The fitness industry, much like every area of our lives is divided into tribes. Much of it related more to identity, belief systems, and tradition than it is to a constant evaluation of the details.
When we sit in a tribe, it’s common to want to see the world through one fixed lens. We interpret research, recall information, and seek out the key facts that prove our point of view correct. This is the definition of confirmation bias.
In a quest to diversify, the fitness industry moved from two tribes (weight lifting and aerobics) to an infinite number. Pilates™, Zumba™, PowerPlate™, spinning™, yoga-fit-latte™ 2.
Beyond the uniform required in each, and the sounds, music, food and smells all make up the experience of each tribe, there is a distinct benefit. A benefit that its followers believe you cannot get anywhere else.
If I ask which one you would recommend for flexibility, you would say……..?
If I ask which one you would recommend for core strength?
If I ask which would you would recommend for hypertrophy?
But we know this is simply not true. Hypertrophy occurs due to a mechanical demand + favourable environment. This means it can occur in a spinning class if we set it up in a particular way (have you ever had a client ask why their legs were growing but all they did was spin?).
If we are to step up to reinforce our status as Exercise Professionals, then we need a way to navigate this fragmented state of the industry.
Edward de Bono
Edward de Bono is a psychologist, philosopher and author, who has written many books on the concept of thinking, including the title of this article.
In How To Have a Beautiful Mind, de Bono tackles the subject of how to think in the context of communication with others.
The underlying principle is that thinking, and exploring ideas with others, is a skill that can be learned.
It requires skills in appreciating alternative points of view, finding the possibilities and alternatives. Disagreements can be discussed with clarity. Differences in opinion can be openly explored.
Once an idea has emerged, it is no longer a matter of ‘yours’ or ‘mine’ but an idea to be improved and assessed, instead of the usual ‘battle’ of arguments. We don’t own it, we don’t need to be emotionally attached to it, and there can be a joint effort (from all parties) to explore the subject, without dismissing it.
The latter point really hit home to me as something the fitness industry could do with a healthy dose of.
Exploring Fitness Tribes
We can learn from anyone, even if what they are saying isn’t quite sitting with our own values and experience. We are sometimes quick to dismiss a whole idea from a person without exploring the topic itself.
A few years back, I read a book written by Dan John, which really enjoyed. In the first few chapters, Dan John talks about the Frankenstein Method is he witnessing:
First and foremost, the body is one piece…we are not a collection of parts…If you have stomach flu, you probably aren’t going to squat well that day.
He’s suggesting that isolation exercises have no place in the gym. The body moves as a whole, and we should train it as one.
Now you may have a similar perspective to me, or maybe not. But what was your initial reaction?
My initial reaction is ‘hey, he has just proven that the individual pieces matter!’ If one part is dysfunctional (stomach flu), then it can affect the whole! He’s really explaining why you really should do the hip adductor machine to improve your squat!
In possibly the first 10 years of working in this industry, I would have stopped reading that book at that point. So egotistical.
If we take a step back from that idea. Not only can we explore the idea, but we can understand the ‘logic bubble’ (Edward de Bono) that created this idea.
Dan John’s logic bubble includes the years of experience, types of experiences, what he has/has not measured, his belief system, his likes/dislikes the young adults he trains in group environments, what he has witnessed in terms of the way people have trained in ‘isolation’ and their outcomes.
We all bring our bias. It’s about disassociating from the emotional attachment, questioning, and switching off the automated thinking.
This extends to all areas of the fitness industry:
- Removing the brand names
- Breaking down the movements
- Understanding exercise mechanics, architecture, and tolerance
- Recognising perceived adaptation and actually measuring outcomes
This is one reason that I love exercise mechanics.
Breaking the fitness industry up into smaller tribes is fantastic for marketing. Just ask Seth Godin. However, as Exercise Professionals, if we stay within the same realm as the consumer – focusing on our chosen tribe, dismissing all others, we run the risk of making ourselves redundant. What value are we providing if we cannot dip into more details?
Similarly, what do we miss out on by dismissing an idea without exploration?