Friend or Faux
By David Landau
One of the most superficial of all “work” related relationships (if you could call it that) in the United States today involves most of the phonies that exist in the world of the personal training industry. It is likely amongst the most frivolous of all endeavors that has ever existed. Mediocrity reigns supreme in this “profession” and rears its ugly head to present itself front and center. This travesty survives as a result of the fact that this so called “career group” lacks solid foundational principles. Standing on top of many false traditions, this trade (if you might) is by and large driven by an anything goes agenda. Much of this is then based on what’s in or new according in the fitness culture at large. Without a thorough understanding of the bottom line, fitness platitudes are accepted if so simply at the drop of a hat. But, if the foundations are wrong in any industry, the byproducts won’t hold up either. So we have a “whatever it is, it’s ok” fitness arena that trends away from the authentic discipline that it should convey. As a consequence of this misfortune, it is often seen perpetrated with childishly unprofessional behaviors to match with their fitness fashion industry career. Think not?
Just visit any studio or gym and you will observe the example of the total laxity of the situation described. This chillingly represents the majority of the “so called training” that is performed on the scene today, including that of which that is seen in Professional Sports. In a token glance of the proceedings, everything can be seen from the unprofessional attire they wear to the exemplary signs of complete boredom. In a vast majority of cases there is evidence of even a total pretense filled interaction. As an example, this “training” then entails more bark than bite, in that nondescript and unrelated conversational interactions dominate the “program” itself. Proper physical training in essence does not involve yesterday’s ball game, silly gossip, the stock market, or the latest plastic surgery exhibited by a Hollywood star. But by and large, this has to be delivered by these derelicts in order to fill the per hour relationship that has long been traditionally established. So it is not uncommon to see that this becomes a “per hour” ritual that is comprised primarily of the “whispering of sweet nothings, “with an additional smattering of haphazard instruction. From experience and observation, these two aspects are prevalent in a vast majority personal training sessions seen, regardless of the so called “specialty” of the trainer. It becomes a total masquerading of a potentially great professional service. So it remains the rule that these practitioners at large engage in inappropriate behavior, and exceptions to this are rare and fleeting at best.
Again, it’s an “everything is ok” industry as exhibited by the plethora of choices that helps render it that way. Their variety of fitness friendly exertions is there in order to keep their “business relationship” going. As a consequence, they’ll mix all these things up and turn exercise into skillful entertainment. What is disguised as exercise often becomes an exercise in futility for the many followers. Many times it seen to be slave-like, as no matter how ridiculous and inane the physical activity, the trainee will be damned to perform it or else? In spite of the outcome, the ever so clever trainer will always be there to greet you with that pretentious smile, knowing full well that at the end of this charade; there will be a nice little pay day.
Due to this overwhelming and prevalent superficiality; it might be appropriately renamed “rent a friend. But trust me; these people are anything but your friend. It is more like rent a wreck. But, thank goodness this aspect of friend rental has its entrepreneurship already covered. There exists many websites available for you to find that “special” friend granted you have a fistful of your dollars to cover those “needs.” One click of a computer key and presto, an instant friend will come a knocking at your door.
Rationally, Aristotle referred to friends as those individuals that share the same good and virtuous values. But, the chances of finding these qualities in mainstream personal training, are slim and none; in other words you’re rarely if ever are going to find it. The reason why this is true is that the two objectives in this so called “relationship” are diametrically opposed. Quite commonly, the personal trainer’s prerogative is to go straight for the cash, while on the other end the “client” (hopefully) is looking for improved physicality and functionality. It becomes a delusional and habitual partnership at best. The result is that the trainee literally gets short changed in looking to gain those justifiable benefits they yearn for. But once this feigned “relationship” becomes routine, the bonds are hard to break. It then morphs into a favorite cocktail party conversation whereas “my trainer says this, or my trainer is better than your trainer.” But those that hire trainers have no way of discriminating from competent and incompetent. Whether their “knowledge” comes from magazines, TV, or the internet, it is likely to be misleading at best. So the choices become a crap shoot, pitting trainers in a personality contest so to speak. This exemplifies the true character or lack of therefore which of the personal training and fitness industry in a nutshell.
The True Nature of Legitimate Business
The experience and maturation of you as an individual involves relationships with many acquaintances over your lifetime. However, some may unfortunately turn quickly into your worst nightmares. But as they say, friends make bad business relationships; so don’t ever make the mistake of dealing with your close buddies. With this aside, in a true business association the appropriate bottom line objective is to put your clientele in position to win. It is then “fitting” to receive a return for your efforts.
Commerce involves the trade of valuable services and goods for human wants and needs. This requires a certain understanding of the model of merit. Back in days gone by, the success of a product depended upon the fact that the company stood behind its quality. The true successful manufacturer recognized the importance of this value without taking shortcuts. This was accepted as the standard of excellence, whereas traders could actively and confidently engage in value based judgments. With this in mind, people sought out these desirable principles of excellence and dependability in all industries. Goods and services then gained confidence with clients and it was a bit easier back then to spot a swindler amongst the pack. What is not so obvious today, is that the wide range media effect creates the illusion of the nothing fails like the appearance of success. “Consumers” are then unfortunately bombarded with smiling pretenders that are ready to bilk them of their hard earned dollars.
One of the primary differences between the legitimate entrepreneur and the swindler is hidden. This is the fact that the con artist literally rides that “magic carpet ride” that has been previously introduced by the valid businessman. Therefore it is true that many charlatans conveniently follow the footsteps set forth by those pioneers that have taken the courageous risks with their money and lives on the line. The doors are then quickly open by the smell of the money made and it then becomes easy for many scam artists to advertise their quick fix “bill of goods.” Thus, they can then concoct their fast buck schemes. The differences should be obvious between the honest industrialist and the cunning conniver, but they become lost in the numbers game. The best advice to be had is if it’s made to sound like it’s too good to be true, it isn’t. Once more, these crooks would be lost without the legitimate foundations built by their counterparts; the true entrepreneur. Again in order for these fakers to become filthy rich, they dog rush into industries where others have wedged the painstaking groundwork. Industries therefore become convoluted with watered down and counterfeit services and goods. To further clarify this culturally imbedded foundational flaw, someone once said, “Money is not a goal, it’s a tool.” Someone else said, “Money is only a tool. It will take you wherever you wish, but it will not replace you as the driver.” Again, the only real weapon against exchanging money for a lie involves the individual’s awareness of the concept of caveat emptor, or “buyer beware. “ Many others will mean well, but one can add to this the fact that the road to Hell was paved with good intentions. As a result, the consumer will often be caught up in a cultural trap. We can obviously see these same ironic parallels in the industry of illusions; personal training.
The New Age of Personal Training
The “new” times have roared in with the new and alluring industry of personal training. There are approximately over 400,000 + certified trainers throughout the United States with several thousand certifying agencies to boot. But the situation runs amuck when usually in all cases, valid certifications become scarce as hen’s teeth. When the bona fide question arises; who certifies the certifiers, it is often minimized to the motto “those that know better.” The not so obvious answer at face value is that they are at best certifiably insane. To start with and just as in formal education, mostly all of these upstart certifications emphasize the process of rote learning. Rote learning in fitness merely means the repetitive memorization of the latest in the culture driven “cutting edge” approaches in physical fitness. To “authenticate” such certifications and to make it more palatable and formidable, the manuals involved in this so called education are conveniently sprinkled with watered down physiology. The instruction manuals are then cleverly contrived with fables about the vague concept of “wellness.” (The fact is the receiver of the cash ends up well) Wellness simply passes as the foundation of these looters’ convoluted lingo. With this unfortunately established, the passing of these end tests merely takes a great deal of the anal retentiveness of the fantasies entailed. (Examples of these are prevalent in other chapters.)
The prerequisite at this juncture is that you are commanded to learn at face value and not to question “authority.” Critical thought is then conveniently shelved, as you are there to be trained their way or the highway. This sets up what amounts to be a “garbage in, garbage out” predicament for all involved. Certainly this fact becomes obscured, when those that become “certified,” simply fall in with and consequently tag along with the rest of the industry of their like minds. The standard then becomes one of certified and insured, which in a way may be great for the postal industry, but allows for a mongrel of an undesirable type. These novitiates then follow anything new on the "scene" and show an ever wanting obsession to keep up with it due to its popularity and the ride to the quick cash. This exemplifies what is known as the cultural code of incompetence.
The majority rules factor once again rears its ugly head. This “up to date” industry opens the doors for trainers and allows for such benign choices as personal stretching coaches, Pilates Princess’s, balance cultists, body "sculptures," Curves cronies, and whatever direction this Dog and Pony industry allures them into. To paraphrase a quote: Almost everything I've done, I've done through my own creativity. I don't think I ever had to listen to anyone else to learn how to exercise. I wish I could say that for about 400 thousand other trainers. Fraught with many seeking capital and commercial gains, the field of personal exercise training today is again a proverbial crap shoot.
To clear this up a bit and in order for this to be a truly professional service, the personal training industry is one that requires 100 percent attention to detail and theory. But with hardly any legitimate systems and foundations to rely on, the vast majority of "trainers" will continue to clearly provide improvised and spontaneous routines. Millions of hours are wasted as a result of this mess. A theory is clearly required, but is often ignored. The vast majority of trainers today represent the fact that a valid premise is unnecessary. A prime example of this is to try to drive randomly to a location or vacation spot that you have never visited without a map. Well, that is akin to what Personal Training has become, a virtual maze without a valid plan.
A plan is a theory that requires the reliable and exact charting/tracking of sound one to one exercise programs. This takes into consideration an individualized strategy and procedure to provide the trainee with the necessary actions to procure the best condition possible. Vital as this may be, the use of such codes of this professional behavior is thought of by many trainers as unnecessary, time consuming, and archaic. This is again mostly due to the “current” dominating trends that don’t requires these valid procedures. In all aspects of this “trade,” the opposite of their approach often exhibits the truth. Their purpose is seriously worse than inappropriate! Think not! A perfect illustration of this point is trying to hire an accountant that shuns your personal records while relying on simple recollection. Moreover, when is the last time you saw your dentist without the accurate charting of your dental history and problems? The answer will be obvious. But when the majority of the aforementioned rules fitness, the anything goes creativity will conveniently rear its ugly head. Unfortunately it then disguises the logical approaches to "personal" exercise instruction. As a result of this consequence, it can be said that many "exercise trainers" are merely leading people into a “poor man’s” mode of adult recess and recreation.
Someone recently said that after seeing the inane approaches of these certified, insured, and qualified trainers, “Based on what I have seen I have decided to forego my career as a “personal trainer.” How sad but true this really is. Proper exercise training can be found, buts its availability to the unaware consumer is like looking for the proverbial golden needle in the haystack. History tells us a different story however.
The phenomena of physical training systems are nothing new, as instructors of Physical Culture have existed throughout the centuries. However, physical training was formally defined and well thought out from very early on. The 19th century was a prime example of this. It was an era where physical training was by and large administered by people with a formal Medical background. It was indeed a renaissance age of truly higher education, as compared to the stultified and nationalized educational systems seen today. However the case may be, a brief glance at history indicates that proper training truly got its start in the early 19th century in Sweden. This is where the great physiologist Pehr Ling designed individual exercise applications of inter-personal anatomical manual resistance. This is very well documented in exercise history and at the time when sorely needed, allowed for patients and trainees the benefit of legitimate exercise and rehabilitation. Exercise trainers were labeled as Gymnasts, as exercise stemmed from what is known today as the sport of Gymnastics. These were constituted from Ling as the Swedish Gymnastic systems of exercise. His Exercise Protocols were then broken up into different specialties. There were Military Gymnastics, Educational Gymnastics, and Medical Gymnastics. These brands if you might were self explanatory by their name, as they were separated into each sub area of expertise.
As a result of this great break through, paid professional training then became the vogue in the mid 19th century by way of the demand of fancy spas, gymnasiums, and Health Sanatoriums. This is where Gymnastic trainers used mostly Medical Gymnastics via the Ling technique (anatomically applied manual resistance) to their monetary advantage and deservedly so. These were trainers that clearly earned every cent of their dollars. (Imagine applying manual resistance on every client, without the use of mechanical or weight apparatus.) This eventually led to the advent of the Gymnastic/Callisthenic Polymachinon by Captain Chiosso, (1st recognized pulley machine) the Zander apparatus, (1st recognized variable resistance machine) and Dr. Dudley Sargent's pulley apparatus (an American breakthrough). A fascinating look back and study of these systems showed fairly and clearly that these were men way ahead of their time. (See Real Life Movements) These mechanical systems replaced the costly one to one gymnast, albeit unfortunately temporarily. Of these gentlemen, there were legitimate attempts by the legendary physical trainer and professor, Dudley Sargent to attempt to train the masses. Sargent went above and beyond by exact charting of all that participated. Many examples then spawned into private one to one exercise training. They ranged from the efforts of the father of physical culture Bernarr MacFadden, to the great Eugen Sandow. Believe it or not, their fees reached fifty dollars per "curing" session, as again the therapeutic medical aspect was instilled to help to alleviate symptoms of debilitating disease. One man forged from their efforts just after the turn of the 20th century, the pinnacle of the ideal trainer; his name was Albert Treloar (born Albert Toof Jennings)
There were many classic examples of concerned crusaders of physical training that could be made example of, but Albert Treloar's credentials and systematic training routines as a case in point were far superior to many that appear today. The athletic and perfectly proportioned Treloar first won acclaim to fame by winning what was known as The Most Perfectly Developed Man in the World Contest in 1903, in the process pocketing $500.00. Formerly a physical director at the St. Paul Athletic Club and Assistant Director at the Harvard School of Gymnastics, Albert was a natural born trainer. Again, besides technical expertise, one had to have a medical degree to achieve the positions of such. Albert was no exception, being a Harvard grad and trained under the direction again with the legendary Dr. Dudley Allen Sargent. Treloar not only taught private training, but wrote the book called Treloar's Science of Muscular Development. Assisted by his wife Edna Tempest, the book depicted many dumbbell and free hand exercises used to this very day. Complete chapters were written on sports training and anatomical movements that would make today's Pilates look like kindergarten recess. Treloar himself was a terrific athlete who excelled in acrobats, was an excellent oarsman, an elite artist/sculpture's model, wrestler, boxer, tumbler, and hand balancer. His vaudeville performances as a Strongman were nothing short of spectacular. Adding the element of physical culture to all this and no wonder he passionately wrote a book far ahead of its time. This book covered all the bases of strength training and left no stone unturned. His passion continued with him as he gained status as Physical Director at the Los Angeles Athletic Club and continued at this position for a period of 42 years without burnout. At the "young" age of 84, he continued his prowess on TV, by juggling two 56lb. Kettlebells as if they were made from chunks of Styrofoam. Strong and intelligent as he was, Treloar knew at this time that Kettlebells were merely a demonstration of strength, and not a valid training system as it appears today. (See Kettlebells Chapter)
It is imperative and important to understand the history of the iron game. By and large, honesty and integrity in training procedures did exist more often than not. Albert Treloar was a true Ironman. He lived in the truth behind physical training in a time where straightforwardness preempted profit.
Recreation, leisure, and sports are again about personal choice. But, if you decide on personal training, chances are that you’ll end up with an overpriced adult baby sitter. “Fittingly,” most of these players at best might be labeled as training chaperones. Although personal exercise training has emerged again, it has sadly turned into no more than a “free for all.” To sum up the situation, the chances are that a vast majority will not understand that “the only lesson history has taught us is that man has not yet learned anything from history." I might add, or do they even care?
© 2010 David Landau