Why are we so mean to each other?

Ally Foreman

Yesterday, I taught on a MOSSA launch day for the January releases. I delivered three programmes and a great time was had by all. Yesterday evening, I happened to see a post that MOSSA UK had shared on Facebook from the club who did the launch of a Group Power clip. So far, so normal! Then I happened to see that, in the comments, someone had written, “with Les Mills bars and steps” followed by a laughing emoji. This comment bemused me and made me wonder, why are people in the fitness industry so hell bent on being mean to each other?


This is, of course, a sweeping generalisation as there are some lovely people in the industry; however, I’m sure every single person reading this knows exactly what I’m talking about. The rants, the putting people and programmes/brands down, the ‘we’re better than you’ and ‘I’m right and you’re wrong’ tirades that break loose across social media daily. Frankly, it’s exhausting, and for anyone outside the industry looking in, we are a big muddy mess. Imagine someone looking to start getting fit and joining a fitness page on Facebook, and then observing all the nasty comments and arguing that goes down. It would put them off ever doing anything, wouldn’t it?


Now, back to the comment in question. It’s true, the club has Les Mills® bars and steps, as the club just happens to also offer BODYPUMP® and other Les Mills programmes on its timetable, alongside several MOSSA programmes. The club’s members like both options and get different benefits from each programme, so why not? The programmes are very different and can quite happily co-exist side by side on a studio timetable. Does this mean the club should spend hundreds on two different sets of equipment to cover both brands? No, it does not.


I remember using Reebok bars to teach BODYPUMP at multiple clubs. Some of you may remember that Reebok, for a time, brought out its own pre-choreographed programmes and obviously recommended its own kit, but did anyone ever say, “Oh, you’re teaching BODYPUMP and using Reebok, hahaha”? No, they didn’t. Did Reebok ever say, you can’t possibly use our kit for anything other than Reebok-branded workouts? No, it didn’t. Has Les Mills said you cannot possibly use their kit for anything other than LM workouts? No, to my knowledge it has not. Why? Because they know that to limit people like that, limits people buying their kit and they are in the sales business. In a world where budgets are stretched, people buy one set of studio resistance kit and one set of steps that will cover a whole host of workouts AND be used by club PTs when classes are not in play.


So really, my question is, who cares what bars and steps they are as long as they get the job done? Well, clearly this person who commented cares, so let me point out some statistics:


  • In 2015, 58% of women and 68% of men were overweight or obese
  • Obesity prevalence increased from 15% in 1993 to 27% in 2015
  • In 2015/16, more than 1 in 5 children in Reception class, and more than 1 in 3 children in Year 6 were measured as obese or overweight
  • In 2015/16, there were 525,000 admissions to NHS hospitals where obesity was a factor
  • In 2015/16, there were 6,438 Finished Consultant Episodes in NHS hospitals with a primary diagnosis of obesity and a main or secondary procedure of bariatric surgery
  • More than three quarters of bariatric surgery patients were aged between 35 and 54, and more than three quarters of patients were female
  • In 2015/16, 26% of adults were classified as inactive (doing fewer than 30 minutes of physical activity a week)


(Source: National Statistics on Obesity, Physical Activity and Diet England 2017 – data.gov.uk)


We are the now the fattest nation in Europe. The UK spends more than £48 billion a year on healthcare and social causes related to obesity. Even more worrying, it is anticipated that if the nation carries on at the same rate, there will be 11 million more obese adults in the UK than there are now. That also equates to 7 million more cases of obesity-related diabetes, 6.5 million more cases of heart disease and stroke, and 500,000 additional cases of cancer. (Source: ic.nhs.uk/pubs/hse11trends)


These statistics make for sobering reading. So why are we squabbling over who is the best, who is right, and who is using what weights for their workouts when we should be more focused on doing everything we can to bring these numbers down. Frankly, we should have gyms, studios and sports grounds on every street in the country in order to reach the millions of people in the UK who are not currently exercising enough.


What’s one of the biggest factors in people sticking to an exercise regime? Enjoyment. We all like different exercise and so the more variety we as an industry offer, the more opportunity we give people to find something they will enjoy and stick to, thereby getting results. Personally, I prefer Group Power because of the amount of movement in it. I love getting in the transverse and frontal planes and how that feels on my body. I also love throwing the ViPR tool about and swinging from a TRX upside down. I am a very progressive exerciser in style. To some people, that’s their idea of hell, and they will be found participating in a more linear and sagittal plane BODYPUMP or LBT class, which is more in their comfort zone. That’s ok. They are also to be found on the machines in the gym as they like more traditional exercise. That’s ok, too.


As a trainer for PTA Global, we teach our trainers to meet the client where they need to be met; this means understanding how someone prefers to move and giving them exercises that match their preference for maximum enjoyment and, therefore, adherence.  Something that gets forgotten when it comes to group exercise.


What’s one of the things that puts people off walking into a gym or starting a class? Fear. It’s a terrifying prospect when you don’t know what to expect. As an industry, we do ourselves no favours by using perfect specimens of humans in our marketing – you know, the guys and gals who are perma-tanned, muscles rippling under their tiny outfits, with perfect make-up and hair, striking a pose in a supremely difficult exercise designed to make the rest of us faint. How do you think the non-exercising, overweight person feels about this? Put yourself in their shoes. Would it inspire you to want to be like that or make you flee for the hills thinking that every single person at the gym actually looks like this? We know that, for the majority, they have already bolted.


Imagine that same person now looking at options, determined to start doing something, and looking on social media and being confronted with conflicting arguments about the best way to get fit and lose weight. Observing arguments and name calling, nasty comments and digs from the very same people they are asking to help them get fit and lose weight. And suppose, just suppose, their goal is simply to be healthier and move better as they get older? They don’t even want to look like the Adonis in the advert, they just want to be able to keep up with their kids and grandkids. Shouldn’t we be spending our time figuring out: a) how to reach these people in the first place; and b) what workout is genuinely in their best interest for their own individual goal and circumstance, instead of tearing other industry professionals down? Isn’t it about them and NOT us and our egos?


Let’s face it, when you look at the above numbers, there is enough business to go round, and if we can start putting the participants first, be a bit nicer to each other and start supporting everyone instead of knocking people down, maybe, just maybe, we stand a small chance of actually making a positive change in the health of a nation who are otherwise currently sprinting towards disease and destruction.


So, I’m asking everyone reading this today, pledge to only be positive in your comments both in person and digitally. Lift other professionals up, say nice things wherever you can, and always remember the ripple effect a negative comment may have on someone you never even intended to reach. In 2018, let’s be kind and change the face of this industry, which is becoming murky, unprofessional and egotistical. Let’s stop pandering to the fit; they are fine and will always come. Let’s reach out to the fragile eggs, the non-exercisers, and make them feel welcome and safe. Let’s be more professional.


To sign off, I am reminded of something my nana, God rest her soul, used to say, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” Peace out.


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