Giving advice in the gym or the Knight of infinite resignation

When it comes to training in the gym after a long enough time you see a lot of good, a lot of bad, and a lot of let’s call it “free style weightlifting”. If someone has walked in a gym they have at least taken one positive step forward to improve their health, physique, self-esteem, etc. This, however, doesn’t mean that is what is going to happen. A lot of people will make decisions with their own programming that in reality is getting them nowhere, or at worst is going to get them hurt.

You can walk in to any large gym and typically in the cardio section (which is not that great of a bang for your buck choice, but I’ll get to that another time) and see people walking slowly to nowhere while drinking Gatorade. Let’s do some math on this. If that person is going to walk on the treadmill for thirty minutes at three miles an hour that comes out to walking 1.5 miles. Now we will say that person weighs 200lbs. because this is America. So that person will have burned approximately somewhere between 200 and 250 calories. Not bad, but if they did this while drinking a 20 oz. Gatorade (because you gotta get G and stuff) that person has consumed 130 calories, so overall we are talking now about a total deficit of 70-120 calories. If they drink two Gatorades while walking (or something higher calorie, because muscles need their milk and stuff right?) they have effectively gotten fatter while in the gym.


So back to minding your own business training. You see these types of mistakes being made, you see the people who complain about how squats hurt their knees (because the way they squat (technique) hurts your knees just watching them). You see a lot, and if you aren’t an apathetic douche bag you probably want to help them. This is where things take a turn for the worse. Unsolicited solid advice is usually taken as well as the dietary advice of “eat more vegetables”. Not too hard to look around in the produce section and see that they never seem to sell out…

If you are a guy giving this advice to a girl, congratulations you have probably creeped her out some. If you are a girl that has given this advice to a guy, congratulations you have insulted their (juvenile) masculinity. If you are talking to the same sex, now it is safe to say that they might listen and by might listen I give you a little lower odds than 50/50 on them taking it to heart and it working. Obviously none of this is written in stone, but I’m confident in the general trends here. So let’s just say as an investor of time and energy giving advice is out.

What about the other side? What about people asking you for advice? Now this is where we get to use the construct from the great Danish existentialist Soren Kierkegaard with his knight of infinite resignation. Where no matter what you do you can’t seem to full explain your position of what you do. You will often feel like you are talking to a wall. I can’t tell you how many times I have been in the gym and someone asked me how I got to be built like how I am today (trust me I’m not that big). I used to give solid advice on squatting, deadlifting, and then some upper body work and that is how you get there. They ask me about how to get big traps and I tell them to deadlift over 500 pounds and your body has no choice. Maybe even break down some basic programming as to how you can make that happen and then they nod at you and go back to single leg bosu ball split squats with a medball.

It is a sad reality that any person with a modicum of physical ability or aesthetics will be asked how they attained it. Either through genetics, hard work, or a combination of the two, it is a safe bet that a person asking you about it is doing this more for entertainment or interpersonal interactions than real knowledge gain. This used to get my hopes up that I was going to be able to pass on strength to other people. I was going to be able to help them get better, but now I realize it just doesn’t work like that. So now I just to them: “it’s genetics and my mom is built the same as me”. It gets a laugh and I go back to my training.

On occasion someone will ask you those questions and do it more than once. That rare, but uplifting person will take your advice to heart. That is the person that makes all of my previous cynical complaints worth it. Be on the lookout for that person. You never know when they might show up.


Have Belt, Will Travel

Welcome to the blog and the first posting of it. I am a teacher and researcher at an American university. I compete in powerlifting, strongman, and various other strength sports. I thoroughly enjoy strength and physical culture and have been incredibly fortunately to work with and learn from a large variety of strength and conditioning professionals. I’ll talk about myself more and more with these posts, so I won’t go in to incredible detail about myself for now.

Over the years I have gone to a variety of gyms and training facilities and had the fortune to train alongside a number of quality people and learn from them. Finding great gyms and great people when on the road has been a rather easy thing for me to do. During this time I adopted a basic philosophy towards learning and journeying and that is simply:

Have belt, will travel. 

The basics of the philosophy of “Have belt, will travel” is that you need to get out and experience new places. Be exposed to different types of thinking and training. Break from the easy routine of always training in the same garage, gym, or wherever you throw down, but be open to the ideas and new experiences you can find when going to new places. Also there is grounding in the idea of “have belt”, in that you have your basic tools of your sport. For me strength sports a weight belt is something just about everyone will use at some point. So I have the basic tools of the trade, but I am interested in experiencing new tools or new applications of them. Furthermore, the idea of that coming to these places you will not just be an observer, but a participant. Whether that means trying some new exercises, hopping in with a training crew, or having to spar against another person, you aren’t afraid of having to get in the action. Not that I’m the biggest proponent of transcendentalism, but you can get way more out of action that just standing there thinking. Experience the different training and you will at the least learn something about yourself, at best gain some knowledge that you can apply to make yourself and those you work with even better. 

This philosophy can be applied to any physical endeavor you choose to take part in. Luckily we live in a time and era where the internet gives us quick access to finding gyms wherever life may take us and allow us to learn about great training environments online. My experience has shown more often than not any gym or place you want to train has a phone number of email address to contact and they will get back to you. Key is to call at least two weeks out to let folks know you will be coming by to train. When you get there just be nice and keep your mind open to new ideas and experiences you can have. A bonus point here is to dress plainly and avoid any shirts that have statements like: “Your workout is our warm up”. That stuff doesn’t work when you’re training with someone who can lift 1.5x your max.

Journal about all of your experiences that you have there and reread your information upon your return to apply some of those experiences to your current training. Finding one or two technique, programming, or lifestyle pointers that can add one percent to your training returns can make a huge impact over time.

Thanks for taking a moment out of your day to give this a read. Hopefully this will be varying levels of entertaining, insightful, and inspiring. Goal is to update about once a week until I get tired of talking to myself, or things change to increase the amount of posts. Please leave comments about anything you’d like me to write about.

Thanks again,