When barbells are outlawed…

It nevers seems to fail that when a seemingly perfect solution for a long-standing problem has been found, tested over and over, widely accepted and universally embraced, out of left field comes a black cloud determined to smother the very life out of it.  The long-standing problem, obesity and a general lack fitness in the United States.  The solution, HIIT(High Intensity Interval Training), CrossFit, Starting Strength, 5×5, West Coast Barbell, California Strength and any number of other systems of fitness training.  The black cloud, state licensure, requiring everyone involved in the fitness industry to obtain a license to practice.

Why is this an issue that we should be concerned with?  The proponents of the Black Cloud will scare us with the word safety.  They want to protect us.  From what?  Devil’s Advocacy would say:

1.  Lack of education

2.  Lack of oversight

3.  Lack of accountability

Let’s say for example that we want to get in shape, where do we start?  Ask someone who looks the way we want to look.  What did they do, where do they go?  If we want what they have we do what they did to get it, simple.  So let’s look at the education argument, historically the first trainer anyone ever sees is the school gym coach, the history teacher who blew out his knee playing college football, an oversimplification to be sure but I had 3 in school, so not impossible.  Next would be the college coach, the history teacher that didn’t blow out his knee playing football, but sucked at it and had to take the job to eat.  This takes care of the part of the pie we will call Educational Fitness Instructors.  Then there are specialists in the amateur athletic arenas, Olympics, boxing, martial arts and such, mostly ex-participants in the specialty with skill sets specifically tailored to the endeavor.  Next there are professional coaches, people who are as good as their next paycheck, mostly good managers, able to delegate and motivate but not much else.  Lastly are the voluntary sports coaches, peewee sports, Pilates, Yoga, CrossFit, weightlifting, cycling, anything done electively in a group as entertainment or a hobby, something that requires some instruction to be safe and enjoyable.  What do all of these different people have in common, nothing.  Requiring some global arbitrary education requirement for licensure would be ridiculous, and that’s putting it nicely.  Somebody will raise their hand and volunteer to vet all of the candidates for licensure, for a fee, you can bet on it.  They are lining up as you read this, waiting for their turn in the shark tank to tell why their way is the only way and their fees are the best fees, because that’s what it all boils down to, money.  Your money, by the way.  More on that in a moment.

Oversight?  Whose?  Who in their infinite wisdom could possibly manage to police this entire group?  You can be assured that no sooner than you focus in on this group certain factions will want to opt out and their reasons will be both valid and compelling.  Amateur and Olympic coaches will scream “America” and will be excused.  The ecucational bunch will remind Congress what ‘alumni money’looks like and they will take a lap.  Professional sports, well, that leaves the little guys, the ones that 9 to 5 it trying to keep the 9 to 5ers in shape.  They are not united, they have no common ground, no PAC, they are toast.  Defenseless against a legislative machine that must regulate, tax and oppress so that it may be seen to function, few will survive and those few that do may live to regret such a pyrrhic victory.

Life is not safe.  Life is not easy.  There are no guarantees and there should be none.  We as a society must learn and adapt to grow and part of the growth process is to accept that things happen and that is that.  If you walk in the park and the sky clouds up and rain comes and you are struck by lightning, tough.  Nothing would have prevented that.  No regulation, no legislation, no indemnity or insurance can take it back.  The last part is accountability, who pays if someone gets hurt?  Think about that, we are talking about an elective, voluntary activity, a choice that is freely made.  No policy can indemnify you from stupidity.  If you tell 100 people not to do something it is absolutely certain that at least one person will do it anyway and they will blame it on you.    We seem to think that insurance will make everything all right.  It does, for the insurance companies, a 98% profit industry that pays no corporate taxes.

Well what then?  Regulation would seem like a done deal, what would that look like?  The education criteria could be accomplished through the local community college system, say an 18 month accreditation course, somewher in the $12,000 range on average.  Then there is the state license test and certificate, say another $1000.  State mandated insurance coverage, throw in another $1000 a month per trainer and at least $2500 per month per business.  Let’s say that you were paying $100 a month for gym dues before, to maintain the same profit margin now your gym has to charge you  $175 a month for the same service.  With student loan debt and a huge insurance overhead it is unlikely that even the best trainers will stay in the industry when a great portion of their income goes to useless regulation.

If this regulation is a bad idea then what is the answer?  Inform yourself.  Do due diligence.  Define what you want and determine the best way to go about getting it.  Stop crying and go pick up something heavy, if you do it enough you will get good at it.  You’ll get stronger, faster, you may even look good naked.  Whatever you do don’t think that more government or more regulations or more insurance is the answer.  People are the answer, people that seek out knowledge and teach others, coach others to reach their potential and beyond.  Celebrate these people, don’t regulate them out of their chosen profession, their livelihood.  When barbells are outlawed, only outlaws will have barbells.

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