Episode 26. Learning in a Crowded Fitness Industry: Who to Listen to, How to Learn, and What to Look for in a Coach

Oct 10, 2016 | 3 comments

Show Notes

An “experts” will tell you to listen to them, and tune everyone else out. the only problem is every expert says this, including the ones who disagree. So: how do you deal with this? How do you know who to listen to? How do you learn? (Or… “learn to learn”?) How do you separate out the wheat from the chaff? The wisdom and science from the pseudoscience and nonsense?

We addressed this first about personal learning, and then in terms of hiring a coach.

The Wheat from the Chaff:

  • Scott and Kevin both emphasized that things have changed a lot since they were coming up. Online information overload is nothing like it was. This, obviously, has both benefits and drawbacks.
  • There is also a preponderance of online coaches/gurus who have the “look” of expertise (i.e. marketers) but not the education to really back it up.
  • Scott noted that this not the information age, but the “post-information” age.
  • Mike also mentioned how it’s kind of insane how much power is at our finger tips, via things like search engines and so on, and we constantly, constantly don’t take advantage of it. Yes, there are issues with not always getting the best results, but often times it’s not a deep topic — there is a clearcut, definitive answer, and it would take us 10 seconds tops to get it. And yet… we don’t.
  • Scott mentioned the phrase “Conspiracy against the laity,” which is a phrase popularized by Warren Buffett, but comes originally from George Bernard Shaw. (Lookit that. Five seconds on Google.)
  • Mike quoted Oscar Wilde saying “All education is self-education.” That might have been Isaac Asimov (the sci fi author) or Louis L’amour (the Western author). Scott followed up with the quote, “It takes an education before you can become self-taught.”
  • This blog post makes some nice points regarding the idea and play between a “formal” education and a self-taught one.
  • Scott brought up the fact that the fitness industry is mostly lead by marketers. Kevin also brought up the fact that there plenty of “no names” who have lots to contribute but you will never ever hear about them online. But, at the same time — Mike acknowledged — in order to be heard from online, those people need to contribute something in a form that, say, a search engine can understand. Also, most of them don’t care about being found online. They’re too busy.
  • Mike’s opinion of “intelligence” is that it’s 99% hard work, on both a macro level (learning, digging in, following up on who’s writing about what, say, “Hm, I still don’t understand this, I need to read more,” etc.) and on a micro level (holding two competing thoughts in your head, i.e. tolerating ambiguity even though it’s not that pleasant).
  • “Take What is useful, discard everything else.” Aristotle? Bruce Lee?
  • Mike came up with 3 (4?) weirdo personal rules for learning:

Mike’s Three Weirdo Rules:

  • 1. Be stupid (i.e., Just open your mind, assume you don’t know, be willing to not know)
  • 2. a. Disrespect those whom you think deserves respect. (This doesn’t mean be a jerk; it means don’t put gurus, authors, or whomever on a special pedestal. Everyone is flawed. Smart people make mistakes.)
  • 2. b. Respect those whom you might think don’t deserve respect. (Stop. Wait. Before you dismiss something, truly entertain the other perspective. Everyone “says” they do this. Then…. they don’t. We don’t argue against the other position. We argue against stupid strawmen version of the other position.)
  • 3. Shut up for a bit. Criticism and questioning is all good. But it’s also very, very useful to be able to simply absorb.


  • Kevin talked about his work before he was a coach, which involved a lot of manual labor. there’s nothing worse than someone who was new to the job, but thought they new everything. (See Rule 1 and 3!)
  • There was a bit of a debate about point 2, and when it is okay to “go back to normal,” as it were (i.e., when to say, “Okay, I’ve entertained the other position. I still think it’s stupid and not really deserving of respect,” or to say, “Yep, no, this person is still a cool dude and on the mark.”)
  • There is absolute nonsense being spouted off. It’s hard to try to find the value in what is being said when it is such low-level.


  • Mike thought this was even harder than just “learning” because with learning, it’s a take it or leave it kind of thing. At the end of the day, you can trust your own judgment. By contast, with coaching, you have to trust your coach and not always go backed on your own judgment. (If you’re going 100% by your own judgment… why are you hiring a coach?)
  • This kind of thing can also get very political (at least in the fitness industry).  People know that what they’re doing is wrong, but are afraid to quit their coach because it’s known who their coach is. This is not okay. Also, sometimes “who your coach is” affects your placing (!) if you’re a competitor.
  • Scott thinks people really need to be careful with hiring a physique competitor because often the competitor is just trying to fund their own competing — that’s their priority, not their clients.
  • Scott also warns consumers that often a coach, who is coaching people with eating disorders, is themselves dealing with an eating disorder. Not, “has recovered from” a disorder, but currently has one.
  • Similarly, you also have to be wary of “natural” coaches, and all the other lies that go on in the industry.
  • A lot of times, people want an answer. But sometimes the answer that people are giving — which sounds great — is total nonsense.

So, you’re looking for a coach… what do you do?

  • Look for communication skills. Coaching is not the same as doing. Wayne Gretzky admitted he wasn’t the best coach.
  • Don’t just look for coaches who mirror your own beliefs about “fitness.” Look for coaches who can look beyond that.
  • TALK to your coach. Don’t ask just one question. Dig. Speak to them. Get a feel for what they’re like.
  • Talk to their other clients!
  • It’s a huge investment. It is a relationship. It requires trust. Do the work up front. (It will be worth it down the road.)
  • A good question to ask: “What can you do for me?” If the answer is just them trying to dazzle you, move on. If their answer is actually about coaching, then keep digging, asking, and hopefully start to build that trust.


Links & Resources

Mark Rippetoe’s books