I introduced the top 10 fitness things that should trigger your bullshit detector and make you question what you’re reading, and the person(s) saying it.
Here’s the remaining five.
6. Superhero Origins
Every hero has an origin story. Peter Parker is bit by radioactive spider and becomes Spiderman; Bruce Wayne witnesses his parents’ murder and becomes Batman; Diana Prince is laid off from her job at Lockheed Martin, fails to return the company invisible jet and becomes Wonder Woman. Or something like that.
An origin story is a big part of personal branding too, especially in fitness. However, the trend has become to push the adversity angle of the origin into absurd, superhero-like territory.
No longer can a fitness pro say, “I really loved exercise and enjoyed helping people so I became a fitness instructor.”
It has to be, “One day I woke up and I was 600 pounds. I’d discovered three meals between breakfast and brunch. Greenpeace threatened to roll me back into the ocean. I decided something had to change. Two years later I was Mr. Olympia. And I can help you do it too!”
Rule: Some overcome tremendous obstacles to reach where they are. But if it sounds like the back-story for a Marvel superhero, it’s likely bullshit.
7. Are You Not Entertained?
It’s almost a sick joke that the most effective exercises are also the most boring. It would be cool if that underwater spinning class (it’s an actual thing, in NYC of course) was more effective than say, plain old weight training.
Or if combining dumbbells with balanced boards and pyrotechnics actually burnt fat instead of just violating exercise physiology, not to mention a few fire codes.
It’s not. Cause that’s entertainment, not exercise.
When I moved into my place, our new neighbor said he used to lift weights but switched to a TRX-surfing class. “It builds core strength without breaking down the muscles like weight training,” he said.
“And surfing is way more fun than lifting weights.”
Can’t argue with him there.
Rule: I wouldn’t say, “if an exercise system is new or creative or sounds almost really fun, it’s probably bullshit.” It’s just not as good as the boring stuff we’ve been doing for years. Sorry.
8. Their Shit Don’t Make No Sense
I never understood the Paleo thing. It never added up to anything I’d want to pursue.
It’s well-established that Paleo-guy lived a short, shitty life built around hunting, gathering, swatting mosquitoes, and seeing his children die at birth. Where’s the attraction? Why would I want to copy that?
Compare that with lifting weights: In his biography, Arnold said that when he started bodybuilding as a teen, he and his friends would gather up their girlfriends and drive into the Austrian mountains and lift weights and swim and have sex and eat and sleep.
That just sounds better.
Rule: Don’t listen to idiots who tell you that life was somehow better back when living to 30 was considered old. Because they’re conmen. And idiots.
9. They Talk Too Much.
This is something I learned from the magazine business. If someone is really good – meaning they know what they’re talking about and get really good results – you never hear from them. Instead you hear about them – from their clients and colleagues and other editors and certainly their competition. But never from them directly.
The wannabes, however? Forget hustling. They smother you.
If a fitness pro’s name pops up across your Facebook feed and your visceral reaction is “Jesus, not this douche again” then trust your gut. At least it’s always honest with you.
Rule: Don’t tell me, show me.
10. Pill Pushers
You can only sell someone a weight set once. Barbells and dumbbells are practically indestructible; although they don’t make as good a laundry rack as that Bowflex you bought.
A gym membership you can sell once a year though. That’s more like it. As an added bonus, many quit using it by early February. Score.
Now, supplements – there’s a recurring cash cow. Get a kid hooked on repackaged cake mix and it’s almost like winning the lottery every time he gets his allowance.
The absolute worst offenders are the fat burners. They offer the biggest profit margins while being the least healthful or even effective. The fact that they’re targeted at mainstream women who don’t even understand how to eat properly and are often on various contraindicated medications is borderline criminal.
Don’t get me wrong, good supplements are very helpful — as a means to improve upon a nutritious diet, not delude yourself into thinking you’re burning more fat by blasting your adrenals into the stratosphere.
Rule: If a fitness authority says using a product (often products) is the key to success, they are conning you.
I could blast the fitness industry for weeks and sound all cute and witty. But I’m also a part of it — I’ve worked in fitness, in some capacity, my entire adult life.
And I have to say, it used to be worse. It used to be an information black hole, with the average consumer left stranded in total darkness.
But today, while at times it’s still darker than a moonless prairie night, you can also see the glow of the approaching dawn.
So if you ask me, the light’s winning.