Don’t Let the Fitness Industry Tell You What to Do

By Jen Comas

When I was five years old, my mom would play an album on the record player, put on her leotard, tights, and leg warmers, and do aerobics in our living room. I had my own little leotard and leg warmers, so I’d put mine on, too, and try to keep up with her. We always had such a great time, and she had the biggest smile on her face prancing around and watching me mimic her. She did these workouts for herself, based on what made her feel good. There was nobody to impress; nobody saw her exercise except for me.

Participating in fitness used to be done for the sole purpose of improving the quality of a person’s life or changing the way their body looked. However, over the last few years — likely, due in large part to the internet and social media — fitness has, for many, started to morph into something very different.

There is a never-ending outpour of information, and there are more online coaches now than ever, with even more getting into the industry each day. Blogs, online articles, and social media are all used to talk about workouts and training methodology, with many people fully prepared to argue in favor of their approach with as much fervor as is typically reserved for discussing politics or religion.

I have seen countless posts on social media where someone has happily shared their workout just for fun only to be met with unsolicited feedback on their form or exercise choice in the comments section.

It’s no wonder that getting started in exercise is more confusing and intimidating than ever!

There Are Always Other Options

Everyone has an opinion — and now, a platform — to push for what they prefer, or what they believe to be best.

While we are all entitled to our own opinion and belief that our approach is best, lines are getting crossed more frequently as people aggressively push their exercise agenda onto someone else that hasn’t asked for their opinion.

I have had countless clients tell me that their former trainer or coach told them that they had to do [insert exercise] or they wouldn’t get results, with said exercise always being something oddly specific, such as walking lunges with a barbell, sit-ups on the Swiss ball, or running to lean out the lower body. To be clear, those things are fine for some, however they are certainly not the only options to get results.

A great example of this “do this and never that” type of thinking are the memes that have been really popular on social media lately that list two columns, one that has a big green check mark at the top with a list of the things that are the “right” choice followed by another column with a big red X and a list of the “wrong” choices.

While I believe that people posting these things likely mean well, the issue is that these messages are too binary. The green checkmark and the big red X doesn’t take context into consideration, and context is everything, always.

Distilling exercises and foods down to a green checkmark or a red X is largely unhelpful, and, if you are just starting your exercise journey, likely very confusing.

Another example of the fitness industry pushing its agenda is by creating catch phrases that tell women what to do with their bodies. An example of this is the “strong is the new skinny” movement. This is essentially implying that “skinny” is now out, and strong is what is currently in. There are plenty of people that are naturally slender, or prefer to be thin, and both of those things are completely acceptable.

How a person chooses to show up in their body is completely up to them.

Furthermore, strong is something that some people may prefer — which is great — but there are also plenty of people that don’t care at all about being strong, and that is fine, too.

Is the Latest Fitness Trend Really for You?

Fitness trends come and go. When I got started with exercise, step aerobics were all the rage. Everyone was certain that was the best option. Then the same thing happened with spin classes, and then boot camp classes, and so on and so forth. Things have shifting dramatically over the years, and each time it does, people swear by the newest trend.

However, in order to be consistent, it’s absolutely crucial that you enjoy what you’re doing. If you aren’t interested at all in barbell movements, then CrossFit probably isn’t for you, and that is OK. If you find the thought of running to be abhorrent, it doesn’t make any sense to sign up for a half-marathon, even if all of your friends are doing it.

Remember, the fitness industry is exactly that: an industry, which means that it’s motivated by making money, making it incredibly persuasive. When trying to decide on what you’d like to do for fitness, it’s important to use critical thinking in order to determine if the activity or goal is actually important to you and something that you really want, or if it’s something that is being pushed on you and isn’t right for your body or lifestyle.

What kind of physical activity do you love to do? Let the answer to this question guide you in your choice of workouts.

Remember, it’s your body, and your business. Don’t let the fitness industry tell you what to do.

Coaches’ Corner

When a client shares their goal with you, it’s important that you listen without being judgmental. For example: if you are used to training women who enjoy lifting heavy weights, and you have a new client who is nervous to lift weights, take some time to ask questions. Make sure you are clear on why they don’t want to lift weights. Perhaps they find it boring, are afraid to get hurt, are scared to put on size, or are nervous about being too sore. Get clear on the “why” behind their preference.

Once you better understand why your client is nervous to lift weights, you have the opportunity to educate them and offer guidance, while helping them understand why you believe incorporating some resistance training will serve them in reaching their goals.

Then, start small. If your client is nervous about lifting weights, chances are good that they aren’t ready to dive in and start powerlifting the next session. Give your client some options and ask what they are willing to try, while assuring them you can always change course if needed. Are they willing to start with bodyweight movements only? Will they try resistance bands? How about just one or two externally loaded exercises per session?

Use this time to build a relationship, earn your client’s trust, and slowly start to offer some suggestions for different things to do. If they say no, or aren’t ready, respect that, and course correct.

And if a potential client comes to you requesting training that is either outside of your wheelhouse, or training that you prefer not to offer, it’s best to refer them to a coach that better aligns with their goals.

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About the author:  Jen Comas

Jen Comas is a Girls Gone Strong co-founder and GGS Coaching Head Coach, as well as a NASM Personal Trainer and USAW Level One Weightlifting coach. She has competed in figure and trained as a powerlifter, teaches and practices yoga, and is obsessed with motorcycles, dirt biking, and downhill mountain biking. Learn about Jen on her website and follow her adventures on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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