Times have changed.
Where I live, the expense of general existence has gotten much higher than what it was when I was 18, and now there are much more innovative ways to make a living. On that note, I can list countless instances where university trained, degree bearing individuals end up as baristas at Starbucks.
Moreover, 100 grand today doesn’t seem to hold the same weight as 100 grand 12 or 15 years ago.
With all of that said, I get it. Young people should have at least a modicum of concern in this day and age when it comes to their action plan for financial security here in the concrete jungle. It’s not easy.
The reason the average lifespan of a career in fitness is short lived is because of how transient an industry this is in the first place. People often get into it in transition from a different career, or as a facilitator to allow them to transition to a new one. It’s easy to get certified; it’s a quick process, and there are workplace options all over most metropolitan cities.
This used to be what got me upset, and then leveraging the internet became a thing.
See, the difference between the people in my industry I mentioned above and an overnight Instagram fitness star with 800,000 “followers” is usually that of maturity. For what it’s worth, folks like Gillian Michaels and Tracy Anderson can still be described as industry veterans, regardless of how questionable their methods are. They’ve had the time to be in the industry, get frustrated, come up with a plan that abandons most theoretical knowledge they’ve probably acquired, launch a commercially savvy product and marketing scheme, and then rake in the profits.
Today, millions of people in the general public are buying into the idea that inviting the virtual world into your home, taking selfies every day, and generally exposing your nearly naked body are sufficient prerequisites to being deemed a fitness expert. That’s a real shame, because it’s also something that can be accomplished by a 20 year old with less time spent in the gym than a Nihilist would spend in a church.
The result is usually an overconfident barely-legal, whose social media account looks like a soft porn photo shoot laced with arbitrary quotes about life, motivation and positivity that they’re almost always too naïve to even fully understand themselves. The viewer learns nothing, and the massive audience they’ve “earned” usually ends up being mostly comprised of people who have little to no interest in actually working out.
I can’t speak for everyone, but I’d feel like I’ve wasted potential if my most of my fitness celebrity was justified in how many people click “follow” just so they can ogle my nearly-nudes.
There’s something about skin that makes human beings just plain stupid, isn’t there? We know what we’re doing. We’re giving the get-rich-quick scheme of a 20 year old unnecessary traction for something unearned. If the same schemes were carried out in any other industry or method of presentation, we’d probably think twice.
A Little Help
Some people reading this may think I’m zeroing in on many insta-famous women who claim to be part of the industry. Though the descriptors above definitely place women in the irrefutable majority, there are countless men who fit the mould as well. But, I wasn’t too clear on what characterizes one of these folks. I’ve used this blog to give my candid thoughts on the world of fitness competition, CrossFit, and other practices. What places both of those groups in superiority here is the fact that their coaching will still be a direct product of experience with what they’ve done for their own training (and competition). That’s not these folks. In the most basic form, I’m talking about people who may seem to exercise themselves, but have nothing to teach people due to being sorely inexperienced – and they know it. They’re the ones who are actually going after people who aren’t interested in learning much about proper exercise in the first place, and are rather more interested in perusing photos and videos that are as equally self absorbed as they are insecure (often disguised as “motivation” for the gullible).
These, male or female, are the Kim Kardashians of fitness: Strategic, thrifty marketers, and generally not too hard on the eyes – and they use each of these attributes to their advantage to feign expertise in the one area where they usually lack it. All of a sudden, people who hardly know how to coach a basic squat or press pattern release gimcrack online programs for sale, become boxing trainers, sprinting coaches and kettlebell instructors based on one workout they did of each, and have diversified their portfolios as online ambassadors for boutique gyms, supplements, and apparel.
All of this gives big-platform fitness the bad, flashy, aesthetics-only, paid-motivator, anything-goes name it has. And the public eats it up.
On my own social media, I try to follow people who have a positive contribution to the industry that I can learn from, where fitness is concerned. I don’t follow anyone who would fit the category I’ve been describing above. However, I always find it interesting when I notice well educated, solid trainers who follow my work along with that of many others in my circle, but also follow a number of fluffy Instagram stars. Maybe it’s to take a page out of their marketing book. Or maybe it’s for the eye candy. Personally, I don’t think I could justify either.
When you build all of your wildfire traction based primarily off of how you look, your footprint on the industry as a fitness expert will be short lived, and the quality of your consumers will probably match the quality of the content you have to share. I guess I should say that’s fine, if making the masses follow you for no good reason is what you’re going for as a professional. I can’t fully blame you, as egregious a wrong I think that is. The real people to blame are the enablers in the public who continue to like, comment on, and share that content to its eventual popularity. A weekend-certified 21 year old trainer with a bloom-of-youth body and a Facebook full of nonsense shouldn’t make any “most influential fitness experts” lists that large platforms decide to create every year, based on the number of drooling social media followers in heat. Sadly, that’s the way it is until we can make the public aware of more fitness truths.
As you probably guessed, this section will be short.
Regardless of the content boasted on social media, we’re still talking about a self-proclaimed fitness expert who has something of a reach to hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of followers. That’s more than anyone else has ever done to get people’s minds on being in shape.
Shouldn’t that mean the obesity problem in the Western world is taking a drop kick faster than you can say “snapchat”? The results don’t speak. At least not enough. As a matter of fact, the obesity rate has only grown (at the end of 2015, 26 of the USA’s states had at least 30% of their inhabitants deemed clinically obese. In 2010, that number was 13). The idea of fitness may be more readily on the minds of people, but with the wrong spokespeople on the platforms, not much can change – especially when the same insta-famous dingbats are simultaneously preaching empowerment in all of the wrong ways.
I’m not saying one knowledgeable coach with an absurd virtual following is all it would take to change the game, but any steps to bring the general mindset towards fitness away from the fantastical, hypersexualized, and terribly overglamorized phenomenon it’s currently regarded as are good steps indeed.
At the end of the day, folks like these don’t care about the industry or actually making change – and they only care about their followings so long as they continue to grow, edify their egos and ultimately put money in their pocket. These are people who are “playing the game” and winning. Understandable – to some, that’s admirable. Personally, it affects my moral compass, and that’s one reason why I decided to write this.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be influential, wanting to get your name out there, and even become a success story to the industry and make a few bucks in the process. I think everyone wants that. But when your resources to do so start and end with your good looks, salacious photos and captions, you can count on general disrespect from your peers, and the further decline of this vocation.
I, for one, can’t stand behind that.