My friend’s wife recently grimaced in pain while we were out to dinner. She seemed very uncomfortable, and when I asked what was wrong, she told me that she had recently started training at a gym, one of the usual suspects in globo gym chans, and that she had hurt her back.I can’t comment on the details of what happened, I wasn’t there, but from what I could figure out based on the story I heard, some personal trainer in the gym had put this woman through a series of exercises and she was now in pain.
My friend’s wife recently grimaced in pain while we were out to dinner. She seemed very uncomfortable, and when I asked what was wrong, she told me that she had recently started training at a gym, one of the usual suspects in globo gym chans, and that she had hurt her back.I can’t comment on the details of what happened, I wasn’t there, but from what I could figure out based on the story I heard, some personal trainer in the gym had put this woman through a series of exercises and she was now in pain. No matter how you slice it, that’s not good.
So, I went and got a day pass to the same gym. More out of curiosity than anything else. I can’t do much about what happened to my friend’s wife, but I wanted to satisfy myself about how she got there. The first thing that I noticed was that most of the staff were trying to sell memberships. So, I didn’t really get anything remotely related to fitness out of them other than the usual boring stuff about, you got to work out for your health, you want to sign up a bunch of forms, and we have some really great membership offers right now.
The No Staff Fully Staffed Gym
The next thing I noticed was that there were a number of gym staff on the training floor, roaming around, not sure why but, they weren’t correcting anyone’s form or getting involved with the members. Everyone was kind of doing their own thing.
There was one female, wearing the gym staff colors, and she was, I assumed, a trainer because she was working with some lady over by the dumbbell rack. The lady was large. She looked like she hadn’t worked out in a long time, if ever. She was lying on a medicine ball, doing dumbbell flys with a very light set of weights. And she looked uncomfortable.
The Bro Kings of Globo Gyms
Over by one of the three squat racks that were available, one guy was doing a reverse barbell curl using a barbell and 25 lbs plates. Why he needed to take up the squat rack, I don’t know. There was a whole bunch of fixed weights, up to 120 lbs, that he could have been using to curl with.
And, the clincher? Chicken legs. I don’t really want to sound like I am being down on the guy but, hell he had giant biceps and the legs of a flamingo, and he was taking up space on a perfectly good squat rack to do curls.
For full disclosure: the last time I was in a globo gym was while I was on vacation about 6 years ago and it was the only gym within walking distance of the hotel. It was a franchise or a chain, just a local gym, and there were some serious lifters in there who had their own corner, which was grittier than the main floor. I wasn’t really paying that much attention to anyone there.
No Coaching Here
There were lots of other things going on in this visit, though, that made me want to write this. There was the guy doing a dumbbell row on a bench with a weight that was obviously way too heavy and was making him twist in ways that made me cringe. There was the woman who put a yoga mat down next to the bench press machine who was using a barbell placed on top of another folder yoga mat on her hips, to do hip thrusters.
There were the two older guys who took turns doing calf raises on a seated calf raise machine, practically no weight on there, and all while they happily talked about some real estate stuff. Out of maybe 120 people in that space, that day, I saw two who seemed like they had some idea of what they were doing and why.
I got to admit that I don’t blame anyone for having a globo gym membership. You can get one for about $20 a month. Go to any of 6 CrossFit affiliates around where I live and they’ll charge from $90-250 a month. We forget that not everyone can afford those prices. For some people, even $20 a month can be a burden.
I think that we, the fitness industry, do a great disservice to the people who need us most because we are just such a mess when it comes to being organized and, yeah, even regulated. Anyone can open a gym, and anyone can become a trainer. It’s not that difficult and you can see that for yourself in all but a handful of places in your own towns and cities.
Good Coaching is Everything
And right there is where the real problem exists. Coaching, good coaching, is hard enough to find. You can’t just rely on someone’s certification. Ask anyone who has had a bad experience at a CrossFit. No two CrossFit coaches are alike. No two kettlebell coaches are alike. Personal trainers vary hugely in terms of the quality of their coaching. You can be paying the same price for a guy who just got certified, which doesn’t mean much in and by itself, and someone who has been doing it for 20 years. Here are 7 articles to help you choose a good coach.
Now, throw into the mix, people who would rather do things their way because they don’t want to be told what to do or they don’t, or can’t, pay for coaching, or they just don’t like the idea that someone is going to push in directions that they are uncomfortable. In other words, globo gyms are a great place to avoid being coached and if you end up standing in front of the mirror and only keep looking up, you’ll probably be great just doing curls and bench and some lateral shoulder raises. You don’t even see the chicken legs. That’s all I saw on my visit to a globo gym and I kept thinking to myself, are squats and legwork that bad?
No, what we need is to get people to accept good coaching, to demand it, to look for it aggressively. Local, independent gyms, CrossFit gyms, weightlifting gyms, the box gyms that pop up everywhere, they all have a coaching model that does more than any globo gym can ever do even if only because the coach is right there with you and his programming doesn’t work if you can’t do all the movements.
Yeah, we still have to figure out how you resolve $20 a month against $200, but there are ways. A coach with his own box gym could set aside an hour a week, maybe on a Saturday, to welcome globo gym trainees. Give them some technique pointers, maybe even some realistic programming, and then follow up with them every Saturday.
A limited package that doesn’t cost $200, and lets the globo gym trainee find their own way to the independent gym. Maybe they’ll adjust their budgets when they see the return on their investment in terms of better fitness and health. Maybe, they’ll keep making the tradeoff, a paid plan with a good coach, and an affordable membership at the globo gym. This isn’t impossible to figure out. We’re just not doing enough to make it happen as coaches and trainees.
So, is intervention the best way to save someone from a life of chicken legs? I don’t know but you can start with the people you know and help edge them towards good coaches. For my friend’s wife, I recommended a local lady who is a very capable lifter and certified yoga instructor. She specializes in treating people who are coming out of injury or trauma.
I don’t want to use anyone’s names because I haven’t asked for the permission to do so and, frankly, I am not sure it is good for all parties involved. It then becomes a blame game. In reality, all I want is to find a way to get better coaching into the lives of as many people as possible. That’s all it might take for us to change the balance of power in the fitness industry in favor of the good guys and not the marketing folks.