05/24/2016 04:46 EDT | Updated 05/25/2017 05:12 EDT

Bad Fitness Advice Isn't The Problem, You Are

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Young mixed race woman making selfie while taking fitness exercises, standing on grey background

I work in an industry that is unregulated.

Calling yourself a personal trainer, fitness coach, strength coach, health expert or by any other tagline is as simple as taking a weekend course and paying attention to 75 per cent of its material. That's one reason why it creates a huge bias from the public as to whether there's any science or academic component to exercise whatsoever.

Add that to the fact that the median age for a personal trainer is probably somewhere in the mid to late 20s, our business suits are usually black T-shirts with running shoes and our offices are playgrounds. The end result is that the bias is reinforced without the biased person even knowing it.

There's a plenty of misinformation being spread by inept professionals who market their good bodies for the sake of a dollar. With the rise to dominance of social media vehicles like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, these types can easily market themselves and develop a huge following in the process.

I hate hearing the term "your body is your business card." Sadly, that quote permeates the fitness industry and won't stop.

And I get it: When an unsuspecting consumer or follower sees a fit-looking person promoting a questionable exercise, most people will take it at face value and follow suit, assuming that that particular exercise is one reason why that fit person is in shape to begin with.

Examples like the one above are the reason I hate hearing the term "your body is your business card." Sadly, that quote permeates the fitness industry and won't stop. I also have to admit that there's a fair truth to the phrase.

A fitness coach who shows visual evidence of being in shape will surely influence more people on knee-jerk than one who does not. People respond to visual cues; it's that simple. When we compare this to other industries (like, say, a dentist with a great smile, an accountant whose books are in good condition or an auto mechanic with an '84 Civic that runs like new), it makes me question why so much more pragmatism is applied when seeking help in those industries compared to that of taking care of personal health and fitness.

In the latter, however, people actively search for a second opinion or at least do their homework on the guy they're about to hire to do their accounting, their surgery or their drywall. Strangely, in the fitness world, all it takes is a six pack and a grin to make consumers reach for their pocketbooks to buy the new AbCrusher off a TV infomercial.

Don't Give Yourself Too Much Credit

I'm a walking, talking, living, breathing testimony to the fact that you don't need a PhD to develop a decent grasp on good, well-founded training principles. The truth is, on paper, many of my colleagues would humble me in terms of certifications, courses and other industry-specific credentials achieved.

Plenty of my own training and writing success has come from external research, industry experience and practical application. It goes to show that as a client or consumer, you don't need to be enrolled in a sit-down course that puts you back $3,000 dollars just to learn how to safely and effectively build muscle, burn fat or learn essential principles of training.

Unfortunately, most people don't even get that far. Like I mentioned at the outset, the idea of an "academic course for fitness" is crazy talk and the attitude of having the exercise game "all figured out" is what dominates. It's an attitude that those same infomercial TV coaches, duplicitous as they are chiseled, capitalize on to earn bank for themselves.

On the Internet itself, there are plenty of good training articles and resources that do well to dispel hackneyed fitness myths that have been circulating for years -- in part thanks to the same category of coaches mentioned above.

In truth, it's a matter of personal choice as to whether or not someone looking to get fit wants to make the effort to do some self-education. In this age of technology, we've come beyond the times where we can still blame a "bad coach" alone for the lack of results we're seeing in the gym.

This may sound like I'm cracking down on the poor consumer who's only interested in losing 15 pounds of body fat and adding some lean tissue in preparation for the summer. And I won't lie -- you'd be right. If this wasn't an issue, there wouldn't still be myriad people who self-proclaim a "fit lifestyle" who would include any or all of these bullet points as part of their belief system:

  • Yoga, walking, jogging, dancing or Zumba are all suitable forms of exercise that can make up the majority of your physical activity.
  • Exercising twice weekly will create significant results for the long term.
  • "Strength training" covers anything involving weights, even if they're five pounds.
  • Using weights will make you big.
  • Deadlifts are bad for your back, and full squats are bad for your knees.
  • Directly training the legs isn't necessary as long as you play sports and walk to work.

If you raised an eyebrow at any of these points, it may be a smart idea to invest the time into educating yourself about your own health. What people tend to forget is that good professionals in the industry are navigators. We can recommend the right path for success, and even give great and smart workouts in the process.

What you do with your time outside the gym is the true dictator of your results. If you don't have the luxury of hiring a coach (good or bad!), then just who you decide to listen to for your exercise advice and direction matters that much more.

Instead of thinking "I've got this" or taking the gimmicky advice you "hear" to heart, it may be a smart idea to start looking for some second opinions. You'll be glad you did.

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