I have a foot in two industries.
One is firmly rooted in sports and exercise science following over 15 years working in elite strength and conditioning and athletic performance consultancy.
More recently I’ve spent time in the fitness industry.
Both offer exciting opportunities. Both have unique challenges.
Individual opinions on how to progress professionalism, service delivery standards and the respective impact of physical preparation for sport and general physical fitness are passionate and plentiful.
There is no doubt that both industries want to progress in these regards and good work is being done to drive and instigate change.
But it’s slow, in part because only a small proportion of coaches, professional industry bodies and businesses are proactively pursing better standards and performance.
HOW CAN WE FAST-TRACK PROGRESS
Whilst reflecting on a Shoulder Rehabilitation conference I spoke at last year the answer, or at least a significant part of it, dawned on me.
We (those of us in either industry) need to get on the bus and take ownership for the change if we all want to do better.
One very easy way in which everyone can participate is this:
Fitness professionals should spend more time with scientists and scientists should spend more time with Fitness professionals.
For the purpose of this blog, let me first define these groups.
A scientist in this context refers to medical professionals, surgeons, physiotherapists, strength and conditioning coaches and physiologists etc.
Fitness Professional are coaches, trainers and instructors working in the fitness industry.
Like me you might identify with both camps, and I think that is the direction in which everyone should head.
Here are three ways that scientists and fitness professionals can learn from each other and in doing so, elevate the standards and success of both industries.
1. Accuracy and Reliable Authority
If you go to a rehabilitation, sports science or medical conference you will only ever see people present work that is based on reliable research or an applied evidence base.
Meaning, nobody stands up and makes wild claims that are unsubstantiated.
People in the room might not agree with everything that is said. In fact, often they don’t and that’s a good thing. But presenters cannot afford to publicly make statements they can’t back up and expect to maintain credibility.
The same goes for how most scientists conduct themselves on social media.
Can we say the same for a lot of fitness professionals? I don’t think so.
If sports science and medicine is Silicon Valley, the fitness industry is the Wild West.
Out there anything goes, and you can seemingly do whatever you like. If you’re jacked or comfortable to sexualise your content, expect to be even more credible, desirable and carry greater ‘influence’.
Fitness Professionals, please go and spend time at sports science conferences. It will challenge how you think. It will certainly challenge what you say and how certain you are about your beliefs.
The fitness industry is light years ahead of sports science when it comes to business acumen. There is in fact a significant portion of the industry itself that exists to help coaches and trainers scale their business.
Fitness professionals are also far more open and ready to seek help to progress and further their careers and doing so, learn how to market, sell and deliver to a higher standard. The knock-on effect; increased success.
The sports science field is largely void of any such attitude towards becoming business savvy.
One of the challenges that scientists face is that the earning potential is low and they get paid relatively poorly.
There are not many professional strength and conditioning coaches in the UK doing 6 figures a year, but there are a hell of a lot of personal trainers pulling that kind of revenue.
There are some incredibly talented coaches and practitioners working with athletes and teams however the main difference is that they exist in employed roles. This means that to some degree they proxy the responsibility for personal development and financial remuneration to someone else.
Rather than taking responsibility for this themselves, these practitioners will be heard complaining about their salary, martyring themselves and their families for ‘the love of sport’ or leave the profession.
In contrast the fitness industry in the majority, adopts a more self-employed attitude, even if they work for an organisation.
If scientists looked to the fitness industry for business support and education they would become more entrepreneurial, understand their own money mindset issues and have the confidence to go out into the world and make a life for themselves.
Science, athlete preparation, fitness or something entirely different it doesn’t matter. It’s about having the audacity to break away from an industry that so often undervalues you.
My final point swings again in favour of the mentality and attitude I have found in the fitness industry.
Coaches and trainers are far more willing to invest in themselves and recognise the value of paying to work with experienced coaches and mentors.
The sports science has a poverty mindset when it comes to this. Maybe because salaries are low, maybe because employers won’t commit to funding external CPD.
Across the board, coaches and practitioners need to recognise the importance of self-development and education.
If you want to become more useful to the people you seek to serve you must constantly be looking for your next learning opportunity.
Yes, that might require a financial investment. Yes that might be more than you have invested before. Yes if you want great you better be prepared to pay above average.
The question is this, can you back yourself to use that information to get a greater return?
It is that simple.
I propose that the fitness and sports science industry can move themselves forwards by spending more time in each other’s company.
Go to sports science conferences and fitness industry expos.
Listen to people speak who are outside of your usual lane or scope of practice.
If you need some encouragement, read Rebel Ideas by Matthew Syed.
Invest in yourself and your business and seek to understand your own relationship with money, which FYI, you probably inherited from your folks!
Be more entrepreneurial.
If you are employed, do not think for a second that this equals security. Always have a backup plan that you can activate if you need it.
Scientists, be more FitPro.
FitPro’s, be more scientist.
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