I’ll admit it….sometimes I don’t like telling people that I’m a personal trainer.

Why?

It has nothing at all to do with being ashamed of what I do on a daily basis.  In fact, I’m quite proud of the work I do on a daily basis with my clients.  It has everything to do with what my industry does on a daily basis.

What I’m referencing is the steady stream of fads, gimmicks, misinformation, and out and out lies that are routinely pushed onto the general public by the fitness industry at large.

There are a number of reasons why the fitness industry has proven itself, year after year, to be one of the most dishonest I’ve ever observed.

First, the consumer doesn’t know fact from fiction.  This is the fault of both the industry and the consumer.  The average adult knows far more about his car or his computer than he does about his own body.  This makes him or her very susceptible to scams.  The guy that knows all the components of his car and how each system works is far less likely to get ripped off by the dishonest mechanic.  But if you don’t have the first clue about how your car works, then you are more likely to pay $500 for a bunch of services you didn’t actually need when you go in for an oil change.

Just like the unscrupulous mechanic, the fitness industry is more than happy to take advantage of your ignorance and push a bunch of services on you that (1) you don’t need (2) don’t actually work.

The second reason why the fitness industry gets away with their gimmicks and scams is because the consumer has a strong emotional need for what we as an industry are selling.  There are strong emotions attached to the promise of looking great in your swimsuit or a form fitting dress.  People all want to look better, and so the industry promises them that they will.

So when the industry can get you all emotional about the way you look or feel about yourself…..it can sell you anything.  It can sell you a product you know is garbage.  It can sell you a service you know doesn’t work.  It can set you up with a trainer you know isn’t qualified.  It can hook you into an exercise class you know is ridiculous.  But yet you’ll do it.  You’ll do it because, temporarily, your emotions will block out your own logic, reasoning, and critical thinking skills.

That’s why big gyms lock you into 2-year contracts.  They know you’ll want to quit in a few weeks after the smokescreen of false promises fades away.  But they got you into the contract first.

Never sign a contract at a gym.  I don’t use them at mine because I don’t need them.

So how do you protect yourself from a scam or a rip-off?  You want to get in shape, improve your health & fitness, but not sure where to go.

Here are a few tips to help you avoid the scam artists and gimmick peddlers and get hooked up with people who are both willing and qualified to help you achieve your goals.

  • Find someone with the heart of a teacher. Anyone can “take you through a workout.”  Anyone can make you hot, sweaty, and tired.  Find someone that teaches an actual training system.  A good trainer is not there to “motivate” you.  That comes from within YOU.  A good trainer is there to teach you, hold you accountable, and help guide you to better fitness through a progressive strength and conditioning program.
  • Avoid anything that promises something “Quick.” Nothing permanent and profound happens quickly.  In any area of life, not just fitness.  Quick is the ultimate scam word….in close competition with “easy.”  Nothing worthwhile is ever achieved through “quick and easy.”  Consistency, hard work, and discipline are the stuff that champions are made of, but unfortunately that doesn’t sell very well.  “Quick & Easy” sells far better than does “Slow & Hard.”  So stop falling for things that are “quick & easy.”  Have a radar for these things and avoid them.
  • Stop doing “Challenges.” I see these things all the time online.  “28 Day challenge”  or “30 lbs in 30 days!”  Stop falling for this.  Behind every stupid challenge is a bunch of worthless supplements you need to buy in order to do the challenge.  Or the “challenge” is just a loss-leader for a gym to get you roped into a more expensive program at the end of your 30 days.  It’s a joke, people. It’s marketing gimmick. Develop some sensible eating habits based on real food, and train hard 2-3 days per week for the rest of your entire life.  There is your challenge.
  • Check your sources. The internet is neither good nor bad.  There is a ton of great info online, but there is 10 times as much rubbish online.  So it’s hard to sort through the good from the bad if you don’t know what to look for.  In general, avoid getting your fitness advice from any sort of publication (online or print) that’s primary mission is pop-culture type stuff.  Sorry, but that movie stars workout you saw in Cosmopolitan is probably complete fiction.  And don’t get me started on Dr. Oz.  No one is more willing to promote a gimmicks or fad than our dear old daytime doctor.  Watch the show for entertainment if you like, but please don’t get your fitness advice from his show or any like it.
  • Think critically and logically about your choice of fitness program. If it looks silly and gimmicky then it probably is.  If you are over 50 especially then the primary goal of your training program should be to build strength and maintain or build muscle mass.  The loss of strength and muscle mass is what affects people the most as they age.  If your program is not focused on strength and muscle mass then you need to find one that is.  You need to be strength training with free weights (not machines) and you need to be doing the bulk of your work standing on two feet, not sitting or lying on the ground.  Even if you aren’t an athlete, learn to train more like one – even if you are 50, or 60, or 75.  Athletes train for strength and performance and so should you.  You needs only differ in degree, not type.