Health – A Consumer Good

Personal Training and owning my own gym was something that I saw myself doing when I was a younger man.  After losing all that weight as a kid I was determined to help others achieve what I had done.  When I lost that first big chunk of weight before going off to college in 2000, I was 18 years old.  I knew I had managed to do something that most people spend their entire lives struggling with.  There was a small track next to the high school I had been attending.  I often ended my daily runs with cool down laps around the track.  By the time I had lost 70 or so pounds, I often had tears in my eyes when I was doing my cool down laps.  It was a cathartic experience.  I had been struggling so hard against this problem for so long and finally, the mountain had moved.  With those tears in my eyes I told myself often, “If I could bottle this feeling up and give it to people, I would.”  I wanted to do something to help others on the same journey.  I got out of the Army in 2012 and started working with clients at a gym on a regular basis.  I began to realize that their was a huge underlying expectation/assumption that I had:

People come to a gym and enlist the help of trainers/group classes because they want to learn how to better move and care for their bodies.  They’ve taken ownership of the process and are seeking guidance.

This is simply not true!  I talked about this in a podcast.  The story I had in my head was that people seek fitness professionals and the environments they workout in, so that they can learn and take full ownership of the process of being healthy.  I thought that people would seek out my knowledge and truly want to learn from me as a student learns from a teacher.  This was true in the case of a very small number of people.   The vast majority of people (knowingly or unknowingly) just want to show up and be told what to do.  They don’t want to think about how the workout is structured and, what was more shocking to me, was the fact that they don’t want to think critically about how they’re moving their body.  The vast majority of clients I came across (to include physical therapists, medical doctors, and chiropractors) simply wanted to show up for a good workout that was fun and engaging.  They preferred my role to be that of facilitator.  I was there to tell them what to do and keep time.  They didn’t want to think.  The realization of this was massively disheartening.  I had an unknown expectation of people’s desire to learn and that expectation was revealed when I encountered what I would describe more accurately as consumer behavior.

I saw the same thing working in healthcare.  People want a quick fix.  People outsource the responsibility for their own health to the care of a provider (like physical therapists, medical doctors, and chiropractors).  Whether we know it or not, we have turned health into a consumer good.  Why do so many fitness trends exist?  Why don’t people follow through with the exercises their Physical Therapist assigns them for injury recovery?  Why is the healthcare system overburdened with so called lifestyle diseases?  It’s our desire for instant gratification in direct collision with our consumer economy… I think.

Businesses compete to deliver the best products at the right price point for the right customer.  This process helps move our economy.  It’s why Apple, Tesla, and other major companies exist.  Consumer behavior isn’t bad in and of itself.  However, it’s the wrong mindset to have when you’re trying to solve a problem.  My own personal journey with health has been a series of problem solving experiences and I have approached as both a student and a consumer.  The consumer in me looks for modalities that fit my personality and desired end goals.  I like strength training and the ability to move my body in unique ways, therefore I look for products that align with those desires:  barbells, handstand programs, Mixed Martial Arts Gyms etc.   However, once I have found the exercise program that I believe I will enjoy and fits my needs I transition into Student mode or what I call Learner- Mode.  I begin the process of acquiring understanding.  I begin to practice the movements.  I begin to pay close attention to the things I feel in my body relative to the activity.  I pay close attention to how the rest of my life is affected and how the rest of my life supports the activity.  The shift into learner mode has been key in seeing continued progress in my physical capacities and recovery from injury… and progress in dietary habits, such as breaking stride from the emotional eating that marked my youth.

This realization about people’s behavior is what marked my shift into personal development.  It’s okay to be a consumer but it’s not okay to be just a consumer.  When you are trying to solve a problem in your life (and by all accounts, personal health seems to be a huge problem for many) you must acquire the products you need and then you must engage in a life of learning.  The struggle to understand is what ultimately leads to my continued success.  This business is my attempt to bottle that understanding up, and give it to people.


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