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My Fitness Weekend Part 1: BodyPower Expo Review plus thoughts on the fitness industry today.

body power expo fitness 2017

Last Sunday, I was up at 3:45am to catch a morning flight to Birmingham. I never thought I would be in Birmingham, England for anything other than an Aston Villa game. However, with two pairs of travel bands on, I was on my way to the BodyPower Expo 2017 in the NEC Arena to cap off a great weekend of fitness and learning. However, the weekend wasn't great for reasons imagined they would be. 

Saturday was another early start as I made the journey down to Tipperary to continue my Strength and Conditioning course with Setanta College. These day trips down are by far the most valuable part of the course. The notes are great and the assignments and research help you learn but it’s being in the surroundings of different fitness individuals from different backgrounds where you really learn. One of the discussions was on an exercise called Nordic Curls. A killer exercise for the hamstrings. We were being shown them as a dynamic part of the warm up where one of the lads correctly pointed out that another lecturer had told us in previous module to only use them at the end of a session and to only perform 3-4 of them max. Now being told conflicting things about the same exercise may seem counter productive but it’s what I love about the fitness industry. There is no one perfect programme or right answer (although there are plenty of wrong ones, in my book!). It allows you to discuss and come up with your own conclusions. 

As another quick example from that day. On the way down to the course, I was listening to Joe DeFranco’s ‘Industrial Strength Show’. His guest for the week was ‘The Guru’ Tom Bilella who wasn’t happy about the nutrition advice given on the show a few weeks earlier by Dr Layne Norton. One of Dr. Tom’s complaints (among many!) was Layne Norton having no problem with consumption of 100g of sugar, which he had backed up by scientific evidence. Two highly credited, successful people in the field of nutrition with polar opposite views. The point is not who I think is right or wrong but how much I enjoy different view points that allows me to search both, apply them and come up with my own views and apply them to my own clients with an open mind on their lifestyle. To see those two go head to head would make for an extremely entertaining and informative listen.

Layne Norton,  certainly has non conventional views on Nutrition , and doesn't look like someone I'd pick a fight with. Props to Dr Tom!

Layne Norton, certainly has non conventional views on Nutrition, and doesn't look like someone I'd pick a fight with. Props to Dr Tom!

Now the previous two paragraphs may have seem that I went off on tangent like a Billy Connolly stand up when I had initially brought up the BodyPower Expo but it is important to understand the mind frame I was in on that early Sunday morning trek to Birmingham. I’m not a huge fan of the bodybuilding aspect of the show, although I have tremendous respect for the dedication that they must have to excel in their field. Unlike most sports, its 24/7 for them. I was more interested in hoping to find talks and a few stalls challenging the conventional approach to fitness. With it being one of the largest fitness exhibitions in the world, I kind of expected that or at least come across new, innovative technology or ways of thinking to change how we view the fitness industry that may explode over the next few years. I wanted my current beliefs in fitness to be challenged. At the Expo they were not.

I paid the extra few quid for the early bird ticket to avoid a lot of the queues and hopefully take a lot in in the first 90 minutes before the doors opened for the standard tickets. My flight home wasn’t until 8:30 that night and judging by how big the place was, I had planned on staying the day. I arrived into the NEC hall (man, that whole structure is huge!) to protein bars being lobbed at me. People were scrambling the floor for them around my feet for the free sample. I walked on with a bad vibe. A lot of stalls were still setting up. I would soon see a massive line starting to form. I asked one of the security guys what was it for. “”. Informative. Knowing that I was very early and the queue looked like it was only 10-15 minutes long, max, I decided to join up at the back. Wasn’t quite sure what I was queuing up for. The soup bowl sized coffee in Costa an hour previous had obviously not kicked in yet! Besides, I figured it would be much worse later when everyone showed up. You know when you do something and get to far into it that you can’t turn back? Well that’s how I felt in this queue. 20 minutes into it and it looked like I was near the top, until I realised that the queue looped the entire massive stall. 30 minutes, one protein shaker and a confused bodybuilder when skinny ole me asked for a large t-shirt instead of medium later, I was back to wandering the exhibition. The large looks huge on me so he probably had a point in hindsight!

The Expo seems to be getting bigger and bigger with it's 10th anniversary next year

The Expo seems to be getting bigger and bigger with it's 10th anniversary next year

The majority of the BodyPower Expo consisted of gym clothing lines and supplements. I would say that would account for 80% of the stalls, if not more. Some were creative with their stalls like Optimum Nutrition’s Leg Press competition with all their product ranges on top of the machine and the Mars Protein vs Snickers Protein wall climbs with the sticks (whatever that’s called). But the majority of the stalls were identical. DJ blaring music, samples being flung at you, guys shouting into mics and the exact same competition; lateral raise hold with two of their biggest protein tubs. They were all so identical that I can not name a single brand in any stall that did that ‘isometric’ (buzz word for the day) hold. 

If you are into competitive bodybuilding, the shows looked great. But there was nothing there, for me anyway, to show how fitness is advancing. There was one stall on blood flow restriction training but no examples. No side rooms or halls with these discussions that were up for debate. Admittedly, the few talks I did go to, I seemed to have bad timing. There was one Q&A that I got to where they were trying to get the audience down to a mic to ask questions. Eventually they convinced 3-4 people. The first question; “what got you into training?” No joke, I, along with 20 or so people just got up and left. No fault to the people on stage.

Seeing some of the training was cool. The heavy car lifts and the incredible calisthenics skills were cool to watch. I was hoping to learn. I expect more than just being offered supplement after supplement or clothing lines that all looked very similar (and none that I would trade my Js for of course!). Everyone just seemed to be on a similar mindset to training. With an fitness exhibition so big, I expected more than them donning a t shirt and selling products. It is a business after all so that’s probably my own fault, given my mindset for the weekend. 

The event reminded me of the other side of fitness that I have seen recently as well as I recognised a fair few faces from Instagram posts promoting supplement and clothing lines. The event seemed more about selling than showcasing. Seeing so many people that I have followed myself through Instagram over the past few months reminded me of angry videos from gym owners and PTs that I have seen take to social media to rant about people who have a large following on Instagram and offering PT packages. I’ve seen ranting about the “fitfam” hashtags, how they’re ruining the industry etc. If you’re not familiar with this, you’re lucky your Facebook feed isn’t filled with the same fitness people mine is. Search ‘fitness industry instagram’ on YouTube and, apart from ‘how to build your following’, you’ll soon be inundated with captions on how the fitness industry is ‘fucked’. When I was telling my housemates about the BodyPower Expo that night, one of them kept repeating “well, that’s the industry you’re in”. She must have said that 8 times. Which is surprising cause I usually pick up on it the third or fourth time and mock her until she stops. I must be slipping up. ‘Anyhoo’.

Do I think fitness is fucked because of the Instagram posts of people on their journey and gaining a large following before offering their own packages like other PTs out there? No, not in the slightest. I think they’re capitalising on a demand from people. These people may or may not be qualified and I do think the logic could be flawed if they think what works for them would work for others but that’s painting everyone with the same brush. Just because you may have heard of one or two people trying to make a living by posting their own success on Instagram and selling it off to others, it doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone is. And that is more of a reflection on the rants I’ve seen as opposed to those I saw in Birmingham. I don’t think you can fake it until you make it for that long. You will be eventually found out. And even if that’s the case, these gym owners and PTs should be looking at themselves and how they can improve their own product and not worry about act others are doing. It’s up to people to do their due diligence and decide who to pay to improve their health and fitness. 

While I may not have gotten everything I wanted out of the BodyPower Expo, looking around that day and seeing the Instagram posts that night when I got home, a lot of people seemed inspired. And if it inspired people to workout and look after their health, while I may not agree with certain aspects of it, then that’s ok in my book. I’m clearly on the minority that didn’t get much out of it and I don’t want this post to sound like a negative rant because it’s not intended to be. I can't really complain about queuing since I was getting FREE stuff and it was optional to queue. But the real reason is I might be 'slightly' annoyed that I missed out on legendary wrestler Hulk Hogan being there 2 years ago

The kid in me would have had no problem queuing hours for the Hulk

The kid in me would have had no problem queuing hours for the Hulk

However, I did have a problem of my own.

Around 1:30 or so, I had decided that there was nothing there for me. I had done enough aimlessly walking. I had less than 20% battery at the time and another 7 and a half hours until my flight. So I left the Exhibition with no idea where to go. A few hours later, with the taught of everything that I’ve typed so far, ideas began flooding in…

If you’ve read up to this far, thank you for sticking with it! I’m going to do a second part to this blog later and have it up tomorrow evening because there is still a lot more to add to this. I got a class to rush to now, as always leaving things to the last minute. And also I can’t finish the story before trying out something I did learn, but not at the Expo on Sunday, in a class tonight