Sunday, May 20, 2018

The Greatest Gym You’ll Never Lift At

            This was a few years after I got really into lifting, around late 2010 to early 2011. At this point I was one enlistment in the US Marines and had reenlisted with a lateral move into a new job field. By request, for what you’ll soon understand as obvious reasons. I no longer wanted to hold the primary Military Occupational Specialty 0311 Infantry Rifleman. It was a great time being a grunt, don’t get me wrong, but they ran all too often for my tastes. I’d rather lift. 

The new job of mine was surreal. When I read up on it I was amazed that it was in fact, a real thing. Is the Green Weenie up to something again? Truth be told it wasn’t my first choice. Initially I had gone through the process of trying to become an 0241, or topographic intelligence, but that wasn’t approved. Perhaps because of lacking intelligence? Probably. Anyhow, I was undeterred. I loved the grunts around me but was loving gains more. Researching for possible jobs I found the MOS 4133, Marine Corps Community Services, then at the time experiencing a shortage and thus suffering a very high individual deployment rate. I did an interview with a Master Sergeant in the field, who being a prior Drill Instructor was… lively, but it went well. Before going on ship my lateral move request was submitted. While at sea it was approved. 
Aboard USS Wasp, SPMAGTF 2009.
Behind me the Marines of Fox Company, 2nd Battalion 9th Marines.

It was perfect. A gift from Chesty. Thank you. Wherever you are.
MCCS Marines are literally in charge of gains. Not kidding. Here’s what I was looking at:
-          Many deployments. OK sweet, that’s what I’m in for anyways.
-          Run the Post Exchange, state side and in country. Even better, now I control the supplement supply chain (and all important tasty treats) wherever the Corps sends me. Pre-workout and protein always. Chips, candy, cookies, precious sips – you name it, I slang it.
-          Order and disperse gym gear in country. You gotta be kidding me… 
-          Other things related to morale, aka, “having a good time”.
My entire career was shifting towards my love for lifting. The process of going from grunt to PX Marine wasn’t much, six months on the job training, at the end of which I was augmented for my first deployment to Afghanistan; my first as a newly appointed PX Marine. That lively Master Sergeant told me it was a hard but rewarding hustle in the sandbox. I was genuinely excited to be going for this was a new adventure. 
Once in country we did the usual environmental awareness and operational security training. Some range time to dial in our weapons and walk example improvised explosive device lanes, so as to familiarize ourselves with what invisible wires in the sand look like. Following that I spent some time on a small Forward Operating Base (FOB), Delaram II (said D2), where I helped manage a ‘tactical field exchange’. Meaning a 7-11 inside a tent. It was a good gig to have. A consistent schedule where I could train every morning, get consistent meals, supps, and sleep – everything a gainer like me needed. The gym at DII was nice, but it is not the gym this story is inspired by.
DII Supplement Wall.

After a few months at DII I was rotated to work at Camp Leatherneck, the main USMC hub. There I would run Warrior Express Service Teams (WES-Teams as they were called) to combat outposts and forward operating bases in the northern part of Helmand Province. From Marjah north to Sangin and up to Kajaki Dam. Where this gym, a fucking great gym, once lived. WES-Team missions were the best. Myself and another sergeant would stock up as much as possible on candy, drinks, chips, tobacco, and of course workout supplements. Marines, of all branches having the greatest ratio of gym rats. Explains me quite well, honestly. Once fully stocked we would head out for weeks, typically on a convoy, sell out, then return home. Press repeat for six months.

Gains and deliciousness in a 20 foot shipping container.
The selections on a convoy WES-Team.
Similar to that taken to Kajaki.

We sergeants ran our own show outside the wire and it was fun. The Kajaki Dam mission was slightly different though. The terrain was rugged and hostile. To bring those Leathernecks their well-deserved taste of home we had to fly in. No problem. Rather than shipping containers and convoy for two or three weeks we would pack large boxes, 4-foot square each and full of product. Then fill two helicopters with those big boxes and be off to Kajaki. There we were left and stayed until the Marines had no more money to spend or we ran out of sellable product. This was the workflow of the WES-Team sergeants on Camp Leatherneck at the time. Either convoys or Kajaki Dam. Kajaki was our “vacation” mission. 
It wasn’t that the dam was easy going, no, far from it. FOB Zeebrugge was hopping full of artillery Marines who were happy to be blowing up baddies across the water. Have no doubt, my life at Kajaki Dam, the location of FOB Zeebrugge, was easy – I just sold snacks and lifted. The arty Marines around me were dirty, foul mouthed, smelled like Hell itself and from heaven they rained hell at will. There is a vibration in strong people and it is stronger in each when in groups; growing stronger as the group becomes larger. This was a large group of strong men from whose great gym rang the familiar chime of weight plates. The ground shook from deadlifts and the boom of howitzers alike. The cannons themselves singing to me that sweet familiar sound. The vibration started in the marrow of the artilleryman and extended to all around. From the dirt to the dumbbells. This open-air gym had a life, it was that resonant vibration, and I could feel it when I lifted there.
Tasty treats atop FOB Zebrugge.
Hauled to service the Marines on duty at OP Shrine.

The M795 155mm projectile weighs 47 KG (103 lb.) and is the standard high explosive round for Marine howitzers. The range for E1 variants is 37 kilometers. It is 30% more lethal than its predecessor the M107; then a featherweight 43.2 KG (95 lb.) Newer, highly capable artillery rounds named Excalibur weigh about the same as the M795, still over 100 pounds per round. It pushes the range to approximately 57 km (35 miles), is GPS guided, and packed full of octogen high explosive. In 2012 a US Marine Corps howitzer team at FOB Zeebrugge killed a group of insurgents 36 kilometers (22 miles) away using a single Excalibur round. This set a combat distance record. The lethality and precision of the artillery Marine increases with technology, but with it comes weight. Which is why so many of these guys were jacked, strong, or just damn sinewy and capable out of spite of their build or revenge against it. I’ll never know where such strength wells up from in men like that.

Marines from India Battery, 3rd Battalion, 12 Marine Regiment
newly aboard FOB Zeebrugge, October, 2010.
Source: Scott Olsen/Getty Images Europe

On FOB Zeebrugge lived this great gym of the Marine artilleryman. Whose job it is to load 100-pound rounds into 9,000-pound cannons at a maximum rate of five (hundred pounds) rounds per minute. To some, fitness is a hobby, others may call it a way of life, in these ranks fitness is life. Let me rephrase for clarity. A weekend warrior who loves biking may enjoy greatly their hobby, but it will not deter their profession or impact their family in a negative way; it is a hobby. Even if taken seriously, not so seriously as a promotion at work. Those who call it a way of life see things differently. A clear example would be someone who abandons everything to go train under a coach, we’ll say none other than Louie Simmons, whose gym and presence alone beckon those who wish to live a life of lifting. People have, and will continue to, change their lives so they can study and lift under Louie’s tutelage. That is their way of life, a means about it, put another way. Their method to bring satisfaction to this thing we all have.
But without strength, without fitness, the artilleryman has no life. They become useless to their crew mates and are less a threat to the enemy. In each case the weakling dies easily. Emotionally at the hands of tormenting brothers and leaders or physically by the stronger will of the enemy. This truth etched on the faces of Marines as they pushed one another toward greater ability at the Kajaki gym. If not to save their own lives, to be better at taking the enemy’s. 500-pounds per minute. The maximum rate of fire. A good artillery Marine would never let themselves or their mates be the limiter of that fire rate. And so, they trained, and trained hard, in one of the most austere and spartan gyms I’ve ever seen or lifted.
Lifters say training environment is everything. I agree that it is important, and to some much more important, sure. There are gyms of legendary training environments. That of Super Training or like mentioned previously, Louie Simmons’ Westside Barbell, and more recently Barbell Brigade. These environments ring with the vibration I describe for they are populated by strong individuals. It is more than equipment selection. More about who lifted on that equipment before you and those around you. The smell of sweat and blood pungent with individual reward for fluids lost and time spent. A difference exists in this vibration, however. It is not of survival, but reward. These people are a different kind of strong; strong none the less. They live to be strong and so the environment around them feels different.
Me, not the Kajaki gym. Just 300 pounds or so in bumper plates.

In fact, it is different. It is perfectly built to make the process of becoming strong easier. I’ve seen incredibly strong lifters become weak, defeated, because their “warmups didn’t feel right.” Worse yet those who cannot, somehow, lift without a special apparatus or specific bar. An inarguable weakness of their strength’s nature, or character. Not to say it is a lesser strength, or weaker, but it could be considered picky. Certainly specific, analogous to specialized; which is like saying prone to failure when subject to undesirable circumstances outside of their controlled environment. As legendary as it may be. This imparts something to the vibration I speak of, which is why these sorts of places feel different than Kajaki’s gym. The leadership and comradery of Westside ringing its bell, creating its powerful vibration. The gym at Kajaki rang with each of those too, just more violently. Amplifying it drastically. Coupled with this the environment itself commanded respect and required strength. This is something ‘hard core’ gyms strive after, but never fully achieve. Not quite like Kajaki. A gym in a warehouse in a commercial district in suburban America does not capture in its location the same feeling or emotion. No matter how hard the members try to make it so.
Such strength and their inspired gyms are unlike those who must be strong because their job requires them to lift 100 pounds all day and night upon commander’s orders. Maybe that day will come tomorrow and so they trained today. Trained yesterday and the day before that, and countless days leading up to what may eventually be the moment where they must load 100 pounds into the cannons for hours, with no end in sight. Should their weakness inhibit that somewhere a grunt may die. A grunt like I once was. To prevent this, the gym was built, and wouldn’t you know it, the artillerymen put it in the center of FOB Zeebrugge.
Kajaki Dam, to the far right the location of FOB Zeebrugge.

Witnessing their purpose for strength gave an understanding of what made this gym so special. So different. It was not outfitted well compared to anything you would see stateside. Just barbells, weight plates, a squat rack, two benches, a rack of matching dumbbells, and a Hammer Strength “deadlift” machine. The matching dumbbells being by far the fanciest thing on the whole FOB. With only two walls and a thin tin roof everything was lightly rusted. It gave the equipment a character reflective of the men who used it. Hard, worn, enduring. Should they break a dumbbell I could get them a new one; a shame it wouldn’t match. With use the new dumbbell vibrates with the same frequency of the artilleryman, matching eventually, in a way. 
Being a PX Marine allowed me the opportunity to lift almost anywhere there was a gym in our area of operations. It was my section who ordered and dispersed the gym equipment after all. I lifted at all kinds of Marine gyms. Some well outfitted with a litany of free weights and machines, like those on Camps Dwyer and Leatherneck. Others nothing more than a pulley rigged somewhere overhead, a sandbag bench, numerous filled and partially filled sandbags about, and other various heavy things: truck batteries, tires, large broken wrenches, fouled heavy machine gun barrels, etc. Marines will get their lift on, wherever, I learned. 
The amazing part was the imperceptible difference in these places. At Leatherneck, the main USMC base in country, you could see senior staff noncommissioned officers running the fat off desperately on a treadmill. Tired, weak and frail from their lack of appreciation of strength. While a Marine, still, maybe intel, like I once wanted to be. Their comfortable office job ruined their sense of duty to physicality. The SNCO on the treadmill did not have to load 100-pound bombs as a private to kill the enemy, and so now he is fat and killing himself on a treadmill instead. This gym, with his presence in it rings differently. Less like Kajaki’s gym and more like an LA Fitness with its fatness and civilians. I saw no fat bodies at Kajaki. Perhaps the higher percentage of upper body adipose tissue dulls the vibration otherwise felt so sharply at places as violent and unforgiving as Kajaki. Populated by fit, strong, combat hardened Marines.
Stunning vistas. Lots of Taliban unfortunately.

I had the luck to visit Kajaki two or three times during my first deployment to Afghanistan. Each time I brought with me dozens of tubs of protein and pre-workout powders. Each time they sold out. Soon thereafter the gym would be packed full of Marines high on untold amounts of caffeine, hatred of the enemy, and love for their brothers. Personal records had by all, no doubt. Good thing the gym was open air because their body odor alone had the effect of tear gas. No telling the effects lingering protein farts could have had. This gym was unlike other Marine gyms, even many infantry gyms, which honestly were not ‘infantry gyms’ so much as battalion headquarters’ gyms (meaning all the non-grunts who support the grunts within the infantry unit). The guys doing the fighting, often a platoon or squad in size, stay at small, incredibly spartan patrol bases. In these cases, a TRX system was a blessing. These too I brought and issued out. Everywhere there is a Marine fitness is impressed upon them, much more so to those on the killing edge; the artillery, infantry, recon and raiders.
Kajaki’s gym was special. I’ll never forget it. There I deadlifted 455 pounds for the first time, in just boots and utes’, and I never surpassed that weight for a year. Not until I picked up powerlifting training specifically, back in the states, on a good schedule; fragile. I remember only being able to deadlift 405 to 415 pounds – not at Kajaki. I’ll joke that the rust wore some weight off, but the real reason was the vibration of the men around me and the resonance that carried beyond them; into everything, into me. I could sell out of all my product in two days and be stuck there for five more. Each of those I’d lift and joke, enjoying my vacation. “Bring an extra box of blue razz NO Explode next time POG,” they’d say, and I would, because maybe they’d be weaker without it, and I couldn’t handle that, truly. Though it was my own narcissistic judgement. 
That strength, a life itself, existed before me and will continue without me. I merely eased the means of execution and progression by bringing Marines equipment if needed, and snacks and supplements as often as my duties as required me. It was I who benefitted most, not those Marines from my services. Who temporarily became nasty and somewhat undisciplined whenever the WES-Team vacationed at FOB Zeebrugge, Kajaki, Afghanistan. There I learned what a different need for lifting felt and looked like, from that need what a gym could exist as, and where such a thing might be born again. In a place austere and inspiring. Unforgiving and respected. Inaccessible. Wild. This calls the strong. It is their vibration. 
I also learned there was no better pre-workout than howitzer fire. A lot of vibration. 

The reservoir from atop the south west hill looking east. 

Friday, March 23, 2018

Hill Bombs and Pause Squats: Committing to high risk efforts for personal development.

Preface: This post discusses relatable benefits of my past experience to training as an adult today. Whether this adds pounds to the bar or builds a more resilient head space the goal is to make risk taking produce advancement, not derailment. Risk taking should be measured and considered within reason. Besides advancement, risk is a large component of ‘fun’ in the gym, at least for me. So, bear that in mind, never being too stupid. (Don’t make me post that bosu ball squat photo…) Ideally this post improves risk-taking skill by means of specific practice with the pause squat.

My skateboarding background makes finding a connection to the gym rare. If one collected a group of 100 professional skateboarders 98 of them would look like you personally rescued them from a concentration camp. There is little comparison between such a crowd and the gym going type. One group obsesses about nutrition after hard sixty-minute workouts. The other eating only dollar menu items during marathon skate sessions lasting weeks. A huge gap exists between skaters and the massively strong. So, what do they have in common? Each take incredible risk. Nearly all professional athletes play this game as a function of their sport. Achieving ultimate victory by accurate navigation and will. But not all sports share severity of outcomes. Easily understood when comparing table tennis to tennis. By name and aesthetic similar; by risk, separate altogether. Through metaphor risks can be made similar, thus translating lessons effectively between unrelated sports.
"Look how tiny your forearms are. Eat a sandwich between plays kid. You look like a skateboarder."

The reason to do this is because observing and discussing risk taking behavior in dissimilar sports may communicate more effectively the skills improved and rewards earned while practicing risk within wholly different physical activities. In other words, some things visually or verbally do a better job at teaching stuff. So, I present to you, my lifting audience, Nuge’s Hill Bomb. 

I encourage everyone to watch all the “My War” videos on Thrasher’s YouTube. Some tough bastards. This hill bomb serving as a fantastic visual representation of what is gained from practicing heavy, long, pause squats. Or bench too I suppose. Further elaboration:

0. Each challenge commitment. Make, bail, or quit. Options for both skater and lifter. Few times in the gym do we run into this standard of performance. Making it through a workout is not the same as making a PR lift. Likewise quitting midway through a workout has less risk severity when compared to quitting in the middle of a rep. Rarely are we put in such a place while training. Pause squats can put us in that place without requiring chasing true rep max PR's, within the 1-5 rep range, too frequently. Which is not recommended. What is recommended is taking a fairly heavy weight and sitting down with it for a bit. Get comfortable with it. Have a tea party or something.

1. Sitting in the hole with a heavy weight long enough to gain attention earns respect in the weight room (and at the base of steep hills). This benefit speaks for itself. Should failure occur then the ego is destroyed, thus necessitating the importance of reason zero - commit to the rep. 

Less important reasons:

2. Technical improvement.

3. New form of progression (time).

Heavy pause squat progression carries a high risk of failure and potential injury. Hills can only get steeper and longer before eating the pavement, after all. Same goes for time and weight. From this progress many things can be gained. The first two above affect internally and externally motivated lifters. Knowing how to motivate yourself is a seriously effective tool to keep in the toolbox. Besides motivation factors, long, heavy, pause squats bring forth progress in the form of technical mastery. Holding a proper position under such load and duration takes improved skill. Skill encompassing a broad set of characteristics, such as but not limited to: speed, balance, bar path, and proprioception. Further, this sort of movement training shifts effort towards an isometric performance standard rather than eccentric or concentric intent with the lift, which is common in most resistance training plans. 

While most consider reps and weight the only form of progression for barbell lifts, begin working with time while doing paused variations. That being said pausing 50% of a max for two minutes is far from what I’m talking about. I will elaborate. The reason for this is to prevent straying too far from the intended application. Paused variations are used to help teach proper positioning, bracing, and bar control. Should the weight be too light, then the challenge exists only in duration. In the context of energy systems, that is more akin to running than lifting. In the context of Nuge’s Hill Bomb going slowly down a long, shallow hill, is not bombing a hill. The speed provides the technical challenge, just as the weight should, not the duration (which is a byproduct of getting up to speed for Nuge.)

More like aided stretching at this weight. Don't church it up.

For such reasons I suggest the pause length be kept to 10 seconds maximum. That long for the execution of one rep is nearly unbearable if properly weighted. Do not begin with a 3RM weight and attempt 10 seconds. Have some dignity and build up. Think ahead just a little and steer far away from failure if new to paused work. Consider only two to four seconds paused in the hole with a weight near your five to seven rep-max the first day; to feel things out. Of course, if a shorter pause is desired then the weight should go up accordingly. Do this over time. But the rep should always be just one, like the hill, one big bite, make it or don’t. Bust or bail. Stand or be stapled. 

A cautious approach for those familiar with paused work is to begin lengthening the pauses on the final rep of the last set. An example being someone who does five sets of three reps, each paused for one to two seconds. A short but somewhat steep hill. They begin taking their final reps for longer pauses, building up to whatever time they determined as their goal. Once achieved they add weight and strive to make it their new record. Those familiar with Hepburn’s method of adding a rep will find this similar in nature. When 10 seconds becomes comfortable at weights used for multiple work sets the lifter should refocus with weights relative to rep max sets as described above. Gradually longer pauses become an improved skill that can be safely tested with increasing weights. This practice drives up technical limits, pushing them nearer our maximal strength threshold. 

Many reading this use the Valsalva maneuver when lifting heavy so some advice is offered on breathing. Between three and five seconds breath control becomes a factor, so that must be improved first for most everyone. Using lighter weights and shorter pauses aids this improvement, which should be focused on first. Beyond that quality factors come into play: knee cave, chest collapse, general tension loss and more. This is because of fatigue and novice pause skills. Frequency and consistency dissipate these effects. Around the eight second mark one thinks time is up (if the weight is heavy enough), but it is not, so go a little longer. Weight makes time weird in the hole. Film these sets to track time and identify errors in ability. Doing so uses pause squats to target qualitative factors for improvement. You can see what is going wrong at what time in the paused set and strategize to ensure success on the next attempt. 

Assessing past performance for future victory a lifter plans ahead:

“Three seconds in I should take a deep breath and hold that as long as possible. When I let that go my chest always caves. Next time I’ll release that breath slowly and focus on bracing my abs harder as I do. Hopefully my chest stays higher as I reach the seven or eight second mark. Right when I feel my chest begin to cave I’ll take a deep breath and that should take me to the ten second marker. Standing before blacking out this time, I swear.”

Nuge progressively works up the hill in his War, having a few short goes as he feels out the Murderhorn. Practice runs allow him to identify the specific hazards associated with the hill as well as dial in his own riding that day and if needed adjust his board. Cracks, manhole covers, cross streets, etc., each demanding assessment. In much the same way pause squats allow lifters to notice what breaks down as they gradually increase duration and intensity. Over the course of many training sessions developing their pause skill and everything associated. 

Nothing feels dumber than crawling out from under a weight paused too long and dumping a bar earns no harsher scorn because of “show boating” in the hole. Those two reasons are why #1 from the list above should be considered. While not exactly a “do or die” scenario like bombing hills can be, pause squats function similarly in the weight room. Failure here still resulting in death; death of the ego. But damn does it grow when standing after a long pause under a heavy weight! The skateboarder and the lifter, each skillfully working with gravity to test their will and develop abilities. Those lacking courage stand on the sidelines in amazement. 

My longest and heaviest

Now beat me.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Fitness Content Quality Considerations

Years ago while at sea I was chatting with a fellow Marine. He was a senior staff noncommissioned officer, or SNCO, but I cannot recall if it was the gunny or sergeant major as I had great conversations with each. The topic of discussion was waste in the US military. One imagines $10,000 bullet-proof hammers. Our conversation was about other kinds of waste though, that which is deemed acceptable, some even desirable. That subject was nice for discussion as it addressed some key differences between expenditures, whether of money, labor, the combination, and effects on organizational success. This led to a more illuminating topic, one that educates me further each time it is recalled, that of quality. Fundamentally the subject of waste relies upon the definition of quality, for what is not quality is a waste. The issue with this however, is that quality itself is indefinable. Addressed in his book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert Pirsig posits that to recognize quality, whether of subject or someone, it must be contextual. Wikipedia simplifies it as:

Pirsig's thesis is that to truly experience quality one must both embrace and apply it as best fits the requirements of the situation. According to Pirsig, such an approach would avoid a great deal of frustration and dissatisfaction common to modern life.
Not a terrible read.

This post aims to apply truthful notions of quality to a specific subject within the fitness industry and dispel those notions that cloud the perception of consumers. That subject is in a word, content. Content in this context is akin to information, consumers akin to readers and practitioners of that information. Ranging from magazines to web articles and videos to professional and more developed content; things like certification courses and books come to mind. The purpose of this aim is to improve reader satisfaction with their consumption of fitness content while reducing or eliminating potential frustration in acquiring new information. Henceforth improving the quality of the content one chooses to consume. Ideally with the resultant increase in physical abilities. The end goal, to improve not only content as it continues to exist, but so too the progression of human ability. For the reader, to improve the ability to determine desired qualities of what they are consuming. Practical applications in furtherance of ability is an individual need; something best sorted out by the lifter and time in the gym. 

Packaging is a considerable element of any product, certainly content is a product, however packaging is not the product. Only the means in which it is presented. As such readers should refrain from attaching perceptions of “packaging” to quality of content; although it can be a situational heuristic. An array of references is a simple but straightforward example at the start of this discussion regarding the quality of fitness content today and its reliance on packaging. That example will be further expanded upon later as it relates to other notions of quality.

Addressed early in determining quality of content is the completeness of that information. Completeness lessens with brevity in nearly all fitness content. The use of data an extreme example of brevity and incompleteness, for there is no context when presented only a number. An added sentence or two is a dual edged sword. One side giving false confidence to the reader in an all to brief explanation; the supposed "context". The opposite edge cuts them down when they stumble. Opposing this though would be full completeness and brevity. Perhaps existing only when the creator has mastered their craft. Generating succinct content in complete and applicable forms is hard to come by, maybe only applicable to the newest trainee and absolute scientific statements. Though such rarities are easily confused by absolute statements of opinion. Most easily of all made brief and seemingly complete.

Quickly consumed information is the majority of fitness content as it exists today. Much of it in under five minutes. Ten being a stretch. So those who hold scientific backing as a requirement for content, a well-meaning intent, will find brevity seriously limiting the quality of the fitness information they consume in most cases. Consider the muscle rags that populate magazine racks wherever they exist. Ideally these offer glimpses into scientific ideas; commonly they misrepresent them. In other qualitative ways they fall equally short. Notice the significance of its packaging – high definition images, glossy pages, vibrant colors, striking fonts. Each manipulate the consumer into feelings of quality as the muscle magazine is read. The glossy pages feel good. The ripped fitness professional looks good. This information is good.

     35 Days ain't gonna happen if the starting point is 35% body fat.

Brevity is identifiable easily to the consumer. Quality not so much. Whether a magazine article on page or online most readers know a handful of paragraphs will take them a handful of minutes to consume. Easier still, a YouTube video explaining some fit-pro’s bench plan tells the consumer how much it steals from them: conveniently just two minutes and thirty-one seconds. Brevity is the most common structure in the fitness world that limits completeness of information thus negatively impacting the ultimate quality of content. Not only regarding scientific foundations within content as it relates to quality perceptions, but so too in regards to quality perceptions in relation to anecdotal fitness information. As fitness is not a wholly scientific endeavor, it is in part creative, it is clear that brevity within such confines serves anecdotal information equally bad. The perceivable truth, told when opening such a rag, jumps out! In large font the scientific is quoted in a sentence or two. The anecdotal? Said by the half-naked image that sentence is printed on. High quality information. 
Eliminating brevity does stand to eliminate learning new pieces of information that can be summarized quickly and conveniently. As it would happen fitness is not rocket science, and so concepts therein do stand a larger chance of effective summary, whether scientific or anecdotal. Brevity, specifically dealing with content as it exists in magazine articles (physical and online) and internet videos produces information saturation. An example paints a clear picture: science findings published weeks or months ago newly interpreted and condensed down into a mere 300 words by the 20-year-old intern… at every fitness website on the internet. Much of that leaning towards opinion. This forms information saturation. Fed primarily out of creator brevity, whether forced or desired, saturation of information further inhibits creativity. These over represented normative ideas filling the mind space where otherwise original content may be crafted. Brevity, incompleteness, and saturation of this kind is the enemy of originality, of creativity, two of many considerations that give context to quality.

In the worst scenario imaginable, years of quickly and easily consumed incomplete information, within an environment saturated with such content, leads fitness content creators down an endless road of low quality creations. Low quality from lack of originality and sigh inducing repetition. Fulfilling for neither them or their customers. This stokes the flames that destroy quality. Deadlines are due and articles must be submitted for publishing each week; the demands of an editor. Where is the time to think about esoteric training ideas? Who has time to read it? A modern content creator thinks. Information saturation serves to fill gaps on pages and update websites, earning more clicks, likes, more ad revenue. High quality but brief information is wholly different than this kind of content. Although it is harder to identify in such a saturated space, like finding eggshell in a blizzard. Hardly an effort worthy of a single mouse click. A creeping hazard across fitness professions.

Oversaturation leading to a drought of creativity is not a hard thing to understand. As the last few paragraphs told it, fitness content in most cases, is a curated endeavor. The information being generated from writers and the like, whether experts or those who fancy themselves, directed by their own or an editor’s commercial goals. Why publish what cannot sell, will not be watched, or read? Questions an editor. The creator morose in their brevity, why bother? Such an attitude culls the herd of creators and further stymies creativity as it pertains to fitness content. Does this lack of creativity promote an environment prone to quagmire, issue for both content creators and consumers? Certainly so. Just as creativity is a valuable trait from business to science its importance exists within fitness. From problem solving to motivation, inducing creativity progresses an individual. Removing it slows them. Likewise progress within the fitness field slows as creativity dwindles.

Recall in the first paragraph my conversation with a senior about waste. We ended up determining that one should seek to work within waste controlled structures, thus inherently reducing waste produced in the process of their efforts. That is to say proactive control versus reactive "clean up". In a similar way fitness has conceptually entrapped itself in quality limiting structures. The foremost cause of this failure being the waste of good information for the sake of brevity. Regarding information dissemination, the old adage “the medium is the message” gives credence to the term “muscle rags.” YouTube can be the audio-visual translation of this. The combination of which sometimes better suited for RedTube. At what point does this resource type betray itself permanently within quality limiting structures like brevity? The moment has already come.
Look like this in 7 minutes!
Follow the RedTube link below.

Moving beyond what we will call “common content” the next subject is higher on the echelon of quality. The previous may eschew the scientific or anecdotal details for hype words and aesthetic appeal, a quality in its own way. (It is assumed those magazines and sites are bought or visited in large part for the pictures anyways.) Things such as essays, books, and certification courses provide the consumer with more complete concepts surrounding fitness. Whether this be scientific understanding, if not understanding at least providing complete evidence; or reliable, clearly communicated, and honest anecdotal details. The error here is to fall back on identifying completeness with quality. Whereas completeness matters when misrepresentation is at stake, completeness matters far less when it stands to cloud consumer understanding; or otherwise mystify them about some fitness topic. A problem seen with “professional content”.

This “professional content” as it will be called, is so for a few reasons; some follow. The first is that the more dedicated, educated, and experienced individual tends to create this sort of information. People like this may write articles or film videos, even frequently, and when they do so it tends to be the cream of the crop. Packaged, at the very least, with bookends of letter scramble after their name and one or two references at the end of the brief article. But the majority who create “common content”, even of good quality, will not move onto create professional content. This is obvious because harder ventures are undertaken less frequently. Writing books, most would agree, is more difficult than writing articles. But again, not all things are equal and so the consumer must remain judgmental, situationally applying quality assessment even when learning new professional content. A long book detailing how one went from fat to fit is hardly a quality book if the author omits their gastric bypass surgery. Similarly, is the exercise scientist who fudges the numbers to prove a bias or conform to professional peer pressure. The lesson paragraphs before echoes here – Do not be fooled by packaging. Amazing transformations, fantastical abstracts, inspiring stories of success, a litany of graphs, charts, and references; these things are the professional’s packaging. Determining true professional content is hard to do. 

That does not mean though that these things are without purpose or use. Take for example a graph, its purpose is to communicate visually the results of an observance by the author. These can be tremendously helpful to the reader, thus improving quality of the content. But should that neatly presented package, the graph, contain information of little practical application or, worse yet, incorrect within the context of its use, is the product itself then of good quality to the consumer? Surely not. An example: Prilepin’s Chart, a commonly referenced guide for volume and intensity. A decades old analysis of Soviet era weightlifters. How applicable is this to the common fitness enthusiast with only one to two years of experience, who may resistance train as a hobby just three or four days a week, alongside cardiovascular activities like cycling, perhaps intramural sports such as softball? Clearly the guidelines set forth by Prilepin should have little impact on the training plans of this individual.
Grandma has PTSD from the time you made her do squats.

This does not mean the chart itself is of poor quality, rather its qualities are not properly suited for this consumer in its entirety. The inapplicable portions waste. Here of space and time. As the creator knows, or should know, the lack of applicability to the desired customer fills space that could otherwise hold more beneficial information; or not exist at all. Consumers of fitness content, already indoctrinated with brevity, soon begin recognizing wastes of their time. Information they cannot apply physically tends to fall within this consideration. This initiates a crisis of creativity because a creator of fitness content may seek out science to build upon seeing it as a just means to reinforce their authority; the professional majority’s chosen quality standard. This method fails to produce quality content when constructed improperly due to lack of true creator knowledge and understanding of their basis. Quality disappointment occurs when such basis is contrived upon false knowledge of the evidence or intentional perversion of it to fit creative needs, rather than the consumer’s own productive needs. In cases like this the packaging of science resonates poorly. This could be due to the creator’s poor inspection of elements and construction of the whole, or simply that particular reader is not convinced or motivated by such a basis. Which is another reason why fitness content creators also rely upon the anecdotal.

Just as with science, misrepresentations of anecdotal evidence as a creative basis for fitness content exists. Probably in the greatest quantities. Once again, the creator of content is seeking out a means to reinforce their authority, this time appeals to emotion are used instead of appeals to scientific faith. The anecdotal fitness evidence is manifested in a myriad of ways. From client weight loss stories to fanciful tales of personal struggle and glorified victories. The creator of such content intends to convince their customer that they can have the same results and to trust in the creator, because they have done hard things.

Should individual progress be the heaviest measure when considering quality of information? No. It is tied to ego and both the creator of information and the person who puts it to use are invested in preventing waste of their mental and physical efforts. At best let is serve as a window of possibilities. Proper use of anecdotal convincing requires a greater amount of space and time to communicate for its details cannot be exactly expressed. Rather they must be voiced by means of storytelling, using analogy and contextual references in order to frame the consumers understanding. Without it, the content is incomplete, thus reducing its quality. Undertaking reliance upon mostly, or solely, anecdotal evidence in today’s fitness content market is a foolish endeavor. This is because even in “professional content” brevity and succinctness are a valued trait, and so science, with its definite terms makes brevity within this context easier.

Present still is brevity, a characteristic broadly undermining fitness. Anecdotal evidence tells the story of individual differences and how one came to surmount these obstacles in the achievement of their goals. Without it, intangible lessons of personal fortitude and creativity are absent; persuasion towards motivation and inspiration.

Creators use one or both, science and anecdotal, as a means to make good quality content as well as authority progression; a quality inherent to all their creations. What readers must understand is that individual creator authority does not guarantee the quality of their individual products. Rather it should serve as a form of packaging. To this many fall victim: Applying creator authority as the primary quality concern rather than assess quality across their individual creations piece by piece. Such persons might be unknowingly trapped in a cult of personality bolstered by today’s social media driven professional ecosystem.

I'm over the top. That means I know what I'm talking about.

A professional can be a wealth of information, yet are only able to effectively communicate it in writing, underperforming as a speaker at seminars for example. Someone buys their book and months later pays hundreds of dollars to attend the author’s training seminar, leaving it dissatisfied. Maybe only in the presenter, perhaps too in the content, or the creator themselves. What effect does this perception have on quality thereafter, in all present?

This is a reminder to always determine information quality like food, by the bite, rather than from looking at the menu or even smelling it from across the table. Like food, fitness content must be interacted with in order to fully observe quality. Looking at a steak one cannot determine its quality. One must bite, chew, pulverize, and transfer the steak across the tongue. Taking time to savor its taste in order to determine a portion of quality. Other experiences wholly separate from taste, like texture, providing their own unique quality input. Similar is the consumption of fitness information. Its quality taking variable time to assess; but many things taste like they look. A nibble is often sufficient.

Professional content relies much more upon creator authority because it takes more time to create and consume. Their authority an investment of time to develop. Starting first with their ability to achieve and source quality bookends. Themselves sacrificing brevity to do so. A risk to the creator undertaken as a gift of brevity to their consumer. High quality fitness content of this nature requires immense amounts of time to create as it relies upon both story telling of anecdotal information as well as the breakdown into finer parts whatever science used in furtherance of consumer understanding. Thus resulting in the desired content quality from the creator. Whoever takes this in, via word, video, or lecture, has the responsibility of fully determining quality themselves. Each method of information creation having unto itself specific notions of quality.

Those attending seminars and reading books want to know their commitment of time, sacrificing their own brevity, will result in higher quality information earned. This is not always the case, but consumers still eagerly implement and proselytize fitness protocols hoping to achieve a sense of self despite whatever waste of time it may have actually been. Trust is not in the content, not of the product so to speak. The expedited trust resulting from the professional content packaging. Be wary of the effects this can have on quality perceptions. Contemplate greatly personality and appearance in a personal setting like a seminar for example. How have those things affected the quality assessment of the information given?

Further consider the surface impact of footnotes or references in professional content. This information is more detailed and separate from the source at hand. Its true applicability, and thus quality, must be gone into further to comprehend. What these things do is present the image of quality to the consumer. One sees these things on the page, reference numbers and footnotes, and bothers not to examine them. Assuming that surely the author has and determined their proper value to their own creation, and so the consumer of the information takes quality for granted based upon the mere existence of a number. (1)

Understand this – that robs one of gaining greater quality from that content! Do not be the reader who makes these things into packaging, for if the creator is truly the cream of the crop, then that was not the intended purpose. The purpose is to further improve the quality of the product one is interacting with. Recall that fitness information, like food, must be appreciated over a period of time to accurately understand quality. As one takes in professional content do so wholly to improve satisfaction. Satisfaction applied to fitness implies physical reward. Motivation enough to begin this practice if not already doing so.

"Dear diary, today I realized not a single citation in all of last week's 
reading made a difference to my squat. It was crushing. Why has the Lord
cursed me with everlasting weakness?"

Assume there existed a fitness content creator who used footnotes maliciously, knowing their inapplicability or inappropriateness to the content being made? To wow, amaze, or mystify the reader; Danielewskian in a sense. Using these things primarily to fortify perceptions of authority rather than provide information clarity. Hoping the consumer treats these things as packaging like they did themselves. Relying upon a false aesthetic to attain quality fulfilment. Readers may be surprised to learn that some content creators rely upon this manner of deception. Using these perceptions of quality to bolster authority. What a disaster it would be if the majority of consumers treated these things the same, as packaging. In such an environment quality dies. Being drowned out in an oversaturated market of content built upon incomplete and manipulated information.

When consumers of fitness content choose to make foot notes and references, whether to scientific or anecdotal resources, into packaging, the creators of such content see the allure of an easier route. True for both common and professional content. Questioning their motives, thinking, why take the time to vet these studies when most of my readers wont? Like brevity earlier this is a pitfall to avoid. Luckily when one avoids brevity they participate in combating the spread of such fitness content and hinder the professionalization of these individuals in the fitness environment.

But suppose now the consumers of such manipulated, incomplete, or otherwise determined low-quality content take in that information faithfully and produce results, is it after some chewing on, of quality? It could be argued that yes, this information is of quality ex post facto. Is not much of exercise science today proving what was effective decades ago? Maybe not the whole truth, but a large part of it. Here one must look back and determine the basis factors that resulted in their fitness progress? Was it faith and effort upon the information gleaned or was the creator truly ahead of their time? What studies are created out of a need to prove those efforts of lifters, bodybuilders, runners, cyclists, etc., whose claims have been clung to and now warrant examination? The results feasibly predetermined by training bias held by the scientists themselves. After all, who makes such a scientific field their profession without being actively involved in fitness personally? Few, if any.

Does it matter? The corruption of evidence, or creation of it, as a means to yield results if those results are in fact produced? Maybe so if differences in rate of progress could be made; individual differences would make this a substantial task. But should a person confess that they enjoyed the “unfounded” training means towards their goal more – what of the information then? The lesson here is that single factor quality assessments are near useless. Relying upon bookends of authority or just one or two means to evaluate quality of content is utterly incomplete. Many readers already placing far too much weight upon creator bookends and other forms of packaging.

     Sure there may be a better way.
But what if he just likes this stupid shit? 

Some choose to practice fitness for philosophic or emotive reasons, the execution of effort reflecting their underlying motivations. This commonly categorized within the anecdotal. A person driven by emotion may benefit less from scientifically based content, yet only find that content in today’s market. Walking in hand is the creator of that content, finding themselves limited because the professionals who came before too narrowly defined the path. Their unique content’s quality impacted due to a stale knowledge environment of which they had no part in constructing. Some creators find comfort in today’s limited environment, like prisoners do after a while, because considering broad terms invites the unknown. Frightening to a person whose authority is almost entirely dependent upon what they know. Admitting lack of knowledge diminishes this and so content creators skittishly venture into areas of information that may benefit them; whether by resource or inspiration. From this fear consumers develop the belief that only things conveniently summed ought to be trusted.

Should a mother trust in science, or faith, when needing the strength to rescue her children? What study should she refer to before sprinting into a burning building to drag them out, far surpassing any physical effort she has ever performed? Why, not too long ago, was a 900-pound deadlift almost unheard of when the record now stands over 100 pounds heavier today? Did that progress in human potential manifest from an improvement in factual training basis, technology, or something intangible? The cause of such improvement immeasurable as it is a combination of each. Are people fools if their exercise protocols are not based in facts, perhaps comprised more of philosophic justifications than the scientific? If fools, at what point should one quality consideration take priority over the others? Remove the emotive from Eddie Hall’s record 500-kilogram deadlift and what remains? Without that quality, emotive, not even the man himself. 

Now coming into focus is the limiting atmosphere of fitness content today. Its waste of human physical potential, unknown.