One last thought about irony. On the whole, health clubs exist to provide recreation and community to their members. They give people a place to be active, have fun and, as the name “health club” states, improve their health. Given these facts, during my time working as a group exercise instructor, I've been baffled by three things that I've seen countless times at every type of fitness facility across the country.
An unnatural obsession with food. Why is it that when you go into any fitness facility that the Food Network is always on? Personally, when I'm running on the treadmill, food is that last thing that I care to look at or think about, but obviously, I'm in the minority here. (And, don't get me wrong, after I work out, I love to cook and eat.)
It doesn't stop at the TV, either. I've seen front desk staff eating Snickers bars while checking in members and personal trainers drinking full-sugar energy drinks like they're going out of style. Maybe these club employees would say that they're eating small regular meals to stoke their metabolism or gulping down Red Bull to stay hydrated, but we all know better. Candy bars and energy drinks aren't even close to health food, no matter how you market them. (Extra shame to those clubs who stock these in their snack bars or vending machines — you know who you are.)
Tanning beds. What is the deal with tanning beds in health clubs? It's well-documented how detrimental tanning is for people's health, yet some club owners are OK with using them as an add-on service (read: money maker). Sure, when you have a tan, you generally look slimmer, and bodybuilders have long used tanning as a way to show off their muscles, but looking like leather or getting skin cancer at age 35 isn't really helping our members feel better or live longer.
Fitness facility staff or industry professionals not projecting a healthy image. We've all seen it. It's the sales associate who always goes out for fast food over lunch. Or the equipment manufacturing rep who is selling you a $10,000 treadmill that is “perfect for beginners” because of its ease of use and motivating programs but gets winded after showing you the 5-minute easy-level product demonstration. Or it's the personal trainer who has four certifications and a college degree yet has trouble following his or her own advice to maintain a healthy BMI.
I once met a CEO of a YMCA who, after taking me on a tour of his facility and bragging about its new equipment (it was beautiful), told me that he didn't have time to work out — oh, the irony.
Now, I'm not saying that everyone in the health club industry has to be perfect, always working out and never enjoying a piece of chocolate or glass of wine (those do have health benefits, after all), but I am saying that people in the industry sometimes need to step back and really look at themselves and their clubs with a fresh pair of eyes.
Consider making it clear to the staff that when you're working, you should walk the walk, talk the talk and skip the junk food. Or remove tanning beds and use the space for extra massage tables, life coaching or nutrition consultations.
As an industry, we could do a better job of living up to our name “health” club. Take a hard look at your facility. Although you may be known for promoting the health benefits of pumping iron, you definitely don't want to be known for being ironic.