As a personal trainer, I take offence to Garry Eggers' comments regarding the group training industry. Not only do I disagree with his points, but I clearly think he is wrong. Is it possible that Mr Eggers prefers his walks on the beach and dog walks in the park in a tranquil environment? Maybe so. But I certainly hope the councils weren't listening too closely to his advice on group training.
You exercise hard because you're part of a group. Embarrassing? No. Admirable? Hell, yes.
Whether it's CrossFit, beach boot camps or Ladies Only Sessions, I'm pro-exercise. Therefore, I'm pro-group training.
Eggers describes personal training as "a very middle class, indulgent thing to do" and "high cost". This statement is factless, baseless, and lacking a simple understanding of economics. What is a fact is that group fitness is for everybody. Starting from about $7.50 per session, group training provides value.
It allows people who can't afford a trainer at $100 per hour the opportunity to get one at a very low cost, making training affordable for middle, low, and upper class. And if it's indulgent? Super. I'd rather see people indulge in group beach fitness than indulging in beach fish 'n chips and kebabs, praying the seams on their budgie smugglers will hold for just one more afternoon.
Eggers also describes group training as "embarrassing to onlookers" and it sends "a statement making themselves look good".
He's entitled to his opinion, but it is clearly wrong. Group training is popular due to the herd mentality. A herd comes together with a common goal, moves together, sweats and swears together, and gets results together. You exercise hard because you're part of a group – that bonding process makes for a fitter and healthier culture. Embarrassing? No. Admirable? Hell, yes. Further, nobody looks good if they are putting in some serious effort. Big bodied or small, putting in a solid effort in the public domain is less about vanity, and so much more about health and wellness.
He also states "we need better programs to appeal to the majority of the population who are inactive". Like what?
As long as parks are there, footy grounds, beaches, soccer fields, tennis and basketball courts, as long as the ocean is available ... in short, as long as Australia has more room to roam than any other country in the world, we should use it to get fit. To get healthy. And to have some fun.
Now, if people are scaring away children and using equipment in a way it's not intended? I get it, and let's stop it. Let children play with childrens' toys. And that goes for video games and watching way too much reality TV. Many adults do need to stop acting like children.
But for those out there exercising? Good on you.
You meet new people in your neighbourhood during group training. Corporate groups that I train take off their stuffy suits and have a laugh together. The benefits are endless, but the fact is – people exercising alone, in pairs, or in a group is a good thing.
Obesity costs Australia $56 billion per year. The dreadful prediction by the Victorian government is that by 2025, 83 per cent of men and 75 per cent of women aged 20 years or more will be overweight or "obese".
That's shocking. With those stats, we can all put up with a little bit of exercise and noise in our public spaces knowing that group doesn't want to be part of the 80 per cent, right?
Bringing a group together that wants to move, sweat, and be healthy? We need more of it.
I won't get my chance on the same podium as Gary Eggers but let me say this to city councils from Cottesloe to Bondi: "Dear Councils, closing the doors on our parks, beaches and open space would be the worst thing the government could ever do. Just let us run. Just let us play. Just let us be healthy."