment.

Fitness Landscape 3

Market Competition is High but Barrier to Entry is Low

Opening up a fitness business isn’t the most complicated thing in the world. Personal trainers and “fitpreneurs” open their own studios all the time. In urban hubs it may even feel like new gyms pop up every season…and just as quickly shut down. Startup costs for a gym or studio space don’t have to be astronomical, especially for exercise formats like yoga and dance which don’t require costly equipment. This makes it easy to enter the fitness industry market.

Although, just because it’s easy to play the game, doesn’t mean it’s easy to win it. Most studios and gyms have to make a solid return on investment within the first two to three years to stay fiscally fit. Marketing dollars must be spent wisely and word-of-mouth reputation counts a lot towards success in this industry. A lot of fitness professionals turned small-business owners lack marketing and IT support, and spread themselves too thin trying to learn new skills to grow their businesses. In short, if a gym isn’t growing, it’s probably going…down the drain, that is.

What does this mean to YOU, the consumer?

If you’re in love with a gym or studio, invite friends to work out with guest passes and/or invest in a special training promotion from time to time. Even the most impressive establishments can go belly-up in this competitive industry. Success almost entirely rides on how well an establishment is supported by the community it serves (and vice versa). Unfortunately, the less financial flexibility a gym has, the longer it will take to refurbish worn out equipment and the less likely it is to offer fun membership perks and add-ons which can enhance your experience and encourage you to attend more regularly. And regular attendance is key to your fitness goals’ success! 

Industry Concentration is Low

As much as the household names of Anytime Fitness, Gold’s Gym, Planet Fitness, Equinox and CrossFit are top-of-the-mind in the fitness community, these companies don’t entirely run the show. The top 50 fitness companies have less than 30% market share. This means that there are a LOT of individually operated businesses or “one-offs” and small chains. It’s hard to project what direction the industry is headed, but it’s interesting to know that right now even the top dogs are battling to get ahead.

What does this mean to YOU, the gym member? 

There are going to be more fitness establishments with less brand recognition than there are well-known chains to choose from. This means that you need to do your due diligence and research them wisely. Your fitness decisions should be made based on convenience, cost, time, enjoyment, motivation, efficiency, community and/or professionalism and knowledge of instructors/trainers. I know, that’s a LOT of information to process. 

Your body and health will benefit most when the majority of the aforementioned factors are satisfactory or excellent in your eyes. You won’t reach your goals very quickly if you hate the workout program you’ve committed to. You will quickly lose out on a fitness community if you invest in a gym outside of your budget and quit it within six months. You won’t be intrinsically motivated to participate in group classes if you lack respect for the instructors who are teaching them. You get the idea. Do your homework on both the well-known chains and lesser-known “mom and pop” studios so that you find one that will harmonize with all (or at least most) of your needs. That’s the first step to ensuring you stick to your fitness aspirations.

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Boutique Studios Rival Big-Box Gyms

Over the last five years, the fitness industry landscape has undergone a major overhaul. Big-box gyms with all-inclusive monthly memberships were rivaled for the first time by boutique fitness studios specializing in exercise-specific formats. Boutique studios opened doors for fitness fans eager to participate in everything from barre class to pole-dancing and Zumba to trampoline workouts! The studio offerings grew more diverse and expansive by the season (or so it seemed).

Studios offer fitness enthusiasts low-commitment participation. In other words, people can usually pay for a single class pass (instead of a monthly membership) or a discounted bundle of classes, without any other fees or obligations. This is highly desirable to the growing crop of millennials who seek diversity in their workout regimens. This trend has given rise to ClassPass and has forced big-box operators to carefully consider investments in technology and marketing campaigns to remain competitive. Small studios, with their lower overhead costs and pay-as-you-use plans, have certainly stirred the pot.

What does this mean to YOU, the exerciser?

For starters, you definitely have a LOT of options these days when it comes to fitness. No longer are you relegated to the treadmill. With so many choices, some individuals enter “decision paralysis.” They have a hard time deciding which environment and type of exercise is best for their fitness goals. While it’s definitely worth checking out a couple of studios and comparing pros/cons and overall costs to their big-box competitors, it’s also a good idea to make a firm commitment. Choose carefully and wisely, but at the end of the day, choose!!!

In order to see results from your sweat, you need to be in a consistent routine. Oftentimes, a consistent routine is best established when you have a “home base” or at least a written plan of how you will juggle time split between the private yoga studio down the block and the 24/7 all-access gym at your office. Don’t be dismayed by the options at your disposal – be empowered by them! Give any routine at least three months of solid effort to see if it works or if you need to scrap it and capitalize on some more free trials at other gyms (always fun).

Fitness Landscape 2

Loose Industry Regulations

Some industries are tightly regulated…the fitness industry is not one of them. While this affords professionals and businesses some degree of flexibility, it carries implications for quality assurances. For example, CrossFit, a gym with over 10,000 affiliates that boast unique high-intensity workouts, is a licensed operation, not a franchise. What this means is that at one location you may have outstanding fitness professionals who know how to design excellent exercise programs and who are capable of coaching proper form for Olympic lifts (frequently used by CrossFits) and at another location you may have inexperienced or underqualified professionals. There are many governing bodies, doctors and exercise physiologists who are concerned by these discrepancies in professionalism and, in Washington, DC, these concerns have spawned discussions to enact regulatory measures on fitness operations. But, it’s not just a “CrossFit problem,” it’s the whole industry…

A lot of boutique brands train their professionals in-house, harvesting new instructors from their most loyal members. By training and converting devoted members and exercise participants into the leaders of the workouts, the fitness businesses are keeping pace with one of the most challenging aspects of operations; staffing. Unfortunately, this means that the instructor coaching you through a superset may only have a month’s worth of training under his or her belt, and the level of sophistication of that training is questionable too. As a professional who has held eight different widely recognized certifications in the industry, I can tell you firsthand that it’s too easy to get certified….way too easy. I’m ashamed to say it, but it’s true.

What does this mean to you, the gym rat?

I’m not sure that widespread regulations are the perfect answer to tighten up who operates in the fitness industry. I believe there are a lot of professionals out there who share this sentiment too. So, in the near term, it’s likely going to be left up to individual business owners to properly vet and monitor their instructors and trainers. While some will do a good job of this, others won’t. This puts the responsibility on you.

Gym rats and group exercise participants have every right to demand excellent instruction. If you don’t feel like you’re getting a safe and high-quality experience in your exercise setting, let a manager hear your complaint or concern. Don’t be afraid to speak to the instructor about their choices during or after class too. They will probably be happy to explain things and educate you! If they flounder in the face of a tough question, they probably aren’t very experienced or qualified and it becomes your responsibility to decide whether or not you can live with that. Personally, the second that I can tell an instructor is underqualified, I’m out the door. My hard-earned cash can go into someone else’s hands!

Fitness Landscape 1

Personal Trainers Lack Stability 

Personal trainers are rarely salaried employees. The vast majority of these professionals are compensated by the hour, based on commission. While some experienced professionals can pull six-figures in less than 30 hours of work a week, most professionals have challenges keeping a steady income. For example, a trainer can project that he is going to train 25 hours one week. Let’s say he only has a couple of years’ experience and is compensated $30/hour for his clients (his gym is skimming a lot more off the top from what the client pays). Based on these figures, he seeks to earn $750 for the week. This equates to a salary of $39,000 for the year, not including bonuses or performance incentives. Let’s pretend that he puts in a full 40-hour work week (not very commonplace in the industry). At full-time, he seeks to earn $1,200/week or $62,400.

To put it simply, the vast majority of trainers struggle to maintain schedules of 20+ hours of clients a week…and what happens when two or three clients who train twice a week each go on vacation? What about the fact that training under 30 hours a week leaves these professionals without time-off and health benefits? As you can see, while trainers are often envied for their “cool” jobs, they lack a lot of stability. For this reason, the turnover of professionals at any given establishment is pretty darn high.

What does this mean to YOU, the client?

To be honest, there isn’t a whole lot you can do except express a little bit on empathy and understanding. If you’re a paying client, try to show respect for your trainer’s time just as they show respect for yours. If you’re leaving town for a few weeks, give them as much advance notice as possible so that they can try to fill your training time slot with another person.

Moreover, as someone who pays for personal training, you have to decide whether or not you’re comfortable placing your investment into the hands of a newbie. As mentioned, the turnover of trainers is outstanding (in a crazy, not-so-wonderful way). Ask yourself if you want to give a worthy, aspiring professional a leg up or if you feel more comfortable with a professional who has been working in the industry for at least a few years. The choice is yours. Ultimately, if you find someone you jive with and respect, the decision should be seamless, in spite of how long they’ve been a fitness pro. For the record, I will always appreciate the people who were willing to take a chance on me when I entered the industry. 

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

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