Friday, February 15, 2013

You're doing it WRONG!!

When I first started going to the gym on a regular basis, all I could think of was this....

I'm a child of my time. Sue me.

I've talked before about Social Physique Anxiety and our fear of exercising in public. But even when you overcome that hurdle of imagined judgement and criticism, it doesn't mean you're free from ACTUAL judgement and criticism.

No matter what you might be doing in the gym or out on the track or path, it seems somebody has concerns that it's not correct. But, as you can see from those forum links, it's not that many people actually offer real help. What's worse, no one can seem to agree on what the correct help should be.

"Shouldn't there be a trainer wandering around?"

Now that's not to say there aren't some very good resources out there on how to lift better, how to use cardio more effectively, or how to prevent injuries while running, etc. But those aren't the ones we always see. We often get cornered by "experts" who have to tell us how it must be done. And because they do it in a popular way, people seem to believe them. As one study put it:

"[Novice weight trainers] often acquire information through commercial magazines, from personal trainers with inadequate training backgrounds, or through the gymnasium grapevine."

Yes, nothing like a men's journal to tell me how to get 6-packs in 10 minutes a day while hypnotizing supermodels with my steak-cooking ability. 

But it's that second part of that sentence that really gets me. I have been very lucky to have some good trainers (and I continue to give props to my current one) but I've seen LOTS of mediocre trainers out there as well as some outright bad ones.

The problem as I see it, is that like any service-based  profession, trainers have to market themselves to stand out in the crowd. You need a gimmick. And that gimmick can be a special nutrition packet, odd equipment or a trademark named version of exercise.

"Librarianpilates! Work the core collection!"

This doesn't necessarily mean that gimmicky is better. In fact, some of these workouts are nauseatingly funny.

But I think the bigger issue is also touched upon in that article. We the users don't know what we don't know. Are we not getting a good training session because the trainer is bad, or is it because we don't know what to ask for in our specific situation? Is it a bad connection or are we fooled into thinking it's our fault?

Can I be part of an unhappy couple workout? Wouldn't that burn more energy?

Once we get past that hurdle of Social Physique Anxiety (or even before that) we need to be prepared. Make the trainers and gym staff and employees at the running store do their job. Make them show you how to use things properly. And if it doesn't look right or hurts you, ask again. Look and see how other trainers act. Are they engaged with the client? Are they actually showing how to do stuff? Or are they sitting there chatting away? Flirting? Giving you just basic advice that may not fit your situation? After a few sessions, are you noticing a better sense of doing exercise? Or are you just being handed platitudes and attitudes?

As another study says:

"Do not always believe what you read or hear. Marketing firms know what buttons to push to turn us into brain-dead impulse buyers. To become an educated exercise consumer, you must adopt the mindset that nothing works unless it is proven to you, it is documented by peer-reviewed research, and it stands the test of time."

Hmmmm.....peer-reviewed research. That's MY kind of workout! 

(I need also to give a shout out to Jeremy, my Pilates instructor. In my book, he's aces above so many others. Shop around!)


Downing, John H., and Jeffrey E. Lander. “Performance errors in weight training and their correction.” JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance 73, no. 9 (December 2002): 44+.

Quindry, John C., and David Q. Thomas. “Exercise consumerism: let the buyer beware!” JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance 68, no. 3 (March 1997): 56+.

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