Don’t get your identity wrapped up in your fitness

Posted on June 24, 2019

(Last Updated On: June 24, 2019)

I’d say there are two consistent, glaring flaws in the fitness industry:

  1. Everyone thinking they’re more advanced than they are
  2. Getting way too emotionally attached to any fitness approach

I’ve addressed 1. in The Real Talk With Client SeriesSuccinctly: you don’t need high intensity interval training when you’re bitching about taking the stairs instead of the elevator.

Number 2. comes along later, like once a person is exercising consistently.

Often a person, or a trainer, finds success with an approach. CrossFit, Paleo, powerlifts, interval training, yoga.

They then extrapolate that success onto everyone else.

“Just do CrossFit!”

“Don’t eat carbs. Ever.”

“Do this one stretch and your shoulder will feel better. Back hurts? Don’t worry. The stretch works best for that too.”

An emotional attachment comes about. Which makes sense. For some, fitness has been a rough journey. Finally finding something that worked can truly be life altering.

For others, it’s a status game. If I’m doing interval training but they’re doing steady state cardio, I can’t accept steady state could be better, because that means I’m not doing what’s best. That means I’m flawed, which is unacceptable.

This may sound like hyperbole, but go into some fitness forums and see how people interact. Hell, I’ve seen trainers go agro in a gym. One memorable instance was when a trainer learned other trainers didn’t care if their clients drank alcohol. Heresy! The trainer couldn’t accept this because not drinking alcohol was a big part of how they lost over 50 lbs. If they needed to not drink, everyone must need to not drink. If they don’t have the ability to drink moderately and be at a healthy weight, then nobody can.

-> Parents are terrible about this too. A great way to offend another parent is MERELY HINT you’re doing a different approach because you think it’s better. Immediate mental middle finger.

The very first post I ever wrote was: It all depends on you.

Essentially any approach we’ve concocted, whether it should be done, depends. For many, CrossFit is terrible. For many, it’s transformative.

Plenty of people do not need to bench press, ever.

For every 100 people who lose weight going low carb, some percentage of other people will gain weight.

This sounds easy and simplistic. It’s not. It’s boring. It’s tedious. It doesn’t sell.

We do not like to think in nuanced, gray areas. Politics being the prototypical example. We do not like to go over each and every issue and figure out what’s best at a given time. That is mentally daunting, and to some degree, unreasonable. We instead say we’re Democrat or Republican and sweep all our views into that identity. I mean, just think about that. Why does it make sense if you have this view on taxes you should have that view on abortion?

We do not like to approach each individual as a particular person and figure out what’s best. We instead say everyone should bench, squat, deadlift, to such an extent we’ll even try to use deadlifting as a rehab exercise for rotator cuff surgery. (This is a real example from a highly known person in the fitness world.)

We try to find our hammer so we can think of everything as a nail. We all do this, and have to constantly fight to avoid it. One of the powers of the human brain is the ability to quickly generalize.

Touched a hot stove? => Will never touch a hot stove again.

This is actually one of our greatest advantages over something like artificial intelligence, which needs endless amounts of data until it can make a proper generalization. While quick categorizing can be great for survival, it has flaws in other domains.

Sometimes finding “rules” is seen as a holy grail. Hey, if you’re dealing with physics, that makes sense. If you’re dealing with human beings, be careful having hard rules.

Don’t get married to exercises. Don’t get attached to certain diets. Just because it works for you doesn’t mean it’ll work for someone else. Just because it works for you now doesn’t mean it’ll work for you a year from now.

“I know a lot of people have very strong and definite plans that they’ve worked out on all kinds of things, but we’re subject to a tremendous number of outside influences and the vast majority of them cannot be predicted. So my idea is to stay flexible.”

“My only plan is to keep coming to work. … I like to steer the boat each day rather than plan ahead way into the future.”

Henry Singleton

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