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October 28, 2016

Beware of Fitness Cults

Beware of Fitness Cults 

What are fitness cults, you ask? Fitness cults are fitness systems, trainers, or coaches that take advantage of weak and otherwise unfit people and convince them that their system is the only thing that has changed their lives in a positive direction, that theirs is superior to everything else.

To a weak and powerless person, this can cause the fitness cult to take on a disproportionate part of their lives and creates an unhealthy relationship with the cult or personalities associated with it.

Here’s an example:

Average Jane (or John):

Jane is 35. She never learned to to tax herself physically in any way, and hasn’t done any form of structured exercise since high school. Now, at 35 she works a desk job, is a mother of two, eats a Standard American Diet (SAD) and carries an extra 30lbs of fat around the midsection. She has very little positive reinforcement in her life, hates her job, and has no hope for anything better. In her eyes she is old, fat, and has little control over anything.

One day a friend of Jane’s invites her to a local Cultfit gym. She gets started and sees rapid progress since she also changed her eating habits, and despite the sedentary lifestyle, actually had some good genetic raw material under the surface.

A year later she has made some big changes and begins to coach others (after paying $1000 for a  weekend certification). Now, after a year she knows very little, but in the newbie’s eyes she is an expert. Since she has little perspective on what it means to be strong and athletic beyond Cultfit, and had very poor self-esteem to start with, she believes that Cultfit is the best thing in the world.

Truth be told, if you take a totally de-conditioned person eating a horrible diet and get them to do literally any type of exercise and structured eating plan you will see massive improvements initially. There was nothing special about Cultfit.

Since Cultfit gives her a little positive reinforcement and some sense of accomplishment in her life, it takes on a disproportionate level of importance. She even gets a tattoo of Cultfit’s logo on her back.

This level of blind allegiance is not lost on the head coach of Cultfit (who also has poor self-esteem) and he knows he can take advantage of this level of dedication to get her to do anything and sell anything.

Jane will drink whatever flavor of Kool-aid Cultfit serves up without question. She has no alternative, because to do otherwise is to revert to her powerless life before Cultfit. She has no way of progressing past Cultfit.

This situation is amplified, since Jane’s life has revolved around Cultfit for the past year. Cultift is all she talks about and most of her pre-Cultfit friends have become distant and alienated. Even her husband and kids are sick and tired of Cultfit.

To question Cultfit’s methodology or business practices is unthinkable. Cultift now takes more from Jane than it ever gave her.

Sound familiar? Change the names or the sex of the people involved and we could easily transfer this to many different fitness systems (actually Cult-like martial art schools are the masters of this business model).

The worst examples of this are some of the multi-level marketing companies that prey on this mentality for financial gain. The diet and supplement industry are infested with these practices.

Contrast this with what a great strength coach or teacher does: 

He or she empowers the trainee to learn for themselves. It is the coach’s ultimate goal. My Taekwon-Do master once told me as soon as you begin to think that you know something your instructor doesn’t, it is time to thank your instructor because this means he was very good at what he did. This is because your instructor inspired you to learn and had your best interests at heart.

The ultimate compliment to an instructor is to have the student surpass them. This can only happen when the instructor is unselfish and cares more about the student’s training than they do their own or the brand. This, of course, doesn’t mean the instructor doesn’t train or skips training. Quite the opposite, the instructor now has the awesome burden of students watching his every move and seeing his level of training diligence as an example. This is completely non-dogmatic, in that it is only through the student’s trust and loyalty that this model works. In a healthy teacher-student relationship this is a two-way street.

This is precisely the opposite of Cultfit. This is empowerment. This is what enhances someone’s quality of life and sense of self-worth beyond the gym and should last well after that gym closes its doors.

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2016 James Beaumont

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