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    Posted June 2, 2015 by
    Menlo Park, California
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    First Person: Your essays

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    Standing in a Cold Shower Ripping up $100 Bills


    What exactly is “luxury fitness?”


    We’re surrounded by luxury brands from all angles. These brands are too often used as status symbols. Ironically, by people who can’t afford them by their own means.


    My good friend used to work as a Wells Fargo District Manager and she told me story after story of helping clients decked out in Louis Vuitton bags, Prada glasses and Rolex watches, who had, maybe $20 in their bank accounts, but had $30,000-50,000 in credit card debt!


    Pure insanity if you ask me.


    Luxury fitness is a niche market. It’s targeted towards people who can afford to pay an exorbitant rate. If you ask me, $165 a month is exorbitant. $250 a month just might be ridiculous. Yet, many people are willing to pay this price. Why do some gyms have to be this expensive?


    I get it. The fancy perks are appealing. Those over-the-top amenities somehow justify the outrageous membership dues, initiation dues and private training session fees that are constantly pushed on you. At the minimum, they certainly distract and blind you to them. Who would have thought cucumber-infused water, eucalyptus-infused towels and stylish, high-resolution flat screen TV’s could work so much magic?


    There are tons of gyms, health clubs and country clubs out there. They can say XYZ about how they’re “different”, but they all have the same basic equipment; a stationary bike is still just a bike no matter where it sits. A dumbbell is a dumbbell all over the world, and a TRX is still the same TRX no matter where the hell it hangs.


    Why do some people choose to pay such insane amounts of money to do bodyweight exercises that can be accomplished on your own and anywhere?


    I keep coming back to knowledge. Or rather, the illusion of knowledge.


    For example, let’s say you work with a trainer one-on-one. You assume they know what they’re doing, what they’re talking about and that you’ll get results. But what if gyms have a copy and paste routine all trainers are required to follow? Is there really any specialized knowledge in a cookie cutter approach to fitness? And if you get no results after a year, what then, can I get my gym and training fees back?


    The one thing you can’t deny about all these luxury fitness places is that they’re incredibly slick. They’re so nice you don’t want to leave – ever. You want to hang out by the pool, lounge at the cafe and just make friends while sitting in the eucalyptus-infused steam room. Unless you’re immune to being sold, the longer you’re there, the more likely you’ll “require” their services, buy overpriced t-shirts, or cave and pay $15 for a smooth after passing the cafe for the 1300th time. Luxury gyms have home field advantage in that regard.


    I’ll never forget a money quote my good friend shared with me once. The story goes that he was on vacation with his friends. One of his friend’s father offered to buy them a boat to use for the summer. At closing time, the salesman said, “Boys, this boat is going to be like standing in a cold shower ripping up $100 bills!”


    Wow. I don’t even know what to say to that except it’s an insane line and I’m stealing it.


    I say, do whatever floats your boat. If spending money on high-priced items and objects is your thing, "have at it hoss." I’m not one to judge and don’t personally care for it.


    But if that isn’t your thing, what then? What if all you really need is just the fitness knowledge? How do you get that knowledge? Do you need a trainer around to keep you accountable and to make sure you’re following your assigned routine?


    Maybe. I’m sure that’s what trainers and gyms want you to think, but I’m not sure it’s the best solution.


    If you ask any salesperson in the gym, they’ll stress the need and importance of working with a trainer. Is this really the best we can offer people trying to lose body fat and looking to build quality, lean muscle?


    A few days ago, my COO, against my advice, decided to do a one-on-one personal training session with one of the “best” and “top rated” (and most expensive) trainers in California.


    Was he good? “Yes” said my COO. “He was supportive, quickly adapted to my current abilities and kicked my ass into oblivion!” And how did he address the fact that you just completed six weeks of physical therapy? I asked him.


    “Ugh...it didn’t come up” he said.




    Here’s my main problem with his experience: the session cost him $250 for ONE hour! I don’t care who you are, where you’re from or what you do for a living, that’s a lot of money. It’s pretty ludicrous when you stop to think about it. Trainer entitlement offends me.


    A couple of days later, my COO decided to try one of the free group classes his gym provides – “free” in that it’s included as part of his monthly membership. He decided to take “TRX Insanity Bootcamp.” I urged him to consider taking the “Beginners Yoga” class instead or to swim, but again, despite my expert advice, he decided to stick with his guns.


    Guess what happened?


    He took the class and just half way in, at exactly 31 minutes and 13 seconds, he was ready to puke from over-exertion. There was no way he could get through the rest of the class at the intensity desired from the group fitness instructor.


    “I felt like I was going to die. I tried my best, but it was too much for me,” is hauntingly left on my voicemail. I can’t get it out of my head. How many people feel just like this?


    He continued, “My heart said keep going and my mind said, ‘Don’t you even think about quitting you little punk’, but my body just gave out. I tried to push it, but after one 13 push-ups, I pushed with all the my strength only to kiss the ground. I had to fight with all my mental strength to preventing myself from puking all over their beautiful gym floor. I’m sorry to let you down boss.”


    First of all, my COO did not let me down. Anyone who makes the choice to change their life for the better, has my respect. And anyone who dares to step inside the gym to GRIND while out of shape has my endless support. That’s courage in action. That takes guts. That motivates me.

    My concern with the “high intensity” class was that being a “beginner,” my COO would struggle needlessly. Beginners struggle enough as it is. If something is already hard, you don’t have to make it super hard. Yet, that’s exactly the approach I see too many beginners take every time they enter a commercial gym: “let’s run a half marathon, do CrossFit, do Power Yoga and rehab my bad knee!” It’s the classic case of too much, too soon. I know gyms/trainers/infomercials all sell the “6-week-lose-25lbs” solution, but it’s 100% hype and pure BS.


    And I promise you, if you go into that “high intensity” / “bootcamp” class having done nothing for the last six weeks, six months or six years, you’ll be the one puking on the floor. Don’t be that guy.


    What was the difference between “personal training” and “group fitness training” for my COO?


    One cost him $250 for the hour and the other was technically free. Both were challenging and “fun.” Both had him sweating his ass off. Both were operated by trainers. But are those two approaches really the best way to get America back into shape? What’s the real answer? I don’t know much, but $250/hour to lose fat is a piss-poor solution.


    The world of fitness is the wild west - be aware of your surroundings and keep your eyes peeled.


    I would suggest doing your homework first. What are you seeking from a gym? Is it close to home or work?


    What are your measurable and specific fitness goals? Write them down and ensure that everything you do in the gym is geared toward bringing you closer to that picture in your mind.


    Why hire a trainer now? How do you know if he can deliver results? I have one rule here: “Show me.”


    Think about people you know who are struggling with the same issue you’re facing (ie “lose 13lbs”), what has successfully worked for them? Work with people you trust, who have proven expertise and who have passion for helping you get your results safely.

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