Read This Before You Join A Gym, Buy A Treadmill Or Start A Diet

It’s December 31st.

That means that tomorrow morning, three billion people are going to resolve to:

  • Start exercising
  • Get in shape
  • Lose weight
  • Or some other version of this most popular New Year’s Resolution

And soon after making that resolution, they’re going to spend a bunch of money on a gym membership, weight loss program or a new piece of fitness equipment in the hope that this “thing” will help them to finally transform their body into super-sexy celebrity shape.



And they couldn’t be more wrong.

The biggest problem facing everyone who wants to transform their body isn’t lack of resources.

It’s lack of consistency.

If you don’t find a way to stick to your plan day in and day out…it ain’t gonna work.


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Toronto Health & Fitness Friday #5

It’s New Year’s Resolutions time, and just like last  year, one of this year’s most popular New Year’s Resolutions is that classic – “I am going to join  gym, lose weight, get in shape….”

But, before you run out and commit yourself to a 12 month contract with the nearest big box gym, take a look at this How To Not Get Ripped Off While Buying A Gym Membership self-help video from Pat Foran – CTV’s Consumer Alert guru.

Note – If the video doesn’t work, here is Pat’s blog entry on the same story.


And if anyone needs any help brokering a better deal with their gym, shoot me an email.


Gym Memberships Cost Too Much

According to a survey taken for the World Cancer Research Fund, 1/3 of all Brits blame the high cost of gym memberships for their lack of activity.

Scouring through the rest of the survey, we also find that:

  • 18% of them blame the damp British weather (ye olde Milli Vanilli excuse),
  • 36% blame their busy lifestyles and,
  • a truly sad 33% admit to being just too damn lazy to exercise.

At least that last group was being honest.

Pathetic…but honest.

And while it’s true that a lot of gym/health club owners are a shady bunch of snake oil salesmen willing to play on their customers’ insecurities in order to extract the largest amount of money from their wallets, there are lots of ways to get fit without spending much money.

These include:

  • Free workouts from Health Habits
  • Going for a walk/run/jog/hill sprint
  • Bodyweight workouts using the playground in your nearest public park
  • YMCA/YWCA/JCC health clubs – all offer reduced rates for low income earners
  • Kicking a soccer ball/hitting a tennis ball/throwing a football/baseball/frisbee with a bunch of your friends
  • Don’t have friends who like to exercise/play sports? – Join a Meetup group

And if you still think that exercise costs too much money, maybe you should factor in this other little nugget of info from the WCRF.

1/3 of all cancers are caused by poor diet and a lack of exercise.

And the last time I checked, getting cancer costs a lot more than a gym membership..

Toronto Health & Fitness Friday #2

Next summer, when your very expensive and very out of shape teenage children shuffle up to you and announce that they’re bored and that they have nothing to do, send them over to the nearest GoodLife Fitness club.

In concert with Teen Fitness Connection, GoodLife Fitness is offering free gym memberships to Canadian kids aged 14-17 during the months of July & August and between the hours of 8am & 4pm.

Here is a list of participating GoodLife Fitness clubs.

You will have to contact the clubs directly for the specific terms and conditions, but after speaking with the Corporate Manager for Teen Fitness International, I have been assured that the only other restrictions would include access to specific fitness classes and/or use of the pool/spa.

Now if only we could convince a few other health clubs in Toronto to offer similar programs, our kids could be the fittest in Canada.


Lose 21 Pounds in 7 Days

Lose 21 pounds in 7 days….is a great big fat lie.

Unfortunately…it’s the kind of lie that the almost every successful health & fitness business uses to sell their products & services.

Because, as the saying goes, “if you want to succeed in business, it’s better to sell aspirin instead of vitamins.

Vitamins are fine; they’re healthy…they’re good for you. But aspirin cures your pain. Aspirin isn’t a nice-to-have kind of product, it’s a must-have kind of product.”

And if you’re selling health, fitness, weight loss, longevity, etc…. selling aspirin means selling:

  • Diet books that promise amazing results with little effort
  • TV shows like The Biggest Loser that promise amazing results in a very short time
  • Subliminal audio programs that will re-program your self-conscious mind to melt body-fat while you sleep
  • Health Club memberships that are big on promises and small on results
  • Cheap fitness equipment peddled on late night tv
  • Exercise videos starring ex porn stars
  • and, my favorite….supplements & drugs that promise amazing results with absolutely zero effort

And this brings me to my question o’ the day.

Is it possible to sell Health Habits as aspirin?

Because, right now…for most people….selling a healthy lifestyle is exactly like selling a vitamin. A great big horse-pill of a vitamin that reeks of vitamin B.

What Does Your Health Club Do For You?

What does your health club (or personal trainer, or iphone app, or online fitness community, or fitness magazine, etc) do for you?

If your club is like my club, then they….

  • provide fitness equipment and space to exercise
  • offer the advice of their in-house fitness professionals
  • blend up the latest in post-workout nutrition
  • schedule fitness classes at convenient times
  • bring in guest speakers to increase your fitness IQ

And, if they do all that, then you’re getting top notch health club service.

So, why is it that after I read this article from marketing guru Seth Godin, I got the feeling that today’s health club industry is doomed for extinction?

Or hopefully…evolution.


Why is it that over 70% of all new health club members stop coming to the gym within 3 months?

And why is it that most of the remaining 30% don’t look much better than we they first joined?

And why is it that today’s health & fitness industry doesn’t seem to care?

The Answer?

Because the current health & fitness industry is still focused on delivering products and services instead of solutions.

Think about it – most people go to a health club to burn off some fat & to get fit.

How they do it is irrelevant.

Or at least it should be.

The goal is what matters……and the health club (or personal trainer, or iphone app, or online fitness community, or fitness magazine, etc) than can shift their focus toward the goals of their clients and away from the latest fitness trend becomes indispensable to their clients.

And in my opinion, this style of thinking is a big part of the reason why Crossfit has become a major player in the health & fitness industry.

They provide results better than anyone else.


Get Fit – Save Money

While watching some of the healthcare debate stuff on the news, I started thinking about:

  1. How the U.S. could save healthcare dollars by spending more on disease prevention / health promotion
  2. How Canadians pay less for pharmaceuticals thanks to public health care

All this deep thinking happened while I was shopping for fish oils, etc at my favorite health food store.

It got me thinking, what if all of the customers in the store got together, pooled all of their purchases and asked for a volume discount?

What would happen?

As individuals, we don’t have the leverage needed to get better prices.

But, what if thousands of us joined together as a group (perhaps an online group) and demanded better prices for our:

  • Nutritional supplements – vitamins, etc…
  • Health club memberships
  • Workout equipment
  • Workout clothes
  • Personal training sessions

Would we get a better price?


So, as a little experiment, I have set up a little beta test.

Using a facebook Group, I am asking all of my readers who live in the Greater Toronto Area to join the Health & Fitness Buying Group – Toronto

The more people the better. That way I can pressure retailers to offer bigger & better discounts.

(if this test works, I will expand the group / set up new groups to service other areas or possibley even just set up 1 big group)


Economy will drive fitness habits in 2010

As reported by Reuters, “cost-conscious workouts at home and at the gym topped the list of fitness trends for this year in a survey, followed by shorter, more time-efficient regimens, such as boot camp and circuit training“.

“People are looking for ways to accomplish as much as possible with as little time and money as necessary,” said Cedric X. Bryant, chief science officer of the American Council on Exercise (ACE), which conducted the online poll of fitness professionals.

“Last year ‘budget-conscious’ was on the list but this year the majority of the respondents put it as one of the top,” he added.

Other money-saving measures, such as the shift from personal training sessions to small group training classes and in-home workouts using smaller, more portable equipment, also made the list.

“Personal trainers are seeing they’ve got to respond to market needs. Working with two to four clients at a time they can charge less but still get their hourly fee,” Bryant said.

Boot-camp workouts and circuit training, both of which burn calories while building strength and endurance, will be among the most popular trends in 2010, as time-constrained consumers seek shorter, more intense regimens.

“We’re living in a time-pressured society where people are working longer because of staff reductions or trying to pick up extra income,” Bryant explained.

But, it’s not just the economy that is driving future fitness trends.

The aging of the baby boomers and the growing obesity problem will also impact the direction of the fitness industry


So, here’s my question…

Considering that personal training has been the biggest money maker for health clubs in the past decade, how are they going to adapt to a lingering recession, high unemployment levels and reduced disposable income?

Can they adapt?

Or maybe, just maybe, something better will emerge out of this economic mess.

Perhaps, instead of driving to the gym and paying someone to tell us how to exercise, we can adopt a DIY attitude towards our health & fitness.

  • Perhaps we can pool our knowledge (see internet, social media, facebook, twitter…)
  • Perhaps we can support each other (see not paying $80 per hour for support)
  • Perhaps we can exercise outside of a socially approved health club facility (see outdoors, rec room, garage)

So, what do you think?

  • Is the recession going to kill the corporate health club?
  • Can they adapt in time?
  • Is the recession impacting your fitness routine?
  • If so, how?


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Last Minute Christmas Shopping Guide

If you’re anything like me (and 96.4% of all men), you have left your Christmas shopping to the last minute.

And the stores are all sold out of Red Ryder BB guns.

So, whatcha gonna do?

I’ll tell you what you’re gonna do.

You’re gonna give your friends and family the gifts of health, fitness and smaller love handles.

And I am here to help with my Health Habits Approved™  Last Minute Christmas Shopping Guide.

Category 1:  Health Club Memberships

Don’t do it.

The latest research shows that overweight gym-goers feel more embarrassment and intimidation about exercising, exercising around young people, exercising around fit people, and about health club salespeople than individuals of normal weight.

And most health clubs do nothing to address these feelings of embarrassment and intimidation.

As a result, the people who need that gym membership the most are the same people who are most likely to quit.

So, unless you enjoy throwing your money away, don’t buy them a gym membership. Just don’t do it.

Category 2: Personal Training

Once again, don’t do it.

Starting in the new year, I will be starting a Health Habits Fit Club for anyone interested.

  • All for the low, low cost of $0.00

Note – I will give you more details later in the week.

Category 3: Book Learning

There are a lot of really crappy health/fitness/diet books out there.

And sadly, some of the worst are some of the best sellers.

So, to help you separate the wheat from the chaff, I went through my library and picked out my favorite health/fitness books.

And here they are

If you’re still confused which books to buy, shoot me an email and I can help you narrow down your selection.

Note – you don’t have to buy the books through my little Amazon store…even though I would appreciate the 4% kickback I get from them.

Category 4: Cardio Equipment

It’s a FACT* – 68% of all cardio equipment purchases are used primarily as over-priced clothes racks.

And 90% of those people who employ their cardio machines as luxury clothes racks feel intense remorse and shame every time they recall what lies underneath that pile o’ clothes.

So, if you’re going to buy your loved one a piece of cardio equipment (bike, elliptical, treadmill) ask yourself these questions:

  • Are they going to use it?
  • Is this the type of equipment they enjoy using?

Bike people don’t use treadmills and vice versa

  • Is the equipment going to last?

If you can afford it, avoid the “home grade” equipment and move up to the “light commercial” or even the “commercial grade” equipment. The “home grade” has lower quality bearings, motors, etc. The end result is that they break down sooner. And breakdowns = service calls = $$$

  • What does the warranty cover?see #3
  • Bells & Whistles?

To me, this is the least important stuff. Unfortunately, it is also the stuff that salespeople use to get you all excited in order to sell you an inferior piece of equipment.

Remember, the primary use of cardio equipment is to improve your cardio. And, you don’t need all sorts of on-board computers and video monitors and internet connections, etc to improve the function of your heart & lungs. All of this flashy stuff should go in the “want” category, not the “need” category.

However, if money is no object, go nuts on the bells & whistles.

* actually I have no idea what percentage of cardio equipment ends up as expensive clothes racks. 68% just seemed like a good number.

Category 5: Non-Cardio Fitness Equipment

Do NOT buy this!!!
do not buy have been warned

Once again, I need to warn you that when it comes to fitness equipment, there is a lot of junk out there.

My advice:

  1. Avoid the shopping channels
  2. Avoid anything that promises chiseled abs in 6 weeks
  3. If it seems to good to be true, it probably is.
  4. Take a look at some of the items I have collected here.

For much less than the price of a 12 month gym membership, you can build a compact home gym that will meet all of your needs.

Here’s what I recommend:

Exercise Mat

I have grown to love my G2 mat.

It’s cushier than a yoga mat, but not as cushy as a gymnastics style mat. As Goldilocks would say, it’s cushiness is just right.

Plus, it doesn’t hurt to have a visual reminder to stretch more often.


Resistance / Strength training

Forget about buying one of those “home gym” multi station gizmos.

Seriously, just forget about it.

For about $200, you can have a strength training center that is next to invisible, won’t break down and gives you a significantly better workout.

What you need to do is:

  1. Buy a set of Jump Stretch or Iron Woody resistance bands. These bands never break and will give you more workout than you can handle.
  2. Buy a 4 ft long safety grab bar and install it (vertically) where ever you want your new home gym. Alternately, you can go with a painted or stained wooden handrail for a more rustic look. Be sure to install it well. We don’t want thos screws coming loose.

Here is an article I wrote than might give you a better idea.

Note – I am currently working on setting up a sales arrangement with either Jump Stretch or Iron Woody to get you guys a better price.

As an option, I would also recommend a chin-up bar. It’s not vital, but there is such a high payback from chin-ups, you really should consider it.

I prefer an “Iron Gym” style chin up bar that you don’t have to screw directly into your door frame.

Note – There’s no need to worry about this chin-up bar collapsing under your weight. I have used it at home during on of my strength phases. I weighed 265 lbs at the time.

So, what’s next?

Core Strength

Buy an ab wheel…end of story.

It’s the best thing for functional core strength and a bullet proof lower back.

Check out this info on ab wheels

Pain Relief / Flexibility / Massage

For the less than half the price of a massage, you need to buy a quality foam roller and a massage ball.

The foam roller will break up all of the knots, tight muscles, scar tissue, etc in your thighs, back, calves etc.

The massage ball does the same thing for all of your nooks and crannies that the roller can’t get to. I rely on it for the small muscles in my upper back.


Okay, that should do it for your Christmas shopping.

Unless somebody wanted to get me something…hint hint…the new 2010 Camaro is just my size

An Undercover Expose on Health Club Contracts: How to Avoid Getting Ripped Off at the Gym

an example of a typical gym membership advertisement
an example of a typical gym membership advertisement

The Australian consumer rights organization CHOICE recently conducted an undercover investigation of the gym/fitness center/health club industry.

And they weren’t impressed.

CHOICE sent two secret shoppers into 9 different gyms in and around downtown Sydney posing as potential new members.

And here’s some of what they found:

Fitness First, consumers last

Of the two Fitness First gyms visited by our shadow shoppers, one in particular stood out for the salesperson’s intensity. “He couldn’t believe I didn’t want to sign,” reported one of our shoppers. “When I said I needed to speak with my husband, he said, ‘I thought you said he was supportive of you being here’. He said it was only $35 today and if I go it may not be available when I call back.”

Our second shadow shopper said: “He just kept asking me what the problem was.” At two of the four visits to Fitness First outlets, our shadow shoppers reported difficulty in ending the consultation – something they did not experience at any of the other gyms.

What Should You Do?

I have been in this business for years and I have worked with some pretty shady salespeople…scumbags really. They are a big part of the reason why I started my own personal training business and why I recommend people stay far away from any health club chains.

But, if you are determined to work out at a major health club, here’s what I would do:

  • Put together a list of potential health clubs – do a little research into each – check out their profile on the BBB website or, etc…
  • Go gym shopping at the end of the month – all salespeople have quotas to fill.
  • Decide what kind of membership you want – do you need daycare, personal training, massage, etc..Be Prepared like a Boy Scout
  • Take control of the sales meeting – Once they get talking, you are more likely to get hypnotized by their sweet words.
  • Try this approach…. After you have had the grand tour and have been ushered back into the salesperson’s office…tell them that you ARE going to buy a gym membership in the next couple of days. Not maybe. Definite sale. You just need to decide which gym is best for you. This way, you avoid the speech about how important it is to exercise, yadda yadda.  Then tell them that what you need is their absolute best price. They will try and get you to stay seated and listen to some more B.S., but you won’t. Tell them that you have an appointment in 20 min with one of their competitors. Request their “best price” again. If they hesitate, stand up and head for the door. Don’t worry, they won’t let you walk out that door. Take their “best price” and head to the next health club on your list.
  • Always be prepared to walk out that door.
  • Don’t worry about hurting their feelings. They’re salespeople, they don’t have any feelings. Don’t believe me? See Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross.

Creative pricing

One thing most of the gyms had in common was a creative approach to pricing. Some had printed prices, others handwritten only, but ultimately all seemed to have flexibility in the discounts and incentives they offered. Costs such as joining and administration fees were magically waived or halved as an incentive for our shadow shoppers to sign up.

One Curves consultant and one at each Fitness First outlet even asked leading questions to ascertain how much our shadow shoppers could afford to pay. In the case of one Curves outlet, one shopper was told she couldn’t take the handwritten prices away with her, as a matter of “company policy”.


Fitness First National Operations Manager, Michele Harding, concedes the pricing structure varies from club to club, depending on customer demographics and location. Fernwood Sales Manager, Jo Stagg, says prices across the Fernwood network also differ depending on location, as franchise owners set their own prices.

Our shadow shop revealed that while both Curves and Contours had consistent pricing across their outlets, there were variations in what was waived or charged in terms of joining and administration fees. One Curves outlet quoted a joining fee of $30, while at another it was $199 but a $99 discount was offered.

At a Contours gym, one of our shadow shoppers was quoted a “set-up” fee of $195 for a 12-month contract which was reduced to $95, then an “admin fee” further reduced to $45 during the consultation. At the same gym, our other shopper was told this joining fee would be waived totally if she joined before a certain date. At the second Contours gym, a set-up or administration fee was not mentioned to either shopper and they were both told that the “joining fee” would be waived if they signed a 12-month contract.

What Should You Do?

  • Take your own notes.
  • Add up all of the different charges to determine what the total cost of a 12 month membership actually is. They will try and trick you by dividing the total cost up into a bunch of different smaller charges.
  • Be prepared to walk out the door.


We have all heard the horror stories of people trying to cancel their gym memberships.

  • Cancellation penalties
  • Debit/Credit cards being charged for months after membership cancellation
  • Threats of legal action for breach of contract.

What Should You Do?

  • Read your contract before you sign
  • Know the contract cooling off period in your area
  • Know the laws regarding cancellation due to relocation (if you move)
  • Consider paying a little more for a month to month membership
  • If you need to cancel your membership, do it in writing, in person, at the gym, with the club manager.
  • Be prepared to pay. They will screw up your credit rating
  • Don’t assume that just because they agreed to cancel your membership, that they won’t continue to draw money from your bank account or credit card. Check your statements

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Workout Burnout


Yesterday was Groundhog Day at my gym.

The same people, with the same bodies, were doing the same workouts that they do each and every day.

  • The skinny-fit people were running hard, uphill, on their treadmills
Brandon Moen: treadmill marathon champ
Brandon Moen: treadmill marathon champ
  • The skinny-fat people were jogging, like good little hamsters on their treadmills or ellipticals, and


  • The wanna-be skinny-fat people were plodding along in their fat-burning zones.


  • The resident “strong-men” of the gym were trying hard to hide even more muscle under their generous layers of body-fat.
Dave Tate - powerlifting guru - pre-transformation
Dave Tate - powerlifting guru - pre-transformation
  • The “machine-junkies” were getting a very safe & sensible workout


  • The Yoginis were stretching themselves into pretzels
model: Christy Turlington
model: Christy Turlington
  • And the interval training junkies were working out like this:

and this:

And the question I ask is…


Why do the runners run and the lifters lift?

Why don’t the yoginis ever try to build some strength?

Why do the Crossfit cultists only do Crossfit?

Why don’t the Curves circuit bunnies ever do some sprints on the exercise bikes?



So, I ‘m asking you.

Do you have the guts to break out of your routine and try something new?


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