Beware of Aunt Sally and her straw men

Posted on September 7, 2012. Filed under: Misc | Tags: , , , , |


For those unfamiliar a straw man is essentially a type of argument where a person attempts to win an argument by misrepresenting another’s position.  You create the illusion of having refuted a person’s point or statement by replacing it with a superficially similar yet un-equivalent proposition (the “straw man”), and refuting it, without ever having actually refuted the original position.  In the UK I am told they call it an Aunt Sally.

 

You can see this happen often in politics, corporate commercialism, and big time in the fitness industry.

 

Personally I believe majority of time in the fitness industry it is done accidentally.  One becomes so engrossed in their found philosophy or method that disregards basic principles.  I find this happens most often between those who advocate basic weight lifting and those advocate a more “functional form” of exercise (yoga, pilates, some form of dance).

 

Side Note:  Weight Lifting is functional training.  It only becomes dysfunctional when you do it incorrectly.  I have yet to have a client who does not only improve in aesthetics and strength.  But also range of motion, posture, flexibility, etc.  On more than one occasion some has told me my coaching improved their yoga.

 

As an example I will use an article written by someone calling themselves, a dancer, strength coach, and fitness educator.  But don’t mention any form of certification or education.  Not that the type of certification is that important.  It is however one of the few ways available to see if person giving fitness advice has taken some time to study their field.  It also makes it possible to check whether they are actually certified.  Any way to their quote:

“Exercise science even has an often repeated and just as often misinterpreted rule called the law of specificity.  The exercise, you see, is the important thing. It’s up to you the exerciser to conform to its rules. Seen another way, certain exercises are just; well, just better than others. I might say that a leg press is inferior to a squat. A push-up is superior to a press. “

 

Now in fact exercise science says no such thing, in fact it says the opposite.  And only those who don’t understand this rule say such things.

 

If you want to advocate your method, that is fine.  I hope you help millions of people.  But you do no one a justice by misrepresenting the other side of things to further your own gains.

 

OK, done ranting.

 

Keep Fitness Groovy,

Coach W

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Fitness is a Science not Magic! Rule 1 (part 3)

Posted on August 30, 2012. Filed under: Exercise | Tags: , , , , |


The non-falsifiable statements, which is very popular among internet gurus, involves the use of the multiple ways out of their rule being proved false.

 

Basically it’s a series of excuses intended to explain away the evidence that would prove their claim is a lie. Paid celeb endorsements, before and after photos of people you will never meet, or even the infamous “because I said so” approach.

 

Additional examples of multiple outs are the conspiracy theories. Point out the lacking of any real evidence and it’s because the evil million/billion dollar supplement industry doesn’t want you to know. It’s Big Pharma, Big Agra, Vegans, celeb trainers, Meat Industry, etc.

 

Granted, big business will look after their own interests but they do that through lobbyists, not hunting down ‘rebel’ retail sites. (1)

 

Diet gurus can’t help if you have the wrong mindset. This miracle workout will work for you if you’re not wimp.

 

Listen to what the advertiser is saying and if it sounds like “heads they win, tails you lose,” you are hearing a non-falsifiable statement.

 

Another method is to bury you with lab study references.

 

I’ve seen a few articles, sites where people will use PubMed like its weapon. The idea is that by listing dozens of scientific references you will assume what they say is true and valid.

 

This only works however if one is not patient (or in my case nerdy) enough to look up those studies. In the end you find that the studies referenced are very broad based so they ‘could’ validate the general idea of what the guru is saying. But there is nothing specific that can determine it one way or the other.

 

So how do you know when someone is speaking truth? If they can tell you in clear terms that you can understand why this will work and why it won’t, chances are you are off to a good start. If they can’t then either they are not dealing in truth, or they are not educated enough on the subject themselves.

*whew* One down, stay tuned for more.

 

 

Keep Fitness Groovy

Coach W

1)   Best Government Money Can Buy (2010) Francis Megahy

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Fitness Is A Science Not Magic. Rule 1 (part 2)

Posted on August 30, 2012. Filed under: Exercise, Nutrition | Tags: , , , |


An undeclared claim is a statement that is so broad or vague that it lacks any real content, for lack of a better term it’s all bone, no meat.

 

The undeclared claim is basically lacking of any real knowledge and essentially meaningless. Consider, for example, the term ‘no pain no gain.’ What originally was term to explain the occasional discomfort of working out has become a free for all. It turns in to if you’re not sore you didn’t work hard enough, or people proud of the fact they worked out until they threw up.

 

I have literally heard and read where “trainers” tell people it’s not a truly intense workout unless they throw up. So what does it mean if you don’t throw up? How do you know if you threw up due to the workout or eating too much? What evidence would prove that someone’s results from working out had been or had not been connected to nausea or muscle pain? Most ‘hard core’ gyms, in fact, base their reputation and credibility on such ideas which completely fall apart when exposed to a little rationality.

Come on Red guy, no pain no gain!

 The undeclared claim has the advantage that virtually any evidence found could be interpreted as validation of their claim, and for that reason it is especially popular among diet books and special shake diet plans who claim top secret science or magic fat loss powers.

 

For example, the liquid or Protein shake Diet. This concept has been around for centuries; yes I know the website said this is new diet technology. But they probably either never heard of William the Conqueror, or were not forced to have random diet knowledge injected into their brains like I was about his liquid diet back in 1087.

 

So there is nothing very ‘cutting edge’ about this approach. It’s the same spiel every time:

 

Our patent-pending nutritional shake helps your body eliminate toxins, absorb essential nutrients; gives you essential amino acids, vitamins, and minerals. Helping your body to shed stored fat, reduce free radical damage. Your body will be in better health; less likely to suffer from heart disease, heart attacks, high blood pressure, stroke, cancer, alien attack, near sightedness, hammer toe, etc.

 

By the way, I spoke with a person who does legal work for dieticians. He told me patenting a shake doesn’t mean it’s special. It means it can’t be lab tested or investigated by another company or independent lab.  Now why wouldn’t a company want their nutritional claims about a shake tested by an independent lab? Hmmm.

 

Any way back on topic, it’s always the same deal, you replace one or more of your daily meals with their shake and weight magically comes off! Any and all success is then attribute to the shake and its special ingredients. Couldn’t possibly be because:

  1. By planning to have the shake you are actually more mindful of your eating and eat less.(1)
  2. Your mindfulness also contributes to you eating healthier, after all that’s what you got the shake for.
  3. You are now eating less calories you then you did before due to replacing a meal with the shake.

 

Nope it’s all because of the shake and the ingredients that they searched all over the world for just to bring to you.


Part 3 coming up

 

Keep Fitness Groovy

Coach W

1)  Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think by Brian Wansink

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Fitness is a science not magic. Rule 1

Posted on August 30, 2012. Filed under: Exercise | Tags: , , , , , |


Can it be disproven?

 

It may sound odd but one of the principles behind scientific theory is falsifiability or refutability.

 

Falsifiability is considered a positive and essential quality of science because it means that an idea or hypothesis is testable and thus conforms to the scientific standards .

 

That something is “falsifiable” does not mean it is false, rather it means that if it is false, then observation or experiment will at some point demonstrate its falsehood.

 

Any claim someone makes about fitness, nutrition, should be clearly and easily falsifiable.

 

I’m adding on ‘easily’ since most fitness marketed out there is for the general public, not elite level athletes. And since that is the case the results should be both falsifiable and easy to explain to general public.

 

For example if I were to tell you water always boils at 100 degrees Celsius, it is very easy to see if that’s true or false, and fairly simple for you to understand. You don’t need me to explain the laws of thermodynamics to you, for you to check this for yourself.

 

Refutability is important for a simple reason: If nothing could ever disprove the claim, then the evidence that does exist would not matter. It would become useless to even have proof, because the conclusion is already known.

 

Which means anything claimed to be true, is meaningless.

 

It is impossible for any claim to be true no matter what. For every true claim, you can always conceive of evidence that would make the claim false. Even creatine, a supplement with 1000’s of research papers supporting its effects has non-responders.

 

The two main ways this rule is violated is the undeclared claim and the non-falsifiable statement.

Stay tuned

 

Keep Fitness Groovy

Coach W

 

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Fitness is a science not magic.

Posted on August 29, 2012. Filed under: Exercise | Tags: , , , , , |


I’ve be doing a lot of coaching, reading, and *shudder* socializing lately.

 

I’m not against socializing, it just seems to be every now and then I run into some one who thinks they know all there is to know about nutrition, weight lifting, etc.

 

Which is fine, I’m actually friends with a few academic elitists and like any situation since there intentions are good and they aren’t hurting anyone I don’t have a problem with their occasional rant or sense of superiority.

 

I know they mean well.

 

My problem arises with people who assume they are 100% right without doing any real research or reading at all.

If you want to believe something you read without further proof that’s fine. Don’t try to enforce that philosophy to me without expecting a few questions.

 

Unfortunately my questions have been known to embarrass a few people, and occasionally start fights, so I have had to design a game plan for when I ask these types of questions. I find it’s helpful to follow these steps:

 

  1. Look to your left
  2. Look to your right
  3. Do you see your girlfriend?
  4. If the answer to step 3 is yes, keep your mouth shut.

 

The brilliance is in its simplicity.  🙂

 

For example, I love kettle bells use them all the time. And have nothing but respect for my colleagues who are kettle bell certified. But if one more person comes up to me, and tells me kettle bells are all anyone needs as if they are the beginning and end of all fitness… someone may end up with a kettle bell in an awkward position.

 

This runs rampant through fitness all the time be it gyms, infomercials, dance studios; someone gets the smallest bit of info and acts as if that everyone should be following only that path. This is where the infamous term of broscience comes from.

No foundation, no proof, no track record, yet people believe because they want to believe there is some secret formula out there.

 

So how do you avoid getting taken in?

 

I’m glad you asked.

 

You see fitness, nutrition, exercise; these are all forms of science. And thus are subject to the same rules used to validate anything else in science.

 

I don’t want this to become to dry so I am going to paraphrase a bit of the terminologies. And hopefully after you learn or remind yourself of these principles you can more confidently filter through the insanity the fitness world has become.

Every one loves science

  Keep Fitness Groovy

 

Coach W

 

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