One last thought about not-so-healthy eating and drinking habits. It's one thing to like junk food outside the gym, but it's another to eat it inside. I can barely stand to watch fast food commercials on television while I'm sweating on the elliptical, let alone think about eating it there. Take a look around your gym though. Your members (especially your New Year's resolution newbies that you may not know so well) may think they are doing healthy things inside your doors, but in reality they may be unknowingly sabotaging their efforts.
When I taught group exercise in college, I couldn't count the number of times I'd see students leave the university recreation center and immediately light up. Still covered in sweat, they'd smoke right in front of the automatic doors. I used to think, how could that girl run 6 miles and then smoke? Doesn't that seem counterproductive?
Nowadays, I see the novice exerciser who thinks he or she is being healthy by switching from soda to diet soda — and drinking it in his or her Big Gulp cup while on the treadmill. Sorry, guy, but just because it says “diet” doesn't mean it's good for you.
What about the other novice (and sometimes a non-novice) gulping down a quart of some sports drink while he tries to burn fat during a leisurely 30-minute walk on the treadmill? Buddy, you're electrolytes are going to be fine — you're hardly sweating. And I hate to tell him, but he's drinking way more calories than he's burning.
Then there are the beefy guys and gals that actually work out long and hard enough to need a sports drink, but instead drink some chalky, fluorescent-colored liquid with an ingredients label that I can't pronounce but that will help them become He-Men — they hope.
Finally, you have your candy bar consumers and your nutrition bar connoisseurs. As players in the fitness world, we know post-recovery nutrition is important. After a workout the body needs a nice mix of carbs and protein to help fuel the body for the next round of exercise. However, I'm not so sure the RDs in our clubs meant Snickers and nachos at Taco Bell. After teaching group exercise classes, I'd walk in the locker room and see ladies scarfing down fast food or consuming one of those high-priced “nutrition bars” or even candy bars. While I'm sure those foods do have a nice mix of carbs and protein, I'm not really sure they fit in with a healthy lifestyle when you eat them three times a week. I think the RDs would back me up on this.
Here's the big question though — do your members know they're sabotaging themselves, or are they indulging in foods they think they've earned through exercise? Or, in the case of smoking, are they having trouble quitting? There's no doubt that by working out your members are healthier, and you're happy that they keep coming back. But, could we do something to help them with their unhealthy behaviors? Maybe it comes in the form of offering nutrition consultations; maybe it comes in the form of posting a few eye-catching posters that show good pre- and post-exercise snacks; or maybe it's fliers on the pros and cons of sports drinks vs. water. Whatever the case, it is an issue worth addressing because members who are nutritionally solid see better results.
When it comes to eating, many of the high-calorie snacks (or meals) negate the effect of a good workout — especially if you're trying to lose weight, which many of our members are trying to do. Now, I'm no nutrition expert, but I think that's something to chew on.