Your gym is awful and here’s why.

Your gym is awful and here’s why.

There is more than one way to skin a cat. There is also more than one way to get fit and maintain that fitness. Sadly, there are more wrong ways to go about this than there are right ways. For the majority of the population, the “gym”, be it 24 Hour Fitness, Gold’s Gym, World Gym, Frogs, the Yoga Studio isn’t what you need.

What is fitness? Here’s a hint, it’s more than just being skinny or having big biceps. Truly being healthy and in shape involves things that many people never really think about.  Things like balance and coordination, or stamina! With that in mind think of a typical gym (or your old gym for the converted Crossfitters.) How many machines do they have that isolate your chest? Now ask yourself how much space they have for stretching? How about a foam roller or an area to work on agility and balance? How many abdominal machines verses lower back machines? What about Kettlebells? One thing it probably has is plenty of mirrors, so you can check yourself out. Most gyms don’t seem interested in real fitness. They want to sell you on physical appearance and make money.

Can I run? Who cares, look at my abs!

Crossfit considers ten traits when thinking about fitness. (Crossfit didn’t invent this list, so don’t think they wrote it to past their own test.) It was created by Jim Crowley and Bruce Evans, Texas coaches that also created the Dynamax medicine ball. Thank them next time you are doing wallballs. According to Jim and Bruce to be considered a person in good fitness one should possess the following traits.

  1. Cardiovascular/Respiratory Endurance
  2. Stamina
  3. Strength
  4. Flexibility
  5. Power
  6. Speed
  7. Agility
  8. Balance
  9. Coordination
  10. Accuracy

Seems like a pretty straightforward list. But wait, I can hear it now. “I don’t want to race anyone or kills WOD’s, I just want to tone”. Toning is a nice way to say build muscle and cut body fat. The people on The Biggest Loser, they are just toning. Nobody really just wants to tone though. I hear it everyday with new clients, they give me a laundry list of goals and in the end they are all the same. They want to feel healthy and look better. The problem is that they want to go about it the wrong way. Have you ever seen a Ballys commercial talk about stretching and balancing your shoulders? If they do, I missed it because of all the half naked women in their commercial. Focusing on looking good neglects most of the fitness traits listed above.

Why would a gym sell you a lesser version of healthy? Well, gym owners don’t want to tell you that doing body weight movements and running intervals in your driveway will get you better results than a leg extension machine. That would be bad for business. “Sir, you need our patented Lat Blaster 3000 machine!” Do I? Really? It is this misconception that plagues the industry and boy what an industry it is. Would you believe 17.6 BILLION dollars big? They can’t tell people that their product can be had for free. You know, like in a garage with a website giving you all the information and workouts you need daily to keep it fresh and balanced and diverse, for FREE. That would be a terrible business model.

I wish it was confined just to “Globo gyms”, but it isn’t. What I’m about to say will no doubt hurt my karma but I have to. Yoga is also filled with lots of untruths. Yoga is great for things like breathing, stretching and stress relief but as a replacement for actually working out it is not. While yoga has been shown to reduce stress and osteoarthritis, it doesn’t develop the muscle-bearing strength needed to help with osteoporosis, which should be important to middle aged women, Yoga’s largest demographic. What then IS proven to reduce osteoporosis? A good balance of strength training and running. Yoga is not a good source of a cardiovascular exercise, in fact, one 50-minute session of Hatha Yoga burns just 144 calories, similar to a slow walk. That’s undone with 2 1/2 Oreos. What about Bikram Yoga? I’m sweating so hard it must be a real burner. Nope, that’s just your body trying to cool itself. That’s what sweat is for. Did I hear detoxifying? I’m sad to report that that isn’t true either. Your body rids toxins through your liver and kidneys, they empty to the bladder and colon and from there…… well, you know. No sweat in the equation.

I’m not trying to tear down everything about the fitness industry that isn’t Crossfit. I’m just trying to spark some thought and open some eyes to the truth. Unfortunately exercise science is still a pseudo science in a lot of respects. Nobody can agree on regiment, routine and diet (don’t get me started on diet.) That being said, everybody is out to make a buck. Perfect Push Ups and Shake Weights and P90X oh my! All are hoping to sell you on abs and chests and nice legs. The picture needs to be bigger. Crash and fad workouts are just as bad as their diet counter parts with similar fleeting results. Did you know that 80% of people with gym memberships don’t use them? Goes to show you how good they are at getting you to sign on the line but not good at helping you get real results.

I’ll try to sum it up with one of my favorite comedies on TV, The Biggest Loser. No, I’m not cruelly laughing at heavy people. It’s the hilarious way they present this show as a healthy and kind hearted way to help the obese. These poor people are put on 500 calorie starvation diets and then made to do dumbbell presses for hours. Huh? Do they really need good deltoid development? They can’t see their own toes! In the last few seasons I have noticed a few more Crossfit-esque workouts. Coincidence? Perhaps, but I digress. It’s just another prime example of the industries version of “getting in shape,” Fast! Immediate results! 20 minutes a day! These poor people are train wrecks. To start with, it is never healthy to lose 20 lbs a week; I can see the track marks from my living room where they get IV hydration. Secondly they are not paying attention to anything but the scale. Hip flexors, spinal erectors, IT bands, shoulder impingement, watch it sometime with a physical therapist and have them point out the horrors. I get that the point of the show is to lose weight rapidly for the entertainment of America. Jackass was American entertainment too but at least they warned people not to try it. Every office I know has had a Biggest Loser contest.

What bothers me the most is that 90% of the people on that show regain the weight almost immediately. Why? It’s easy to eat right when your food is prepared for you, and to workout when that annoying Jillian is yelling in your face. Now go home to regular life and do it by yourself, in a gym, with a few recumbent bikes and a bench press machine. Then you will have to deal with comments like “Oh and don’t stay on the bike for more than 30 minutes please, and if you could don’t yell while lifting or drop weights on the ground.” “Stretching?” “You want to do circuits? Sorry but that takes up too much equipment.” “Try not to sweat too much, its gross.” “Thanks, come again, please exit through the supplement shop.” If only these poor folks had a community to embrace them and groups that met daily to workout and discuss fitness when they get together. A group or community focused on all aspects of fitness, not just nice arms for the beach. Some might call it a cult and complain about you bragging about your Fran time on the internet but whatever. If they had that, how successful would they be then?


-Josh Lane

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