muhuk's blog

Nature, to Be Commanded, Must Be Obeyed

December 09, 2008

I Can’t Learn From My Fitness Instructor Because I’m Prejudiced

I had an interesting morning today. I dragged myself to the gym as usual[1] for my morning cardio. I said hello to this young instructor and that led us to how are you part. I said “I feel tired and broken”, which is only natural in the middle of a diet. Being young and enthusiastic he first asked me questions about my training and then, I guess when he decided he had enough information, he started giving me advice. Imagine my disappointment and amazement combo there! And the advice was basically take it easy. Yeah, sure.

I could have just told him to get lost. That is usually what I do, because these so-called instructors think of themselves as gurus and all you can be is a newbie to be guided and advised and... Yes, instructed :) . They are usually stupid people with a crappy education. But this was a nice person, so I didn’t gave him the usual. Instead I tried to explain him. I thought that if I explained things calmly and simply, he would at least understand part of it. But I was wrong.

I decided that it was enough when he told me “perhaps you have the prejudice that you know better than us (instructors)”. Prejudice? Prejudice! I asked a single question “Have you ever done bodybuilding?”. The answer was of course no. “Then how the hell can you tell me that you know about this stuff?”. Really, it is not something you can learn from books. For training other people, or even for your own training. So I don’t have a prejudice, you moron. I have seen you show people incline bench press on a 45 degrees bench. Forget bodybuilding, you simply don’t know the first thing about weight training.

Guru Happens In Three Months

I see this happening in gyms all the time. A newbie trains for three months, and then decides that he has mastered it all. He compassionately comes to you, the pathetic loser who obviously know nothing, to share his infinite wisdom. And you tell him to go bother someone else, directly and probably in the presence of others. Not a pleasant scene. I believe he acts with good intentions, but that doesn’t make it less insulting.

Well, fools are fools. I can never imagine to surmount the limitless power of foolishness. But there is a pattern, and I think it is worth drawing some attention to it. What happens is not significantly important. Neither your reaction. But it is important to realize and observe it.

I have worked as a cashier for a brief period of time. If you are working at a busy place it is not at all easy to get used to. But once you do, you start experiencing something (IMO) unique. Time slows down for you, relative to the person paying of course. While she is hurrying to get it over with and (hopefully) get it right, you do your part efforlessly. Simply because you have done that for too many times before. The customer has no way of seeing this, she is just too busy with finding her purse, counting the money or whatever. On the other hand it has become a reflex for you, so you can observe the person in front of you shutting down everything but the task at hand. My point here is; who has a better understanding of the subject inevitably can see things in a much larger field of view, but the other is oblivious to this fact.

What happened this morning made me think; I must be doing the same thing (being a fool) on some other subjects. Of course I am not aware of it. I am oblivious to my own ignorance. Isn’t that convenient?

What Is Missing In This Picture

Human eye has about 200 degrees viewing angle. It is a pretty wide angle. But still it is just a little more than half of panoramic view. Half of the truth. Actually it is much less than the half, considering a 3 dimensional space. Our vision is just a projection of our surroundings, very limited information in this sense. And how many of us now feel like visually inadequate?

Not likely. Because our brain compensates for the holes in our knowledge. It puts the pieces together and infers for what is missing. We think we know what is around us, but in reality we just make things. up.

This is not a necessarily a bad thing. We can work with limited information and create art. An artist might reach exactly the same result as she imagined it to be. But most of the time there is no instantiated idea that makes it to the final creation. Another example is martial arts. There is no way to stop and observe your surroundings and your opponent. And these change constantly with time. Unless of course you are already knocked out. Yet your mind can fill the gaps in this very limited 2 dimensional information to create a 4 dimensional model and makes predictions based on that. These activities (artistic creation, martial arts) have significantly different time scales. But a lot more than we are counciously aware of is happening in both. Autonomous nature of this guessing shouldn’t mean becoming aware of and having some control over it is worthless.

This counciousness can sometimes save you from being fooled (or being a fool). As crude example; people with high self-confidence speak loud and clear, right? Yes. And people with low self-confidence do that as well, they are possibly even louder. If you buy into this stereotype you will probably end up misjudging people. Or worse, you might speak too loud when you feel unconfident.

Actually relying on this mechanism too much might lead to a kind of lazyness. Adults are much less explorative than children. I don’t think this is because they have learned so much, or opinionated themselves after rigorous thinking. It is simply easier to be lazy and after a while it becomes a routine. Growing up, after a certain age, is replaced by getting old. Sure, we all get old. But we don’t have to stop growing up. And then we don’t have to reverse the process, to the point live life on auto-pilot.

A Meta-Solution

How do we protect against this exporative lazyness? I don’t even know what it is and how it works exactly. But I will try to apply two principles that works well with regular lazyness;

  • Setting expectations the right way. Getting rid of habits and building skills are two different things. You are not trying to free yourself of the non-existance of the skill, and the habit is already working on you from t=0. You can not expect incremental gains. You will win some, and then lose some. Think about the process as many iterations instead, many being a strictly unknown number. Expect to get back to where you have started, hopefully with positive changes.
  • Taking advantage of external forces. We are affected from both internal and external stimuli. But external stimuli has much power than internal. This is great of course, because our lazyness is internal. The tricky part is to find out that external thing we can use. We need to get out of our comfort zone, for two reasons. Outside our comfort zone is a world stranger to us, this should supply material to observe. Getting out of our comfort zone is naturally forcing ourselves out, this should supply enough irritation. Think of it as a slap in the face. “Hey! Wake up!

You Are Too Naive Too Fool Me

I never claim to be an expert on bodybuilding or something like that. But when people around are really clueless, as in thinking sit-ups will give them a six pack, and I point it out, it appears to be I am making such a claim.

It is sad actually. I see people everyday, thinking they are working out. But it is not working out. Can you imagine a perfectly healthy 30 year old and a pyhsically inactive 50 year old following exactly the same program. Oh, sorry; not exactly the same. Younger one is additionally doing sit-upa. To get a six pack of course. Good luck. :D


[1]I’m on a diet now, so I do my cardio in the mornings and my weight training in the evenings.

If you have any questions, suggestions or corrections feel free to drop me a line.