An open letter to the fitness industry. Must read.

**if you think this is an important discussion, please share this post**

TITLE: The ‘opinionated mindset’ vs the ‘progress mindset’

So yesterday I shared a post from someone else about how many calories were in a KFC meal versus a ‘lean in 15' meal.

The original post had tons of comments from people who DO NOT READ THINGS, instead jumping to conclusions, arguing and ‘trolling’.

You don’t have to read it either, let me summarise:

1) The KFC meal in question had LESS calories than the lean in 15 meal

2) The lean in 15 meal had MORE calories than the KFC meal. Apparently over 1000 calories (approx. 700 cals for a female/smaller serving) in just ONE serving.

These are the FACTS from that post I shared.

Notice how I haven’t put an opinion in there?

Just the facts.

But there was a problem:

I was drawn into an argument on Facebook that I did not want any part of!

This is wrong on so many levels.

So I’ve got out of bed today with ONE goal, to sort this shit out.

Hold off commenting for now, please read the following:

THE PROBLEM

There are ways that a ‘progress mindset’ works, which I’ll discuss a little later in this post.

Then there are the broken, rancid ways that the ‘opinionated mindset’ works.

In fitness more than any other industry, people seem to think they can state their opinion in a close minded way.

People seem to have stopped learning, given up on THINKING and don’t help others to improve.

It’s such a big problem that I recently saw a post titled “Why Doesn’t America Read Anymore?”

Thousands of people commented with their opinion about why.

But the link itself was a hoax to see if people would click through and read before commenting.

They did not.

They assumed the gist of the post, and commented without reading.

Because of this ‘opinionated mindset’ it’s become the norm to rip other people down.

To ‘troll’ a post.

To look at someones squat PB video and think ‘shit technique’, rather than ‘go for it!’

You know what happens as a result of this?

Experts like me decide NOT to share things in an attempt to avoid ridicule, arguments and angry keyboard warriors.

Consider this:

When people ask me what I do at parties, I say anything else I can think of other than “I’m a coach”.

Why?

Because I’d rather not stand and fight someone who feels entitled to give me their opinion as if it’s fact.

Then argue with my answers.

I’m tired of these miserable conversations.

For example, last week I mentioned I was on a ketogenic diet to someone. I explained the diet when they asked, only to have them tell me that saturated fat is dangerous.

This happened twice. The same conversation with two different people (one friend, one family member. Neither understand the science. Both gave me their opinion in a negative way)

I believe the approach we are taking to spread our fitness knowledge (explaining and then arguing) has to change. Fast.

WHY DOES THE GENERAL PUBLIC GET CONFUSED ABOUT FITNESS?

The general public has huge misunderstandings around fitness.

They do not understand basic nutrition, basic physiology and basic training.

This is our fault as fitness professionals.

For example, if a client reads a post on Facebook that contradicts the nutrition plan you’ve written for them, they will get confused.

This is good. This is free speech. This ain’t North Korea.

Yet I see coaches ripping apart other coaches beliefs around nutrition just so they can get across their own.

It’s easier to say ‘they’re wrong and I’m right’ when talking to the example confused client.

It’s harder to say:

‘Their approach definitely works, but for your goals I’ve recommended a different approach because of x, y, z.’

Well I’m sorry guys but complicated conversations are part of the job you’ve taken.

Suck it up. Embrace it. Become better at explaining things in a simple way.

Then I see most trainers and coaches go one step further. They internalise this ‘they’re wrong and I’m right’ mindset and believe their own story.

We then don’t learn from each other, don’t ask questions and don’t learn.

One day I hope we can reduce the amount of conversations that sound like ‘I see what you’re saying bro, but you’re wrong.’

Our clients see that we argue or put another coaches method down and they get confused.

Thus the ‘opinonated mindset’ confuses clients.

Next, I’m going to discuss what a ‘progress mindset’ looks like so we can all learn and improve.

DEFINITION OF A PROGRESS MINDSET

The problem then, is we (the fitness industry) are stuck in a cycle of disbelief and finger pointing.

We should be enjoying positive criticism, discussion and progress.

A progress mindset is one LOOKING for improvement.

An opinion based mindset is one COMPLAINING that things should be perfect, but they are not.

I’m gonna get into the nuts and bolts of how we switch to the progress mindset later on.

Next I want to show WHY we must focus on progress.

WHY WE SHOULD ALL HAVE A PROGRESS MINDSET

With a progress mindset, not only can we all feel better about fitness, get better results and feel happier…

…but we can have better conversations about fitness, ask deeper questions, fuel research and product development.

We could actually change the world with this mindset.

Or we could argue about opinions, confuse our clients and make each other cry.

Anyone else rather change the world?

Good, let’s do it.

OPINION VERSUS PROGRESS

A scientific mind gathers all the facts, looks for evidence, creates a hypothesis and then attempts to falsify.

AKA – tries to prove their own opinion wrong.

This is in an attempt to find what works and discard what doesn’t

Having been to university and trained in this way of thinking, I get it. I know a lot of other coaches do too, whether they hold degrees or not.

But it’s clear many trainers know nothing about exercise science.

For example there has been a recent rise of ‘strength and conditioning classes’. This is false advertising because strength and conditioning is not a way of training, so it can’t be a class.

Rather it is a science. First you perform a needs analysis of the client (goals/needs/methods) and use that to write a custom program.

For example:

If I’m using a battling rope and interval training whilst training a client, is that strength and conditioning?

…..if you just gave an answer, you have an opinionated mindset.

Instead ask a question:

WHAT IS THE GOAL?

Using a battling rope and interval training is not strength and conditioning IF the goal is to increase leg strength (where heavy front squats would be a better choice)

But the above IS strength and conditioning if the individual was about to compete in the world championships of battling ropes.

The program must be specific to the goal.

So the coach with a progress mindset asks what the goal is.

The opinionated mindset says ‘that’s wrong you should be squatting’.

The progress mindset oriented coach looks for ways to improve the plan so the goal can be achieved.

The opinionated mindset closes out all other avenues of improvement other than his opinion.

SUMMARY

1) People seem to have stopped learning, given up on THINKING and don’t help others to improve.

2) Fitness experts like me decide NOT to share things in an attempt to avoid ridicule, arguments and angry keyboard warriors.

3) Coaches find it easier to teach their clients by tearing others down rather than having the hard conversations.

4) Coaches carry the opinionated mindset into their own education. Deciding that if a method doesn’t fit their opinion then it’s wrong. Learning grinds to a halt.

5) Confused customers see different opinions from coaches claiming “I’m right and they’re wrong”. More confusion follows.

6) People don’t read things, don’t ask what the goal is, don’t look for ways to improve, only look for and express the negatives.

CONCLUSION

Look, I woke up today with the intention to make a difference.

I hope my writing is good enough for you to either reinforce your existing progress mindset. Or drop your opinions and instead look for progress.

It’s important to keep an open mind, especially in a world as fast moving as fitness.

Crossfit didn’t exist when I first started lifting weights, and I’m not even 30 yet.

A high fat, ketogenic diet 20 years ago would’ve been laughed at.

Now it’s being hailed as a possible cure for cancer.

Strength and conditioning degrees didn’t exist when I went to Uni 11 years ago, now you can have a full degree on the topic.

Things move fast. So even if your opinions are factually correct and serving you well today, they may be wrong one day.

You have to accept that, as we all do.

I think we also have to accept that perfection is the wrong goal in fitness

Squatting 200kg or having a six pack is pointless in the grand scheme of things.

But helping a 20 stone man drop to 14 stone and live to see his fucking kids grow old is important.

Helping someone to reduce their blood sugar and reverse diabetes so they don’t die is fucking important.

You have this power as a fitness professional.

You have this power as a fitness educator.

You have this power as a university.

You have this power as a supplement manufacturer.

And everyone else involved in the fitness world.

Yet I see trainers making fat jokes at the gym and smashing 100 pics of their abs all over instagram.

Honestly, I don’t know how to improve this, I never intended to write a manifesto on how we should all behave as coaches.

But I do know that somebody giving you their opinion as if it’s fact is not constructive, it’s hurtful.

And striving for progress, not perfection, is the greatest mindset to adopt.

Because there isn’t an end, fitness will never be ‘done’, your body will never stop changing, you won’t squat 200kg when you’re 90 years old (if you make it that far).

So…..

> pass on the knowledge

> share with other coaches

> ask questions (what’s the goal?)

> admit when you don’t know things

> have those hard and complex conversations with clients (give them credit, they are intelligent, they will understand)

> read posts fully, or even better, get off Facebook and have real life phone or face to face conversations

> loosely hold strong opinions. Be prepare to change with the times

> strive for progress over perfection

And that’s about it.

Again, if you think this is important then please share this post. Email it out. Blog it. Social media the crap out of it.

I’m happy to have conversations with those of you who disagree

This is not the end of the conversation, it’s the beginning.

Anthony Shaw

(again I encourage you to criticise my post, discuss it and create pointers for practical application so we can progress as an industry)