It’s been months since I’ve written a blog article, for two primary reasons: First, I’ve been quite busy. Work can pull me in a few directions at the same time, and it leaves less opportunities to write.
Second, I’ve just plain been uninspired.
I don’t have it in me to develop a topic that I’m not very passionate about writing, so I’d rather leave it alone until an idea comes to me. Being deep in the trenches for the last four months – the main conduit toward said writing inspiration – has made me notice a recurring lamentation from clients: They can’t figure out just what information to listen to, whose advice to follow, and how to be a good “student” of the craft.
Their intentions are pure. Before they started working with a coach, they were a bit lost, and sought the right information, presented in a digestible format fit to their learning needs, to help them in their quest for muscle, strength, and performance.
Often, such ones find good accounts on the internet by way of social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook, giving out free content for smart training strategies. They try to learn and apply. This however, reveals itself to be a bit more loaded than meets the eye, and it’s worth examining this by way of revealing a few truths about the reality of this industry, first from a consumer’s perspective.
Truth: Most People Looking for Free Help Online are Newer to Training
This isn’t to say a lifter who’s been under the iron for the last 20 years won’t pick up new exercises or some new training techniques on the gram. Of course, that’s very likely. But when it comes to learning the basic tenets of training – the rudimentary principles of the craft – many beginners who don’t know their right foot from their left will take to the internet to try to find answers. And it can be overwhelming.
Actually, overwhelming is a bit of an understatement. It can be paralyzing. It can turn fully capable individuals with perfectly exercised capacities in other walks of life to think for themselves, use common sense, and be intuitive, into individuals who genuinely don’t know where to begin. Social media fitness content doesn’t only contain trainers with different philosophies or different nuances to how they do things. It also contains trainers who are fighting for larger audiences on social media in and of itself. A coach with an audience of 100,000 people versus a coach with an audience of 1000 people will often appear more legitimate and credible to someone who doesn’t know any better. The same likely goes for a coach who uses a glossy, highly edited lens filter for very curated content versus one who just films raw with their iPhone. Or a coach with a tremendous physique, wearing the latest and greatest performance training activewear.
All of this to say: In scenarios like this, the optics matter, whether we want to believe it or not. And if you were a fish out of water looking for advice outside your forte, there’s a chance you might be an unwitting victim of similar influence. Shiny object syndrome is real, and in the training world, the shinier the object, the bigger the audience. As a trainer, it’s difficult to get a new client to navigate the internet when there are so many versions of “good training” available for free, and the guy or girl who strips half naked for their reels equals “body goals”.
Spare the Details
To dovetail off of the above subheading, for professionals, this all brings to question just what kind of information we’re deciding to spread. Knowing the majority audience should help us trainers zero in on helping the greatest number of people.
Watching general population coaches fight with each other on public threads not only doesn’t look professional, it can lose the consumer. The callout culture in the fitness industry usually serves as not much more than an echo chamber for like-minded coaches, rather than a breath of fresh air for a newer training enthusiast. Focusing our attention on things other than the big-name charlatans of the fitness industry can go a long way, and keep the right people in mind.
Most of the time, when it comes to overall training methods, coaches who disagree with one another actually have a lot more to agree on in the big picture. Being able to accept differences while focusing on grass roots principles that have established themselves as fairly uniform amongst most good coaches, can create an environment for a consumer that’s more welcoming and easier to comprehend. By contrast, unintentionally forcing a client to “pick sides” can act to perpetuate an existing problem.
One of my trainer friends and I do not see eye to eye on some subjects within the fitness world. Combined, we’ve been in the industry for over 40 years. Otherwise, we get along really well, but some of our philosophies have proven different from one another.
To actually move the industry forward, it’s not about dwelling on the few areas where you disagree with another coach. It’s about focusing on the vast areas of common ground you have, to help people receive good info, coaching, and help. For example, the trainer friend I mentioned above is Melody Schoenfeld. We’ve now authored a book and present together internationally.
Truth: He Who Chases Two Rabbits, Catches None.
For information to really land and become a plan of action, the important onus rests on a client to first choose what it is they want to accomplish. If there’s one universal rule when it comes to fitness, it’s this: If you’re seriously looking for results, you’ll be best to focus on one thing at a time. In other words, if you want strength, make that your goal for the next 3 months. Not building muscle or changing your physique. Not dropping body fat or getting your cardio up. Just strength. After, change your focus (if you want to). There will be some sacrifice involved for other aspects of your fitness as you pursue that singular goal, but it’ll make it possible to actually attain results. And the good news is, working out isn’t a pursuit that has an end date. That should be liberating.
Many clients I’ve met want to be the most muscular, but have the best cardio, but be as athletic as an MMA fighter, while having the strength of a powerlifter, while looking swimsuit ready for the summer. And their social media news feeds reflect that – all of that – which can distract them from any one goal. There’s great fitness information to achieve all of the above, but consuming it all at the same time can be a wolf in sheep’s clothing if your livelihood doesn’t involve training people.
Truth: Beyond Basics, there’s no “Formula”. The Route to Gains is Consistency.
The esoteric questions need not apply to most people looking for results. The best nutrition plan, the best training program, and the even best coach have absolutely no impact on you if you can’t stay consistent in making use of any of the above. 90% of the time, people who are spinning their wheels in the gym are also impatient and never stayed on the plan long enough for the results to even happen.
I could write a 3-day, generalized program up in about 5 minutes, right now. The plan could contain the simplest instruction to help achieve the goals of adding strength (for example). Many people may get in their own way and feel the program doesn’t have enough “something”, or is too “something”, preventing them from seeing the benefits. The truth is, the benefits come from committing to the process; that’s half the battle. I can guarantee the simplest program done for 8 weeks is better than an arbitrary approach based on an influx of social media advice from multiple coaches. You’ll paint yourself into a corner right quick.
REAL Questions Beginners Ask
Most people who become “good” lifters, “advanced” lifters, or lifters with great results and development have done one of two things along the way.
- Hired a coach for actual 1 on 1 help (and stuck with the plan and process)
- Practiced diligently for so long that they learned what works for their body
That second point isn’t something you figure out after 6 months of training. More like 10 years. And most people aren’t disciplined enough to do that consistently. So the first point mentioned reveals itself to be the more common route toward reliable gains. And that takes at least a partial detachment from the internet and its fodder.
People who are intermediate or advanced in the gym won’t be on the internet to do much more than post their own content (good), or join an existing echo chamber that speaks to their training biases (not good). Very few will be using social media as their primary device to get into the deeper details that can bring their results to the next level of elite.
By stark contrast, here are some actual questions my beginning clients asked me this year:
How often should I work out?
Should I train when I’m sore?
How often should I increase the weight I lift?
Should I buy gloves?
What’s good technique for (this exercise)?
Should I do cardio?
What time should I work out?
You get the idea. These are the burning queries on the minds of the majority crowd that comprise the social media consumer.
I said consumer. Not creator.
Their version of “good fitness information” is going to be different than the version of it needed for an advanced lifter. And simple will prove itself more valuable and useful, more encouraging, and less intimidating or confusing.
Summary: It’s All in the Linguistics
The best coaches speak the language of the people they’re trying to help. If you’re a beginner or something close, think carefully about what the goal is, and then narrow down the coaches you listen to for free, to those who make content that isn’t cluttered with unnecessary detail, and fits your goals. Rest assured, it’ll be much easier to stick to the plan.
At the end of the day, I belong to an industry of professionals who have spent a long time being considered less academic or knowledgeable than practitioners or scientists. I’m not ignorant to the fact that it feels great to sound smart – and that many in my field overcompensate in that department, likely for the reasons listed above. But good information can only be called good if it fits the intended audience. As long as the consumers do their part to realize exactly what they need, more coaches out there can do the same – doubling down on fundamental principles we’ve all learned, and all agree on.
It’ll probably keep them from calling each other out all the time, too.