DStv Network

[Guest Blog] Social Media and Your Fitness

The same people who five or ten years ago would be channel surfing with a can of beer in their hand each evening, are now flooding the gyms and providing companionship to our suburban roads on ‘time trial’ evenings. There has been a very welcome increasing trend in exercise participation recently in South Africa, one that we want to harness and encourage. But, like everything when it comes to health, there is always a tipping point when this ‘good’ thing potentially becomes a ‘bad’ thing.

Never in my whole history of exercise and nutrition practice have I ever experienced so many cases of overtraining, burnout, adrenal fatigue, chronic fatigue, autoimmune conditions and stubborn struggles with body weight, as right now. Exercise, an important cornerstone of healthy weight management, is now pushing some people into an extremely compromised position when it comes to their physique. With our body shape in mind, adrenal and thyroid imbalance resulting from over-doing things in general can actually cause exercise to have the opposite effect to what is desired.

Social media, in many ways, can be a good thing. But when it is over-used and over-relied upon, then it becomes negative. Many people attain their workout programmes from so-called fitness gurus on social media and online. Firstly, these gurus often only understand the ‘no-pain, no-gain’ philosophies, which may have (so-far) worked for their rather fresh 20-something year-old bodies, and it is this hardcore philosophy that us South Africans (the Comrades culture) eagerly lap up. Additionally, even if they are actually good exercise specialists, they don’t know you from a bar of soap, and therefore can’t comment on how your body will handle their training session(s) and, more importantly, the recovery after it. And even if they did know who you were and how you handled training, online you will only receive one of two variables – quantity (kilometres, weights, reps, sets, heart rate, watts, etc.), but they cannot coach quality. I used to coach runners, cyclists and triathletes online, but gave up after a while because I couldn’t physically see what my athletes looked like when they completed my sessions, nor could I feel how they were coping with the training. A good coach interacts with his/her athlete on a two-way street and focuses on quality first before layering in the quantity.

Last, but certainly not least, is the small matter of genetic individuality – a workout or regime that suits one person beautifully will not necessarily work for their friend or neighbour. This is true for fitness and health and also, most notably for nutrition – the off-the-shelf purchasing of one-size-fits-all dietary approaches is one social trend that I would very much like to see the end of. I rather focus on individual education of key nutrition concepts, with the desire that the client then paves their own path of healthy food choices. It should be the same for exercise and all life choices that influence our health.

Written by: Ian Craig, Sports Nutritionist