My bud Leah over at Mamavation recently posed an interesting question out into the web-o-sphere: What is wrong with the health/fitness industry and what can be changed? And, naturally, I had an opinion on the matter. (Me? No way!)
As a certified member of the fitness community and a former employee of health clubs, I’m not one to say that there’s something wrong with all health and fitness clubs, but I will admit that a lot of them are whack. Here on FBG we make light of “clunkheads” and such, but gyms can be intimidating and usually only appeal to the small percentage of the population who are already fit. Which is ironic because the people who actually need them are the ones who are most turned off by them. And who can blame them? Big machines? Loud, grunting men? Sweat? Personal trainers screaming at overweight people on TV? Yeah, no one wants to sign up for that.
While there are some fitness facilities out there that are doing things to make fitness more fun and less miserable, there aren’t a lot. Here are five things I think the fitness industry as a whole could do to make itself just a little more approachable. (And then the hardcore clubs can target the uber-fit and the others could work with the majority of the population.)
5 Ways the Fitness Industry Could Suck Less and Help Newbies More
1. Fewer big boxes. Obviously massive gyms with rows and rows of fitness equipment and amenities aren’t getting the job done. Those places are big and hard to navigate for newbies. I’d like to see more smaller fitness centers that are locally owned and foster a sense of community and culture. You know, Cheers-style, where everyone knows your name. I know some of the big-box corporate gyms offer cheap memberships, but sometimes you get what you pay for. And sometimes, when you have more money invested, you’re more apt to respect—and use—a service.
2. Instate a dress code. I get the right to freedom to dress like you want and all that, but no new member wants to walk in a place where booty is on display or pecs are popping out of dude’s tank tops. Can’t we all agree—and actually enjoy—a respectful dress code that covers everyone’s naughty bits and makes working out less of a muscle show and more of a friendly workout zone? I think so.
3. Offer educational classes. Some clubs offer a one-time instruction on the equipment but that’s about it. Fitness facilities of all kinds would do their members a huge favor by requiring all new members to take a series of classes on how to use the equipment, how to eat right and how to set and reach goals. Not only would members meet each other in class and become buds (creating that culture I talked about in No. 1), but they’d learn how to feel comfortable in the gym and understand that getting healthy is about what you do outside of the health club, too!
4. Have certified, trained and caring—not abusive—staff. I love Jillian and Bob and all, but most exercise newbies—when not on The Biggest Loser—are not going to seek out tough love. Yes, some people may need it, but you catch more flies with honey than vinegar. So let’s start with the honey, and leave the vinegar (AKA tough love) to the qualified people who are in my next suggestion…
5. Offer regular sessions with nutritionists and counselors. If you really want to change lives, it’s pointless to offer only access to fitness equipment. A healthy person isn’t just made in the gym, and it’s my belief that the fitness industry is too stuck in doing just “fitness.” Along with membership, newbies should be encouraged (or required…) to make appointments with registered dietitians and counselors or psychologists (who are ideally on staff or work nearby the health club). Just like they do with a personal trainer. Creating lasting lifestyle change is hard and meetings with those who specialize in behavior change and healthy eating are key.
At the end of the day, it does take a person to make the decision to change for the healthier. But, there are certainly things the fitness industry can do to help. It all goes with the FBG philosophy. All good things in moderation. Love yourself. Move your body in ways that feel good. Eat food that supports your healthy lifestyle. Choose to feel good and take care of yourself. And certainly don’t let that number on the scale determine your worth.
What would you add to this list? What would you like changed? Do you know of a trainer or of a fitness facility who is doing these things? Please. Tell! —Jenn