The following post is a guest contribution from Josh Henkin. Josh contacted me and wanted to provide a call to action in light of the recent Reebok/CrossFit ad that appeared about cheating on your girlfriend. The deal was if he could make me care about the situation I'd run the article. He made me care... a lot.
If you were on Mars, in a cave, with your fingers in your eyes then you may have missed the drama surrounding a Reebok ad that read, "Cheat On Your Girlfriend, Not Your Workout". The ad drove so much controversy in social media that Reebok Crossfit even provided the statement via Facebook, "CrossFit Community, if you have seen an offensive image comparing your girlfriend and your workout, this messaging was not created or approved by Reebok. We don't support cheating on anyone or anything." Let's assume that this ad is a fabrication meant to damn CrossFit and they were blindsided by it. Wherever the ad came from it affects you and you should care.
I'm fascinated by the reaction of the fitness industry to this whole situation. I have heard comments such as...
"I'm not a Crossfitter it doesn't impact me"
"Relax, it is just an ad"
"Any press is good press"
How are we to be taken seriously?
This type of apathy for our profession greatly upsets me. As an industry we talk big about being professionals and wanting to be seen as professionals, but can you tell me if we're making a difference in how the mainstream perceives the fitness industry? What would our profession turn into if we decide to promote such unethical values? Could you possibly imagine medicine or law behaving such a way? Even the beer industry that routinely sells sex never deals with such taboos.
This has far less to do with whether you believe in the training methodologies of Reebok and/or Crossfit. While many in the CrossFit community have mixed responses to the cheat on your girlfriend ad, it doesn't only impact them. Most people don't discern between CrossFit and fitness in general. When we see such public displays in poor taste it simply reinforces the idea that the fitness industry is a bunch of "meat heads" or simply "uneducated".
The fitness industry has a history of being placed in a poor light as a profession since a 2004 Newsweek article depicted several personal trainers acting as predators on "sexually dissatisfied married women". It's no wonder that many of us that do take our profession seriously feel somewhat embarrassed to admit what we do in other social circles if this is the perception that many possess. Is it our own fault though?
The idea that such issues are "someone else's problem" demonstrates a disturbing trend in our industry not to hold ourselves accountable. While many argue the value of regulating our profession, if we as individuals don't stand up against such poor images then we're almost as guilty as those that promote them!
Any press is good press right?
Still believe that "any press is good press"? Why not ask companies such as Exxon, Enron, and the banking industries. Companies pay BIG money to manage their press and by all means any press is NOT good press. In fact, large corporations can be greatly impacted by negative press. Starbucks was slammed for not purchasing their coffee from environmentally friendly farms. The backlash was so large that it inspired a whole new policy at Starbucks. Chief Executive Orin Smith stated, "If you are tapped as a bad corporate citizen, the penalty is large." We may not be breaking laws or oppressing people, but the value systems can be seen as parallels. If we don't take action then we deserve the reputation we gain.
Apathy truthfully can be the result of feeling helpless. It makes sense that some people would feel such a way in response to a company such as Reebok that is worth an estimated 45-50 billion dollars! We shouldn't though, in fact, this past year we saw the power that all of us can possess in Egypt. A large reason that the citizens in Egypt were able to overthrow the very powerful dictatorship was due to the role of social media. " Social media and communication technology provided the protesters with the sort of economy of force normally available only to more organized movements, and because they lack a formal hierarchy dictating orders they were much harder to stop."
Am I comparing this poor Reebok ad to an oppressive government? No, but I believe these instances show how much more power we have. Social media gives us an opportunity to have a voice and educate and influence others. If used correctly we can collectively create a voice that can be heard even by the largest of companies. We can educate our clients, peers, and communities on what really our profession is about with passionate and thought out articles and blog posts.
Being seen as a professional in the fitness industry should not be something that makes you different. The industry should be seen as professional and those that don't act like should be seen as odd. We can turn such unfortunate circumstances from embarrassing moments into situations that give us a platform to educate. Social happenings are always good topics for blogs, newsletters, or simply Facebook interaction. Discuss with whomever your audience is why these types of actions should not be acceptable to our industry or the mainstream. Educate them on what really makes our industry great and let's end the negative preconceptions. Together we're strong and we can build a whole new level of respect as professionals.
Josh Henkin, CSCS is the owner of Innovative Fitness Solutions, LLC and creator of the DVRT Ultimate Sandbag Training System. Coach Henkin has been a facility owner for over 10 years as well as national and international speaker on topics of functional fitness, effective program design, and his DVRT Ultimate Sandbag Training system. You can find out more at http://DVRTFitness.com.