Cash back on your back fat!

One of the issues with exercise research I’ve had trouble resolving is that while I find the work investigating the science of adaptations to exercise fascinating, there always seems to be an issue with the human ‘factors’ that we can’t solve. With the staggering rate of obesity, ways to motivate people to get moving are obviously of interest, seeing that our own intrinsic motivation to improve our health isn’t cutting it (at least for most of us).

Do financial penalties improve client attendance?

After reading the book Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely (1), I wrote a post on how I think charging for missed sessions could ultimately reduce exercise adherence. I drew heavily on a study that demonstrated the differences between social and financial norms, where, in a daycare setting, the sense of social obligation to pick kids up on time trumped a newly introduced monetary fine for late pickups. When the fine was introduced, they switched from a social to a market norm and late pickups skyrocketed as parents no longer felt the sense of social obligation (guilt) to be on time.

When applied to the fitness world, I focused on the trainer-client dynamic and how the social obligation to attend sessions was likely of greater importance to exercise adherence than the nominal fee that trainers may charge for lost time. But how do you impact exercise adherence when there isn’t a trainer involved, when you’re just trying to get people active and in the gym on their own time?Continue Reading

Train to learn, learn to train

Personal training fosters dependence

I know there are many great trainers out there and I suspect that most of what is written here doesn’t apply to them, but looking at the traditional big-box fitness model, these are definitely the minority. In the traditional personal training model, the trainer is the ‘expert’ while the client seeks their expertise in order to achieve their goal. The client, in my mind, is often a passive observer who shows up on time (hopefully) and is put through the usual paces. The trainer is the drill sergeant, there to push the client through a pointless circuit of burpees, bicep curls and the standard machine circuit that infests most commercial gyms. If there is any kind of a long term plan to achieving goals, I consider the client lucky, but more often than not the plan for the day is made up on the fly, or in the five minutes before the session starts.

Is this lack of planning simply an oversight or disorganization on the trainer’s part? Sure life happens, maybe they have too many clients, are getting divorced, there’s a litany of explanations that are just lame excuses for such a fundamental oversight. But what if this lack of transparency is actually the business model, a system that intentionally keeps the client in the dark so they grow dependent on the trainer, so not a single weight can be lifted while not in the presence of their all-knowing weight-trianing guru? Seems a bit over the top? Maybe, but in a world where gyms keep candy at the front desk and have free pizza and bagel days, I don’t think I’m that wrong to be a bit jaded when questioning whether the fitness industry actually has our best interests at heart.Continue Reading

An apple a day…

A recent post by Lou Schuler on the future of the fitness industry and my recent purchase of an iPad2 got me thinking about parallels between the technology and fitness industries. The release of the iPad brought the tablet computer from an obscure segment of the PC market to the front of the pack, selling faster than electronics stores could keep them on the shelves. Apple’s rivals (Samsung, HP) quickly followed suit and upped the ante with a slew of similar offerings to compete with this new piece of must-have technology. As any anti-apple, PC purist will be quick to tell you, many of the non-apple tablets boasted superior specifications: faster processors, more ram, better battery life, bigger (or smaller) screens, higher resolutions, operating systems free of strict development criteria and so on. Did any of this worry Apple CEO Steve Jobs or affect iPad sales? Did Apple quickly redesign the iPad and cram as many pieces of metal and silicon behind that beautiful glass screen as they could? No. Steve Jobs held steadfast in his commitment to the model; the tablet buyer wasn’t interested in the fastest computer with the greatest specs, just the best experience. Jobs knew what consumers were looking for: a tablet that would do what they wanted, when they wanted, and look damn good doing it.Continue Reading

Bastardization of the 10000 hour rule

If you haven’t heard of Malcolm Gladwell, hit amazon, buy his books, read them then come back. Don’t worry, I can wait.  Gladwell, best known for his ability to weave what could be normally construed as mundane or boring topics with top notch storytelling, brought forward the idea that it takes approximately 10000 hours of solid practice to become an ‘expert’ at whatever task/field you would like (1). The idea itself is not unique to Gladwell, originally formulated by K. Anders Ericsson in the 90s following the study of high level musicians (2), where expertise was more of a case of extreme skill acquisition as opposed to a natural gift (read: lots of practice, not natural ability).

Of course this idea caught on in the fitness industry like wild fire, quickly propagating from blog to blog. Human nature leads us to love concrete ideas, and while the number is large, everyone loves knowing that by simply doing what you do for 10000 hours (roughly five years if you do 40 hours a week) you’ll be an expert. So anyone who has gone through a personal training course would know this as a S.M.A.R.T. goal, everything we’ve been told to look for. It’s specific, easily measured, attainable, realistic, and will only take you five years moving through your clients on cruise control (timely). Better yet, we now have access to more books that can tell us how to beat the 10000 hour rule, achieving success faster than ever before.Continue Reading

No-show fees, guilt & exercise adherence

If you’ve read the book ‘Predicatably Irrational’ by Dan Ariely (if you haven’t I strongly recommend it) (1), you’ll remember a chapter where he discusses monetization of social relationships. Besides mentioning incredibly awkward examples, like offering your mother-in-law cash for cooking a Thanksgiving dinner, he describes a study involving Israeli daycare centres that were frustrated by parents who were constantly late to pick up their children (2). Obviously this was a great inconvenience to the staff, as it made them late for their own obligations, so to combat the time-challenged parents, they instituted a fee for any late pickup to motivate the time-challenged parents to be on time. Unfortunately for the daycare workers, the fee which was intended to motivate the chronically late parents to be on time did the exact opposite, and even more parents were late to pick up their children.Continue Reading

Get an evidence-based inbox

Time for a new gym!

I’ve been stuck training out of standard commercial gyms for most of my life. While the training environment is obviously less than ideal and full of distractions, I think it’s also beneficial as it trains you to refine your focus and create intensity purely by yourself. So take a look below to see a comparison between what’s on the walls at a gym that produces some of the best lifters around (EliteFTS) and what I see on the change-room wall at my now ex-commercial gym (above).

That being said, having seen the picture above posted in the changeroom wall pretty much signalled it was time to move on. I’m all for looking to provide alternate revenue streams when running a business and selling in-gym ad space seems like a great idea, but you need to filter what you’re putting in there to reflect the values of your business, don’t just chase the dollars. There’s just something about a fluffy cat in a knitted sweater that kills the intensity, am I wrong? Either way, fortunately my new house is in a different area of town and I will be at another gym that I’ve heard great things about. I probably should have been driving there all this time anyway.

Or I could just destroy the savings account at EliteFTS, lower my basement a foot or two and build the ultimate home gym. Tempting…