Critical Learning: How to Read and Respond to Fitness Info on the Internet

I was reminded by a video shared on Facebook how important it is to never lose your critical eye. You should question everything, including YouTube videos, fitness articles, and even your coach’s advice. Most of the content generated on the web and the coaches teaching you are genuinely trying to get it right and help out, but there is just as much misinformation out there as good information. Good sources such as Breaking Muscle help expedite the process of sorting through the junk, but even so we are not perfect. When you read something don’t simply accept it as fact. Rather, read more, find other sources, and verify the information.

First of all this is not a slight against Nike, because overall my experience with the company has been great, but this Turkish get up video demonstrates that even a huge company can get it completely wrong. (Here’s how to do it properly, by the way.) Even more surprisingly, this is part of a video series that includes Shawn Johnson, an Olympian, and plenty of other famous people in the fitness industry. Just because content features high profile coaches or athletes is not a guarantee that the information is legit. There are plenty examples of high-profile mistakes such as Jillian Michaels’ kettlebell video, which features her showing not only bad form, but also potentially risking serious injury.

The purpose of this article is not to slam people who make mistakes, but rather to use this as a learning opportunity and to make sure we don’t fall prey to misinformation. So how do you know if something is legit or you should forget you’ve ever seen it?

1. Look at the bottom of the article or video.

There should be citations.1 Fitness articles are no different than academic research, and in fact the really good ones are the same. They should be based on valid evidence and ideas should be proven.

2. Compare and contrast.

If you research this topic do others tend to agree or disagree with the ideas and conclusions put forth?2 Is high repetition Olympic lifting okay? Search it and find the differing opinions.

3. Reflect on challenges to your beliefs and values.

Did the article make intuitive sense and sit well with your current beliefs? Just because it challenges your thoughts doesn’t mean it’s wrong. In fact, if it challenges you it’s even more important to research the topic. You may just have stumbled upon a hidden gem and you may have to unlearn something you previously thought was correct.

4. Check the source

Who generated this content? Ask yourself who they are and what their purpose was – both the author and the publisher. People don’t often write fitness articles for the fun of it. Usually the author is a coach looking for more traffic, a paid writer, or some variation of these two. Go to the author’s personal website and see what he or she is all about. Is this coach simply trying to sell you a product? Or does he or she have a genuine interest in helping people?

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