Paralysis by Analysis: The Cost of Too Much Info in the Fitness Industry

Originally, I planned to start this article by listing off the swath of diet methods and fads, fat loss gimmicks and workouts, muscle-building rep ranges, and tempos, etc.; but I got so frustrated and winded, just writing it all that my heart rate variability monitor told me to change course.  

I’m going to assume you’re in a similar place.  It’s all just…a bit much.  

And, as if it wasn’t enough that the fitness industry has been thoroughly inundated with gimmicks, get-hot-quick schemes, and barely regulated supplements, social media encouraged actively packaging it all into an eye-catching and rarely effective spectacle.

So, let me be the first to say: if you finally got burnt out and decided to call it a day over a pint of Ben and Jerry’s, I feel for you.  You’re not alone.

On the social media side of things, you’ll find a lot of people doing crazy workouts that are most likely too advanced for you; OR are so insane that they could get you hurt.  Meanwhile, other forms of media tend to post up trends and scattershot advice that leaves little space for nuance.

Not to mention, much of the widely accepted advice is based on very little.  As an example: the recommendation to get 10,000 steps a day is based on an 80s Japanese pedometer.  The name of the pedometer roughly translated to “10,000 steps,” and the Japanese character looked like someone walking.  Until recently, there had never been a study backing up the efficacy of walking 10,000 steps every day.  

Or the belief that the mechanisms behind muscle building were: Mechanical tension, muscle damage, and metabolic stress.  Turns out that only one of those mechanisms is of benefit to the adaptation of building muscle.  The other two are either detrimental or negligible.  

A google search right now will show you that although this information is widely available, it hasn’t stopped one blog, vlog, youtube channel, influencer, etc, from continuing to purport these incredibly outdated and inaccurate claims.  

If you’re like me, you may have decided to go in the other direction and tried your hand at some of the dense scientific studies available to plebeians such as myself.  

I’m going to go ahead and warn you against it.  

So, now that we’ve had a sufficient temper tantrum let’s talk about what you can do.  

3 basic “dos and don’ts” based on my own experience, as well as making friends with fitness personalities and professional bodybuilders:

  1. Get specific about what you want to do.  You can have the desire to lose some weight and build some muscle, but those goals do not tend to go hand-in-hand unless you are absolutely new to fitness.  Then you can often get away with anything, as long as you’re active.  

If losing weight is the goal, find a diet that won’t make you feel like you’re on the Oregon Trail or a monk.  Measure your progress but don’t become obsessive.  Don’t do excessive cardio.  Move more.

If gaining muscle is your goal, find a diet that won’t make you feel like you’re a competitive eater.  Measure your progress but don’t become obsessive (big emphasis here because building muscle is a lot slower than losing weight).  Don’t do excessive cardio.  Move more.

  1. Be honest with yourself.  Don’t take on a resistance training plan that has you at the gym 5 days a week if that’s absolutely unfeasible.  But don’t let yourself off the hook completely because you “don’t wanna.”  You’ll have to strike a balance, find something workable, and be radically honest about what you can do versus what some guy on Instagram with his shirt off says you should do.  
  2. Most importantly, we’re all special little snowflakes.  Seriously.  You’d be surprised at the things that sound absurd, but they totally work for…SOMEONE.  1 set of squats every week and a half for muscular legs?  Someone has done it.  Losing weight via eating only McDonald’s food? Someone has done it.

Please, for the love of God, don’t do that.  But someone HAS done it. Experimentation and honesty are going to be your best friend here.  I was an absolutely unathletic kid.  I’m no superman in the flesh right now either, but if you were to tell my 16-year-old self that 10 years from then, I was going to develop a love for bodybuilding, martial arts, and power walking, 16-year-old me would’ve used a whole host of expletives to voice his disbelief.  

It just goes to show you never know what’s for you unless you try.

Be honest with yourself and have fun.  You rarely do what you hate anyway, so stop settling for the idea that getting in shape is equivalent to months spent in a gulag.  It’ll take a little discipline, but maybe less than you think.  

If you love what you do, you’ll do what you love. 


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