A plea to the fitness industry:
For those of you lucky enough to attend IDEA World 2012 I ask that you question each other about the direction of the fitness industry. I know the research backing the effectiveness of metabolic/interval/HIIT/boot camp type training programs. I have read the studies promoting the effectiveness of HIIT for even deconditioned people, and yet I ask if this is the path the fitness industry should take.
We talk and talk about the obesity epidemic, but focus on hard and challenging classes. (A quick scan of the IDEA World sessions reveals three times as many hard core type classes as those designed for the less fit. I did not count yoga, pilates or cycling classes). Certainly a few sedentary people may brave (and succeed at) high intensity classes, but we are preaching to the converted. Most of those who love these high intensity workouts do not need us. They would work out on their own. We are missing the huge inactive population, and I believe, turning them off. High intensity may be effective, but it is not going to draw the sedentary into fitness. The beauty of HIIT may be that you can achieve better results in less time, but many in the industry seem to promote it as an excuse to workout harder and harder.
If you are only out to make money then you may not care whether we reach the inactive. However, most of us got into fitness because we love it and want to share it with and help others. We cannot reach the majority by training the minority. I am not saying to give up on HIIT or on training the fit. However, we do not need to spend so much of our time finding new ways to make exercises harder and more complex. The inactive make up the majority of our population. If we work together to find a way to reach them, we will have more clients, and have made a real contribution to the health of our nation.
But when you think about it: this is why we are here as fitness professional. Take what's out there and apply what fits.
Imagine how boring the conference would be if we were to attend classes on how to get somebody into a walking program. We as trainers know how to do that. I am celebrating every extra minute that some clients are able to walk.
Clubs follow the principle of supply and demand. If the classes are safe and attract many participants, there will be there to stay. At my club, there is a wide mix and something for everybody.
I have to say that I always tell my new clients, particularly those new to exercise and training, that "our" goal in working together is to not only train together to help them achieve their immediate goals, but also to give them the tools to make their foray into exercise a 'life-long' endeavor. If I only train and teach them high-exercise which for them is probably unsustainable, and something that they would not, or should not do alone because of the complexity and risk, then am I really giving them the tools they need to sustain exercise over a lifetime? I agree that high-intensity exercise IS NOT for everyone and shouldn't be used in that way. What I do believe in, and practice, is the fine art or 'RELATIVITY. So, for a deconditioned client I can give then a 'relative' high-intensity set of exercises that in reality are not true high-intensity, but for them represent high effort.
My motto: "Rather than trying to fit the client into the program, fit the program to the client."
Because of the infiltration of high speed Internet, smartphones and instant answers, people are now equating this to fitness. They want fast, powerful, short workouts that promise huge results.
I don't fault the IDEA Convention for this, they are only responding and providing. I am however dismayed that so many false claims are constantly being fed to our vulnerable society,and that there are no guidelines per se to monitor and regulate fact from fiction.
I agree with Karin.
Take bits and pieces and make them work for you
As long as you remain professional with integrity and within your scope of practice you will succeed .
1- Agree that people should definitely start out relative to their fitness/skill level. This is the problem with crossfit or personal trainer stories of horror- someone being pushed beyond their limits. Human fitness moves on an increasing curve. The longer you have been working out, the faster you will get results. HIIT, bootcamp and other classes are just that- classes.
Pros- You get a lot of people in a short time = more $
Con- Cant individually meet with people and assess them
2- I would disagree on the people who have come to condition themselves for a high intensity workout. While I would definitely agree that there are others out there who can do this, I would argue that fitness professionals should be able to work with athletes as well. Even people at the Olympic level have coaches.
Because someone can do a HIIT workout doesn't mean they don't need our help. We can show them a dozen variants of it or even new forms they have never contemplated.
Most of those who love these high intensity workouts do not need us. They would work out on their own.
I think trainers should always be expanding their knowledge of programs and exercises.
I dont think we are preaching to the converted when it comes to advertising/marketing as well. I would say most trainers are the first to hit weight watchers/ dietitians/ anything to reach the overweight population- but it is the people that are motivated to work with us that usually come to us.
I dont want to lump people all into one clump, but the majority of overweight/ obese people would most likely not want to respond to our ads because training is- well- hard.
Karin, I do not feel the presentations should be on walking programs, but I do believe the focus should be more on how to reach the inactive and what to do with them. We need to know how to market and advertise to them. How can we reach them? We are certainly not doing a good job of it. Once we get them what should we do? A studio without mirrors? Dedicated classes for the sedentary? A buddy system? Boot camps light? What do we do with the diabetic client who comes to Tabata? The person with osteoporosis in yoga or pilates? The person with bad knees whose doctors says "not to squat"? I do not have the answers, but believe together as an industry we can do more. We need to ask the right questions, and work together to find the answers.
Thanks for posting your plea.
I believe the only way to address this dilemma is through education. Whether the individual is obese or not, if they are chronically inactive HIIT is not the best approach.
I feel very strongly that for the most part fitness professionals don't know how to effectively utilize the transtheoretical stages of change model with their clients.
I am of the opinion that any exercise program designed for the chronically deconditioned individual will not be successful if the personal trainer has not determined how confident, ready and committed the client is to change their behavior.
I believe this is what has to be addressed at the convention, however, it is not what the paying fitness community really wants.
All I can do is my part, however, we are on the same page.
Thanks again for your post.
I see the issue from two perspectives.
The deconditioned, obese, sedentary client has seen shows like the Biggest Loser, My Weight Loss Story, etc and comes to the personal trainer expecting those types of sessions and "immediate" results. They want quick results and quick answers. They've often tried several different diets or programs, only to be disappointed and disalusioned with their results. They struggle with multiple issues that don't all stem from their weight/diet and require a team approach as many of these issues are outside of the scope of practice of a personal trainer.
Then you have the personal trainer and fitness industry who is trying to continue to gain clients in a tough economy. Its much easier to get a person who's already exercising into a program or new class than it is someone who is new to exercise and skeptical that "this will work" when so many things may have failed them in the past. Money talks! That doesn't make it right.
I think things will change when trainers work together with other health professionals to enhance the overall health of the client. When personal trainers are viewed as professionals by others in the healthcare industry (education, certification and regulation may need to change to make this happen). When there is a focus on preventative health rather than treating the symptoms.
I try to focus on what I can control. I partner with healthcare professionals in a dialogue about the clients care. I look to them for answers and I offer programs when they see a need. I stay educated and I tailor my programs to the clients. I don't seek to have lifelong clients. I seek to educate them to be able to maintain a healthy lifestyle for themselves.
Great post! I enjoyed reading all the answers!
An underlying issue is how does the industry teach trainers (who have probably been in shape since before high school) the proper approach toward a 50 year old who is starting over after a 10-30 year layoff? I bring up that point because I started my career after the age of 50. I'm now 63.
As long as we keep the fit fit we stop, halt or slow the risk factors for disease. This is where as a society we want to focus our efforts. Bringing the unfit back to some level of fitness is certainly important, or lowering risk factors is invaluable to the individual and society, but preventing disease and keeping the fit risk free is just as viable, and promotes emotional, financial, and social strength.
The majority of my clients are deconditioned older adults with various hip,knee, shoulder, back etc... problems. Trying to plug them into a one size fits all high intensity program simply doesn't work. I am constantly modifying exercsies, usually on the fly, to avoid painful ROM and to correct imbalances.
What is most important is how hard the client feels the workout is. It needs to be challenging enough that they see the value in the sessions they pay for but not so difficult that they leave discouraged and feeling beat up.
I mostly work my clients within their Rate of Perceived Exertion and constantly have them rate the difficulty so I can adjust up or down. This way they can feel successful and invigorated when they leave and anxious to come again as they gain confidence in what their body can do.
Personally I feel this type of client need our services more because they need the push to propel them past their comfort zone. And I feel that in this way I am providing a real value, not just trading time for dollars.
I never thought anyone would notice the void you mentioned.
You are on target: most training is focused on hard, intense, make you sweat, 'no pain no gain' programs.
The problem is-what if you haven't reached the level to do this yet? Maybe you are a beginner. Maybe you are at the intermediate level.
Do you really think you can jump into the XXX high intensity crew?
Would you go from 1st to 3rd gear in your car?
We do overlook a lot of people with this high intensity manta. I hope we can
focus on how to help those who aren't superhuman to reach their goals.
WOW! (excuse my enthusiasm)
HIIT isn't the walking, talking, singing, dancing, one-size-fits-all perfect workout for everyone. There is no such thing.
I agree that there is too much emphasis on workouts with apocalyptic titles.
What I have done to help bridge the gap between beginners and advanced participants in my HIIT classes is:
1) Design my own formats. I'm not a fan of cookie cutter programs that force a set of movements onto a class with few, if any, options.
2) Provide movements that have multiple intensity / impact levels. This way, I can accommodate a wider variety of fitness levels.
3) Hold short orientations before and after class for new participants to help them understand how to monitor their own intensity levels and how to modify for their injuries.
4) Encourage participants to engage in other fitness and wellness activities, particularly dance, weight training and yoga.