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Personal Training: When Will the Fitness Industry Grow Up?


Every year I attend the IHRSA trade show. I am at the same time excited and yet scared for the industry I love. On one end I see manufacturers creating entertainment features for members to engage more in their exercise routines. I see vendors with creative resistance and movement tools to assist in increasing ROM for clients. On the other hand, I see programming that does not promote scientific principles or flies in the face of it, all the while promising clubs they will attract members and make money. I see vendors more interested in making a sale than selling something that actually might get club members results. I see supplements and services being sold that promise weight loss, not through proper nutrition or exercise, but instead through questionable supplementation.

So it begs the question: when will the industry grow up, find a unifying voice, and speak out against these idiotic concepts? For example, recently The Biggest Loser has drawn criticism for the amount of weight loss their winner experienced. Rachel Frederickson lost 59.62 percent of her initial weight within five months. In any health club, most trainers would get help for their client for a eating disorder, yet I have yet to hear one leading fitness certification, health club organization or personal training certification come out with a statement that condemns that type of weight loss. Also, I see no unified voice for science that comes out and calls out these infomercial weight loss and exercise programs for harmful training programs and unscientific nutritional programming.

Now believe me when I say I begrudge no one from making a living and selling their product, but when their product becomes more detrimental than beneficial, I believe that the fitness industry needs to take a stand or we all may suffer the consequences. We in the industry fail to see that when someone in our business puts out a product or service like this, it reflects on all of us. A member may look for the idiotic product in another club when they travel. A new client tells their new trainer that their old trainer insisted they did only cardio to lose weight. A new exerciser takes a CrossFit class one time and hurts themselves, because they were not ready for a class like that, yet no one stopped them from participating. I can go on and on for hours about anecdotal incidents that illustrate the point. But the fact is it makes our industry look like a group of money-hungry morons that latch onto the latest fad. When in fact I believe we are the opposite, an industry that looks to make mankind better through engaging in a fundamental human need: exercise.


Vic Spatola is the Director of Personal Training for Greenwood Athletic and Tennis Club in Greenwood Village, Colorado, a suburb of Denver. Contact him at vics@greenwoodatc.com.

Rachel Zabonick-Chonko

Rachel Zabonick-Chonko is the editor-in-chief of Club Solutions Magazine. She can be reached at rachel@peakemedia.com.

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  1. Robert Francis March 21, 2014

    It will never end. In fact it will get worse just as it has worsened since I got into this field in the middle 70’s. since even before the snake oil salesmen of the civil war era “health” has been the “…open sesame to the suckers wallet”-actual often used quote of 1century fraudsters. Today people cannot distinguish the fraudsters. Dr.Oz goes on promoting quack cures and phoney fitness and diet advice and the consumer is not able to see through the scam. Oprah gave him credentials and he defrauds millions per year from a public who have trust in him. When will it end? Never.

  2. scott March 27, 2014

    People,heres a little bulletin: a vast majority of the most successful clubs/fitness chains,are run by business/marketing professionals,who have little or no background in fitness fact. The trends that began out of panic and desperation,roughly around the recession of 2007/08,spread like wildfire in the following years,and coincidentally,played right into the industry’s fatigue (selling) factor that had been setting in for years before that time,regarding the dark truth that proper strength training was always a real tough sell in terms of member retention;so,as alternative training began to give rise to the emergence of the now famous fitness movements like core+functional training and kettlebells,an explosion of sorts would be witnessed,paving the way for business opportunities that basically went into hyperdrive. And when business savvy people catch a whiff of projected business trends,it sets the stage for a volatile mix of relatively low cost/high ROI ventures on a massive scale. The floodgates come crashing open,and what happens next is,….what usually happens in the most capitalistic society on earth,the principles of adhering to/practicing/consistently applying…….. great science, get CRUSHED and vaporized,in a raging war that sees a sick combination of ignorance and greed get locked in a cage and thrown in a vehicle,to then go screaming down the dollar driven highway;that “cage” can be thought of as today’s fitness rock stars like planet fitness and all the other big names and business models that brag about their K-Mart style services and quarterly statements,but employ people with fitness IQ’s that are straight out of a 3rd world country.
    Soooo,here’s my suggestion: since 90+% of the industry is dreadfully incompetent with regard to fitness fact,and maybe 10% has a decent idea of what proper exercise really is,why doesnt clubsolutionsmagazine get together a group of fitness professionals who actually know w-t-h they’re talking about,and do a story on proper fitness,instead of the same old,business as usual articles,that are really just meant to generate 2.5 mins of amusement,and then be forgotten. I dont see anything remotely interesting in the advertisements in the margin..just payin the bills I guess.
    You want to be an industry leader?,lets have a talk about the real state of the industry,and the goofballs who run it.


  3. Spartan Training® April 7, 2014

    Spartan Training® yeah that’s a registered trademark symbol #4428176 which means absolutely nothing to all the infringers ie unauthorized users, on youtube, twitter, facebook, goggle+,ect. matter of fact they get offended when it is pointed out. The fitness industry is a conglomeration of facts and myth…It is the nature of the human and as long as there is obesity, there will be people willing to buy into the myth that you can be lazy, undisciplined, eat like a glutton, take HCG and live on 500 calories a day along with taking statin blockers and prozac without side affects. The facts are the beauty of this business. Fact you can buy into all the BS you want from all the BS fitness fakes you know… but you will never understand what it is like to experience and know your own strength and feel what it actually feels like to live as healthy and strong as a Spartan.
    Hey Scott I agree with you …never…


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