Fitness in the real world

Last weekend I had the opportunity to lecture at the Perform Better Functional Training Seminar in Munich, Germany. The organization was great; German sense of perfection combined the open-mindedness and eagerness to learn, in a relatively new field.
Six hundred fitness instructors, personal trainers, rehab-specialists and physical therapists visited this great event. I did not teach them the “magic” exercise or show them the “revolutionary” protocol. My presentations dealt more with the whole puzzle than a puzzle piece.

Lecturing at Perform Better
Lecturing at Perform Better

My only doubt regarding the developments in the fitness industry is that they seem to jump from one temporary trend or method to another. No trend seems to last very long. It’s like nutrition: the fact that “new” diets come and disappear again as fast as they appeared, probably proves that they don’t work in the long term !

To mention a few trends in fitness: body-building, jogging, Jane Fonda, Jazzercise, step-aerobics, Taebo, Bootcamp, Zumba, spinning, vibration training, and a few more. Nowadays it seems you don’t go anywhere without FMS, kettle bell, core stability, crossfit, Paleolithics and fascia. These seem to be the “hot” trends. Some of these disappear forever, others come back in the future, being promoted as “new and improved”.
Interestingly enough, about 95% of these trends were developed in the US. This probably shows that the rest of the world seems to be clueless about fitness (or maybe the demand for people to become fitter is bigger in the US).
The same thing applies to diets: Paleolithic, The Zone, May clinic, Slim-Fast, South Beach, Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, juicing, gluten-free, just to mention a few.
In the US, the science of marketing is well developed, and often dominant over content or quality of a concept. A considerable part of the fitness industry uncritically accepts these trends and discards them again when a new trend appears on the horizon. One reason for their success is that they give the instructor or trainer solid sounding protocols and instructions so they don’t have to think for themselves. Combined with some shaky, but confirming research and there they go. This is the way to create real “believers” or “followers”.
This is why I think education and preferably basic education like e.g. seminars like this one, is an important tool to improve the quality, the consistency and the credibility of the fitness industry. Critical thinking should be part of that education.

Here are some very brief (one could fill a book with these) interesting sounding statements I read and heard. One just wished they were true. Most of these beliefs are not right-out lies, but a cocktail of distorted information, logical sounding pseudo-scientific information, not backed up by hard data or science and dispersed by the so-called “guru’s” in that field. Fortunately for these guru’s a lot of their information cannot be checked, since very few people possess the will, the time and the energy to check if there is any truth in the claims. One of my mentors always said: “In God we trust, all others have to show data….”

Some interesting ‘statements’:
-“vibration training originally was developed for Soviet-cosmonauts “ – really? (1)
– “FMS can predict injuries” – where is the scientific proof?
– “paleolithic nutrition is superior to the modern diet” – think again. (2)
– “kettle bell training comes from Soviet Spetnaz operators” – really?
– “the muscle is just a stupid piece of meat” – LOL
– “this athlete’s …… muscle isn’t firing right” (3)

You have to understand that sometimes the guru himself (aren’t there any female guru’s?), never said nor intended to say things like the above. It comes from his followers, who stretched the original concept too far and came up with a nice marketing story.

My view is: do not blindly follow or copy what I think or say. I always challenged my athletes to take a critical look at my ideas or programs.

1- Kraaijenhof, H: Vibratietraining en therapie voor fitness en gezondheid. Elmar, Holland, 2002.
2- Fitzgerald, M: Diet Cults, Pegasus Books, 2014.

Here you can find the handouts of my lectures of last weekend:

Henk Kraaijenhof lecture Perform Better

Henk Kraaijenhof Hands-on 1 Perform Better

Henk Kraaijenhof Hamstrings Perform Better


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