Why Commercial Gyms Have Failed You

From Stu McRobert’s Beyond Brawn:

“This gym is all appearance and no substance. It is only because we have a lot of fancy-looking equipment that we impress everyone who knows little or nothing about training. Because we have spent a lot of money on marginal, useless and sometimes dangerous equipment we must encourage our members to use it. We never encourage the old-fashioned basic exercises. In fact, to save you from being tempted to use the latter, you will never find a power rack or lifting platform here, and the squat racks we have are flimsy and unused. Who on earth wants to squat? Too much like hard work. Our instructors are as useless as we are, though some of them have very good physiques due to excellence genetics and/or use of steroids.

To deter you from using the time-proven most productive (but most uncomfortable) exercises, we have joined ranks with other gyms to perpetuate the hokum that basic barbell exercises are dangerous and, at best, only useful for beginners who are not fortunate enough to train in a modern well-equipped gym like ours. This is convenient for us though, because we barely know the first thing of instructing safe and productive technique in the biggest and best barbell exercises. We promote the idea that you need a wide variety of isolation and machine exercises in every workout.

We make exercise fun. You can watch yourself in the many mirrors we have, listen to music we entertain you with, talk while you train, and ogle the skimpily clad bodies of the genetically blessed, sensual female instructors we employ to keep you interested in renewing your membership. Training here is fun, and fun means lots of members, though few of them stay long term. We depend on a constant influx of new members to make a profit.

Welcome to this gym. We promise we will not push you hard, and we hope you will enjoy your time here. That is, you will enjoy it until you realize that the methods we promote will not help make you big and strong unless you have fantastic genetics or are pumped up on gear. Or like our regulars you will decide to forget about getting big and strong, and come here only for social contacts and visual kicks. Welcome to our gym!”

I read this passage a few months back when I read Beyond Brawn.  And it hurt.  It hurt because it’s a pretty accurate representation of the implicit attitude of most gym owners.  Thomas Plummer, a fitness business guru type, recently wrote an update about the current state of the industry which seems based on McRobert’s original.  To get pissed at how bad you’re being failed by most of what my industry offers you, click here.

Are you.
Kidding me.

Yep.  Keep collecting your paychecks you cynical corporate dicks.

Here’s some tough love gentle reader: unless you’ve worked with a good trainer or studied training intensively, the ugly reality is you’re renting equipment you don’t know how to use.  I often equate it to someone deciding they want to be a ballet dancer, reading some magazine articles on it, and then renting a dance studio.   Our hypothetical ballet wannabe works five hours a week in the studio doing his best interpretation of the often inaccurate and sometimes harmful information in the magazines in the hopes that one day he’ll be a great dancer.  He does this for a few months, and when it’s clear that he’s not really progressing, he stops trying.  “I guess I just don’t have the genetics for it.  Dancing’s not really for me anyway.”

Now this is obviously a very flawed metaphor.  Let me suggest the most flawed element is that, in reality, dancing doesn’t have to be for everyone.  However, movement IS for everyone.  You don’t have to include movement in your life, but I promise you will live (or even worse, NOT live) to reconsider the wisdom of that choice.

We live sedentary lives – we watch TV, we play on the interwebz, we drive around in cars.  For the first time in human history, movement is not an inevitable part of our life.  Exercise, regardless of the modality you choose, is a mandatory thing if you want to have a good quality of life.  It’s really no different than personal hygiene.  You don’t HAVE to shower.  You don’t HAVE to brush your teeth.  But you will run into problems (not the least of which will be an impaired sex life, smelly.  Seriously.  Take a shower.).

So with all the love in my heart… most of you are not metaphorically showering, and, if you are, you’re not using the right soap or you’re not doing so in an effective manner.  Some of you are even unknowingly putting the shampoo in your eyes and rubbing it in (OUCH).  I feel very passionately this isn’t your fault.  After all, the demands of the current gym business model mean owners depend on people NOT going to the gym.  This makes me want to tear my hair out.  Surely there’s got to be a business model that allows people to get the instruction they need and still allows gym owners to make ends meet.

Fuck yeah there is.  The answer is small and large group training.  This is part of why “Snatched in 6 Weeks” has been such a huge success.  It’s also why we will soon phase out most of our one-on-one training in exchange for small group training.   I won’t bore you with the specifics, but, suffice it to say, at MFF, we’re going to be following the most progressive minds in our industry.  We’re gonna make you hotter more effectively, more safely, more affordably, and with way, way, way, way more references to unicorns, ninjas, and f-bombs.

This is not a class.  The small and large group model allows for the individual attention that the class model alone doesn’t.   We will know your name.  We will know if you have an injury.  We will ask about your day at work because we actually know you and we actually care about YOU as a person.  We don’t want you zoning out with your ipod; mindlessly plodding away on the treadmill.  We want to be your health and hotness concierges.

Yes, we will continue to do occasional outdoor classes with a ton of people, cuz, let’s be honest, it’s totally fun.  And that ain’t a bad thing! But that model can NEVER be the bed rock of a smart, effective, and safe training program.

um… yeah,
I gotta be honest, people who take class with me are rarely beaming like this mid class.
Unless they’re laughing at inappropriate jokes.

We will also keep our prices affordable because NYC is expensive.  And we know what it’s like to not be able to join a gym because you can barely pay rent.  I could easily charge 200 dollars a session.  I train folks in midtown Manhattan, and that’s not an unheard of fee for the caliber of training I provide.  And certainly, we are still happy to offer this to folks with that type of discretionary income.  If one-on-one is your personal preference; if you work hard and make the type of money that allows you to afford that type of service, then we will still be more than happy to provide!

But for folks that don’t have that type of income, we are going to provide all the benefits of individualized program design that’s tailored to each person’s particular goals, needs, injury history, etc. in the small group setting.  This will allow us to offer you all the benefits of top-notch coaching on technique, accountability, motivation, and high fives for a price that will still allow you to take your girlfriend out to dinner.  A dinner full of delicious, lean proteins and veggies.

You only get one body.  The life of the average American has changed, kids.  You NEED to make movement a part of your life.  And at this point, I’m prepared to say I strongly believe much of the fitness industry has failed to answer the needs of our society.  We can do better.  We WILL do better. You know why?  Cuz you deserve it.  You deserve to have a good quality of life as you age.  You deserve to be able to play pick-up basketball on a whim without straining your hamstring.  You deserve to be able to go into beach season feeling confident about wearing a bikini.  Most importantly, you deserve to experience your birthright as a human: movement.

For those who are currently working with us, thanks for trusting us with your body!  We promise we will always do anything and everything to honor that by staying at the cutting edge of human movement science and educating our asses off.  For those who haven’t yet taken the MFF plunge, we hope we’ll get the pleasure of showing you your inner fitness ninja soon!  If you have questions about anything related to training, nutrition, or our ever expanding services, shoot as an email at tellmemore@wordpress-562750-2570978.cloudwaysapps.com.  You’re totally swell.  And I’m gonna make out with each and every one of you.  (Except you mom.  But I’ll totally give you a hug just cause I love you, and I don’t get to see you enough.)


Let’s get to know each other and see how we can help you!

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