Influencing: the qualification that equips you for every job

Last week I took to the ‘Gram to let loose on ‘Influencers’. This was prompted after seeing an interview on ITV’s This Morning show with ‘Fitness Influencer’ Sheridan Mordew, who fled Tier 4 by escaping to Dubai for her ‘essential work’, also known by most of us as ‘a holiday’.

Before we get into it, let’s begin by defining this title. ‘Influencers’ is a vague concept which is as straightforward as it sounds; it refers to anyone who has influence over others. If it was this simple, we’d all be influencers, because to some extent we all at some stages in our lives exert influence over others. In society however, ‘influencers’ is almost exclusively associated with social media. I am unclear on all the requirements needed in order to be considered an influencer, but from my research I have gathered that such individuals must have lots of money for doing absolutely nothing, must have at least submitted an application to be on Love Island even if not chosen to appear on the show and must be at least a little bit self-obsessed. Oh, and have a ton of adoring fans following their expensive holidays and daily freebies sent to their door.

Before you start thinking that I’m a bitter and jealous person who has nothing better to do than criticise these ‘successful’ individuals, I’m not, and success is subjective. I have no issue with influencers where I feel like they are providing something valuable; be that motivation (no Sheridan, camel rides don’t count), education, work ethic…. I follow plenty of incredible individuals who can be considered to be influencers. I take issue with those whose livelihood depends almost entirely on their appearance on Instagram and on fast-fashion companies and contribute to all kinds of mental health issues in adolescents by preying on other people’s insecurities. There the lines between ‘influencing’ and ‘misleading’ start to become a bit blurred.

Now that I’ve cleared that up, let’s go back to the story. I saw the video, cringed as Sheridan oozed a sense of self-entitlement and gave a seemingly shocked reaction in response to Holly’s inference that, unlike that of the NHS, her work did not require her to travel to Dubai. There certainly seemed to be a lot of cocktails and sunbathing snaps on her social media which, in stark contrast to the lockdown that the rest of the country was left in, would’ve required a mammoth explanation as to its necessity. It then emerged that Mordew had to be in Dubai to motivate people, and that made sense, because after seeing one of her videos, I certainly felt motivated to ride a camel on my once-daily outdoors activity. Unfortunately I didn’t have the resources available to me at the time to do so.

So that was that. I rolled my eyes and left it there. Only to then come across another clip that my friend had called out of Love Island contestant Zara McDermott, sharing a concerning HIIT workout to clothing company Misguided’s following base. Zara demonstrated pretty poor form throughout, which could easily translate into injuries for her loyal fans.

This hit closer to home. Is the fitness industry really held in such little regard? Are we really so short of exercise professionals that we’re having to turn to models and influencers to do the job for us instead? What I’m starting to see more and more of is following count being placed above qualifications. Nowadays, it seems that if you have a ton of followers, a boob job, and a soft porn Instagram account, you’re more qualified than someone who has a degree or a legitimate qualification in this area. And I find this mind-blowing.

They wouldn’t be allowed to be a brain surgeon, would they? They wouldn’t just be allowed to walk into the operating theatre because they have 1 million teenage followers. They wouldn’t be appointed as a lawyer, just because they look good in lingerie, would they? Kim Kardashian could be an exception here, I can’t say for certain, I do not keep up with the Kardashians. Granted, the two jobs I’ve just mentioned require a lengthy qualification process and have more at stake, including life itself, but you get my drift.

As a personal trainer I’ll be the first to admit that the quality and rigorousness of the qualification process is lacking. Some people do an online course and can call themselves a personal trainer, which baffles me, because how can you have a job that is designed to interact with people without having any practical work throughout the entire course? One of the reasons I am doing my degree in Sport and Exercise Science is to gain both understanding and credibility in the fitness industry. This is similar to one of the problems faced by the Nutrition/dietetics industry, with many individuals offering meal plans despite not having the qualifications to enable them to safely do so. What a shame that the combined industry, which has such an important role in health, is so poorly regulated and protected.

Nonetheless, there are professionals in the fitness industry. Sadly, we don’t all qualify as ‘influencers’ and we get pushed aside for the attractive models with the huge following. It promotes the belief that anyone can do our jobs. Yes anyone can work out and partake in fitness, but have you been taught how to safely perform movements? If you haven’t, you shouldn’t be demonstrating them to others to replicate. Zara McDermott’s mountain climber position definitely had a mountain shape because had her butt been stuck up any higher in the air, she would have been kneeing herself in the face.

The sexualisation of the fitness industry has led to an increase in movements being performed unsafely. It’s the excessive back-arch (lordosis is the technical term, dear Influencers) that you notice in the back squat or the deadlift; both compound lifts which, when executed correctly, are fantastic for you. The growing popularity of seeing just how far you can stick your butt out when you lift can increase the risk of back pain, irritation of lumbar discs or worse. Still sound sexy? I should add that whilst I’m primarily focusing on the female individuals, it is still very much an issue with male individuals too – several male ‘Influencers’ did the same as Sheridan by brushing aside the ‘Stay at Home’ message to party in Dubai.

In summary; don’t turn to unqualified Love Island contestants to help grow your brand, it could end up doing you more harm than good. They stick to their area of expertise (influencing?) and we’ll stick to ours.

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