What changes would I make to the fitness industry?
The fitness industry will start to re-open in the next few weeks and it will emerge a different beast than it was before all this craziness began. Now everyone can accept there are problems within the industry and it seems like a total reset could be the best possible thing to iron out some of those flaws and improve the industry both for the people working in it and people engaging with it. So what are the things I would want to change about the way the fitness industry operates?
The first thing I would want to change about the fitness industry is fitness instructor pay. Instructor pay has been hovering around the £20-30 mark for over 25 years whilst the cost of living has increased massively. As I’ve discussed in a previous post, at first glance £25 per hour seems like a great headline rate, but once you factor in the cost and time spent travelling to the gym, time spent prepping choreography and time before and after class with members then it really works out around £10 profit per class. If you want to attract great people into the industry and keep them in it then gyms have to financially back good instructors and allow them to make a living from full time fitness instruction. Many people end up leaving the industry or dropping down to part time work because they can’t make a decent wage out of teaching. The pandemic has taught us how important exercise is for health and mentality, so we need to reward our health and fitness professionals more.
The next thing I would change about the industry is better communication between gym chains. Although they are all competing for the same members to come to their facility, there is a lack of communication and cohesion between providers of what they expect from their staff. The pay varies hugely between chains, levels of required CPD are inconsistent and different chains require you to be members of different professional organisations. If you want to do fitness instruction full time then you will need to change for a variety of clubs, however this can mean additional costs to meet all the requirements. Clubs need to work together to have a set standard required of their group fitness staff; from what CPD is required and will be accepted, minimum required qualifications to teach and membership to only one professional body.
A change that I believe is already happening but I would like to see accelerated is rising levels of education and CPD. As fitness professionals we are in a privileged position of being able to educate and make an impact on people’s health. It’s not all about whooping and box steps any more; people want to know what they are doing and why. Fitness pros need to understand movement patterns and how the human body works. We need to understand and be able to help people who suffer from different conditions and not put them at risk with unsafe exercises. A level 2 qualification is a good place to start but it should not be all the knowledge you ever gain. Fit pros need to take a responsibility for their own education and this is something I am very passionate about!
The next change I would like to see implemented in the fitness industry is some sort of trade union or protection for fitness pros. Although we have two professional bodies in the industry, CIMSPA and REPS, we do not have an official trade union or a body we can escalate complaints to. This makes it very difficult for us as a collective group of professionals to get our voices heard. Where can we turn if we feel we are being treated unfairly by an employer or have been victim to racial or sexual harassment in the workplace? A very personal example: I ended up having to get a County Court Judgement against a former employer after they had ignored my emails, letters and invoices regarding almost £1000 of unpaid earnings for three months. During this time I had phone calls to both REPS and CIMSPA to ask for professional support and enquire about the best process to take and neither organisation were equipped to help me or point me in the right direction. I had to organise an appointment with a solicitor who was able to tell me the steps I needed to take to get my money back (which I did eventually!) I imagine it would be even harder to receive the correct support if you are a self-employed personal trainer or fitness instructor and that needs to change.
The final change I would like to see is not from within the industry itself but from social media’s portrayal of fitness. There are some excellent influencers in the fitness space who like to use their following to educate and create great programs for the general population to follow. If we can encourage people to get moving and be healthier then that is excellent. However, there are a lot of people on Instagram who do not hold any fitness qualification yet still give out advice on exercise and nutrition. They sell fitness programs without having worked with a personal trainer or coach to develop them and suggest protein shakes and supplements without having researched the ingredients or benefits thoroughly. The worst culprit of this in my opinion is fitness multi-level marketing companies, such as Beachbody and Isagenix, where you just need to be over 18 and buy a starter kit to be able to call yourself a coach. It is these people who perpetuate some of the stereotypes about gym-goers and lower the acceptable standards of education in the industry. I feel qualified fitness pros need to get better at social media (myself included!) so we can stand out and grow followings that will match some of these unqualified people.
So there are the 5 things I would like to see change within the fitness industry. Some of these are already starting to make movements so let's hope that these noises continue and we can use this time to make some real change. If you want to get involved in the discussion then go follow GFT on Facebook and Instagram @gftcourses and let's get chatting!