As the old saying goes, opinions are like assholes: everyone has them, and most of them stink. That’s particularly true in the fitness world, where ideas about the most effective ways to work out, eat and live healthfully abound.
Let’s say you want to head to the gym. Should you be spending your hour on CrossFit, yoga, pilates, bodybuilding, powerlifting, Olympic weightlifting, high-rep toning, steady-state cardio, high-intensity interval training, kettlebells, barre, Zumba, power-walking or something entirely different? For each, you can find a commited cadre of acolytes, pushing their approach as god’s obvious gift to the world.
And, indeed, there are upsides to nearly anything. But just because lots of things are ‘good’ doesn’t mean that others aren’t ‘better’ or ‘best’.
To figure out your ideal choice, however, you’ll need to determine your goal. To paraphrase Alice and the Cheshire Cat, if you don’t know where you want to go, it doesn’t much matter which road you take. But as soon as you do have an outcome in mind – reduced bodyfat, a better 5k time – some paths turn out to be far shorter than others.
So how do you choose that best path?
In fact, there’s a method for determining best answers in the real world. It’s called science. Here’s how it works: you come up with an idea for something you think might be effective. And then you test it out.
Or, in greater detail:
1. You ask a question.
2. You do background research, to come up with potential answers.
3. You construct a hypothesis about an approach that you think might work.
4. Then you test your hypothesis by doing an experiment.
5. You analyze the data from your experiment, and draw a conclusion.
6. And, finally, you communicate your results.
Of course, the vast majority of experiments turn out to prove that a hypothesis isn’t correct. But that’s okay. As Edison said, he never failed, he just first discovered 2000 ways not to make a lightbulb. Still, if people come up with and test enough hypotheses, eventually the truth begins to out. That’s how we now understand the basics of everything from particle physics to kidney function. And, in exercise, nutrition, stress-management, sleep, and a slew of other fitness-relevant areas, smart research has been bearing out innovative hypotheses for decades or more.
Of course, following and understanding a large body of research is difficult and time-consuming. And, at first glance, a lot of research seems to conflict with other research, especially when you’re not versed in the nuances of the questions being studied. So most people go an easier route: they simply look at what’s popular, getting good press, or being done by people around them, and use that as a reasonable heuristic instead.
That’s how you get a slew of people doing cleanses and juice-fasts, for example, which are both totally en vogue these days. And, unfortunately, both totally worthless. (In case you’d care to nerd out, here’s a thorough debunking.)
So just doing what everyone else does isn’t a reliable route. In fact, doing what everyone else does is, instead, a pretty reliable way to get the same results that everyone else gets. And in a country that’s plagued with overweight and obesity, where only 8% of us each year achieve our New Years health resolutions, going with the wisdom of the crowd doesn’t seem a terribly smart approach.
Instead, we think you should do in fitness the same thing you do in most other facets of health: follow the advice of highly educated and extensively trained specialists, who you trust to study, follow and understand the relevant science on your behalf. If you’re diagnosed with leukemia, you look for the very best oncologist you can find, under the assumption that they know far more about treating cancer than you do, and certainly more than some guy who volunteered as an EMT in college.
So why would you expect that reading Men’s Health, or hiring someone who played on their college football team, would be a reasonable way to find the best fitness solutions for your life?
We think the gold standard in fitness is the same as anywhere else: find highly-educated, extensively-trained specialists who nerd out on the science for you, follow their advice, and get real results.
That’s what we’re trying to do at Composite: we want to be your outboard fitness brain. Science has best answers for you, best practices that will help you achieve your health and welness goals. We find them, and help you implement them in ways that work in your life. It’s not easy, but it is simple: it’s science.