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June 5, 2020

We Don't Need to Reopen Gyms. We Never Really Needed Them.

The above is a title from a recent article on - you can read it HERE. I first saw it posted in an online gym owner forum I belong to and a few Vero Strength members also sent it to me. People were in an uproar about it - with that headline, the author did a great job of creating an article that would go viral!

There are some valid points in the article and, at the main root of it, the statement that we don't NEED gyms isn't necessarily false. We need exercise, sure, but in one sense of the word, a "gym" is merely a place to use the equipment. And you can buy that yourself, right?

The article highlights a few people who have increased their activity and have seen results like weight loss during the gym shutdowns. One woman's exercise of choice is daily walking; the other's is exercise DVDs. I love that these women started moving, but I have to wonder if the woman mimicking what she sees on her DVDs is moving correctly, if she's aware of volume, if she's neglecting resistance training, if she's mobilizing, etc. The other woman is simply walking...but that doesn't mean she's gaining strength and mobility. Can she squat? Jump? What's she doing to maintain her upper body strength as she ages?

Gyms are not only homes to equipment but to PROFESSIONALS. Unfortunately, much of our society doesn't value paying for the services of a fitness expert like they do for other professionals. You probably wouldn't cut your own hair, would you? If you have, was the outcome as good as a professional stylist's? Do you do your own taxes? If so, do you know the ins and outs of all the latest tax laws? If not, you could be leaving money on the table. Would you diagnose all your ailments using WebMD? You get my drift.

Similarly, in the realm of fitness, you probably won't be able to create a complete program that takes into account your weaknesses, imbalances, past injuries, and goals.

I've seen what people do when they program their own regimen. Many pick and choose from free or "fun" workouts they see online or in magazines. Their "routine" has major faults. There is a tendency to do the things they like and neglect the things they need. There is usually no awareness of progressions, volume, training phases, and deloading. There exists no trained professional to critique techniques, teach injury prevention, and insist on effective mobility exercises. Many online programs are "moving for the sake of moving" with erratic exercises that focus on intensity only. Soreness and fatigue are signs that it was a "good workout." Are they squatting, hingeing, and pushing and pulling in different planes?

The article also discussed that exercising at home removes many barriers that keep people from exercising in the first place. They didn't discuss said barriers, but I would imagine these would be things like cost, time, and intimidation. To be honest, I think we can oftentimes replace the word "barriers" with "excuses." Of course, sometimes these are legit, but more often than not people can find the time (even if it's twice a week) and the money (nixing the daily Starbucks and lunches out). I know intimidation is real. Gym newbies express anxiety walking into a gym and many feel like people will judge them. However, after coming in a few times, that usually subsides.

Now, if your gym is more like a third space - this is a sociocultural term to designate communal space, as distinct from the home (first space) or work (second space) - then it's so much more than simply a structure that houses equipment. It's a community. And, hopefully, that community is led by trainers who know what they're doing.

Lastly, the article discussed the fear of contracting COVID-19 from going to a gym. It's a valid fear anywhere, but the gym-going population tends to be less at-risk than the general population you encounter at the grocery store. It's been proven that exercise helps to protect the immune system. And, gyms are now required to adhere to social distancing and enact more rigid sanitation protocols. I know we have.

In closing, I love that people are discovering or rediscovering physical activity during the pandemic. I am hoping this trend stays and it makes people feel the NEED to take their fitness to the next level with the help of a fitness professional at a reputable gym. More self-care = less health care, am I right?

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