The Rise of the Fitness Cult

Snob Alert

Fitness SnobThey may not say these exact words, but some people’s actions say….

I’m better than you.
My training is harder than yours.
My gym is cooler than yours.
I have more trophies than you.
I run faster than you.
My class is the more popular than yours.
I’m stronger, faster, better…

hans & franzI’m seeing a nasty trend in the fitness industry. It’s this new elitist mentality. I know professional athletes that are more humble than some of these people. Their puffed up heads (and bodies) make them a very easy target for office jokes. While we can all laugh at Hanz & Franz, this growing issue is no laughing matter at all. It’s serious business that deserves a serious warning.

While I might not be able to help the people who have joined whatever fitness cult they are a member of, and are in so deep they don’t even realize it, I sure as heck can help prevent new potential cult followers by warning you to not fall in this yucky trap.

Welcome! (or Not)

fitness cultWhen it comes to fitness, most of you know I often compare gyms to churches. There is a really good reason for that. Church and gym members have a very similar characteristics. Both are there to help people. Each one provides education, support, guidance and an opportunity to socialize with likeminded people. Because of this, you see a lot of changed lives, which is very powerful.

However, since both churches and gyms are made up of a bunch of humans – none of them are going to be perfect, and people will make mistakes. All it takes is a few bad apples to ruin the happy pie. These people can either INFECT the entire group (and the entire group can take on those bad traits or beliefs), or the group can AFFECT them (in a positive way) and they can remain solid and grounded.

I’s all about how the people interact with each other. Are they welcoming, do they make you feel comfortable? Do they act better than “non-members”? Do they make you want to come back? Since both churches and gyms can be very intimidating places for a newbie, it’s super important to be aware of how we may come across to the “unbeliever”.

Clueless

fitness intimidationUnfortunately, many people are under the impression they are super friendly, welcoming and comfortable to be around, but that’s because they are too comfortable in their own environment to notice how anyone is feeling or acting. My Great Dane was the same way. He had no idea how big he was so, when he wanted to visit our neighbor’s chiwawa, Nikki, he had no idea why she would freak out at the site of him. He just wanted to play, but she was scared to death of him.

With my personality, I am constantly looking at how people react after they walk in the gym. I watch how they look at our staff, at the equipment, at our trainers and even our members.  Do they look scared? Are they overweight? Do they appear uncomfortable? Is there anyone in the gym that might scare them like my Dane scared Nikki? How can I set them at ease and let them know we won’t bite?

It doesn’t matter how great your workouts are if you if you can’t make people feel comfortable. People HAVE to feel comfortable, confident, proud and successful (no matter how big or small the success) or they will never come back.

Why Can’t We All Get Along?

fitness variety

Think of various types of fitness activity as different denominations. You have powerlifting, bodybuilding, figure & physique competition training, boot camp, CrossFit, spinning, yoga, Zumba, pilates, step class, running, circuit training, TRX training, Bodylastics band training, kettlebell training, triathlon training…the list goes on and on. For some reason, people will find something they love SO much, they treat everybody else like total morons if they aren’t doing what they are doing. I guess it’s their way of trying to convince them to join their groupies, by bashing everyone else so they eventually will try it “their way”. This is where the snob-like mentality comes in. In the church, we’d say someone was acting “Holier than though” – and I’m seeing this in the fitness industry way too much.

one size fits allIf your foundational beliefs (like being active and living healthy) are the same, you are all the same team. Realize, there has to be different strokes for different folks. We are all very different, our needs are different, we are motivated by different things, we have different strengths and we need different workouts to fit our different personalities and goals.That’s why there is a church on every corner, and that’s why there are ton of gyms. Fitness is not one-size fits all.

We’re All Winners

Motivation: I am a winnerShouldn’t we be excited someone just works out? Shouldn’t we be happy that someone found something they like? The answer is YES! And the honest truth is, people should never be so narrow-minded. Thinking “your way” is the only way is legalism – and we need to break free from that. Fitness is supposed to be a healthy lifestyle – not prison. Gyms are not a country clubs for the rich, strong, fast and best. They are a place for people to make improvements and get positive support and reinforcement, not judgement.

I honestly believe this type of mentallity happens accidentally. When something changes someone’s life, they want EVERYONE to try it. Like a born-again Christian can go overboard and come across judgmental or pushy, so can a new fitness fanatic. Their heart might be in the right place, but they totally lose sight of life outside of their little world. They come across judgmental, preachy and obsessed. Then it gives the whole group, or brand they are promoting, a bad name.

Are You A Turn-Off or Turn-On?

Fitness-FreakWe need to be careful how we live fitness in our life. We may be the only fitness representative of our gym, or workout program, someone sees. It’s best to lead by example rather than with our mouth. If we live it right, people will be dying to try what we’re doing – but if we don’t, we might be a complete turn off, and people will never want to step foot near our gym.

There are SO many great fitness facilities and programs out there. Although I may personally like some more others,that doesn’t mean any of them are better – they are just different. Remember, they have one awesome thing in common; they are ALL getting people healthy and making a difference.

Quick Test:

If you are curious how you, your trainer or your gym is doing, don’t ask the members or staff – ask an outsider. If you get a lot of guests, but they don’t return – there is something wrong. OR, if members don’t bring guests, there is something wrong. It could be they know their guest won’t be comfortable. If you can make guests happy, you can make everyone happy – and really make a positive impact on your community!

Check Yourself?

Is your training a turn off or turn on?
Are your peers attracting people to fitness, or steering people away?
Do you speak a different language? Using words only “your peeps” understand?
Do wear different clothing to fit your “fitness lifestyle”, as if you live in a different country?
Do you like to show off your strength/size/flexibility/abilities, etc? If so, how do you think others respond?
Is your gym welcoming? Are your friends encouraging to newbies?
Can you remember what it was like the first day you walked in your first gym, or class?

These are just a few questions that I encourage you to ask yourself. The world of fitness is already intimidating enough, so let’s work hard to make fitness as warm and friendly as possible so we can keep making a difference!

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About Bonnie Pfiester

Fitness Columnist and Lifestyle Coach, Resident Trainer for Designer Whey, Fitness Advisor for FitStudio, powered by Sears, FitFluential Ambassador and Owner of Max Fitness Club, home of BCx Boot Camp in Vero Beach, Florida.

Posted on February 19, 2013, in Healthy Priorites, PFIT TIPS, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. This is a wonderful post. I’m really starting to think about my own habits and other people at the gym.

    • Thank you! It was a risky post for me. I didn’t want to come across like I was pointing the finger either, but I think it was a topic that needed addressing. 🙂 thanks for commenting!

    • Wow this is the coolest thing I have seen posted in a long time about fitness. I have been considering joining a gym again but really did not want another high school who’s better fitter faster club. It’s stupid and discouraging and it is horrible for a woman’s self image to think if she hasn’t lost, lifted, and toned every last inch on her body then she obviously shouldn’t be happy yet. I am so over the obsessed fitness attitude. So what if you lost a ton of weight and look great if you have a developed an unhealthy perfectionist attitude and a border line eating disorder that makes you no happier on the inside than your outside use to make you feel. Thank you!

  2. Wow. Hit the nail on the head! Thanks!

  3. This is a great reminder to not get caught up on a fitness high and look down on people. Thanks for the post, I really enjoy reading your blog. 🙂

  4. Fabulous post!!!! It is SOOO true – those of us in the fitness field have to remember we are all working together to make people healthier, happier, and living life to the fullest! I just want people moving and discovering that fitness is fun and not boring and that they can do things they never dreamed they could do.

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