When new clients visit the studio, we often set up the TRX. For those who don’t speak fluent ‘gym class’ TRX is a set of straps developed by a soldier stationed in the desert without access to workout equipment.
We hang the popular black and yellow straps because they look good. If TRX straps aren’t dangling from the ceiling, some people ask why we don’t have them. After they leave, we pull them down and throw them in the corner along with the foam roller and the stability ball.
(OK, that was bold. ‘Fitness people’ can be somewhat defensive when it comes to their toys. Before you express outrage on some form of social media — that I will never see — hear me out. Too late? Angry tweet sent? Oh well.)
Despite great intentions, it’s perception that governs our thoughts and feelings. This week we put aside popular gym-isms and get to the heart of the matter. Please hold all tweets to the end.
Tools or toys
OK, back to the TRX.
Yes, there are a few ‘OK’ exercises you can perform on the TRX and several, shall we say, less than optimal moves. Still, not a bad option if you’re tight on space and budget. Likewise, the foam roller and stability ball have their place — collecting dust in the corner. (Kidding! Kind of.)
Joking aside, these items are simply tools — popular Christmas tree accoutrements that sit idle in many gyms and basements. Frankly, it’s not the tools that are the problem, it’s what people expect of them.
Squat rack? Too scary. Dumbbells? Too dirty. Cables? Too complicated. Foam roller? Light, colourful and located in the stretching area with all the spandex. Great, it must be awesome!
When selecting exercises, make sure the associated equipment does the job. (When performing household tasks, I opt for a hammer instead of a screwdriver; it’s quicker and more rewarding).
In the gym, intimidating, more complicated tools tend to work better than the trendy colourful stuff.
By the way, if your local fitness guru says “I like (enter piece of equipment here)” don’t automatically think it’s the best option. You may need to dig a little deeper. Exercise should be tied to principles that are based in science, not trends that are popular.
Outcomes vs. actions
As I informed a nervous beginner worried about looking silly in front of gym ‘regulars,’ most exercisers are either undertraining or doing something incorrectly. Why?
A recent magazine article or You Tube video featured the ‘exercise of the week’ and everyone is copying it without understanding or relevance.
Exercisers are either too shy/nervous/self-conscious/male to ask for help.
People don’t understand the fundamentals of execution or progress.
Local, self-proclaimed experts shepherd flocks of gym sheep.
And the most popular — they’re winging it.
If you’re performing exercise incorrectly, results suffer. Hey, at least you’re in the gym and not in front of a screen!
Before embarking on an exercise program, conduct a bit of research. (Note: Lots of shiny pictures means you’re staring at a magazine — research has words, graphs and numbers.) If you don’t like reading, check out the conclusion at the end of the article or ask a respected trainer with experience and credentials — someone who has read the conclusion at the end of articles.
My trainer said…
We spend a lot of time undoing incorrect or outdated information. Just because your last trainer said something in 2002 doesn’t make it so. Things change over time, and honorable intentions can sometimes exceed knowledge.
In a former life I had close to 80 trainers reporting to my management teams. I hate to admit it, but I was nervous trusting many of them to do much beyond presenting a friendly face in the gym.
A smile can be a big win in large, intimidating fitness organizations. The challenge is finding experienced trainers who possess a sound working knowledge of progression, personality, adult learning, motivation change and physiology. Gyms do their best, but establishing culture in a highly transient industry is tough. The good trainers usually move on to open their own studios.
Education, relevant certifications, years of service, online ratings and referrals are the best way to uncover the gems.
Getting in shape has become highly complicated, mostly because the things that kept our ancestors fit have been replaced by sitting and sugar. We simply no longer know how to live an active, healthy life.
Don’t let perception direct your good intentions. Trust research to be your guide.