Fitness Content: Is More Always Better?

In today’s world of fast fitness, competing platforms, and content made for masses, is more better? Or are we moving too fast?

For example, let’s look at the abundance of low to no cost digital fitness content.

The competition is high to crank out lots of workouts to the masses, from workout programs promising fast results to live on demand fitness classes from major tech companies and from fitness companies looking to retain quality consumers.

I love trying workouts, so I have tried most of the popular digital platforms for fitness at home or on the go. I love quick, easy workouts, and I love different perspectives from different kinds of trainers. But I find myself yelling at my computer screen a lot.

  • “Watch YOUR form!”
  • “What’s the option?”
  • “Imbalanced unilateral movement, anyone?”

Sometimes, it seems, content creators are the trainers on screen, and they seem sometimes to be left to their own devices. Shouldn’t they be consulting teams of qualified professionals before mass marketing something promising fast results? Shouldn’t they use basic safety protocol with form and function? And shouldn’t someone be counting on the sideline?

I haven’t been on set for one of these programs, but it seems the answer usually is “cheap, fast, and whatever works.”

For example, I was working through a popular program this week. The celebrity on camera has a “modifier,” and even sometimes suggested options, like a chair for balance or a different stance. But quite often, the trainer said “the modification is to go lighter on your weight.” Or “you don’t need a modification here; you want to try harder.”

“Go lighter” is not not a modification. That’s a cue for every person. There should be an option for every exercise with different limitations in mind. For example, many people have back issues, tight hips, and an unstable core. Those issues probably cover the majority of our exercisers. If you’re not thinking of those people while putting out content for the masses, you are underserving.

And by telling people they need to “try harder,” you are discounting real issues that exercisers have, and putting them in danger or injury. Modification is not weakness. It’s doing what you need for your body in that moment. Every exercise has “options.” If you can’t think of any, you should ask someone.

I see movements that can cause shoulder issues, neck issues, and knee issues quite often on these programs, and no “modification” in sight.

Most of the time, when I go through a mind-body type of program, the sides are imbalanced. I find that most teachers talk through the right side of the body and then rush through the left side, as they simply don’t have as much to teach when you switch sides. It makes me wonder why there isn’t someone on set counting time per side. Same for reps per side. Shouldn’t someone NOT teaching the class be counting and timing? Is there seriously no intern on staff that can be there to count?

I also like to take local classes.

I love boutique fitness and frequent classes incognito; I won’t tell the trainer or anyone in the class that I have been a professional for almost 30 years. I just take the class.

A lot of these boutique fitness businesses are franchises, and the content for the day is passed down from the central office. That’s great and consistent, right? But they tend to have some of the same issues. They need to have something “different,” so they start prescribing movement that is counter intuitive to shoulder, knee, and back issues, and without ideas for options and modifications.

I am always impressed when I walk into one of these places and the coach recognizes the problems in the workout of the day and comes up with options on the fly, or I see her walk around and create options for individuals. BRAVA.

But many fitness centers are crowded, the classes are short, and many coaches are inexperienced (and underpaid), so they are likely to say things like “push through,” or “you can do this” rather than see the real problem going on.

OK, so rant over.

I love all these options for fitness. I really do. I love all kinds of fitness programs and ideas. But can we rethink fast, cheap fitness? For that matter, does it take a lot more money to just do things correctly? Does it hurt to have a second opinion? Or a content team rather than just a celebrity trainer? Can we be honest with our audience that fitness programming is not about being instagrammable, but being the best version of you, and that your best training might not be whatever that supermodel is doing today? Or whatever looks pretty for an ad?

If we hurt people, we lose them. Sometimes forever. We’re not doing anyone any favors by not having their best interest at heart. And we have to stay humble enough to keep learning and keep doing our best.

Thank you to the hard working coaches who do their best every day, usually with extremely low pay and no celebrity status. Thank you for showing up and caring about people, and for being humble enough to keep learning.

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