November 5, 2019 will mark 28 years of Fitness Science – the small company I founded that thankfully many others have been a part of. As the name of the company suggests, we strive to use methods based in science. To many this may lend more certainty to our approach. However, the concept of empiricism is based in doubt.
As a fitness consultant for more than 30 years, I know one thing for certain: that I actually never know if the input I provide someone will help them or not, no matter how much the evidence supports it. Yes, the only thing I truly know is, I don’t know.
One of the best teachers I ever had taught me high school calculus, physics, and chemistry. Among his many lessons was that the notion of scientific “proof” is false and nothing is known absolutely, only supported. Even the most well-supported hypothesis should not be considered truth. This is the nature of science. It’s no wonder the term “mad scientist” came about. Spending your life accumulating evidence to support a theory, while knowing the whole time it could never really be proven true would drive anyone crazy.
A human being is a deeply complex a system, open to a massive number of environmental stimuli. This also makes it impossible for me to know if how I coach someone will bring them closer to their goal.
With all of this said, rightly or wrongly, I have still tried to use empirically supported methodology in my practice. It is a guidance system I believe in. It has allowed me to represent (as well as I am able) the knowledge and work of the many people I hold as mentors. My mentors have similar approaches as a coaches or practitioners, or they are an active researchers, or both. Using an empirically supported methodology has required that I sift through, read and review countless studies and articles, often created by brilliant minds.
The privilege of having the work of others support my own is one I don’t take lightly. I am immensely grateful. I resigned myself long ago to the fact that none, or very few of my ideas are original. Even the few concepts which may be my own are fully derived from pre-existing concepts. As often as I can, I cite sources for the methods I use or reference their origin. I want clients to know that any success coming from these methods is not attributable to me. Success comes from the client’s application of someone’s idea. I am just a middleman.
This brings me to another point. Going to a trainer, coach, or consultant will not solve your problems. Even if the principles I employ for you are absolutely the correct solution, you must practice them or they will not work. I know. It sounds simple. Of course, they won’t work if you don’t use them, but simple could not be further from the truth.
Maybe it’s a function of me being a jaded old curmudgeon of a trainer, but most of my initial consultation with a new client is spent telling them how impossible this undertaking will be. Most of the things I ask people to do are hard. This difficulty is compounded by our environment which sets us up for abject failure at almost every turn. It actually overtly drives biochemistry, hormones, and addictions which in-turn drive behavior making us less fit and healthy. To suggest it is easy to turn things around and have behavior drive biochemistry is preposterous.
Even if a client nails down a perfect workout (if there was such a thing) for one or more times per week while they are with me, their regular environment will still be there to disrupt efforts the other 166+ hours a week. As consultants in this field, I believe one of our most important jobs is to help people understand why change is so difficult. When clients understand this, they are better equipped to overcome change’s difficulties.
The great news is, once the new behavior becomes your norm, it actually gets easy. It even becomes difficult to succumb to the environmental factors that were once your nemesis. You create a completely new state of being that supports health and fitness.
Thanks for reading.