The Little Fitness Industry Secret

The Little Fitness Industry Secret

April 23, 2023 // Fitness

–As I decided to write about this topic, I thought to myself “This could really trigger some defensive responses”. Many will not like this exposure, and this discussion may will not go over well with my former colleagues and those alike. Well… too bad. Everyone could use a reset on general fitness expectations.–

Step into most exercise studios (Barry’s Bootcamp, SoulCycle, Punch, etc.) at any time of the day and take a visual survey of the attendees. All genders, all ages, all fitness levels – an offering applicable for anyone and everyone. While this is true, there is one population that you will be hard-pressed to find alongside everyone else: personal trainers and fitness coaches. That’s right – the same gurus that instruct and teach exercise application to the general population is the least likely to participate in popular exercise classes.

Has anyone stepped back and thought why this could be?

Surely there must be a reason why the same exercise enthusiasts that are looked at as experts are unwilling to partake in exercise classes that are [supposedly] designed to elicit exercise yields.

Why would trainers and coaches avoid these type of classes?

What do they know that the others do not?

(The answer will likely make your head spin, so please be patient as I explain the full perspective to consider)

Ok, here’s the real reason: these big-name exercise classes are designed to provide an exercise-like experience that caters to the public’s perceived idea of what a “workout” must entail. In other words, the proprietary workout formula of any of the exercise studios would NOT constitute a high-yielding, low-risk training stimulus. The classes are more of a calorie-burning fun experience; not a training program designed to improve the human body.

Now, before diving any further into this hot topic, any form of exercise needs to be recognized and celebrated. In a world where less than half of the population participates in any sort of regular physical exercise, I would be remiss to overlook the fact that getting someone excited and comfortable with any form of exercise is already the most important win. The last thing any fitness professional wants to do is to discourage interest in maintaining physical health via exercise participation. If you enjoy a particular exercise class or offering, this is a good thing, and I, for one, fully encourage you to keep it going, even if the yields aren’t quite the same as a training program. Any exercise is better for your health and wellness than the growing amount of sedentary lifestyle. However, as you’ll see as I get back to the topic at hand, not all exercise formulas yield the same processes…

As a nuanced and exercise-educated fitness expert maps out their regular exercise routine, they are likely to consider the following components:

  • Cardiovascular Health
  • Muscular Strength
  • Muscular Mass
  • Flexibility/Mobility
  • Recovery

As these components are formulated into a weekly routine, one common theme will emerge: there is almost always something be trained every day. One day it might be a strength training session, the next day focusing on mobility and low-intensity cardio, followed by another strength training session, and then maybe a recovery day in the sauna or with yoga class the next day. The combinations are endless, but the theme is apparent – consistency. Consistent, daily exercise is the cornerstone to the maintenance of good health practices, and fitness professionals are masters of this commitment.

Because consistency is the game, intensity must be toggled and introduced only in small amounts. Higher intensities are reserved for only small percentage of the overall training, as too much intensity would not be sustainable for a regular effort each day. The more you exhaust your nervous system (the control center that is responsible for signaling the body’s movements) with high-intensity training, the more time you have to allocate for a proper recovery. Without proper recovery, performance ability decreases and thus little to no stimulus is yielded, meaning you would not benefit from the exercise output. Well, what would be the point of that? If the goal is to just simply burn calories, I’ll give you another secret: you can just simply go for a nice, long walk and likely achieve the same caloric expenditure.

The overall intent of training is yield an internal stimulus. A reaction. A change.

More tone (a combination of muscle growth while maintaining leanness)? Train the muscle(s) of focus with resistance.

Improved heart health (more efficient stroke volume with greater expansive abilities)? Train the heart within a variety of different heart rate zones.

Reduction in stiffness and discomfort (moving in different positions/directions pain-free)? Train the joints at end ranges with mobility exercises.

When a big-name exercise studio designs their proprietary workout formula, the thought is to pack in as many overlapping focuses to sell a complete one-stop-shop service.

A jack of all trades is a master of none, and thus, many fitness offerings are designed to make the customer feel like they are training when unfortunately the only yield is the caloric expenditure from the efforts.

So for a nuanced and exercise-educated fitness expert, shelling out sixty minutes worth of effort and sweat for little to no stimulus is pretty inefficient, and simply is not that helpful**

**if the person is looking to induce a physical stimulus

Does this mean these big-name classes are a waste? No, not at all. Again, the biggest battle that must be won is to get people interested, committed and regular with maintaining their physical health via exercise (since life now does not require us to use our physical bodies for much of anything).

On the other hand, are these classes helping the attendee improve their physical capabilities and conditioning?! The simple answer is “well, maybe a little, but certainly not nearly as efficiently as targeted training”.

And for what it’s worth, while we’re on the topic, it should at least make you scratch your head as to why a fitness instructor would orchestrate a workout for a client that is far different from the training they [the instructor] design for themselves. Why such a discrepancy in the training styles and prescription?

Because the fitness professional wants you to feel like you put out a great physical performance, thus creating a positive experience. Many are conditioned to interpret a physical challenge that requires a hard effort must be good for you. Unfortunately, effort without stimulus is just heat (caloric expenditure) being spent with no real upside. Watch how the fitness professional exercises on their own, and with many, the workout formula and modality it is vastly different from what is being taught.

So, if you are feeling that the results you anticipated from your workout classes or training have yet to come to fruition, I would advise you speak to your trusted fitness trainer/guru and clarify the specifics effects you are hoping to achieve.

Are you working out to burn a few calories, or are you training to induce a stimulus?

Do an honest assessment of your regular workout routine and adjust your strategy or your expectations accordingly. And lastly, should you need any guidance within the health and wellness space, please feel free to reach out. I’d be more than happy to help you navigate and repurpose your efforts in a more efficient routine that works for your schedule, abilities and goals.