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Don't Be Fooled By the Instagram Personal Trainer

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I don't have an Instagram account.

I'll be the first to admit, however, that in this day and age, social media is a dominant force for many businesses, in terms of free self-promotion. It's really a wonderful thing when you think about it.

I write for around 15 major publications, in print and online. A simple Facebook add from an eager follower is a simple, one-step way for them to stay up-to-date with everything I put out, without missing a beat. Twitter is another snappy vehicle I like to use to throw down a few quick fitness tips or videos.

As unregulated an industry as personal training is, the world of social media has made things even more...interesting.

It's no surprise that people are most responsive to what they see. Go to any gym and most members who don't know a thing about training are most inclined to buy the services of the trainer who most fittingly looks the part, in harmony with the goals that they want to achieve. Knowledge bases aside, the good news is that these gym trainers at least had to go through some form of hiring process by someone who assumed a role of authority, in order to be deemed a suitable fit to work with clients under their establishment.

The cool thing about social media is that you can customize what you want to post because, well, it's your page. I'll be the first to say, getting a personal training certification is as easy as 1-2-3. It's a quick and painless process that enables you to show some official papers if need be. It's just one of those industries, and the idea can be compared to the strange coincidence that every stripper doubles as a real estate agent, and every bartender or waitress doubles as an actress and/or model, trying to find a break.

Sure, ON PAPER, you're a certified trainer, but in real life, you've got plenty to learn about the 'biz. What I'm saying here is, on social media, none of your followers are screening you based on your credentials, in-person abilities, and whatnot. As though Facebook and Twitter didn't have the capability to be bad enough, there's worse.

Enter the Instagram Trainer
The penny-stock of personal training is climbing at a pace more rapid than ever, thanks to the amount of young guys and girls who sport a sexy body. So sexy, in fact, that having it seen in by the masses in person just doesn't do it any justice. These folks have to take shameless bathroom and bedroom selfies while scantily clad and post it for the interwebs to see. (Now, I'm no psychologist, however I already have a few preconceived notions as to what the true mental reasons behind these kinds of acts are, but that's for another article.)

The self-promotion continues with a few gym shots, and maybe even a short video of a client getting picked up and shaken out by an exercise that leaves them floored in a puddle of a sweat, complete with a litany of hashtags in the caption: #whosnext #yourturn #hardwork #fitness #toughtrainer #onemorerep #trainwithme #nonsense.

My take-home point is this: this public eye-candy "showcase," as it were, is only popularizing the cosmetic superficiality of exercise and fitness training -- the maybe 20 per cent of the pie that this industry should be about -- and blowing its significance to astronomical proportions. Some call it "inspiration" to those who want to strive for a better looking self. More say that as a trainer, your body is your business card, so practicing what you preach is important. I agree, but only to a certain point. It's this emphasis that creates (and promotes) many of the stereotypes that exist in the industry of fitness and strength training.

Vanity, superficiality, and inspiration based purely around the aspect of cosmetic appeal offsets the truth that there actually is a field of scientific study that can be associated with fitness and strength training. It's already bad enough that an 18-year-old can be certified in two weeks to do this stuff for a living. It brushes the coaches who went to school, interned under great influential coaches, attended conferences, workshops, and advanced certifications to develop their craft as a professional, and learn the important sciences of the body's physiology, under the rug -- along with all their knowledge.

Amid the debacle that is the personal training industry are those trainers and coaches I mentioned above. Those are the coaches who know that taking photos of their naked bodies usually acts as a smokescreen to overlook a lack of theoretical knowledge, in lieu of six-pack abs, a great ass, and the gun show. Those are the coaches who know that a good-looking body comes from hard work in the weight room, and a clean diet -- and that's about it. They're the same coaches who know that a good looking body doesn't mean it's a healthy one, and it doesn't mean that they've got the answers for clients who need help.

Take a second to imagine logging onto the website of the strength coach for the San Diego Chargers or Toronto Maple Leafs, only to find an assortment of topless photos showing off his built-lean frame? I'm pretty sure that's not why the professional sports teams hired him.

The truth is, there will always be a rift between the "commercial" trainers and the substantive ones. That's why you simply don't see experienced coaches with accolades in their scholastic pursuits and contributions to the industry posting these things. The age of Instagram and other social media vehicles is coupled with the bloom of youth, where this industry is concerned, so 75 per cent of the professionals who use these outlets will be young by default -- closer to the front end of their career versus the tail end.

It would be a good idea to ask the key questions of what crowd you're after as a professional -- why you're into it, and what you seek to accomplish by doing it. Finding out what motivates you to take certain paths within your industry may be the difference between you taking the plunge, or choosing another route.

Just something to think about, right? #foodforthought

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