As this year draws to a close, gyms in the US are starting to gear up for their “New Year’s Resolution” advertising. Which is to say that they are writing checks that their actual results can’t cash. But don’t worry, when their promises turn out to be not worth the annoying postcards they’re printed on, they’ll blame you for failing, and try to sell you the same thing again next year.
Gyms will promise almost anything to get you in the door – weight loss, a certain look (“long, lean muscles”, “sculpted muscles” etc.) But they can’t provide a single study that shows that more than a tiny fraction of people achieve these results, let alone maintain them long-term.
If gyms were honest, I think they would say something like this:
Thanks for considering joining our gym. We want to tell you up front that we can’t guarantee anything, and any gym that says they can is trying to take advantage of you. Our bodies – including their size, shape, the type of muscle we build, health, abilities, and athletic potential – are complex and influenced by a number of factors, many of which are out of our control.
Evidence suggests that exercise is a good way to help increase our odds for health (which is not an obligation, a barometer of worthiness, or guaranteed under any circumstances.) Exercise is always optional, and if you’re just starting out, or starting over, that’s great. Remember that, regardless, there’s no need to go too hard too fast – unless you want to be the fittest person in traction. Besides, the research shows that even a little bit of movement can be beneficial and most of the benefits of movement can be gained from about 30 minutes of movement about 5 times a week. And it can be any movement, it can even be broken up into smaller bits.
We know that the research shows that internal motivation works better than external motivation, and that the first step to deciding how you want to take care of your body is realizing that your body is worthy of care, so you won’t find any body shaming trainers or messages here. We recommend that you find some movement that you really enjoy at a time that is as easy as possible for you to make.
That’s what I think gyms should say if they were telling the truth. If they were really trying to do the best thing I think they’d also say:
You’ll notice that our gym has instructors, trainers, and pictures with positive images of people of all sizes, because of course “fitness” and “health” are not a body size. You are not a “before” picture and there is no “after” picture, there’s just “during” and we’re glad that you are here.
Regardless, if you’re contemplating joining a gym (or any fitness center) remember that they work for you, you do not work for them. Your goals are what is important here, not what goals they might want you to have. You have ever right to approach your movement using Size Acceptance and Health at Every Size, and to find a gym and fitness professionals who will support you in that.
Like this blog? Here’s more cool stuff:
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Book and Dance Class Sale! I’m on a journey to complete an IRONMAN triathlon, and I’m having a sale on all my books, DVDs, and digital downloads to help pay for it. You get books and dance classes, I get spandex clothes and bike parts. Everybody wins! If you want, you can check it out here!