I do my best to maintain a positive disposition, but every once in a while I get irked. One of the biggest sources of my frustration in the health and fitness world comes from those who mislead the public with harmful lies and gimmicks.
Achieving your fitness goals takes time, effort and persistence. It’s a lifelong endeavour, and anyone who says otherwise is full of it. In that spirit, I’m calling out these offending trends of 2022 – and hoping we don’t see them again in the year ahead.
I have a theory that TikTok – the wildly popular video-sharing app owned in part by the Chinese government – is in fact a psychological weapon of mass destruction. Its sole purpose is to turn users into vapid dancing clowns who crave attention above all else, thus leading to the cultural, intellectual and economical collapse of modern society.
Of course I’m kidding around … but only partially. How else can you explain the rise in popularity of so-called influencers? Why is it that nowadays a fitness pro’s social media following carries more clout than their actual knowledge and experience? When did we in the fitness industry collectively decide that participating in viral challenges is more important than actually working with people in the gym? Who is benefiting from all of this idiotic content?
Earlier in the year, I reached out to a literary agency with an idea for a book about fitness. I was told straight up that I need to first build a more sizable social-media following or else no publisher will even consider my pitch. This is the sorry state of the world we’ve created – expertise is now irrelevant, image and algorithms are everything. Unfortunately, it’s those who need help the most that pay the price; rather than finding quality coaching, well-meaning people are being duped into following the advice of misguided hacks, most of whom are barely old enough to vote.
The Liver King
Lest I be accused of harbouring a crusty old Clint Eastwood-style grudge against “kids these days,” it should be pointed out that one of the most popular fitness influencers in the entire world is a middle-aged bodybuilder who pretends to be a caveman on the internet.
Yes, I’m talking about Brian Johnson, the self-proclaimed Liver King, the most shameless huckster of BS not named Donald Trump. The Liver King has amassed millions of followers – and made millions of dollars – exploiting two of the most powerful tropes in modern fitness culture: the paleolithic lifestyle and the carnivore diet. Want to have a shredded superhero body? Stop wearing shoes and start eating raw meat. That’s the Liver King’s message in a nutshell.
He may represent everything I despise, but I don’t blame Brian Johnson for cashing in. He’s simply a symptom of our age; we’re a society obsessed with quick fixes and superficial results. We want to believe that guzzling bone broth and collagen is the missing piece of the puzzle, the answer to all of our fitness prayers. Never mind that the guy pushing this nonsense is clearly on every performance-enhancing drug known to science. Steroids are paleo, right?
Back in July I received an Apple Watch. This wasn’t something I wanted; I tested out a Fitbit years ago and found the thing so annoying I gave up after a week. But this watch was a gift, so I figured I’d give it a shot and see what sort of advances have been made in the market of wearable fitness trackers.
At first I was sufficiently impressed. The watch is durable and looks great. Not only does it track my steps and calories, it also tells me when I’ve been sitting for too long, reminds me to spend at least 20 seconds whenever I’m washing my hands, and even warns me when I’m in an environment that’s too loud. Pretty cool stuff, but I can’t shake the feeling that all this information is mostly irrelevant.
The fitness marketplace is saturated with gadgets of all kinds. Whether it’s interactive wall-mounted mirrors that display digital personal trainers or absurdly overpriced treadmills that try to recreate the group fitness vibe, our obsession with technology has gotten out of control. Just the other day I saw an ad for a “smart” water bottle. Apparently this thing tracks the number of sips you take en route to your daily ‘hydration goal.’
As my father would say, the mind truly boggles.
Paul Landini is a personal trainer and health educator in Kitchener, Ont.
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