After ten years in the fitness business as a gym owner and a coach, I think I finally have the experience and the background to voice my opinion on the fitness industry as a whole. I have been mulling over this for a few weeks now. If any of this article stings or feels like it is directed at you, just know that none of this is directed at any one person; also, the truth hurts, if you are hurt by what I say then I am sorry you feel that way but I am also not sorry for speaking the truth and I will never apologize for telling it like it is.
So, here are my thoughts on the fitness industry right now…
The term I would use to describe fitness in 2018 and 2019…”McFit”. Fake, cookie cutter, franchise gyms, fake trainers, wannabe coaches, and everyone trying to be the next Instagram/YouTube fitness celebrity selling some bullshit program. This is what the real gyms, trainers and coaches have to battle – along with battling the obesity and alcohol epidemic that continues to be the biggest obstacle to getting people into the gym. Now on top of people being perfectly complacent being overweight, just sitting around eating and drinking themselves to death, private gyms and mom and pop gyms, have to fight against the onslaught of franchised “gyms” with billion dollar marketing campaigns. Many of these “gyms” are owned by people with little to no experience in fitness or having any professional education in exercise science, several of them without a personal trainers certification. Got $10,000? You can buy a franchise and be up and running in a couple months. Forget about a degree or a certification and the hundreds upon hundreds of hours of research and training and testing programs and internships and years of struggling as a newbie trainer building your client base and building your gym one client and one barbell and one piece of equipment at a time over years. If you’ve got the bankroll you can just purchase a franchise and skip all that. And then get to tell all your friends and everyone you meet that you own a “gym”. A couple weeks of training at your franchise headquarters and that’s all you need to open your McGym, just like people buying a Dunkin Donuts or a McDonald’s. Don’t know how to write programs? That’s ok! All your programming will come from McFit headquarters. Don’t know how to teach someone how to squat, deadlift, swing a kettlebell, use a rower, perform a clean and jerk? That’s ok, your McFit headquarters expects that you will have such a high turnover that there is no point spending weeks teaching someone to lift properly when they will just jump on to the next McFit that opens up around the corner in six months. I have been open for ten years and I have clients that are still with me and have been since year one. In ten years your McFit might not be around, and if it is I highly doubt you will have ten year clients. Your McFit will never train someone to run 100 miles or compete in world championship lifting events, just like Dunkin Donuts will never get a Michelin Star award – you are just another drive-thru.
As for the fall of CrossFit? Well, I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s “the fall” of CrossFit, but it has most certainly declined in the past year. Between changes to the Games structure and schedule, the lawsuit with Reebok, there have been some changes to CrossFit in the past couple years. With some people seeing CrossFit for what it started out as, functional fitness and a great way for people of all fitness levels to get into a structured strength and conditioning program, and then some people seeing it as a sport, CrossFit has two major splits. Over the years CrossFit has developed a reputation for injuries, which has now given rise to training facilities like mine, and the likes Iron Tribe and Madabolic, started by trainers who were involved in CrossFit but thought it had some flaws and that they could do better, or also like me who saw the culture of people doing dangerous compound lifts incorrectly and getting cheered on to keep going heavier and faster. Now I won’t sit here and rip on CF all day, there are a lot of awesome CF gyms and a ton of really really good CF coaches (many of whom I am friends with), but I have said it for years, there are things I love about CF and things I don’t like. I credit CF for helping get olympic lifting and powerlifting to grow as sports and also CF has helped get more people in great shape, more than any other fitness program in history. But due to the stigma, the culture, a few worthless coaches, you now have “gyms” and programs like F45, Madabolic, Orange Theory, Iron Tribe and many others crowding the marketplace trying to play off what CF started (I would also kind of put our own gym in that category but we have some specialties that set us apart and we have the experience and education to stand on our own). Please don’t take any of this as a knock against CF, I actually love a lot of what CF has done and continues to do, and as I said I have a lot of good friends who love CF or are CF coaches or gym (box) owners and I love those people. I have visited and worked out in many CF gyms and loved them and the people in them. All I am saying is that CF has seen the apex of its popularity, and as a company, a movement and as a competitive sport, it is changing and I do not think it will ever be as big as it was a few years ago.
CrossFit brings me to my next topic, and pulling from my first topic about fighting the alcoholism of America – CrossFit and other fitness franchises and gyms have also delved into this cesspool of “fitness & booze events”. Every f***ing week I see another ad or FaceBook event page for this weekend’s local competition where they’re going to do some clean and jerks and some burpees and some flappy fish pull ups and then drink beer all day. Why? I just don’t get it. I know…I know…I am one of the few Americans who does not drink. And no, I am not a recovering alcoholic. Yes, I use to drink and I had a lot of fun drinking, I also wasted a ton of money and time, which is one of the many reasons I quit drinking in 2009. But for real I don’t get it. Why does every f***ing workout competition and group yoga event have to be held at a brewery? Can you seriously not socialize without beer in your hands? Is it possible for you to run a 5k and not pound three pints at the finish line? Yes, I am going to be hosting one of the biggest multi sport lifting event in Charlotte this fall (www.charlottestrengthfest.com), and yes, we will have beer served at the event, but we are not promoting it as a “lift and drink”, a “run and rink”, or a “strong beer drinkers” event! I think if you have to promote your event being attached to alcohol, maybe you need to take a look at whether or not your event could stand on it’s own without the beer. You may need to look at the type of people coming to your event. Yes, I am sure you’re going to get a huge turnout for your “fitness and beer” event, but take away the beer, would you still have a great event? If your event hinges on alcohol, there is something wrong.
I don’t have a good segue into the next topic, but it’s social media and wannabe coaches and “influencers”. Really, what the hell is going on?! If you are genetically gifted and have a ripped abs because you have a great metabolism, that entitles you to give advice to people? Oh! You trained a few people and now you are a coach? You ran some boot camp classes and took some CrossFit classes but you have no real certifications and suddenly you’re a fitness expert? Please. Get the f*** out of here. Social media is great: you get to stay in touch with friends, build a brand and a fanbase, you can make some money promoting your website and products, you can setup endorsement deals to promote other people’s products. There is so much great stuff about social media, but with the good comes the bad. Keyboard coaches trying to critique form when they haven’t done shit or never even competed; “influencers” trying to get you to buy their flat tummy tea or butt cream; wannabe trainers who can’t teach someone how to squat or deadlift, yet have a 90 day shred program; models promoting cleanses and other snake oil; and my favorite is people on steroids and other PED’s promoting their program that you can get results like them but never mention the Tren, Deca, Test, DBall, or SARM’s that they are on – I could go on and on. My point is, there are a million idiots out there giving out bullshit advice and trying to sell you useless crap that doesn’t work, or they’re lying to you about how they got their physique or their strength. I love social media, I have gotten connected to some amazing lifters and coaches and this has lead to me learning all sorts of new theories and methods to implement and test out. I have made some great friends and smart business deals through social media, but be careful who you get your fitness advice from these days because social media has created a ton of fake coaches!
Next up, the explosion of powerlifting and strongman and olympic lifting is something I cannot skip over. And yes I credit CrossFit for helping this explosion! A guy or a girl walks into a CrossFit gym to get in shape, lose some pounds, feel good, look good. They drop 30 pounds and in the process and find out they are really good at lifting, six months later they are training for their first competition. We have seen this story countless times in our own gym and heard it from many other gym owners and athletes. And I love it! Same with me, I love to lift, I actually enjoy endurance work, I found kettlebells and bam six months later I was competing. However, along with the explosion of these sports, has also come the explosion of fake coaches, bullshit programs, keyboard form critics, and of course the haters who want to shit on people’s programs, their lifting technique, their coach, or the organization they compete under. We hear this bullshit all the time. “(Westside) conjugate doesn’t work for raw lifters”…”Well, he was in a suit so it doesn’t count”…”Sumo is cheating”…”Monolifts are bullshit, you should be able to walk it out”…I could keep going all day with the bullshit we have heard or things that have been said directly to our faces in our own gym, even the comments we have read on social media. ENOUGH!!! Let people follow the program or coach they want to follow, let people lift in peace. If you’re not lifting them up with positive comments then keep your mouth shut. Know who wants to hear your negative bullshit or your unsolicited coaching advice? NOBODY! I love lifting! I love seeing people lifting double my numbers! I love seeing people in suits and wraps and lifting in a mono! I love seeing ladies who can outlift me! I love seeing people break records! I love people trying out other programs just to see what happens! I love people lifting in different federations! Really people, just spread the love and keep lifting! As for the politics in powerlifting and olifting and kettlebell sport, seriously people, the US is a huge country and there is more than enough lifters in all these sports for every organization to succeed and help the lifters and make a couple dollars doing so, there is no reason to hate on this org or that org, there is no reason for orgs not to work together to help the sport other than the egos of the people running these orgs, seriously grow the f*** up and try to work together.
Speaking of lifting, this is my last topic, the fear that women have of lifting heavy is still being spread through the universe. Really?! Why?! This goes back to the fake fitness “experts” on social media, and insecure men. Want to burn more fat? You need more muscle, and to build more muscle you need to lift! And no, not 5 pounds, not 10 pounds, you need to grab some real weight and lift. Ladies – don’t be scared! You’re not going to turn into a man! And if you man tells you you’re looking too big it’s really that he is scared that you are stronger than him! He is weak, leave his ass! To all the ladies out there pushing weight, I applaud you. To all the girlfriends, boyfriends, husbands and wives out there supporting their girl who lifts heavy, I applaud you. To everyone not supporting ladies who lift, to everyone perpetuating these myths that ladies will turn into freak shows if they lift heavy, to all the dipshits who talk down to ladies lifting heavy, go hide in a cave or something.
Enough with the negative! Do I have anything good to say about fitness and sports these days?! Hell yes I do! Fitness is a massive industry now that’s allowed people like myself able to make a good living off of coaching and training people, and selling information products or fitness gear and apparel. It was unheard of 20 years ago when lifting was done in dirty garage gyms or at expensive globo-gyms. Fitness and physical culture has exploded! There are now more gym freaks, fitness lovers and meat heads walking around than ever before! And I love it! I love that there are so many people into lifting and sweating and getting stronger and faster, whether it’s at the YMC, a gym like Pride, a CrossFit box or just people at home with a barbell, a kettlebell and a rower. It is truly a great time to be involved in the fitness world. Thanks to the internet, there is so much information out there about training methods and theories – there are so many truly gifted and knowledgable coaches out there to learn from, many of whom give out a ton of free advice and information. There are so many sports that “normal people” can start training in and get pretty good at and actually travel around the country and world to compete in amateur events, meeting new people and sharing their fitness journey with others. And more and more people are getting into fitness and realizing how important it is to be healthy, and I am proud of all those people whether they are walking into a gym for the first time or running their first unbroken mile. With all the crap that I bitched about up top, there is so much more positive and awesome things going on in fitness right now and I am glad to be a part of it and I am glad to coach people to become stronger, healthier and more confident versions of themselves.