Muscle Beach, circa 1934, in Santa, Monica, CA (and in more recent years, in Venice Beach) is widely seen as the birthplace of the fitness revolution in the United States. The bodybuilding movement spawned thousands of global gyms that feature arenas full of cardio equipment, resistance training machines, areas for group classes and amenities such as pools, saunas, and child care facilities across the United States. Back in the 90s and early 2000s, it became a status symbol to stay in shape by becoming a member of one of these facilities. However, if we know anything about fitness, it is akin to fashion. People identify with the types of exercise that they choose to do: from Taebo to Jazzercise to Jane Fonda exercise videos to more recently, the group class movement from SoulCycle to CrossFit to Orange Theory, to boot camps like Camp Gladiator. The type of fitness program we subscribe to speaks to our personal identity and how we see ourselves in our modern, technologically savvy world.
I’ve been a professional in the fitness industry for the better part of a decade. I started in a small boutique gym and country club fitness center and witnessed the same people coming for years, reading their magazines on their ellipticals and looking exactly the same, year after year, with no signs of discernible progress. The absence of results in such traditional gym settings disillusioned me from this sect of fitness subculture, and I moved on to become co-owner of a local CrossFit facility in Austin, Texas.
Inside the walls of the CrossFit facility, I forged my identity as a Strength and Conditioning Coach. We served up intense exercise and nutritional workshops to technology executives, high net worth investors as well as materially privileged housewives. Our clients initially got in excellent shape, yet struggled with sustainable progress long-term.
I found a mentor in Scottsdale, Arizona named James Fitzgerald, founder and owner of OPEX Fitness in Scottsdale, AZ, a fitness, coaching education and remote coaching business. Through five years of continuing education, $35,000 and multiple trips to Scottsdale, I was introduced to the holistic principles of health and fitness that have stood the test of time.
Back in 2009, people would choose to work with me because they heard I was an effective coach who could motivate my clients and give them a powerful workout. The clients who really “got it” would adopt my nutritional advice with gusto. However, I didn’t have the client success rate I aspired to have. At 23 years old, I was still blind to a whole other world out there. The clients who were most successful would change the way they ate and trained, but still, they eventually struggled with fatigue, consistency and the results they were seeking. Our clients especially struggled with having the appropriate social support to truly succeed in the environment I helped create. They were stressed and sleep-deprived, and placed all of their value on training and only inconsistently on nutrition. However, when these clients—who were averaging incomes of some $150k/year—went in spring, summer and winter vacations, they often returned having gained 10 pounds. In addition, they had lost their training momentum, felt unmotivated and were often in pain.
I lived in this rut for the better part of two years and eventually determined that I was responsible for their lack of success. I was guiding them incorrectly. I had placed so much emphasis on training that I had created a dysfunctional paradigm wherein my clients had to exercise too intensely just to burn off their bad decisions. I wasn’t looking at the big picture. After a few years, they would grow tired and discouraged; they often moved on, leaving me unfulfilled and with a lackluster business.
However, I still possessed the determined curiosity to continue to explore how a trainer could take any individual, get to know that person’s lifestyle, training history, nutrition, and values and forge a plan that would work for them. I believe that the American dream is still alive. If you possess the mindset to live an intentional life and subscribe to values over which you have direct control, ultimately you will be able to live the life you envision. I also believe that if you give clients the right ingredients for daily intentional movement, solid sleep, and nutrition, along with an empowering environment, they will rise to the challenge; their innate resilience will kick in and give them the ability to live a fulfilling life through the vehicle of a healthy and active lifestyle.
In the words of Jack LaLanne, considered the “Godfather of Modern Fitness:
“Exercise is king. Nutrition is queen. Put them together and you’ve got a kingdom.”
In 2014, at the ripe age of 28, I sold my gym to my business partners and decided I was going to leave my stamp on the world. I was going to create my legacy. I wanted to change the way people perceive and approach health and fitness. I wanted to be one of the fitness mavericks who fostered a paradigm shift. I invested my savings and created Central Athlete in downtown Austin.
Everyone is unique, so why are we treating clients the same way and dishing out the same workouts and nutritional prescriptions as a one-size-fits-all approach? Yes, group classes dominate the market and consumers do what is highly marketed and embraced by their friends. Yes, group classes are a vehicle for the diminishing sense of community and human connection that we so desperately need with our screen-obsessed lives. But when did the fitness industry stray so far from actually delivering results? If you have 30% body fat, your fitness program should be a vehicle to recalibrate your body to a healthy body composition and give you the confidence you have never had. Your shoulder dislocates when you play golf. Do you have a fitness program that takes that into consideration and aims to add structural integrity to a distinct body part, or are you being coerced into doing hundreds of burpees and kipping pullups? You don’t have energy because you work so much, travel two weeks out of the month and are never in the same city? Do you have a program that is adaptive to your geographic limitations?
Fitness needs to be built around you: your lifestyle and objectives. And your program must take into consideration the individuality of each client. The future of fitness is beginning to swing back to a client-centered approach that is a remedy for the homogenized, disillusioned fitness industry. This will be an arena where experts assess your body composition, consult with you about your lifestyle and specific fitness and nutrition goals, and guide you despite your geographic and time limitations. Gone are the days of not knowing what to do when you set foot in a gym or stressing to make it to the 8 AM group class after you drop your kids off at school at 7:55 AM. Imagine having a tailored program, not only for your training but also for your particular lifestyle and nutrition goals—delivered to you daily on a user-friendly app, created individually for you, from a highly experienced Strength and Conditioning Coach. What are the keystone habits that will keep you happy, healthy, hungry and horny WELL into the latter years of your life?
As the late fitness guru Paul Bragg said: “With our natural intelligence, super health, happiness, and longevity should be the rule instead of the exception.”
Individually designed fitness is the wave of the future for the working professional.