In the world of fitness, there is room for disagreement and intelligent discourse among reasonable educated people. The human body is complicated and the reality is there is still a lot we don’t know about how the body responds to training and nutrition. I think the hallmarks of a good fitness professional are an aversion to dogma, a ravenous intellectual curiosity for continued education, and a genuine burning desire to provide the best service and information to their clients (and blog readers).
There are those, however, who seem to be oblivious to what we do know about how the body works. They seem to either be criminally misinformed or outright intellectually dishonest. These same people can be very successful because they can make outrageous claims, like “I can make your butt look just like Gwyneth Paltrow’s.”
Ladies and gentleman, I give you… Tracy Anderson.
Hula hoops are pretty sweet
In the bio on her website, she makes a number of jaw droppingly ludicrous claims:
– Tracy’s method is to strengthen the smaller muscle groups so that these muscles can pull in the larger muscles. (“Pull in”, huh? WHAT. THE HELL. DOES THAT MEAN?!?! … No I’m serious. Someone tell me what that means. Is she referring to stabilizers pulling in the bigger more prime mover type muscles? How does that work exactly?)
– she has helped her clients achieve toned and defined bodies with smooth and firm skin. (Um… Does she have like a skin care line or something? Me confused.)
– Tracy decided to study and research muscle structure and specific training techniques. (She “researched.” Awesome. I’d be FASCINATED to look at her reading list. No doubt she’s a Supertraining afficiando…)
Now, as most of you know, I’m a pretty happy guy. And I’ve always maintained one of the keys to my happiness, is I really respect people’s rights to do whatever they want to do. Its a free country, right? America. Sweeeeet! But a certain line is crossed when… actually, sorry, can you hold on a second? I have to open something real quick…
A line is crossed when a “fitness expert” either out of ignorance or dishonesty makes recommendations that do not serve people’s health and fitness pursuits. People spend a fortune ($900/month for her Tribeca location) to train in the Tracy Anderson Method and so far as I can tell, she blatantly makes shit up. If you never lift weights over three pounds, you don’t help maintain or increase your bone density and you do nothing to stave off the risk of osteoporosis. Gwyneth Paltrow, Tracy’s star client, is 37 and has osteopenia (the precursor to osteoporosis). Listen, diseases are multi-factorial. I’m NOT saying Tracy Anderson’s methods gave Paltrow osteopenia. But they didn’t do anything to prevent it. And as far as the physique benefits of lifting ultra light weights, her “method” has been proven inefficient at best over and over again. And I’m sorry, the idea that women can’t or shouldn’t lift relatively heavy weight is an insidiuos form of sexism. And I’m not even going to touch the fraud allegations that seem to have bedeviled her over her career.
The reason Tracy Anderson can get away with this is that much of the general public is massively undereducated when it comes to fitness. How could you not be? First of all, human bodies are complicated and much of what serves your goals is counterintuitive (see Monday’s post about side bends and love handles). Then there are a small army of “experts” trying to make money off you and sell you their products, books, and magazine, and if they look fit and speak confidently, the layperson understandably has a hard time telling fact from fiction. To make things more confusing, if you go from doing nothing to doing ANYTHING, you are going to see some results, particularly if you cut your calories significantly and go from taking in more than you need to less than you need. So no doubt many of the people who train with Tracy do see some positive changes in their body.
Now I don’t believe in saying anything on the interwebz I wouldn’t say to the person’s face. So in the absurdly unlikely event this gets back to Tracy Anderson; let’s be fitness friends Tracy. If I’m being unfair and you really have a scientific explanation for your training method, PLEASE tell me. I will literally write up a new blog post and publicly apologize and explain why I’ve changed my mind. Or at the very least I can disagree peacefully, knowing you actually have reasons for why you train people the way you do. As opposed to just to being a plain old liar.
So Tracy, what books have you read? Who are your favorite fitness authors? Who has had the biggest influence on your training philosophy and why? What type of “research” did you do that led to the formation of your method? I’m really open minded.
So in closing, yes, there is plenty of room for debate in the fitness industry. But to promote methods that fly in the face of decades of exercise science is completely indefensible and unethical. And for that reason my moral code prevents me from rocking my usual MO and just letting her do her thing, because at the end of the day, she’s training someone’s mom. It might not be her mom, and it might not be my mom, but it’s SOMEONE’S mom. Or someone’s boyfriend. Or someone’s niece. Or Jennifer Aniston. I don’t know if this woman is a sociopath who has no problem lying to advance her career, or if she is really is that ignorant. And honestly, I don’t care. Her “method” only serves to add more confusion to the society at large as to what strategies are their safest and most efficient path to health and hotness.
I’m sure Tracy Anderson has many wonderful qualities as a human. I don’t wish her ill will personally and she’s certainly entitled to her opinion. But what she’s doing professionally is wrong and I call shenanigans!
CALL OF HEROIC TRUMPETS!!!
Oh and Tracy? Stop saying you can “restructure muscles.” If you’re gonna make stuff up, at least make it sound science-y. ”Restructure muscles” kinda makes you sound like a dumb ass. Good evening.