What an insecure guy having to wear earrings. You aren't a teenager anymore. Grow up and look professional.”

I was recently sent this as a letter to the editor. Well, if you consider an unsigned scribbling under my photo to the left a letter.

I'm not referencing this to defend my look [I'd say unique, but among people I know it isn't], my security or the level of professionalism [that comes and goes]. I'm not even doing it to knock Mr. or Ms. Anonymous — he or she is entitled to whatever opinion of me they want — right or wrong. What I am doing is pointing out that no matter what we have been told, how a person looks is still important — if not to them, then to someone else.

We've heard the reports that people can be fit and fat. We've seen the trends that people are more concerned with feeling healthy than they are with ripped abs. Then why are there countless diet books on bookstore shelves and countless commercials that promise quick results and flat abs, all to the tune of millions of dollars?

Can it be that people are still concerned with what's on the outside rather than what's on the inside? Of course they are, is the obvious answer — sad, but true.

While Baby Boomers are mentioned time and again as the prime membership demographic take a look around your club or your competitor's club. You will probably be hard-pressed to find staff that reflects the bulk of the membership, especially on the fitness floor. Instead, you'll probably find people that still fit the traditional “fitness” image: young, toned and trim. Does this truly mirror your membership? Better yet, should it? I don't know. I believe we should encourage people to strive for that look, to work hard for that look because most likely they'll get healthier at the same time. But I also think that as an industry it is time to start leading by example, showing people that health and fitness comes in all sizes, all shapes, all ages and with all sorts of accessories.

It is time that members worry more about the education of their trainer rather than how much he can bench. It is time they worry about the quality of the certification that person has [does your club even promote the certifications or display them for members to see?] rather than how many miles she runs.

And this transcends the fitness floor [I'm lumping group exercise into this definition]. Do your sales people need to wear a suit? Maybe. But, maybe some artwork from their children on their desk means more than their degree hanging behind a sterile desk at your family-friendly facility. Do your front desk people need to wear less bling-bling when they answer the telephone's ring-ring? It probably doesn't make them do their job any better or worse. That happens more as a result of good training and good management.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that as long as your staff is neat, clean, enthusiastic and most important, well-trained, their true professionalism will shine through and members will be impressed and your bottom lines will feel the bump — especially if some of your staff reflects your member population.

I'm just glad my eyebrow piercing didn't show up in that photo. Who knows how unprofessional this letter would have been then.