Fitness in 2017 and How to Get Up to Speed
Those of us who have been in the fitness game for more than a decade now have seen a host of trends come and go – thankfully, for some… – and the evolution that has taken place these past several years, especially. The “functional” movement characterized by stability balls and bands that plagued the field in the ’90s is now officially a thing of the past, and these tools have been mostly replaced by the barbells and bumper plates required to perform functional movements at high intensities. The term “functional movement” is, therefore, still quite prevalent in fitness; it has just been largely redefined with the rise of CrossFit and other barbell-focused training methods.
So why the shift? Well, believe it or not, exercise science research is actually starting to catch up and become useful (not completely, but more so than before). And while society becomes more plagued with chronic disease, musculoskeletal dysfunction and weakness brought on by sedentary behavior, we finally have enough good evidence that working at high intensities improves physiology faster and to a greater extent than low-intensity training, and that being strong and able to perform daily “functional” activities is perhaps the greatest predictor of longevity. (Shout out to the Starting Strength movement!)
As such, the fitness industry is evolving once again and coaches are quickly being called upon to adjust – both their methodologies and their roles to a certain extent. In addition to redefining “functional” and popularizing the barbell, CrossFit has also redefined and popularized group fitness. The class format is no longer just the realm of step aerobics and Spinning; it’s the mainstream choice now for achieving fitness, and this is evidenced by the rapid success of ClassPass and the number of fitness facilities jumping on their bandwagon in hopes of not falling behind. Small group training studios are opening on every corner and many employers in the field also now require personal trainers to have experience training groups – or at least be willing to learn – in order to accommodate today’s clientele.
So what does this mean for coaches? Well, clearly, personal trainers are wise to get some experience coaching groups. And heck, why not? In addition to being more affordable for clients, group fitness can be quite lucrative when set up the right way, and it’s surely a more time-efficient way to reach the masses. If nothing else, coaching groups will make you a lot more efficient with your cues. Having to coach a lot of people at once through sometimes very technical movements really forces you to find the fastest ways to fix people. It’s no surprise that many of the best coaches out there can be found in the group arena.
Coaches are going to have to get a whole lot better at assessing individuals in group formats, however, if they really want to get the best out of people. Mobility and stability deficiencies can’t always be fixed with cues, and being able to identify limitations as well as provide intervention strategies is crucial for success. I see this theme as an upcoming trend in the field and plan to address it with a continuing education course. (Coming soon!)
Will personal training ever become obsolete? Not necessarily. In fact, I think the value of the personal trainer may actually increase – not just in spite of the trends but even because of them.
Here’s why I say this: First, there will always be people who are intimidated by iron, if not the whole “gym thing” altogether. In-home personal trainers will always have a home. But moreover, what’s driving the increase in sedentary behavior is the fact that things are becoming more and more automated. And while some have simply accepted this fact and created apps and other software to manage fitness measures – ‘if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em,’ so to speak – these same folk have neglected the fact that the number of personal connections people have are also decreasing as a result.
People crave connection, and we’re approaching a prime time for coaches to fill this void for their clients. This is why the fitness professional will never be replaced by technology. BUT, group fitness coaches will need to master the ability to connect with individuals, and personal trainers will have to get better at understanding and adjusting to the individual psychology of each of their clients. This has always been a challenge for our field but it will become even more important as clients look to us for connection more than programming – which is already widely available online and for much less money than what it costs to hire a trainer.
This is the future of the fitness industry.
As a result of the trends, we may also see things like individual portions of group classes being incorporated more, where coaches allow time for class participants to work on their individual needs (mobility or stability work, technique/skill building, etc.), along with software for individuals to track their own weights, etc. We’re already seeing this trend quite a bit.
The use of what we call “autoregulation” through RPE may also increase. Going by “feel” (versus load or percentage assignments that are difficult for coaches to track when working with groups) is an easy way to get the intensity you want from a group (or close to it). I’ve been using this quite a bit in my group class lately and it’s worked well as both a communication tool AND math-minimizing strategy!
The question remains then, how do coaches stay ahead of the trends? Well, for starters, if you’re a coach, you need to find ways to stay plugged in to what’s going on around you – not just in your facility but in other places as well. This is a given, but it usually takes planning to find time to keep yourself up to speed when you work long days. Get on ClassPass and see what’s out there. Try CrossFit if you haven’t yet. I even took the Level 1 Course back in October and, come to find out, there’s actually a lot more to the methodology than is evident just by showing up for a WOD.
Additionally, here are a few podcasts that do a nice job of bringing up-to-date fitness information to the masses:
Brute Strength. Geared mostly to the CrossFit community, Mike Cazayoux brings on guests each week to discuss all things training.
Weightlifting Life. The renowned Greg Everett of Catalyst Athletics talks Olympic lifting on a biweekly basis.
BarbellShrugged. Entertaining yet informative, these guys have been in the iron game for a while and always have great stories to share. They regularly bring guests on the show to discuss their various areas of expertise.
Strength Matters. Also a great resource for training-related topics with regular fitness industry leaders on for interviews. This one is based in the UK.
STRENGTH & CONDITIONING
Strength Coach Podcast. Anthony Renna has done a great job hosting Mike Boyle’s biweekly podcast for several years now. This is a great resource for coaches, especially those in the collegiate or private strength and conditioning sector who train field and court sport athletes.
Stop and Give Me 20 Podcast. Anthony has also recently started his own podcast. As opposed to most of the others here that run about an hour long per episode, this one is just 20 minutes. This allows Anthony to bring on fitness industry leaders for short but informative and inspiring interviews at a high frequency.
The Fitcast. Kevin Larrabee has been around for a while now as well and continues to conduct regular interviews with up and coming coaches. This one has more nutrition-based information than many others I’ve found, but it’s still centered on the role and scope of the fitness professional.
Increase Your Impact. Sports Psychologist Justin Sua gives daily tips to inspire leaders to be their best so that they can bring out the best in others. While his advice often seems overly simplified and obvious, sometimes these are the traits that make things hard to implement. Justin has a lot of experience behind his words and, well, he’s usually right.
Finding Mastery. A podcast largely centered on mindset, Michael Gervais, PhD brings on the best of the best in many fields – fitness and beyond – to discuss their paths to mastery and how they overcame challenges along the way.
Anyone else have good recommendations?