What This Book Is About
My friend Adrian Tan – PhD professor of Sociology at Southern Methodist University (SMU) in Dallas, Texas – and I, decided it would be a good idea to co-author a book about the fitness industry, from a historical and sociological perspective. We started discussing the project in April of 2010. However, given that I had two competitions in that year, and another two in 2011, plus I was in negotiations for a possible TV show, the project moved at a snail’s pace. But once we got past those obstacles, the project moved forward very quickly – and now it’s done.
The book is called “Million Dollar Muscle: A Historical and Sociological Perspective of the Fitness Industry”. If it sounds academic, it’s because that is the primary target audience – university students majoring in sociology, psychology, ethics, and possibly also marketing and/or business. However, I believe it’s an interesting read for anyone who is a historian of the fitness industry, and anyone who is a truth-seeker and wants to see “what’s behind the curtain”. Whether that be trainers, exercise enthusiasts, or people who have never exercised before, but simply want to know what the industry is all about – this book is a real eye opener.
It’s called “Million Dollar Muscle” because the industry has been, and continues to be, driven mostly by money. Those who read the book, will see that almost since the beginning of the industry (in the late 1800s) there were fitness pioneers who sought to profit from their notoriety in the game. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s important to note that many of the advances in the field, as well as the proliferation of ideas and methods, were propelled by people who strived to profit from it. Today, it is an industry that generates over $85 billion per year – including health club memberships, home exercise products, nutrition products and “diet” foods.
But despite the enormous revenues the industry generates, and the rapid rate of annual growth, people have gotten fatter. In the book, we examine the possible reasons why it is that even though consumers are spending more money than ever before, people’s fitness levels are not improving. They’re getting worse. One third of all the people in the country are now clinically “obese”. It’s a trend that is moving in the wrong direction. It’s time we take a closer look at why money is being spent, without apparent improvement. We must reverse this trend.
As a sociological analysis, it’s fascinating to consider what motivates fitness consumers. Marketing and advertising companies are always looking for ways to attract buyers, and often that means painting a rosier picture than is realistic. In addition, people have “hot buttons” – ideals that they find very appealing. So, often times, products are packaged in ways that push those buttons, thereby generating interest in a product other than its actual physiological benefit – or lack thereof. In essence, we often use our exercise choices as part of our “identity”, much like we do with our choice of cars and the brand of clothes we buy. We need to be more practical in our evaluation of exercise methods, and less emotional, impulsive or gullible.
The chapters were written as individual essays, which could each stand alone, or be put into a sensible order sequentially, which we did. Although Adrian is a lifelong enthusiast of weight lifting and bodybuilding, his chapters are written more from a clinical perspective, consistent with his PhD background. My chapters are written as the veteran industry insider, who tends to be analytical of behaviors and motivations, but whose primary background is exercise science and 37 years of “in the trenches” experience. Together, we tell the story of where fitness came from, what fitness is, what influences motivations, and where the deceptions are.
Needless to say, people who strive to profit from “pulling the wool” over the eyes of fitness consumers, may not want you to read this book. In fact, there are many people – millions, in fact – over whose eyes the wool has already been pulled, throughout the years. People have been duped into buying worthless products. Ironically, sometimes the people whom you most trust, and who actually mean well, have themselves been duped, and then pass on that misguided information to you. Being aware of the dirty, little tricks of the trade, is the first step in being a wise and informed consumer.
In general, fitness is a wonderful thing – without doubt. Being healthy, strong and chiseled, is a lot of fun, in addition to providing many other benefits. But just like any other endeavor in which there is money to made, beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing. While there are those who sincerely want to provide honest and productive instruction and products, there are also those whose primary motive is profit, even if it means selling unproductive products wrapped in persuasive marketing.
For history buffs, the story of the origins of the fitness industry is fascinating. Who the original players were, how the industrial revolution and other events in history played into its evolution, and how cultural trends have influenced the choices of consumers – all make for a very informative read.
Adrian and I genuinely hope that we have created a resource that is appreciated, and which benefits the consumer, if not the industry at large. Our goal is to provide information to those who want to see what’s behind the curtain, at a time when consumers are mostly being assaulted by sensationalistic claims and cheer-leading profiteers.
The book is available from the publisher: https://titles.cognella.com/million-dollar-muscle-9781609278502.html (If you click on Sneak Preview at this site, you can see the Table of Contents, the Prologue, the Dedication page, the Biographies and the First Chapter.)
The book is also available at Amazon.com: http://amzn.com/160927850X , as well as at Barnes & Noble.com (online):
Note: check all three websites for the best price.
If you would like to have me sign your book, I’d be happy to do so. Simply order the book online, and when you receive it, mail it to me with a letter telling me your name and a bit about it yourself. I’ll sign it accordingly, and will mail it back to you. Please include a check for $7.00 for postage, padded envelope and USPS tracking number. My mailing address is: Doug Brignole, PO Box 1437, Venice, CA 90294.
Photo of “Million Dollar Muscle” shot at Big Bear Lake, California – February 2012.
(yes….that is snow outside of this cabin….the skiing was good).