Be Fit. Feel Good. Have Fun

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carole@enjoytraining.co.uk

Movement is for Everyone

I have wanted to write this blog post for a while but have felt nervous about doing so.  Why?  Well, because although I am a fitness professional, there are things I do not like about the fitness industry and this has made me question my place in it – am I missing something, should I just go with the flow?  No, I have now decided.  My experience with clients, plus many other conversations with people inside and outside of the industry, has given me the confidence that I am not alone.

I don’t want to work out in a gym with a load of muscly guys, attacking every workout and aiming for physical perfection.  I don’t want to take selfies in a bra top and shout about my fitness goals, how much I can lift or how fast I can go.  I do of course respect the fact that we are all unique and that such things do appeal to some people.  Good for them.  But, what about everyone else?  I believe that the fitness industry is an exclusive and intimidating place for the majority.

The start point for me is that exercise has to make you feel good.  You have to actually enjoy training.  Why?  Because the more you enjoy exercise, the easier you will find it to sustain activity over a sufficient period to really make (and notice) a difference.

If you hate the gym, don’t go, there are so many alternatives.  Instead, think about how you can incorporate activity into your daily life and look for opportunities to move.  This can create a good base, upon which you can add in more formal exercise, over time.  That might involve playing a sport or learning a new skill, it doesn’t have to be lifting weights in a gym.  Working with clients, I have found that once they embrace activity in their daily life, they become more confident and more open to trying new things.  Building a sense of community and sociability is important too.

These principles were reinforced for me recently, when I attended two industry events.

The first was a women’s health and fitness exhibition – it was a large event but, in reality, was very one dimensional.  I felt it promoted an ‘Instagram’ version of health and wellness.  There were interesting speakers but the underlying focus was on appearance and the latest trends, not substance.  There were plenty of trendy fitness brands in attendance.  But was the event inspiring?  For some, maybe.  But for many, no.  It would have fed their insecurities and left them feeling that they didn’t match up to the idealised version of who they’re told they should be.

The other was more of a fitness industry conference.  I watched some interesting panel discussions on topics such as improving the health of the nation and helping people to make sustainable behaviour change.  This content felt meaningful and mainstream.  So good, so far.  But what I then found puzzling was that the exhibition stands on display featured muscly male and female trainers demonstrating scary looking gym equipment.  Once again, if that’s your thing, good luck to you.  But my experience tells me that this image is a big turn off to many, many people.   It reinforces a feeling that ‘real’ people don’t belong in the fitness world.   Where were the stands highlighting products and services relevant to everyday people living everyday lives?

The fitness industry needs to evolve, to support more ‘real’ people to engage and embrace a more healthy and active life.  It is not surprising to me that so many people feel alienated right now and so never set foot in a gym or class.  We need to make things more inclusive and to help people to find enjoyment in moving (because the whole experience makes them feel good).   Let’s shout about sociability, community and sustainability – so much more important than gaining a firm butt or a flat stomach!

The prevailing message is a very strong and pervasive one.  What I think I can do, to try to move things forward, is to focus on my own small world and hope to connect with some other people who feel the same.

So, I wanted to give a shout out to a couple of local brands, in Tunbridge Wells.  Their focus is on community and enjoyment, and they’re doing great things for people on so many levels.

http://www.parkrun.org.uk/royaltunbridgewells/

www.sarahsrunners.co.uk

Let’s encourage everyone to embrace moving and eating well.  Let’s help people to find what works for them, not tell them what they ‘should’ do.  Let’s enjoy training.

3 Comments
  1. Really inspiring blog post and completely agree that the ‘aggression’ that can be used in gym/ fitness culture can be off putting. It makes so many people shy away from it and grab a bag of crisps instead.

  2. Fantastic blog post Carole, it’s something that frustrates me so much and lovely to read that it isn’t just me!

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