They say there is no such thing as bad free advertising, but in the case of The Biggest Loser TV show, I disagree vehemently. These so-called trainers are giving reputable and ethical personal trainers a bad image. As a former college instructor of exercise science, I used the show’s trainers, Bob Harper and Jillian Michaels, as examples to my students of what not to be and how not to train. They are what I call “Hollywood” trainers, hired to get actors and models ready for their professional roles in a very short time span. Their “style” of abusive and unsafe training techniques should not be viewed as the norm for someone looking to make regular exercise and weight management long-term goals.
The general public, which is unfamiliar with authentic and professional training, sees contestants with double-digit [weight loss] weekly, believing that this is the kind of result they will get if they hire a personal trainer. Not a week goes by when I don’t encounter a prospective client who expects similar results. I try to explain what happens to these poor, desperate contestants when the show ends—when they no longer have an environment free of the normal trappings of their everyday lives; when they no longer do 4-hour workouts and get free training (if you want to call it that); when they no longer get special nutritional guidance; and when they no longer get the support of their fellow contestants 24/7. Of course, there is also the misguided motivation contestants get from knowing that all of America is watching.
Professional trainers need to educate their clients about the reality of these “reality” show trainers, from both a physical and a psychological perspective. I am furious that the profession I have cultivated for 28 years is portrayed in this fashion, and you should be as well.
Daniel R. Ball, MS
IDEA Master Personal Trainer
Editor’s Note: In the January issue of IDEA Fitness Journal, we solicited replies from readers on how they are inspiring people to make fitness happen for those who lack access to fitness services. Following are some great ideas from Paris and Puerto Rico.
I’ve been living and teaching community fitness classes in Paris for almost 25 years, and I started a ParisFitness website in 2002. Each year I offer a free virtual “spring-training” program to my fitness clients. For the last 2 years I’ve opened it up to the general public—my colleagues at the office, members of the church, friends, family, etc.
The participants commit to three things: they add an extra 30 minutes of exercise or some kind of activity to their schedule each week; they eat at least one fresh fruit and one fresh vegetable each day; and they promise to do the additional exercise that I send in a daily e-mail. I send the e-mails Monday through Friday and include posture suggestions, diet tips and breathing exercises. I have a blog set up for the program where each of the tips is listed for reference along with supplementary information. (I try to keep the e-mails as brief as possible, in both English and French.) There are news links, feedback from participants, calorie information—whatever I feel might add to the program.
This year [the program] lasted for only 4 weeks because I wanted it to end on Valentine’s Day with a special “heart-healthy” event that morning. I asked local English-speaking fitness professionals to present their specialty classes in a hands-on 30-minute workshop.
It is such a rewarding experience for me! My clients get a program that encourages them to challenge themselves a bit more, and new or nonexercisers get the chance to understand in a fun, nonthreatening way what fitness is all about. Participants get in touch with their bodies on an almost daily basis, taking responsibility for their own health. In fact, this session’s theme is “Own Your Body.” This time around I had about 180 people getting the e-mails.
[The program] takes a lot of work and time, but the feedback I get makes it worth it. As I go through the whole process each time, I appreciate what a wealth of good information we fitness instructors can share, and how we can really touch other people’s lives in many ways.
Cheers, and by the way, thanks for the excellent magazine! I have been watching it evolve since 1991, and it keeps getting better and more useful. Needless to say, I scour it for tips I can add to my spring-training program!
First, I’m making my fitness programming more consumer-based to target those we don’t touch. Too often we are coming up with the “latest and greatest” [ideas] but forget about the new-to- fitness. Second, I’m going much more virtual by putting every article I’ve ever authored on my website—for free. Third, I consult via Skype, e-mails and YouTube with clients around the world. Fourth, I continue to sponsor my [Biscontini] scholarships to assist those who cannot afford fitness conferences so that they, in turn, can Inspire the World to Fitness®. Fifth, and most interesting, I created Yo-Global, a new approach that spreads the mind-body message to those unfamiliar with yoga and its benefits, for free, around the world.
Fajardo, Puerto Rico
I want to compliment you on the February issue of IDEA Trainer Success! Outstanding! Motivational! And Practical! Good job IDEA.
Joy Eliason Alden, CFT
Hermosa Beach, California
Send your letters and opinions to Ryan Halvorson, IDEA Fitness Journal Fitness Forum, 10455 Pacific Center Ct., San Diego, CA 92121-4339; fax them to him at (858) 535-8234; or e-mail them to rhalvorson @ideafit.com. You may also leave a voice mail letter in the editorial voice mail box at (858) 535-8979, ext. 239. (For general membership questions or information, however, please e-mail member services at email@example.com.) We reserve the right to edit letters for length or clarity.