My Feelings About Non-Credentialed Fitness Information
I want to write this post as nicely as I can.
While scrolling through Instagram yesterday, I came across an image of a movement being performed in completely the wrong way. I stopped because the form made me cringe, and then underneath I saw a link to a blog post with more exercises.
Whenever I see posts about workout or nutrition plans, I tend to investigate the credentials behind the author. I don’t do it all the time, but if I see a large number of workouts being prescribed and ESPECIALLY if I see a picture with a form that will get you nothing but back pain, I check it out.
In this case, the blogger has no training in either exercise or nutrition, just a passion for it from what I can gather from her site. I’m not knocking passionate fitness enthusiasts who want to design workouts for themselves or have someone else come workout with them, but when you are prescribing these things to a mass of people with no proper training, I get a little annoyed.
I investigated a little further and found a number of workout plans as well as a free nutrition plan that you could download. A holiday challenge was also an option with further workouts and meal plans sent every week.
I thought about it most of the day to make sure I wasn’t overreacting. Maybe I was just having a cranky and angry day? I went back to the picture and it made me angry again (ha).
I know there are plenty of people who are self-educated about exercise and nutrition. I’m not saying that everyone needs to be a certified trainer to develop a workout. I’m not saying that everyone needs to be a registered dietitian to develop their own meal plans. What I AM saying is that prescribing workout regimens and nutritional plans to earn money (whether through sponsored posts or selling packages) and pass on to the entire internet is not only irresponsible, it’s doing a disservice to your readers.
When I got my personal training certification, I wasn’t working and we didn’t really have the extra money to spend on it. It was right after we moved to Chicago and close to Christmas. I set up a GoFund Me page and sent it to family and friends asking them to donate in lieu of other Christmas gifts since that’s really what I wanted as my gift. Bear with me, I’ll connect the two stories.
When I mentioned in a FB group about how I used the site to raise the money, I received a comment that scolded me for doing it in that manner because “some people had to work hard to earn the money.” I assumed that that person felt I had taken a shortcut to get to where I was, although I don’t necessarily agree. Also, not nice bro.
So I did some introspection and asked myself if I felt the same way. Did I feel like she had taken a shortcut and I was angry that I took a longer, more costly road? Was I jealous that she felt comfortable posting workouts while I only felt it was appropriate after I received my certification? In the end, my feelings didn’t have anything to do with her. My concern lay with the recipients of possibly inaccurate information.
Providing regimens without the proper background on biomechanics and movement systems can lead to ineffective workouts or even injury in a worst-case scenario. Movements explained incorrectly or halfway (“place hands and move into plank position”) lead to confusion and improper form.
I have listened to many of my RD friends talk about their frustration with random nutrition information being passed around by people without credentials, and I’m starting to see it more and more in the fitness community as well. Prior to becoming certified, I was pretty educated on the subject simply because I was interested in it. I also had my science and pharmacy school experience which gave me more than enough biology and anatomy. Even then, there were things I learned through getting certified that I didn’t know and that have helped me in designing workouts and working with a variety of clients.
I love the excitement and passion that I see in the health and wellness community, but I think we need to be careful who we listen to. Since these types of posts aren’t likely to go anywhere, I simply want to caution readers to take responsibility for their own well being. Don’t blindly follow workout plans, especially if they seem incomplete or questionable. Ask questions. Do your research. What is that person’s background? Are they offering information that they can back up?
Ultimately, be smart about your health.
Thanks to Amanda for letting me think out loud.
I know this post isn’t very holiday-specific, so if you’re looking for one, check out last year’s post on managing your expectations this holiday season!
- How often do you follow online fitness plans?
- Would you take advice from someone without a background in that field?