Thursday, December 29, 2016

My Best Books of 2016

This is my list of the best books of 2016. Most were released in 2016 but a few were not, but this happened to be the year I read them.

I have broken the list into non-fiction, fiction and biography. Hopefully it will give you some ideas if you are looking for something to read.

Some books I read.


My non fiction reading this year was dominated by the 'smart thinking' genre, how to improve your ability to learn new skills and be more productive,  as well as a smattering of neuroscience.

So without further ado.

Peak: Secrets from the new science of expertise by Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool.

Eric Anderson is the guy who did the research that led to the popular idea (myth) of 10,000 hours of practice to be an expert in something.

In the book he goes into much more detail than the authors who have quoted him. He gives you all the research and practical advice on how to engage in purposeful practice and deliberate practice.

This is a must for coaches. Reading through the quotes I highlighted I realised I need to read this again.

There are so many gems in this book, but here are two.


"...whenever possible, the best approach is almost always to work with a good coach or teacher. An effective instructor will understand what must go into a successful training regimen and will be able to modify it as necessary to suit individual students."

"The hallmark of purposeful or deliberate practice is that you try to do something you cannot do - that takes you out of your comfort zone - and that you practice it over and over again, focusing on exactly how you are doing it, where you are falling short, and how you can get better."

Deep Work by Cal Newport.

I have written about this book before here.

In the age of distraction to focus and do quality work you need to remove yourself from environments that don't work for you.

Newport suggests quitting social media, which I have done a few times (easier said than done) limiting emails, and avoiding the open plan office working space ( I can attest to the fact it is the least productive environment in the world).

Hats off to Newport for coining the term 'pseudo-work' which is what most people are doing most of the day; reacting to email, looking busy but not actually doing anything.

I need to employ Newport's strategies in 2017.

Grit: The power of passion and perserverance by Angela Duckworth.

In short, successful people stick with things and don't give up easily.

I found Duckworth's book more anecdotal than Ericsson's, and at one point she interviews Ericsson and asks him how to improve her running, he recommends she gets a coach!


"The bottom line on culture and grit is: If you want to be grittier, find a gritty culture and join it. If you're a leader, and you want the people in your organisation to be grittier, create a gritty culture."

"As any coach or athlete will tell you, consistency of effort over the long run is everything."

The Art of Learning: An inner journey to optimal performance by Josh Waitzkin.

This got mentioned in the Learning How to Learn MOOC weekly email.

Written by a guy who became a chess champion at a very young age and then became a Tai Chi champion.

He tells you what strategies he employed to get there. I actually enjoyed the chess sections the most.


"The secret is that everything is always on the line. The more present we are at practice, the more present we will be in competition, in the boardroom, at the exam, the operating table, the big stage. If we have any hope of attaining excellence, let alone of showing what we've got under pressure, we have to be prepared by a lifestyle of reinforcement. Presence must be like breathing."

The Idiot Brain: A neuroscientist explains what your head is really up to by Dean Burnett.

Covering such things as why you get motion sickness, why clever people lose arguments, why you get addicted to things and why your memory is unreliable.

Written for the lay person, the author explains neuroscience concepts really well, and I also like the British sense of humour that the author has.

Pivot: The only move that matters is your next one by Jenny Blake.

I like the central premise of the book. You don't have to completely give up what you are doing now, you can pivot out of your current situation (if you so wish) with a more low risk strategy of side projects and a plan.

We don't all work at Google or in offices but the strategy is overall a good one.

Do Fly: Find your way. Make a living. Be your best self by Gavin Strange.

I really like to 'Do' series of books, they are easy to read, you can read them in less than a day. They are deceptively simple but full of good advice.

The are also really well designed in terms of layout and graphics.

Excerpt from Do Fly.


I don't read much fiction, one of my goals for 2017 is to read more fiction. But here are the stand out fiction books for me.

The Circle by David Eggers.

Imagine a world in the not too distance future (as in now) where a corporation that is a combination of Facebook and Google controls everything.

If you like Charlie Brookers Black Mirror you will like this book.

It has been made into a film due for release next year. So read it now before the film comes out and you can be one of the cool kids.

Led me to also read his first book A Heart Breaking Work of Staggering Genius, an autobiographical novel where both of Egger's parents die and he has to bring up his younger brother.


"Your comment on things, and that substitutes for doing them."

Stoner: A novel by John Williams.

Published 50 years ago. Tag line: the greatest book novel you've never read.

The prose in this book is stunning, one mans entire life. Not a heros life, but an ordinary, average, heart breaking life which most of us lead.


Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen.

Because its Springsteen autobiography, enough said.

But it turns out his early life is a mixture of On The Road and Bukowski characters with prose to match.

If you want to see an example of Ericssons purposeful practice in real life then read Springsteens book. That's how you become good at something.

If I had read this when I was 18 I would have probably headed west and slept on the beach with my guitar.


"Back east we usually experience the freedom that comes with a good snowstorm. No work, no school, the world shutting its big mouth for a while, the dirty streets covered over in virgin white, like all the missteps you've taken have been erased by nature. You can't run; you can only sit. You open your door on a trackless world, your old path, your history, momentarily covered over by a landscape of forgiveness, a place where something new might happen."

Which is kind of how I've always felt about snow but never managed to articulate like Bruce does.

That's the list for 2016.

And in 2017.

I still have a few books I need to finish reading. Neurophilosophy and the Health Mind by Georg Northoff and Decisions, Uncertainty, and the Brain: The Science of Neuroeconomics by Paul Glimcher. These are part of my project to see if you can teach yourself the equivalent of a masters degree in Neuroscience. (Which I will write about another time).

I also have a plan to read more fiction. I have a list of classics to read, you know the ones that always appear on the greatest books of all time lists.

So far I'm thinking:

Tolstoy - Anna Karenina or War and Peace
Dickens -  David Copperfield or Great Expectations
Proust -  In Search of Lost Time (started but never finished)
Steinbeck -  Grapes of Wrath
Hemingway - For Whom the Bell Tolls
Hunger by Knut Hamsun
Anathem by Neal Stephenson, which I saw mentioned somewhere.

And today I bought Fiesta: The Sun Also Rises by Hemingway, so that will be the one I start with.

Non fiction:
The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks
Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers by Robert M Sapolsky.

I better start employing Cal Newports ideas if I'm going to fit all these in!

What do you plan on reading, what are your top book recommendations for next year? What fiction books should I add to my list? What inspired you in 2016?

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Top 6 Cardio Exercises of all Time!

Everything comes full circle. 30 years ago it was all about aerobic exercise. Then in the last 10 years there was a backlash - anything above 5 reps was cardio, and there was no need to do steady state cardio. Then all you needed was HIIT and Tabatas. And now LISS is back being mentioned by strength coaches.

As always, the truth lies in the middle way. There are numerous benefits to cardio exercises and doing some is a good thing. In fact the number one thing you can do for your brain health and memory is aerobic exercise, it's way better than any smart drug.

So without further ado here is my top 6 cardio exercise choices. I have tried to have a selection that incorporates things that require no equipment, and things you can do in the gym (depending on how well equipped your gym is). These happen to be the things I like.

Number 1: Walking.

Walking is the best exercise you can do for your health. It is good for heart and lung function, improves blood sugar levels and even more impressively

Walking also

You can walk 20-30mins a days, it requires no special equipment.

If you are a beginner or looking for something with all round benefits and low injury risk then walking should be your number one choice.

Top Tips: 

Walking in nature has been shown to improve cognitive function (memory) and has a calming and peaceful effect. It improves memory over and above walking in an urban environment.

Also walking on uneven ground will help strengthen ankles, proprioception and is therapeutic for the lower back, and is a more interesting than pounding the pavement.

Stuart McGill (2002; 83) has shown that walking with a backpack weighing 10kg on uneven ground has actually been shown to REDUCE compression on the spine and relieve symptoms of certain types of back pain.

Make sure you swing the arm from the shoulders and no window shopping walking!

Number 2: Stairmill.

Aka stairmaster.

I made sure we got a couple of these for our gym 4 or 5 years ago. Now I see they are becoming more popular for good reason.

This is my number one choice for gym based cardio exercise. There is nowhere to hide on the stairmill, you can't drift off or coast. You are relentlessly walking up stairs. Your heart rate goes up with very little impact on knees and hips.

When training for long ultraruns the stairmill was part of my cross training.  As anyone who has run an ultra in a mountain environment knows at some point you are going to hit a hill that you are going to have to walk up. I would say it prepared me for long power hikes up hills and mountains better than almost anything else.

Top Tips:

Try not to hold on. This may be difficult at first as you have to concentrate on not missing a step. Or try not holding on for a minute at a time at lower levels.

To increase difficulty and to prepare for mountain races where you are carrying your gear try it with a weighted vest; 30 mins with a 10kg vest on will make you a believer!

Number 3: Hill sprints.

I think I first got these from running coach Brad Hudson, where he uses them at a start of a running phase to build strength.

Go for very short sprints, 8-10 secs.  Start with 5 sets, build up to 10. After a warm up jog to the hill, start with some build up sprints. Recovery is a slow walk back to the start. All you need to do is find a steep hill.

The mechanics of sprinting are much improved for most people uphill compared to the flat. The chance of muscle pull or injury sprinting up hill are much lower. Lets face it, most of us (including me) haven't been coached to sprint, and running uphill helps you to engage posterior chain muscles and drive hard.

Top Tips: 

Find a hill outside. You can do these on a treadmill, but the time it takes you to increase and decrease speed on a treadmill is not conducive to short sprints. If you are using a treadmill go for 5-10% gradient.

If outside, find a hill, if you can find a long hill, 1 mile or longer, you can gradually make your way up the hill.

Number 4: Ski Erg.

From the people who brought you the most reliable piece of cardio equipment ever, the Concept 2 Rower, comes the Ski Erg.

Cross country skiing is a phenomenal cardio exercise, and in fact the only winter sport I can do without falling over every 10 seconds, and the only one I've ever received any coaching for. But unless you live in Norway actual cross country skiing is not a cardio option.

Not many gyms have Ski Ergs yet, and I've only just used one, but it is well worth it. One of the few cardio exercises that truly is hitting the upper body, I actually got a tricep pump!

It's a good finisher after a workout, seems to help to get the blood flowing in the upper body.

Or do some intervals, 10-15 secs with 45-50 sec recovery. 5-10mins on this machine is enough, unlike walking or the stairmill I wouldn't be doing this for 30-60 minutes.

Top tips:

If you don't know how to cross country ski, watch some technique videos online of the Ski Erg or even some pro skiers using the double pole technique. You can vary the technique on the machine, one leg at a time like skater technique of cross country, alternate arms like classic cross country or double pole for maximum power.

Get a full body extension and hinge at the hips.

Number 5: Versaclimber.

A total body exercise. They haven't changed the design of this machine since the original Robocop was released, and it is over priced if you are going to buy one, but nothing takes your heart rate up like this.

A cross crawl movement pattern, engaging upper and lower body. This is hard, use as a finisher or in a conditioning workout or at the start of a stubborn fat loss protocol workout, anymore than 5-7 mins and you are doing well.

Top tips:

The handles adjust. Try different lengths of pull and stride to see what works best for you.

Number 6: What you enjoy.

Of course, the best cardio exercise is the one you enjoy and have access to. If you like mountain biking or rowing do those. Or it could be badminton or a studio class like spinning.

The best exercise is the one you do.

Nearly made the top 6:

Other things to consider.


Didn't make the top 6, as some people don't seem to be able to skip, therefore they don't really get any cardio benefit from it. I guess that's why Gray Cook called it a 'self limiting exercise'. If you can skip and have access to an area with a good surface to skip on, it's a great exercise.

Prowlers and sleds: 

If you have access to these with an indoor track I would definitely use them. If you don't, hill sprints are the way forward. These days it is more likely that your gym has a prowler or sled than it does a Versaclimber or Ski Erg.

Also I would consider prowlers and sleds hybrid exercises. Go light and explosive or go heavy and use them as a strength exercise or hypetrophy training.

Get moving.

Your body doesn't know how you got your heart rate up. As long as you are using a mixture of some low intensity longer and higher intensity shorter work you'll be covered.

What's your favourite cardio exercise, is it something I haven't thought of? Let me know.


McGill S (2002) Low Back Disorders. Evidence Based Prevention and Rehabilitation.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Online coaches: I'm not doing your job for you.

Has Instagram killed coaching?

We live in a post truth world. Donald Trump is President- elect, Brexit happened, and anyone with an instagram account is a fitness expert.

Now let me say straight off, there are some good online coaches. Ones who take time to skype their client, build rapport and construct an individual programme and nutrition plan.

And you could say if its not harming you or interfering with your work, why comment?

But online programming and 'coaching' has encroached on my work, I offer three examples below. It gives an insight into what the public are buying...

Example 1: £300 for a programme, and the instructors at the gym have to show you the exercises.

A young girl came into the gym with a programme she had bought from an online trainer. This girl was not very experienced in the gym and didn't really know any of the exercises on her programme. The person she had bought the programme from had provided some video links, but not for all the exercises.

She asked us for some help and we showed her a few of the exercises, and said she should contact the trainer again for more advice. The trainer was relatively local, and her answer was, the young girl could pay for a session with her to show her the exercises and that the "instructors in the gym have to show you all the exercises, its their job."

Hang on, its my job to show someone all the exercises in a programme that you got paid £300 for? Even if I think the programme is no good and the exercise choices are sub par? Bear in mind this would take hours of coaching to get her where she could do the programme with competence.

The young girl was quite upset by the whole thing and asked me what she could do. I suggested going back to the trainer, trying to get her money back, maybe contact REPs (if this trainer was a member of REPs), look at distance selling law, if she paid by credit card or paypal may be try to recoup the money.

In the end she wrote a thank you note for all our help, I don't know if she got her money back. The online trainer is probably still selling online programmes to beginners who can't do them.

Example 2: 90% 1RM of a rear delt flye.

A guy approached me in the gym to check out his rear delt flye technique. I had a look and said he probably needed to reduce the weight and focus on technique as he was only getting partial range with a lot of momentum.

He then told me his programme told him that this week was strength week and he had to do 90% 1RM of a rear delt flye for 3 reps. He then showed me on his phone the actual programme and there it was.

I explained in my opinion the rear delt flye was an accessory exercise, it should always be in a higher rep range and you would never try to workout the 1RM on a rear delt flye. The programme looked professional, nicely presented, but looking good and actually being good are two different things.

Now there are a few possible explanations. First, the person writing the programme committed a copy and paste error and never intended that exercise to be a 90% 1RM. Second, they have never actually trained anyone and don't realise this will not work. Thirdly, they train people all the time and use this method effectively. I'll let you decide which it is.

Example 3: 1100kcals a day and white potatoes only.

A young girl who comes to the gym showed me a nutrition plan that her sister had purchased off of an instagram coach and she was following it as well.

The calories per day were worked out on based on their weight in kilos. With a bodyweight of just over 60kg the plan had worked out that several days per week her caories were down in the 1100 to 1200 range and on the higher calories days it went to 1600-1700kcals.

Now will you lose weight on this? Probably. Will you feel miserable? Probably. Is it sustainable? Probably not. Does it give young girls an unhealthy relationship with food?

I've seen women getting contest ready and going on stage eating more than this.

It also looked highly scientific as the guy who wrote it had used a spreadsheet, and the calories had been worked out to the decimal point, yep he knew you could eat 100.4kcals of egg white.

There were also some other restrictive 'bro' elements. White potatoes only, that's right no sweet potato allowed. Egg whites only. Very low fat. And of course, a recommendation that you supplement with a special fat burner made by a company you've never heard of.

As it turned out, I did a few quick calculations and the calories the plan said was lower than what I was coming out with.

It was basically an old school bodybuilding diet designed for a man.

I explained that I thought the calories were too low, and there was nothing magical about white potatoes, yes, she could eat sweet potatoes with no adverse effects. I also suggested eating an avocado might help bump up the fat levels from its current very low levels.

So what does all this tell us about online coaching?

Are the public being mis-sold?

The world of instagram coaching is the wild west,  how does someone differentiate? Yes, you can say market forces will out, but with an increasingly crowded market place image becomes everything.

The entry level is low, you need some social media accounts, a website and if you want to really look professional an off the shelf fitness app. You can even be legit and get a level 2 fitness qualification. This is not the fault of the people doing it, they got the qualification they needed. Its not their fault there is no quality control. There are very few instagram lawyers or medical consultants for a reason, the barrier to entry is high.

Could it be the Dunning Kruger* effect in action?

This theory states that some low ability individuals overestimate their ability. They think they are great, and 100% right. In fact, they are terrible but just don't know it. These coaches could all believe they are brilliant offering a superb product. Whereas real experts in a field can doubt their ability, don't always have black and white answers, know how complex something can be and say 'it depends' a lot.

Unskilled people can have nearly 100% confidence even though they are incompetent. See Donald Trump for further evidence. Picture

Here are my easy steps to becoming an instagram coach.

one for women and one for men.

For men

1) Selfie up, you will need a baseball cap, Beats headphones and a vest made of 2cm square of material.
2) Superset bicep curls and D-bol.
3) Enter a fitness competition, any competition, or get some professional photos done.
4) Get a sponsorship deal with a supplement company no one has heard of.
5) Create a logo, something cool like a skull chewing a barbell.
6) You are now ready to sell programmes and nutrition plans.

For women

1) Take selfies with minimal clothing on.
2) Shoot videos of you training in the gym with minimal clothing on.
3) Booty shoots and training are in the zeitgeist, focus on them.
4) Get a deal with a weightloss tea, make sure your selfies include a shot of you with the tea.
5) You are now ready to sell nutrition plans and programmes.
6) Don't tell anyone that your glutes and abs look like that because of your Brazilian genetics and surgical enhancements and not due to the random selection of exercises you post up or the weightloss tea. (Full disclosure I click on pictures of Brazilian fitness models as much as the next guy).

I get it, it seems like a good career. You like training, and got good results, so why not make a living from it. Write some programmes and sell them to people. No need to go to an actual gym to train people, all that effort of having to tweak things, change things, focus on technique.

But here's the rub, as my colleague Paul has said about instagram coaches posting up selfies and competition pictures "all you've demonstrated is the ability to follow a programme and nutrition plan, probably written by someone else" it does not mean you have the ability to coach other people or that the concepts that worked for you will work for someone else.

The problem with online coaching is it focuses on the programme.

As I've stated before for most people, the programme could be the least important thing. As my colleague Nick has said "I could give you George St Pierres programme, it doesn't mean it will work for you or you will become George St Pierre."

The key ingredients missing are:

1) Consistency.
Yes good online coaches might make you accountable, and the fact you are buying a programme means you are probably motivated. But for many instagram coaches the relationship ends with the paypal transaction.

2) Intensity.
A lack lustre effort, no results, however good the programme.

3) Technique.
This is a big one. The programme might have some really good exercises on it like deadlifts, or squats or even something like a dumbbell row. But if you're technique is off the chance of injury is high, plus you will not be activating the muscles you should be.

See my three pillars of training that I wrote about a hundred years ago.

Even a press up or a plank in a basic bodyweight programme can be done horribly.

I could write 10 effective programmes right now** (while sipping a cappuccino in a coffee shop) ranging from fat loss to hypertrophy to marathon running. I know they work, I have tested them on people. It doesn't mean that everyone should do them.

The same goes for nutrition plans.

For example, I have purchased programmes online that have power cleans  at 85% 1RM in them. Is it a good exercise, yes. Would I expect someone to be able to do a power clean just because it was in a programme and they had watched a 30 second video of it? No.

The online market is not for beginners.

As I stated last week, we can become insular as an industry.

Instagram and social media posts of half naked, ripped fitness models does not  appeal to most of the public who just want to get fit and lost a bit of fat.

We have to keep upping the ante, posting more and more exercises, thousands of variations, something no one has even seen before, feats of strength and endurance to garner more likes  and clicks from our fitness friends.

Posting the basics is no longer enough. Everyone knows how to do these right? Wrong.

No one is going to post up a video of someone going for a steady state walk or doing a wall press up.

Many online coach doesn't really want to bother with beginners. They want to train people like them. People who already know how to deadlift or squat, who want to get ripped for stage. Fellow bodybuilders and powerlifters.

It becomes a cult of fitness. Training beginners is hard, you can't do all the sexy exercises. The public switch off.

The genie is out of the bottle.

As I've stated before the digital disruption of the fitness industry is here.

I'm no King Cunute here holding back the sea.

There are some very good coaches online, but there is also a sea of bad ones. And I've seen first hand how some members of the public have bought into these programmes and promises.

The traditional part of the industry was too slow to adopt the online platforms and methods and got out maneuvered by some social media savvy millennials.

Sure the free market reigns online.

But in a post-truth world the loudest and simplest voice is heard and believed.

All the good coaches, the ones with years of experience training people 'one on one' need to step up and take it back from the charlatans, hawkers and digital carpetbaggers. That means coaches like me (and you) need to get to work.


* How do I know that I'm not actually incompetent and a fitness dolt? The original Dunning-Kruger theory was inspired by the news story of a guy who tried to rob a bank with his face covered in lemon juice, thinking as this was used as invisible ink it would make his face invisible to the security cameras. As I have never tried this, I think I'm safe.

** Send a stamped addressed envelope to 'Lost in Fitness, No.1 Fitness Towers' and I will send you out a free programme of your choice.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

All the broken people. Where do they all come from?

The market the fitness industry missed.

Anxiety, depression, diabetes(type 2), hip replacement, knee pain, knee surgery, knee replacement, wrist pain, wrist surgery, elbow pain, elbow surgery, shoulder pain, shoulder surgery, COPD, high blood pressure, parkinsonisms, MS, cancer, back pain, back surgery, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, osteoporosis, high blood pressure, asthma and stroke.

Above are a list of conditions, off the top of my head, that I have come across in my time in the fitness industry. Most of them I encountered in a non exercise referral situation, i.e. they joined the gym or a class and walked in, not as part of a specialised scheme. (And full disclosure, I have some of the things listed above as well!).

There are no special populations.

The fitness industry and fitness qualifications still talk about special populations.

As I've said before, there are no special populations anymore. The special population is the person who walks into the gym or a class with no injuries or medical conditions. Unless you are training a group of 19 year olds, this is probably never going to happen.

Referral schemes never quite cut it.

There was a time, 10 years ago or so, when anyone with one of the above conditions would come through an exercise referral scheme, they would have a GP referral letter, and normally they would be older, had never exercised before and exercise had become the last resort of the medical profession.

Adherence with this group was normally low, and finance was a typical barrier. I'm not saying there weren't some success stories, and some peoples lives were changed. But it has never quite achieved what it could have.

GP referral 10 years ago: Look you can sit down and watch TV, just like at home. If you have an injury or medical condition you do NOT have to use this.

Now, people with injuries and medical conditions are not coming through referral schemes. They are coming to standard classes and gyms. They are bypassing the medical profession.

On the one hand it is a positive thing, this population is more self motivated. Typically they may have been exercising for the whole lives. We are now seeing the baby boomer generation and younger, the ones who have always exercised. They have been coming to classes for 15 to 20 years and they aren't stopping now.

Teach a standard aerobics class, total body toning class with 20 people in, and you may be dealing with 20 different types of injury and medical condition.

Sometimes the participants wont tell you they have these conditions, or tell you half way through or expect you to have a plethora of modifications ready for them. I think some members of the public think you have been taught all these modifications. What is actually true: the instructor is using their experience and making their best guess at that time...

For example, I have covered LBT and toning classes where people have said to me lunges hurt my knees" or "squats hurt my knees". This would beg the question, what were you expecting to be doing in an LBT class? My standard response is, if it hurts don't do it, and maybe you should go and see a physio or get a one to one session with some health professional to sort out your knee problems before you come to a mainstream class?

Yes, we need to educate the public, but we also need to educate ourselves.

GP Referral, Level 3 PT, level 4 something.

In the UK most personal trainers have the standard level 3 qualification. And most specialised qualifications for exercise referral are level 4.

The standard level 3 personal training qualification doesn't prepare the student for all the health conditions they are going to encounter and nor in fact do the level 4 qualifications.

It's not the fault of of the well intentioned people paying the money to do these courses. As far as they are concerned this is the industry standard qualification they need.

When I did the GP referral qualification we spent a lot of time working out VO2 Max percentages, which I have never used ever again, and learning the stages of change model, which again is not that useful when faced with someone who has had a hip replacement. Then we went through all the medications for blood pressure and their side effects.  The amount of time spent on specific exercise was minimal.

The level 4 back pain specialist course I went on suggested playing bingo sitting on a swiss ball was a good thing for people with back pain (true story!). I learned more from reading McGills books. The course gave me precisely zero tools to use with an active person with low back pain.

Now, this was fine back in the day, when the referral clients you were seeing were sedentary individuals, and frail old people. In these cases, the axiom, of any gentle movement is going to be good holds true. And yes we should still help these people.

But what happens, when faced with the highly motivated individual who has had a hip replacement or knee surgery and has been discharged by the physio service who turns up for an orientation.

They have signed the waiver form saying they are good to go, and then they spring it on you.

Or you are about to do some hip moves in a pilates class, and one of the participants say "I've had a hip replacement, can I do this, what can I do instead?" They think you have been taught what to do in this situation...

Of course, rule 1 is do no harm. Rule 2 is educate yourself, because the fitness industry system of qualifications has let you down. Rule 3 is be honest.

Quick fixes.

People want quick fixes and quick answers. Instructors, how many time have you been sitting in the gym and someone comes up to you and says "what can I do for this shoulder pain I have or back pain or knee pain?". Have they seen a physio? Sometimes yes, mostly no. When you say maybe they should go and see one, they look disappointed that you didn't give them the magic shoulder exercise that will fix them after you have assessed their shoulder with your MRI/ X ray vision.

The honest answer of course is "it depends", I will have to do an hour assessment to figure out what is best for you, it costs this amount... can be met with disbelief. They are used to the quick answer, they are not used to someone saying maybe this class isn't for you right now. They are used to fitness professionals bluffing or feigning expertise.

But mostly they are used to the fitness industry ignoring their needs.

Insular. Lost markets, lost people, lost opportunity.

A vast number of the public feel excluded by fitness and gyms. "It's not for them."

And yet the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges calls exercise

"The miracle cure."
We have become an insular industry, "get ripped", "get shredded" messages, with increasingly hardcore messages about HIIT, and high level exercise that appeals to 1% of people (our fitness friends) and not the public.

At the other end of the spectrum, google "GP referral" or "exercise referral" and its the usual images of some white haired pensioners in their 90's waving their arms around in a studio, or a doctor with a stethoscope.

Or the classic gym marketing image of a trainer next to someone on a swiss ball that appeals to precisely no one.

The woman or man in his/her 40, 50's or even 60's doesn't associate themselves with 'old persons exercise'. The want help and advice, they don't want to be treated like "old people".

There is also a race to the bottom, to provide the cheapest gym with no support.

At the same time there is a race to the top to be the exclusive PT, strength & conditioning, high cost facility. (Where in fact the trainer still only has the level 3 PT qualification everyone has, and if you turn up with an injury or medical condition or an athletic goal you are going to get exactly the same workout).

And the people with a few injuries, niggles, maybe a medical condition or two but who want support and don't feel old or broken are left out.

No one is broken.

Of course, if everyone is broken, no one is broken. People are just people. Life happens.

As a society we are at crisis point with preventable disease.

Fitness should be at the forefront of helping people and educating people.

But we are are not.

The NHS lets people down with its pharmaceutical centred strategy. The media let people down with its confusing messages.

But we are also to blame. Yes, I am talking to you REPs and Active IQ with your lack of quality courses addressing what the public and instructors need. Hold your head in shame that you think mickey mouse, poor quality, distance learning level 3 is acceptable.

Yes, I'm talking to you Universities, with your sports science degrees and sports coaching degrees, churning out graduates that have no practical knowledge of how to help unfit people.

Personal trainers don't need to be physiotherapists. But we should be the go to place for people wanting to get all the benefits of exercise.

It doesn't have to complicated. It has to be sincere, quality, evidence based, compassionate and results driven. If you're not budget or coaching professional sports people, it's all you've got.

We should be better, we should be the fitness experts. The market is waiting.

"First move well, then move often." - Gray Cook