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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”.


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!

Celeb Endorsements Gone Wrong

Over the years, big brands have used celebs to rep their products to boost sales. Occasionally, there is a quality product behind a star, but too often it’s just a paycheck. Shamefully, some stars don’t mind fibbing for a buck. I mean, did Snooki really believe that her six-cookies-a-day diet was a quality solution to a weight problem? How could someone feel good about endorsing that? And shame on anyone who would rely on a Jersey Shore reality star for diet advice. Really people? How about Kim Kardashian endorsing Shape Ups, the shoe that claims to tone the glutes and legs? Kim was already known for her unusually large derriere before she even heard of Shape-Ups. Also, why wouldn’t Shape Ups actually choose an athlete or someone with a super fit body to represent their brand? It seems to me both parties sold out on this one. Even after a study by the American Counsel of Exercise found that wearing Shape-Ups won’t burn more calories or improve muscle tone any more than wearing regular running shoes will, sadly, people keep buying them and celebrities will keep endorsing them. Ut Oh Spaghettios! I guess Kirstie Alley‘s role as Jenny Craig spokesmodel was so lucrative  she decided to create her own diet plan and keep all the earnings to herself. However, that backfired in a big way when she was sued for making false claims, including deceptive before and after photos and the claim her product helped her lose 100lbs. Reportedly, what really worked for her was good old-fashioned exercise and a low-calorie meal plan, but you can’t sell that as easily I guess. Charles Barkley is another endorsement gone wrong. He didn’t realize the cameras were on when he said “I thought this was the greatest scam going — getting paid for watching sports,” Barkley said. “This Weight Watchers thing is a bigger scam.” I realize it was misinterpreted, and that he didn’t mean it the way it was taken, but both brands and celebs must be careful about what they say and do because people are watching. NutriSystem and Weight Watchers are two of my favorite diet brands, but how many times have we watched a celebrity lead people in the wrong direction – mistake or not? And in many cases, it’s not that the product is the scam, but a specific claim by an endorser that’s the scam. Then the entire character of the whole brand is questioned.

Sellouts Aren’t Selling 

I believe we are entering a whole new world of endorsements and marketing. Big brands are beginning to smarten up and use real people who really love their brand already to build a quality customer base. They’re trading celebrities for fitness leaders, and the girl next door (like me, sporting my LiveWell 360 Luxx workout bag), that people can trust – and I don’t know about you, but it’s refreshing! A huge leader in this concept is FitFluential, an insanely fast growing company that has many hats, but one is matching quality brands with quality fitness leaders. The thing I love most about being a FitFluential Ambassador is we are encouraged to only work with companies we TRULY believe in, so our followers can continue to rely on us for valuable HONEST direction. No sellouts! The end result is success on all levels. I’m not forced to write a raving review on a crummy product (thank goodness!). You will always be able to trust my content, as always, and every brand I endorse. And, all my affiliated brands will have more happy customers because their customers will have realistic expectations of their product and knowledgeable guidance on how to use their product correctly so they get the results they were hoping for. What a concept! What an honest, knowledgeable, genuine, trustworthy concept!

Some of My Favorite Brands:

  • Reebok – was the very first brand to fit me for shoes & build a relationship with me locally. That was just the beginning.
  • Chobani – sent me generous gift as a thank you for sharing my love for their yogurt with fans.
  • Designer Whey – goes above and beyond when it comes sharing their whey love and helping their customers get results.
  • Gymboss – sent me an interval timer to try, knowing I’d love it and it would come back 10 fold – and it did.
  • Sears – is dedicated to providing quality fitness content so their customers get the guidance they need after the sell.
  • Perky Jerky – has provided gifts for our members and interacts with their fans like all brands should.
  • DA Active – believes word of mouth is the most valuable advertisement.
  • GNC – invests in quality fitness leaders who use their products to deliver quality content & advice to their customers.
  • LoseIt – let me try their new beta version of their premium LoseIt app before it came out.
  • Spira – Thanked me with always providing me with new shoes after I helped boost sales locally after I got by first pair.

More Past or Current Brands…

READ PART 2: 8 Tips to Not Get Tricked.

Here’s a funny video by GiGi Eats Celebrities – had to add it!


Are You a Fitness TURN OFF or TURN ON?

You live healthy, you exercise and eat right – and you want to make a difference in the lives around you. You are a fitness ambassador – a representative of healthy living. But, are you effective? How do others view fitness through you? Are you a turn-off or a turn-on?

If you’re like me, you want fitness to become contagious. However, that is not accomplished by preaching to everyone around you, telling people they are fat, and telling them how awful their food choices are. With fitness, there is a right way, and a wrong way, to spread the healthy love.

Let’s look at someone else who also has a message to spread: a preacher. What preacher do you think is the most effective? The guy who waves his bible at everyone on the street corner telling people they are going to hell or the guy who simply lives by example and shares his message though his actions not his words? Both of them have the same message, but one is going to be a lot more effective. The question is: Which one are you?

6 Steps to Becoming an Effective Fitness Ambassador

We need to look at our area of influence and our effectiveness. If you have lost weight, or just live a healthy lifestyle, you have the opportunity to impact those around you – for the good OR the bad. Either way, people are watching you. It’s important you realize your responsibility and the opportunity you have to encourage others, as well as the risk you have to discourage others around you if you go about it the wrong way. Here are 5 tips to making your influence a positive one.

1. Less is more. You will make a bigger impact on people around you with your actions, not your words. Talking about fitness and diet all day is a big turn-off. Aside from my blogs and tips, I try not to start conversation about fitness. People know they can come to me if they want to talk about it, but I never want people to think that hanging out with Bonnie means talking about diet and exercise – that could get old quick.

2. Be sensitive. If you have a friend who struggles with their weight, you just being ‘you’ is already a reminder that they need to get healthy and fit. Your actions will speak loud and clear. The last thing you need to do is tell them what they should be doing or announce how many calories are in their meal while dining out. Although you may want to convince them to take action – the only action they may take is running away from you.

3. Be real. No one likes to be around someone who acts like they have it all together. Don’t try to act like a rockstar or constantly brag about your new PR (personal record) to your unfit friends. They don’t want to hear it. Instead, on the days you struggle, share it. Be honest with your own fitness journey – not just highlight your awesomeness. By exposing your own weaknesses, you will give others around you hope and encouragement.

4. Love them where they are. One of my friends who was 100lbs overweight once told someone that we made her feel comfortable. As a fitness leader, that was one of the biggest compliments I had ever received. I believe you actually have to go out of your way to even be more loving and sensitive to those who maybe insecure or overweight. Often times their first thought of anyone who works out is that they are self-absorbed  or vain. It’s your job to prove them wrong – by loving them where they are.

5. Invite them in. Many unfit people feel like outsiders because they live outside your life and you forgot to invite them in. This is one of the trickiest things for me as a gym owner. People always say “Oh, you should give her a free pass” and then I often don’t do it because I don’t want her to think I’m implying she’s fat and needs to join my gym. However, in comparison to church, I’m surprised how many people will say stuff like “no one ever invited me”. Wow! Can you imagine? Someone out there is ready to go if someone just would invite them? Now, here’s a warning: Invite them occasionally, but don’t stalk them. If they agree to show up and they flake out on you, don’t make them feel bad about it. The key to a really good invitation is being able to let them off the hook if they say no. Otherwise your invitation becomes more like a prison sentence.

6. Never give up. We all know people who have taken YEARS to reach. Whether it’s getting them to church or the gym, people are always worth investing in. This doesn’t mean you wear yourself out trying to fix them, but you should never quit planting little seeds and making sure they know you will be there for them when they are ready.

Don’t hoard your fitness – Share it! You may be the ONLY person who cares enough to help those around you. Your impact on someone can be greater than even some of the biggest fitness celebrities. YOU can play your part to help America get fit and fight obesity.

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