Thinking About Complexity

It’s easy for us in fitness (inclusive of both exercise and nutrition) to think of the human body in mechanical terms. Our analogies and metaphors are meant to evoke a sense of genes, biochemical pathways, and living cells as rigid clockwork and orderly assembly-lines making up a larger machine. The best way to describe a … Read more

A Systems View of Exercise

This article began to take shape after reading another well-intended internet complaint about how mock-quote “science” has no relevance to practical get-in-the-gym exercise.

As pro-science as I am, I have to admit there’s a lot of truth to that point of view. You don’t have to look much further than the papers passed around the strength and fitness blogs and Facebook updates to see why. While there’s occasionally interesting stuff turning up, there’s also a lot of crap. By crap I mean papers looking at how Molecular Signal X jiggled in hungover college students when exposed to a lab trial resembling no workout you will ever do.

While I personally find a lot of the biochem research interesting, there’s no shame in admitting that it’s exactly that: a personal interest. I don’t think that material has any relevance at all to doing things at the gym, at least not in the way most folks seem to expect.

Still, there’s something not quite right about the blanket anti-science, anti-intellectual perspective that characterizes some corners of the strength and fitness field. The stereotypical Bro, the musclehead who believes the pseudo-science in supplement ads but turns hostile toward any attempt at debunking it, isn’t our ideal role model. There’s rejecting the irrelevant, on the one hand, and then there’s needless hostility towards intellectual curiosity.

The former I can get behind. The latter, that’s just typical internet posturing — or, at best, an over-reaction to bad science — and in either case an attitude best ignored. The problem is, it’s not always clear which is which, or why there’s a difference at all.

Read moreA Systems View of Exercise