Jean-Claude Vacassin – there’s no guarantee you’re doing things right online exercises.
Jean-Claude Vacassin is the Founding Director of W10 Performance, the Professional Fitness Coaching Academy and the International Fitness Business Alliance. He also consults on corporate wellbeing programmes, as well as to personal trainers and other gym owners.
He was recently asked – how much responsibility do online trainers really bear for people copying the workouts they recommend? Jean-Claude Vacassin, is not a fan of fitness via social media or, as he terms it “excer-train-ment”.
“What people see on social media is marketing. Extreme fitness sells, it’s exciting. It used to be that running a marathon was hardcore. Now, that’s not enough: you have to do a multi day ultra marathon. A lot of these online training regimes are aimed at millennials who want to buy on the first click and transform their body on the second – and they push themselves too hard.”
“No one wants to spend eight weeks moving more and eating less these days because, sadly, people don’t believe basic exercise, done well, is going to get them anywhere. There’s this idea that it’s boring.”
He cites the case of a builder who got a deal with a supplement company because he works out a lot and has hundreds of thousands of Instagram followers. “But does that mean he knows what he’s doing? No! He’s a builder, not a personal trainer.”
Vacassin adds: “In our gym, we have gym standards. People undergo an assessment before they get a programme. HIIT – High Intensity Interval Training and complicated exercises under fatigue should not be in 90% of people’s fitness regimes because they don’t have the physical capability.”
“These online accounts trick people into thinking this is easy. No one posts a bad workout. No one posts the workout they missed. No one posts the depression they have when they get injured or the relationships it costs them. All you see is the good stuff.”
Deep squats, lunges, deadlifts and high-intensity cardio are the mainstay of online workouts. “We’ve seen an increase in the numbers of clients coming to us having injured themselves doing online workouts,” he says. “People get hurt largely because the message is: ‘This is what I do and there’s no reason it won’t work for you.”
Extrapolated across the population, that’s not going to be good. While it’s a great thing that people are being encouraged to be active, if you’ve never lifted a barbell and then start lifting 10kg, you’ll put your tissues at risk.”
Part of the problem is in the age differences. “The trainers are usually in their early 20s, but a lot of the people using the programmes are mid to late 30s and 40s. That matters, because your tissues are far more resilient when you’re under 30.”
Some Insta-fitness yoga personalities have personal training qualifications, but many more do not.
Often, there is no way of telling who is trained and who isn’t, without asking them.
Anyone with more than 100,000 followers, however, regardless of their qualifications, is deemed an “influencer”, courted by brands eager to reach their followers.
That’s a fact that angers many offline personal trainers, who feel that the unqualified yet famous ones devalue their profession.
“Online programmes want people to feel as if they have their own – affordable – personal trainer,” one tells me. “As some of them are totally unskilled and the programmes are really ‘one size fits all’, the reality couldn’t be further from the truth. It makes reputable personal trainers seem outrageously expensive.”
It is a sentiment echoed by one health and beauty magazine editor, who asks to remain anonymous because her views don’t tally with that of her employer.
Dangers of untrained yoga instructors
“These days, a strong Instagram following, good gene pool and even better spray tan can make you a fitness star, regardless of what qualifications you have. Not only do many of these ‘fitness stars’ know little about what constitutes safe exercise. The truth is that no amount of likes come in handy when you need to solve a gym-induced injury.”
Continuing “they also create a false sense of what fit and healthy looks like – and it doesn’t always look 21 and great in a bikini. Add to that the fact that these social media stars get paid to shift fitness gadgets, gimmicks and protein shakes, and you’ve a whole load of dangerously misguided followers.”
No one would deny that people becoming more active is anything other than a good thing. Millennials claim to enjoy working out as much as going out; gyms have become stylish, social spaces where people spend their Friday nights and Saturday mornings, often doing back-to-back classes.
Yoga, spinning, boxing and hybrid cardio-barre workouts at city centre based studios often have waiting lists for evening or weekend sessions, when people would traditionally be kicking back with a drink (fewer people aged between 16 and 24 drink than ever before, according to the Office of National Statistics). Gyms are designed with sleek interiors and high impact feature walls – all the better to post to Instagram.
And while the rest of the fashion sector struggles, activewear – now not so much a genre of clothing as a way of life, led by leggings and crop tops – has become big business.
Morgan Stanley forecasts the workout clothing sector to be worth £63 bilion a year globally over the next three years. Gymwear is no longer old jogging bottoms or baggy T-shirts; it’s cut-outs and mesh – clothes you can wear all day, seven days a week.