With the rise of Instagram “influencers”, group training studios, and do-it-yourself training apps, few would have thought it would be a global pandemic that sends the grass roots of the personal training industry into question.
And we trainers are all in cahoots because our livelihoods depend on 1-on-1 appointments in a physical, germ-infested gym setting – where we can touch all the same surfaces, spit when we talk, and spot sweaty bodies. Something of this magnitude happening basically targets – you guessed it – gyms as the arguable first place to shut down, at least after amusement parks, sports events, and night clubs.
Currently, many of us are stuck scrambling to helm together virtual programming options, Skype or Zoom coaching, and collations of the best bodyweight workouts to share on social media, as our client base has become relegated to working out with the aid of whatever happens to be found in the home.
For some lifters, that may still involve actual weights. The pragmatic “home gym” zealots are probably patting themselves on the back for making the investment of converting their garage, basement, or spare bedroom into a fully equipped gym, be it just for the privacy, or in prep for a pandemic or zombie apocalypse.
For most lifters, however, spirits can take a swan dive upon learning that non-essential businesses in their city (or entire region or country) have been closed, meaning no gym runs for the foreseeable future. Goodbye to gains earned under the iron, to plenty of motivation, and probably to some consistency too.
So, in actuality, we’re both in cahoots. The clients for not being able to train properly, and the trainers for having their income slashed. But the way I see it, I can think up a handful of reasons why the fitness industry is probably the best industry to be affected by coronavirus, and the attached social distancing it’s packaged with. If you know anything about what I’ve blogged in the past regarding the fitness industry and its sociocultural norms, you may see where I’m going here.
COVID-19 has forced you out of your comfort zone
This goes beyond the obvious. We’ve all been inconvenienced by the new protocols that have been put in place for the time being – that goes without saying.
What I mean here is this. As lifters, we can become accustomed to the same routine. Wake up at a certain time for work, schedule our workouts on certain days of the week, at certain times of the day, because we know that those constants are the only way we can make it happen at all. The fact that we can now focus on other elements that can make or break a good workout – a change of scenery perhaps being one dark horse to influence things – can prove invaluable in your journey toward health. A good night’s sleep and a lax time constraints are two more factors.
Strictures not unlike the above may have become so perfunctory to you as a trainee, that you didn’t realize that it was giving you the benefits with a slight hint of disadvantage on the side. Of course, this isn’t the case for everyone, but there are certainly people reading this to whom this applies. Big time.
COVID-19 Gets you out of gym life community
This sounds extremely negative, but in some cases, it can be a blessing in disguise.
As I mention in this article I wrote a few years ago, the fitness industry is becoming overrun by extremists. By and large, there’s little endorsement of just plain working out; training well to become a stronger, more capable, healthier version of yourself. To get things started on a training journey, it seems you have to “pick a team” – a sociocultural “movement group” as it were, that is trying to popularize a now trending way of improving one’s fitness. Powerlifting and “big 3” crowds, bodybuilders, CrossFitters, the sport-specific folk, and surprisingly, even “judgment free” self proclaimed all-inclusive training cliques, interestingly all have something negative to say about one another, and beginners can often find themselves working out to fulfill someone else’s agenda – not their own.
It’s strange that going to the gym, training well, taking note of your safety, and training with intuition has become the fitness method of least popularity these days. There are very few mediums that promote balanced thinking, simply because doing so won’t pay their bills.
Today, people after level-headed information involving setting and reaching goals, promoting balance and reasonableness aren’t cool. The crowds who settle for mediocrity continue to lie to themselves and say they don’t need a challenge to be healthy. The hardcore crowd think level heads are for losers.
I await the day when the two worlds collide. Would that consist of a highly competitive contest to find the least motivated trainee?
I digress. The departure from the sometimes campy gym life can be a breath of fresh air and represent a chance for a lifter to reprogram not only his training, but also his mindset and attitude toward fitness culture. When there’s only one person to focus on, it makes it easier to remember whose goals actually matter. And what those goals should be.
COVID-19 Stops you from lifting heavy
Most people reading this don’t have a home gym stocked to the windows with top grade equipment and an endless supply of iron. With that said, a poorly equipped gym setup will likely prevent you from being able to pursue – or even maintain – your precious strength PR’s.
And that’s likely some of the best news you’ll read today.
Whether or not you’ve been injured, most people who are married to strength standards, or who have achieved good lifting numbers have never stopped for a long enough time to ask “why”. We know it’s important to be strong, but how strong is “strong enough”? Are you “strong enough” when you develop chronic pain or a grade 1 injury in certain joints and muscles due to those patterns lending to overuse?
We have to remember that there’s a trade-off that heavy lifting creates. Our connective tissue does undergo some collateral damage from constantly being placed under such a high amount of stress every single week. If you don’t believe me, ask any honest 15+ year powerlifter how their body and joints feel on the regular (and whether or not they’ve been injured from training for their sport).
Many of us who don’t compete can fall down a rabbit hole of training like powerlifters and only prioritizing barbell strength gains, while neglecting other aspects of our health like the ability to touch our toes, jog a mile, shoot some hoops, perform 10 chin ups or drop for 20 push ups.
Now that you’re probably on team “dumbbells and bands” for the next 8 weeks, it looks like you’ve got some new goals to make a priority. Your body will thank you.
COVID-19 Tests just how much you know about training
A lifter who’s been glued to a great program requiring a full gym of equipment shouldn’t feel totally lost when stuck with a less-than-optimal training space. If that sounds like you – despite having years of training experience – then there’s a problem.
It’s like a university calculus professor who wouldn’t know how to substitute teach a 3rd grade math class.
You need to have a handle on the grass roots. And this is your chance to get one if you don’t. Being able to improvise and prepare a program or a workout routine when you don’t have your gym’s limited edition pendulum hack squat machine or dual grip hydraulic lat pull doesn’t mean you have to take the next two months off the gym. It means you have to use your brain.
We’ve all seen those images of trainees in impoverished countries lifting makeshift weights made of stone or other unconventional materials. And that has nothing on an actual hardwood floor and a couple of actual pieces of fitness equipment. Improvise, and find ways to challenge yourself using what you’ve got. If you commit to conditioning as a goal, the possibilities should be endless.
COVID-19 forces trainers to diversify, and keeps fit pros humble
Finally, the spotlight shines on the service providers.
It’s true, we’re all pulling our hair out at the added stress of losing a significant income source – our in-person training clientele.
Something a great coach and personal friend of mine, Nick Tumminello, mentioned about this last week resonated with me. It’s worth restating here:
“In the last year I saw multiple posts from trainers mocking Instagram or YouTube fitness folks by saying, ‘If the internet shut down tomorrow, would anyone know who you were?’
Well, the tables have turned. Gyms are shut down.
Does anyone online know who you are?
The takeaway here is, instead of focusing on what others are doing, which you have no control over; focus on what you can control, which is diversifying yourself so you don’t get caught with your overpriced Lulu pants down. Minding your own business is easy to do when you’re focused on building a diverse business for yourself so you’re adaptable to changing times and can more easily overcome unpredictable obstacles like we’re dealing with now.”
I couldn’t agree more. A successful fitness business is only as strong as its weakest link. In this day and age, I’ll always believe that in-person coaching serves as cornerstone to developing skill and respect in this industry. But 80% of the world lives and functions online to any given extent, and if all your eggs were in the in-person basket while being resistant or even snobbish to the idea of putting out social media content, or programming for clients virtually, it’s something you’re likely paying the price for currently. It can be humbling to realize that beyond all the sensationalized drivel and self-proclaimed “guru” fodder on the internet, there’s actually a true need for many legit coaches with real skills accessing the virtual platforms and spaces.
And there are many more clients who are quite thankful for the ones who’ve done so.
Listen, if you didn’t realize it by now, this article isn’t a mockery of our situation, nor some euphemism with the intent of downgrading its seriousness.
It’s a perspective shift.
This is my best attempt at helping you remain positive.
No one asked for this situation, and what’s even more certain is that no one would choose it over the opposite. For someone who’s very serious about their training, this pandemic can easily represent a short-term depression on a silver platter. But if we remain focused on the things we can’t do now that we’re cooped up at home, it doesn’t service us. Taking optimism in the chance to diversify our training or our business, and looking forward to a change in routine things like our gym culture, sleep and recovery patterns, or even programming itself is the glass-half-full approach that will probably get you through this in better shape than you were before it all started.
And who knows? By the time gyms come back around to function, you might find yourself in a new groove that you don’t want to spoil.