Anyone can point out mistakes, but providing a solution is much more difficult. Like the saying goes; a statue has never been erected in honor of a critic.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t stop every fitness personality out there from telling us what’s wrong with the fitness industry, only to stop short of actually providing a solution. I might have missed something, but as far as I can tell the scammy affiliate laden posts, over-priced eBooks and a site full of email opt-ins aren’t helping anyone; anyone other than the salesman – I mean personal trainer – that is.

But, crummy marketing tactics aside, there are a few things we can do to solve the exercise deficiency. But, we have to do it together. That means fitness seekers and fitness professionals both have a responsibility to make this exercise thing suck less. First up, what the fitness seekers need to do, followed by the fit pros.

Dear Fitness Seeker:

Fitness is not one thing, it is many things

The only way to create an exercise habit, and stick to it, is to do what works for you. If you don’t like to run, don’t run. If you can’t afford a gym membership workout at home instead. If you like to dance, go to Zumba and dance. It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you’re making the effort to do more today than you did yesterday.

You are part of the problem

Instead of buying into a sustainable fitness fix, everyone is looking for instant gratification. There is no such thing. Of course you already know this, but you continue to be part of the problem when you buy diet pills, the Ab Coaster and the Shake Weight.

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. No matter how many times it’s said, someone always takes the bait. Don’t be that guy!

Don’t label yourself

When you were in high school, were you a nerd, jock, band geek, goth or artsy?

I know, I know, it’s rude to label people. Stereotypes are hurtful and judgmental. But, if that’s true, why are so many people trying to label themselves as Paleo, a CrossFiter, a Marathoner, Vegan, etc? Stop classifying yourself based on someone else’s plan, program or product.

Here’s a better idea, try everything one time. If you like it, do more of it. If you hate it, quit and find something new.

No, you’re not allowed to go sit on the couch. It’s now incumbent upon you to create a training plan based on what worked and what didn’t, what you liked and what you didn’t like as much. Then, you do that on a consistent basis.

You don’t have to buy into any one thing completely. When people ask you about your workout plan or your diet you can tell them whatever you want. You can even make up your own name for it; “it’s the get shit done workout plan.”

Try everything and then define fitness for yourself.

Break a sweat every day

You don’t need to be a workout fanatic to get a workout in. If you only have 15 minutes there’s plenty you can do. Sure, it might only be a bodyweight workout, swinging a kettlebell, a quick walk or some yoga, but something is better than nothing.

Do this – print out a calendar for the entire month. Then, start off the month by exercising for at least 15 minutes. Place an X over that day, and every other day that you’re able to exercise. Now, don’t break the chain! Some days you might get an hour of exercise in, other days it might only be 20 minutes. But, no matter what, get your 15 minutes.

That’s an exercise habit anyone can handle.

Eat real food, most of the time.

I will keep this one simple and straightforward: stop eating so much junk.

If it doesn’t come out of the ground, from an animal or a tree, don’t eat it. That means you should be eating vegetables, fruit, healthy fats, nuts, seeds, some starchy cabs and no sugar.

Stick to this rule 80% of the time. Then, take the other 20% of the time and eat all of the foods you can’t live without. Live it up, have some pizza and beer and ice cream.

You should set out to find balance between eating and exercise. If you do that, you’ll be able to splurge ever once and a while.

To my Fellow Fitness Professionals,

Fitness seekers aren’t the only ones making healthy living harder than it needs to be. You are complicating the process, both intentionally and unintentionally.

If you – and I am speaking to fitness professionals here – get into fitness looking to make a quick buck, if you think fitness is simply about looking good, if you are more concerned with your workouts than creating workouts for your clients; you are the problem.

Because it’s not about you

When you start out as a personal trainer or group ex instructor it’s your job to serve other people. You don’t get to push your program or product on someone else because it fits your needs. You should initiate contact with each client by asking; “how can I help you?” Then, you do that – you figure out what they need and then some.

Sure, it helps if you are in shape yourself, but your workouts should not take precedent over training your clients. And, just because your way of training works for you, it doesn’t mean it will work for everyone else. You have to approach each client as an individual and figure out how best to serve them. Sometimes that means being a friend, other times it means being a drill instructor. But, you’ll never know unless you take the time to understand the needs of your clients, physically, mentally and emotionally.

I know that sounds a lot like a relationship. Well, it should; that’s exactly what the trainer –client interaction is.

Education is the answer

If you’re a good at what you do you’ll be a trainer and friend. If you’re above average, you’ll be a trainer, friend and teacher. That’s because the most important part of the trainer – client relationship is educating others.

People seek out trainers for a variety of reasons. But, one of the main reasons your clients agree to pay you is because you have the knowledge, experience and expertise that they need. Instead of guarding this information with your life to keep your clients coming back, you should be trying to teach your clients each and every time you see them.

When I first start working with a new client I tell them that it is my goal to help them outgrow me. I am actively trying to put myself out of a job. That means that I don’t just train people, I try to educate them. I tell them why we do certain exercises. I involve them in the programming of training sessions. I share my thought process with them and I answer all of the questions they have.

Then, one of two things happens. Clients actually do move on and begin to implement the techniques I taught them into their own training regimens. Or, they stick with me because they know I have their best interests in mind and they want to know more. Either outcome is a win in my book.

Action Steps

All this writing on my part, and reading on yours, will be a waste if we don’t actually take action to change the suckfest that is happening in the fitness world. So take action now!

Fitness seekers:

  • Define fitness for yourself. Try everything once, and then do what you like more often.
  • Stop buying shitty products, please!
  • Don’t put a label on yourself. And, if you must, define fitness for yourself and make up a name for whatever you end up doing.
  • Instead, trying a little something called hard work. Heck, it doesn’t even have to be that hard. Just break a sweat for 15 minutes every day.
  • Stop eating shitty food. Eat more real food – 80% of the time. Then, take your 20% and have a pizza and a beer. Or, skip the pizza and have 20% worth of beer. But, after that it’s back to the good, health food.

Fitness Pros:

  • Forget the hype and empty promises.
  • Ask clients, “How can I help you?” And then over-deliver.
  • Education is part of the job. You have to keep learning and you have to keep teaching others.
  • Try being a real, genuine, authentic person. The drill instructor thing doesn’t work for everyone.
  • Forget about what works for you when you’re in the gym or what you like to do. Give clients what they need.

Now I want to know what you are doing to fix the fitness industry. Are you part of the suck or are you doing things differently.