Social media has become our Personal Trainers. I know that’s a big statement to make I, but I wouldn’t be making it if I didn’t feel there was some truth to it, and it was something that needs to be bought up. My purpose for writing this is simply to bring light to some of the ways I see social media affecting the health and fitness industry from the perspective of someone who goes to the gym and works within the industry.
Perception is a word heavily associated with social media. What I see these “fitness influencers” post on social media is a false perception of reality and a false perception of what a healthy body and life looks like.
What do those false perceptions generally look like? For guys, it is a ripped set of six pack abs with a small waist and big arms, chest, shoulders and legs, and for the ladies, it is a flat stomach with a big bum, trying to achieve the “hourglass figure”. While this may be appealing to the eye, I encourage you to consider the following next time you see a post like this on social media:
- The amount of time, money and sacrifice it takes behind the scenes to maintain or achieve a physique like that – I can tell you now it is a lot. I know first-hand as I am currently preparing to compete in my first bodybuilding show on October.
- The power of editing. With platforms like Instagram, where we have access to editing filters at the tips of our fingers, it has never been easier to edit how we look in pictures. Lighting can play hugely into how well your abs and muscles show in a picture, and even the angle they stand at in a picture. If someone is tensing their muscles or sucking in, this can alter their appearance.
- Genetics! We are all genetically different in how we look, and genetics plays a huge part into how quickly we gain or lose muscle and fat, and where we lose or gain it. Talking to teenage girls and boys in the Gym, they ask how they can look like this person they have seen on Instagram. They believe if they follow this person’s workouts and routine, it will make them look like them. In a way, hearing this hurts me, because it shows that myself and potentially other professionals within the health and fitness industry are not doing a good job at promoting individuality and working out to look the best YOU can and want to look and feel the best and healthiest YOU can be.
It’s not just in teenagers, but adults as well. New mums who may be finding it a bit harder to lose that baby weight (which is totally normal, FYI, because you have just done something completely life changing) but then they see someone on social media show off their weight loss pictures and say it has taken them 6 weeks to lose their baby weight. Mums get themselves down because they aren’t looking like that person. The same goes for men – being a new dad and potentially starting to gain a little extra fat (aka a “Dad Bod”) because they haven’t quite yet found a routine of balancing being a new dad with working and working out.
False advertisement runs rampant on social media. A prime example is if you see someone post “Follow this fat burning workout to lose that stubborn belly fat!” or promoting a specific type of workout, diet or product (fat burning tablet for example) for being the singular reason why they lost weight. A little science for you – it is impossible to target where we lose fat, fat loss is all down to genetics and there is no one specific type of workout that is better at burning fat. There are a multitude of factors that go into gaining muscle and losing fat. It’s not just because of a specific workout, diet or product. I don’t blame anyone who is only just getting into working out or who is wanting to go through a transformation and gets sucked into these products. When I was younger getting into the gym, there were times where this happened, because where do we go if we want to get more information on something? We go to the internet.
If you’re reading this, before you try something you’ve seen on the internet, please go talk to someone you trust – maybe it’s your Personal Trainer or one of our Gym floor and reception staff. Get a second, third or fourth opinion if you are unsure. I have seen it too often in conversations or overhearing conversations in the Gym where there are some people who would rather take advice from someone they see on social media (who they don’t know), rather than coming to someone who they know who works in the industry to verify that information.
I must add that there are people and companies who base themselves on social media who are very knowledgeable and the information and advice they give out is very good. There are people that I follow on social media and learn things off. I am always using social media and the internet in search of further developing myself as a Personal Trainer and for my own training. Where we are getting stuck is knowing who to trust and where to go to for information. What I would love to see as a collective is we start to have more open communication about the information we see on social media. If you see anyone who may be new to the Gym to introduce yourself and direct them to myself or any of the other PTs or Gym staff.