My thoughts on… the state and future of the fitness industry


The fitness industry is everywhere. You’d be hardpressed to find anyone these days who hasn’t at one point joined a fitness center, or bought his/her own equipment (which was probably used just a few times before settling in a corner). Yet we are fatter than ever and diabetes is at an all-time high. What’s going on?

In this blog post, I will be nerding out on my industry: the fitness sector. Where are we and where are we heading to? What’s working and what’s not?

The past: unicorn chasingAfbeeldingsresultaat voor unicorns

Just like any industry, the fitness business makes a lot of money on selling you things you don’t need or ever use. Take the supplement industry for example. This is a billion dollar business. You can get any vitamin, mineral, oil, … for dirt prices. The marketeers are so good at this, they often sell you supplements you had never even heard of before. L-carnitine anyone? Creatine? 99% of people did not even know this existed before some sponsored athlete started talking about how much it supposedly helped them.

The actual sports providers are sometimes no different. Anyone reading this with a Basic Fit membership that’s deeply hidden in your wallet somewhere? Good motivation quickly disappears when motivation starts to fade and a new season of Game of Thrones is out.

Unfortunately for everyone looking for the quick-fix golden pill: there is no such thing. There is simply no substitute for hard, smart, consistent work. But that is something most people only find out after they tried them.

In a way, I am afraid this wave of idiocracy will always exist, but I am hoping it will disappear sooner rather than later.

The current reaction

So wAfbeeldingsresultaat voor doctor health memehat do you do when the stuff you try isn’t working? You…
a) keep trying and failing
b) stop trying and get fat
c) analyze the problem and find a solution

As you might have guessed, I am more of a fan of C. But not everyone possesses the necessary knowledge to make this work… trying and experimenting with things on your own in unguided sessions where you have no idea what to do: for most people, they lead to boredom, zero progress, and finally quitting and a waste of money.

Think about it this way: would you be your own doctor? Would you not prefer a professional to look at you, see what’s best for you and how to fix your problems? Then why wouldn’t you do this for sports, a crucial part in having a healthy life?

More and more people are understanding this and seeking professional advice in the form of a trainer or a nutritionist. The rewards come in many shapes and forms: actual results, reduced risk of injury, less boredom and less quitting.

The future

New trends seems to pop out of nowhere… Functional Fitness, CrossFit, Animal Flow, Viper, BareFoot Training, … Most of them focus on functionality and doing movements which occur in real-life situations. Most of them are guided too. People want flashy new things, not realizing the old stuff works pretty damn well. I wouldn’ understand why you would to barefoot squats on a bosu ball with a band pulling your knee out and juggling 3 balls in the air before you can even do a regular unloaded squat, but hey that’s not what I do so I won’t talk about it too much.Afbeeldingsresultaat voor dumb exercises meme

Given the frustrations in the low and mid-end settings, people are seeking (and finding) more guidance. They don’t want to have to look up a schedule anymore or how to correctly perform an excercise (YouTube can show you 100 million ways), they want a professional to show them the correct way. They also want someone to hold them responsable, so they don’t skip workouts. But not everyone can afford a personal 1-on-1 trainer. So that leads to…

Guided training in small groups.

I’m talking about the following:
– Bootcamp
– Group running classes
– CrossFit and comparable classes
– basically everything with a real instructor and a class of max 10-12 people

The industry is developing in one in which you get a trainer to guide the way! I strongly believe people are willing to invest a little more for a quality service that will actually give you the results you are after. Isn’t that what you came for?

There will always be low cost players, just like you have RyanAir, Decathlon, Aldi, … And there is nothing wrong with that, as long as you know what you are doing. Ironically, I think a well trained athlete is the best person to be in a low-budget gym: they know what they are doing and don’t need any guidance. Unlike the beginners and intermediates out there, who often need that little push in the back. They need to be shown how, why, how often, … And they need someone to follow up on them.

In this way, I believe the market will be dividing into a low-end (think Basic Fit) and a high-end (think Personal Training, CrossFit) market, where the middle players will have a hard time. Think of it this way: why would you go to a fitness center where you pay more than somewhere else and get a little guidance but still not nearly enough? More and more people are picking one of the 2 extremes.

The other thing I strongly hope for is…

The acceptance of weight training for everyone.

The data is out there. Researchers know it. Good trainers know it. There is no such thing as weights making you slow or injured if performed correctly. The benefits are astounding, yet somehow people (especially women) are somehow still afraid of suddenly waking up with enormous muscles. Hopefully, this illusion will soon disappear and the truth will become clear. For those of you who need a little more convincing, check out my old post on that here.

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor deadlift grandma

But that’s for later. In the mean time, I’ll be at my desk, restraining myself from ripping people off by claiming I found the magical cure for fat loss and cheating on people. There is no substitute for hard work.