I Began Training 12 Years Ago, And Almost Everything Has Changed


12 years ago today I started my fitness training career. I also met my wife, Angie Nation, that day…and a good friend, Brendan O’Neil, who also owns a successful training facility.

The three of us started this day in 2001 at 24 Hour Fitness in St. Charles.
That has got me thinking about how much the fitness industry has changed.

In 2001, the only people hiring personal trainers (generally) where those intimidated by gyms or being out on the workout floor by themselves. There were an enlightened few who knew that they needed help and a professional could provide that.

The style of training was overwhelmingly bodybuilding. Most trainees designed their programs around body part days. Isolating a muscle was the goal, and machine training was very popular.
Core training meant crunches on the floor or an ab rocker, and performing a hundred or more reps was the norm.

Functional training meant training for the mirror regardless of movement or pain, and stability balls were only for those interested in physical therapy.

Nutrition for weight loss meant “stop eating” or just “eat less”,without regard to nutrients or health (or the ramifications of rapid weight loss). Eating for general well being wasn’t often discussed.

12 years later, it is clear that trainees are interested in more than just aesthetics. With the popularity of crossfit style programs, tough mudder obstacle courses and endurance events, it is clear that MOVEMENT and PERFORMANCE now (at least) equal the mirror.

Now, effort is made to create an unstable, uncomfortable environment to train in, mimicking life demands (versus a stable environment conducive to pushing max weight).

Corrective exercise has become popular. Done well, this can correct movement faulty patterns and make life feel better. Good corrective trainers are a smart bunch who know the body and how it works (not just how to adjust a seat on a weight machine).

Fitness has become more inclusive and far less exclusive. Most gyms and fitness facilities feature trainees of all ages and fitness levels, with most of them encouraging each other. With this diverse group comes a diverse group of goals, from strength to rehab to “just being able to keep up with the grand kids.”

Trainers of today are generally well educated, with college majors focusing on training as a CAREER, (not just a way to make money between jobs). This means the job market is more competitive with more and more qualified college graduates.

Most clients have come to expect more out of their trainers as a result, as they should. Nutrition guidance, movement correction, strength training, and instruction on functional application of their training efforts (how do I use this new strength?) are all expected parts of a training session.

Fitness is a dynamic and ever changing field. What was true 12 years ago is a prehistoric concept today. With the popularity of fitness programs and health in general, the speed of innovation in the fitness world is likely to move even faster.

A lot has changed since 2001, mostly for the better.
Looking forward to the next 25 years!

Matt Pirtle MA CSCS

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