We were secretly shopped by a reporter a few weeks ago evaluating the different gyms in Ann Arbor. The article came out in the Ann Arbor Observor City Guide.
Thank you for the evaluation and it is nice that we received an A+. When looking at the criteria for rating the various facilities, the question comes to mind: Is it the facility that creates tangible results or is it the training provided? The question inspired the following rant:
Too often, people use superficial means to judge the value or substance of a thing. As Americans, we judge success and failure based on appearance, we judge the value of something based on 20 second sound bites or what the latest hot training item is according to the glossy magazine. Our perspective on gyms and training is somewhat different. First, any training is better than no training. Second, people do not have unlimited time or budgets for training and finally a mode of training that keeps people consistent. Competition between "gyms” does not really exist. The real competition any "gym" has is with the couch, laziness and the "I will do it later" mind set.
In reality, gyms should be select on one primary criterion: Getting YOU what YOU want out of YOUR training. Too many people go to the gym with undefined motives, unspecific goals and as a result they get very little out of the training/gym membership. If the real goal of working out is “good health” or “fitness” then people should take the time to define what these terms mean to them. We can offer several definitions of good health and fitness but it really comes down to the person that looks in the mirror with you everyday and what their definition of good health and fitness is for you. Keep in mind that these definitions change at different stages of our lives.
Some people, let's call them twentysomething-year-olds are primarily interested in appearance, when we reach your 30s people are so often concerned with appearance but are beginning to think of long-term health versus just superficial needs. Once we're in our 40s, the toll of our career on health begins to show up with some of our peer group meeting untimely ends due to lifestyle and lack of attention to health long-term. The resulting change in perspective of to the gym changes from superficial to moving toward maintaining the running of the machine. The perspective shifts again with the milestone of 50 and a real looming horizon of retirement and quality-of-life issues that accompany nearly 30 years of sitting behind a desk. Then people retirement age and quality-of-life truly is the primary mission of any fitness program. At every stage there is a percentage of motivation that comes from appearance basic goals and a percentage that comes from what could be called real fitness goals. The percentage seems to inverse as time goes on and we age.
It really comes down deciding what you want out of your training long term. Many people begin with the idea that they just want to get “in shape” or run a marathon or 10K or have some other specific fitness goal to help them reach wherever short-term benchmark they set for themselves. From our perspective any training that keeps people active, moving and keeps people strong is good. The amenities of a gym have less to do with a person success than does the training is provided there. Too many buying decisions are made by selling shiny mirrors, rows of equipment, or the size of their locker rooms or big screen TVs. None of these factors actually help people get in shape. People need to make a decision of what they're after and what they're willing to go through to get it.
The next real question is how do you measure your success? It reminds us of what used to be called S.M.A.R.T goals: Specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely. One of our clients is a high school science teacher who reminds us that things should be specific measurable repeatable and independently verifiable for it to be science. Let's take a look at those and combined them into a model that can work for the person who has a limited amount of time to devote to their training. The true gold standard is work capacity: The ability to do specific work in a specific time period. If someone runs a 10K the first time in two hours, spent some time training and they do it in an hour, their capacity work has increased dramatically. The more work you can do, the better your overall health and fitness. Fairly simple.
Price is often the only criteria people have when selecting a gym. It comes down to the special of the month or the discount for the one-year prepaid in full membership or some of our hocus-pocus that will help people sign on the dotted line and purchase a membership they will only use sporadically. In today's helter-skelter world of deadlines, meetings, kids going to various games or practices, and greater work for less pay in today's economy many consumers of fitness only usually have 3 to 4 hours a week they can truly devote to their training. The question changes from price and how much “fitness” you can cram into an hour and get the best results from.
There really is a lot to be said for the good happy happy joy joy feelings people have at the end of the training session. In reality, it is pretty difficult to consistently measure the feeling of well-being is a part of the training. We suggest people measure the actual performance results of training.
All gyms are expensive when you do not go. Get your ass off the couch and move.