Fitness, health, strength, endurance, hypertrophy, conditioning, prehab, rehab, flexibility, nutrition, diet… These are the first 10 or so words that come to my mind when I think of the ‘fitness’ industry. The industry is largely based on opinion. There aren’t a lot of things you can say for certain will DEFINITELY happen – its more likely that things range on a continuum of ‘very likely’ to ‘not very likely to happen.
For example, performing a bench press to increase upper body strength is something that will fall closer to the ‘more likely’ end of the spectrum. I know this may seem obvious to some, but as we will se, things get much more complicated.
What works for one, may/may not work for another – either at all or to the same extent.
What this means is that if person X ran 10km every day and lost 5kg in 2 weeks, that necessarily may not happen to person Y, or at least to the same extent. Person Y may lose more, less, the same or even NO weight at all!! EVERYONE is unique; we all differ in regard to genetics, age, body type and metabolism (the list is endless!). Everyone’s body works differently, has different levels of efficiency and therefore, what may be an affective form of exercise for some, may not be for others. It can be said that there are a lot of similarities between us all, but when it comes to exercise and diet we are all different, which means we must OFTEN (not always) find different approaches to exercise and nutrition. This doesn’t mean doing the opposite of what someone else does, it can also infer ‘tweaking’ approaches to suit your needs.
Research is being done all the time, on a myriad of topics including, but not limited to performance, nutrition, recovery, biomechanics, neurology and psychology. Additionally, much research is conducted on the subcategories of these categories. The way fitness research is conducted is likely to ALSO be subjective, which does not eliminate, but rather MINIMISES the objectivity – reducing one’s ability to truly analyse NEUTRAL data. Those who analyse studies and publish articles, blogs, journals etc. also respond to the data in a SUBJECTIVE way – we put our own spin on the data. What some might view as a trend going in direction A, others might say is going in direction B. This relates to the first rule I learnt in statistics 101 ‘correlation DOES NOT equal causation”. Put in fitness terms, just because there is a correlation between eating fruit and vegetables and being within a healthy weight range, does NOT mean that eating fruit and vegetables will help you achieve a healthy weight.
The lesson learnt from all this is that we must be cautious when reading about fitness related content. Whether it is online, in a book, in a magazine… WHEREVER it is. These days anyone and everyone can make themselves out to be a self proclaimed ‘expert’ (what makes me different? Nothing! – except for the fact that I don’t claim to be an expert, I just want to help others learn more about a ‘grey’ industry). I read articles constantly. But before I make any judgment or decide to implement their ideas in my life, I do the following: I sleep on it, digest it and then always consider whether it suits my lifestyle, preferences and core values. Sure – waking up at 5AM to have a protein shake may assist my cells in achieving a quicker recovery… But do I want to wake up at 5AM and disturb my precious sleep? NO!
Again, we have those who promote eating X and not Y, Y not X, both X & Y or none of the above! It just about taking what you like and what suits you, and discarding the rest.
You might ask where I am going with this… As the title implies – one of the hardest things in the fitness industry – Is that there is infinite information with infinite opinions. The lesson is – KEEP EDUCATING YOURSELF. New information in the industry is coming out faster than Usain Bolt runs 100m. Continually reading, listening, attending seminars, events, expos etc. and asking questions is crucial as it allows you to stay in touch with the latest – and more importantly – MOST EFFECTIVE/EFFICEINT tools when it comes to trying to achieve what your aiming for. Although it does take time for the findings to be confirmed and cross analysed by many ACTUAL experts, new ideas and concepts are being spawned constantly, changing the way we think and approach fitness, nutrition and health.
Do whatever you can to absorb as much knowledge as possible! That way, whatever you believe/read is challenged, developed or broken by other sources of information.
You might even want to meet people in the industry who can help as you build your network of ‘reputable’ sources. This may help guide you along the way and lead you onto other ‘experts’. You will be surprised how willing some people are to help (especially in an industry where the main underlying goal is to HELP PEOPLE achieve what they want to achieve – strength, weight loss etc. Of course, make sure you respect and are grateful for their time and effort (saying thank you doesn’t hurt anyone!).
With this in mind, it is important we identify reputable or legitimate sources of information. These days with the power of the Internet and social media, any average Joe can start a blog and proclaim to be an expert. This is the danger of such a vast and powerful tool. The intermediates/advanced will know how and where to find the reputable sources. But as a beginner: How do you find them? And how do you know if they are acceptable to read?
When I started, and even now, whenever I read an article (if it is someone who is unfamiliar to me) I will often research:
• Who they are
• What they do
• Who they associate with (this is their network AS WELL AS who published the blog – i.e. an article funded/published by a company that manufacture product ABC will obviously not publish an article criticizing their product[s]).
• What else they’ve written
• Their history (including education)
• What they say – this is probably one of the most important. IF they are making wild claims, this will immediately ring alarms and I will refer to the above points in order to justify that these wild claims may have some element of truth. If they are stating the obvious or repeating what reputable people have said/written, then it wont really ring alarms. It is always important to be ULTRA cautious.
In light of ANY research, it’s important to note that:
• There is NO best system. No diet protocol or exercise routine will provide the best results. What works for Joe may work for Sally but not for Sam. Sam may get big biceps doing curls, whereas Joe may find that compound work (pullups rows) is sufficient to build his biceps. You get my gist! I’ve always maintained that a disciplined individual will achieve greater results on a poor program, than an ill disciplined individual on a ‘golden’ program.
• Those who support a concept or idea will generally be accepting of criticism and acknowledge other methods. They will also be able to LEGIBLY support their point of view rather than throwing their arms up in anger and claim they have been victimized. In this sense they may also admit the flaws of what they are doing. Every program has its pro’s and con’s. For example, program A is better than program B in some areas and vice versa. However, as I said in a previous article, it’s what suits YOU best.
• Just because the majority believe it, doesn’t mean its right. You have the right to question, and get the appropriate response(s). Often people follow the majority as they feel that it’s ‘the right way’. This may be true in SOME cases, but not all.
• I’ll be careful with this one. To an extent, EVERYONE can be questioned. It was put best by Precision nutrition’s Brian St. Pierre. He asserted that to an extent everyone’s opinion can be questioned, ie the legitimacy is never 100%. However, with experience and education your ‘legitimacy score’ increases. For example, if the average person on the street (Bill) said XYZ and an individual with a degree in nutrition with 10 years experience (Jack) said ABC, it doesn’t mean Bill is wrong and Jack is right. It just means that Jack has more legitimacy to what he said. With this, we can still question both individuals, despite that based on this example we assume that Jack would be better able to justify and support his statement.
With this in mind, ill give you some of the resources I refer to as ‘experts’. In my opinion, and from my experience within the industry, I look up to all of these people due to their knowledge, skill, experience, attitude and success as personal trainers, strength coaches, physical therapists or whatever they may be. I appreciate the materials they provide (most of the time for free), making learning and up skilling a much more affordable task. I have compiled the following list after years and years of reading, searching, listening and watching. I must pass credit onto Will Levy from willlevy.com who has also led me onto some of these sources (one contact leading me onto countless, as mentioned above).
• Podcasts (free from itunes): Fitcast, Impruvism, Evil Sugar Radio, Strength of Evidence, Ben Pakulski.
• Books: The new rules of lifting (Lou Schuler, Alwyn Cosgrove), How to eat, move and feel better (Paul Chek).
• Names: Paul Chek, Eric Cressey, Joe Dowdel, Nick Tumminello, Brad Schoenfeld, Mike Boyle, Alan Aragon, Tony Gentilcore, , Leigh Peele, Kevin Larrabee, Chad Waterbury, Adam Bornstein, Mike Romaniello, Jason Feruggia, Alwyn Cosgrove, Lou Schuler, Bret Contreras, Kelly Starett, Dr Jonathan Fass, Dr John Berardi.
• Websites: examine.com (AWESOME for supplement reviews – a totally neutral and transparent website), Precision Nutrition, T-Nation (some yes, others not so much).
Here are some recommended readings:
Any comments, questions or other topics you wanna hear about? Please feel free to let me know! I love feedback!
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