Knowledge Versus Action: Three Obstacles Preventing You From Improving Your Fitness
Have you ever eaten your next slice of pizza knowing that it will make you feel uncomfortably full? Or perhaps the doctor told you to exercise for 30 minutes today, but you just can’t get away from the Bachelor. If this sounds familiar, then you are not alone. This is why knowledge does not always lead to action, and what you can do instead.
There are three main obstacles that prevent knowledge from being translated into action. None of them are about the laziness or ignorance of a beginner, but about human nature. In fact, they affect everyone, even fitness professionals.
I’ve spent thousands of hours reading about fitness, moving from obesity to athletic, coaching hundreds of clients, some of whom have lost more than 100 pounds, but still struggling with these issues. Sure, I’m better than when I was a newbie, but for me it’s not that uncommon for me to eat what I shouldn’t, or choose shortcuts that don’t work.
Obstacle One: Not Understanding What You Don’t Know
The first hurdle is most common among beginners. They think they know everything about fitness, but they don’t. They simplify fitness, eat less, move more … avoid unhealthy foods … and other reductionist phrases that stop people from looking for what works for them . From our article on fitness truths :
In terms of topics, fitness is on a par with politics and religion: everyone has their own opinion, regardless of whether they know what they are talking about. This is also no coincidence. Fields are inextricably linked to our sense of self, our beliefs, and how we perceive ourselves in relation to others.
Thus, showering the world with their grains of Wisdom ™, they create a personality for themselves. They become “experts” in their field of choice and cling to any fact that might resonate with their innate way of thinking. Because they are so wise, any setbacks they face were not due to a lack of knowledge, but something else.
It also creates an awkward situation when you try to explain why they might be wrong. Do you know what happens when you contradict your deepest beliefs? They don’t listen. This is due to a phenomenon called the backfire effect . It also explains why we have such polarizing opinions on everything from vaccinations to America’s involvement in Iraq.
When it comes to fitness, doing the wrong thing leads to burnout. For example, I see many people haunted by feelings of pain or hunger when trying to lose weight. Neither is required to get results, but if you get overly obsessed with them, you are more likely to fail before you even get started. Unfortunately, due to societal misconceptions about health and fitness, doing the right thing is often the most controversial.
How to overcome this obstacle
Instead, understand that fitness is a skill, not a talent . Just like learning to ride a bike or learning to program, it’s important to be curious . It is tempting to link fitness to your sense of self and develop ego. Instead, start over with a clean slate of fitness and find a place to start learning .
Obstacle number two: too much emphasis on knowledge
Once someone has successfully grasped the basics of fitness, they will often think that this is the only obstacle, and from that point on everything goes smoothly. In fact, knowledge is the easiest fitness hurdle to overcome.
If you pay attention to the times when you’ve rationalized your poor fitness decision, you’ll find a few things in common. These are well-known thought patterns,many of which are cognitive biases that force you to make irrational decisions.
Let’s say you’ve hit your daily calorie limit, but you have a delicious piece of cake in your fridge. You decide to eat it for one of the following reasons:
- You reason that the cake will go bad and you have already bought it. ( Non-returnable value error )
- You think dieting is stupid anyway, and you will try again in a few months. ( Hyperbolic discounting )
- You speculate that you may have overestimated the number of calories at the start of the day and reached your calorie limit a long time ago. One more won’t hurt. (Not a formal logical fallacy, but another common explanation.)
In this case, additional knowledge will not help, and may even harm .
How to overcome this obstacle
The key to overcoming this obstacle is understanding that the answer is self-understanding, not knowledge. You do this by developing the skill of “mindfulness.” Mindfulness is the deliberate act of being present and focusing your awareness objectively and without judgment.
To move on, you can use the steps in our mindfulness article :
- Examine your trigger. Think about rationalization and answer the next question: when you were inferior to him before, did the result improve you? Probably no.
- Use mindfulness to determine your feelings before the event. Maybe even before your coworker handed you a cupcake, you had holiday feelings. Then you felt pressure after being offered the cupcake and guilt when you ate it. When these emotions begin to manifest, explore them objectively and without judgment. You might want to write this pattern down for future reference.
- Realize that you are not your emotions. Think about the last time you felt this emotional pattern – you probably had the same urge, right? This means that it is not a moral flaw if you have the urge to eat, drink, or watch The Bachelor. Rather, it is inevitable, triggered by the emotions and events that led to it. You cannot control your senses. However, you are responsible for what you do with them.
- Identify the root cause of your emotions. You may be stressed at work because of a deadline. Understand that your need for a snack or a drink is due to the deadline. Find out what you need to do to fix the underlying problem.
- Distract yourself with something else and focus on what a great future you will feel. Go for a walk or find a relatively harmless vice, such as playing computer games. Focus on how good you will feel the day after successfully separating your emotions from your actions. Know that because of this victory, you are less likely to sabotage yourself in the future.
If you are having trouble taking a motivational action, the action may be too large. For starters, try BJ Fogg’s Tiny Habits . However, knowing yourself is the only type that will help you overcome this second hurdle.
Third checkpoint: lack of self-confidence
Even if you overcome the first two obstacles, they will still be difficult to overcome. While you are most likely not a fitness professional, it is helpful to reach out to them to understand that turning knowledge into action can be difficult for everyone.
Even the best fitness professionals fail to follow through. Martin Berkhan explains what he calls the “coaching paradox”:
So far, I’ve read hundreds of questionnaires, from regular Joe and Jane to paid personal trainers and other nutritional consultants. The link between theoretical knowledge and practical application is very weak. We could call this the “coaching paradox”. Pros are almost as prone to stupid workouts and stupid diets as any other uneducated client who casually reads the bb.com forums. Interestingly, at least that’s what I thought, before gradually thinking about this issue more and more.
And I’ve thought about this a lot over the years. I’ve seen templates so many times. But I’ve also noticed things that I think can explain this – personal details and behaviors that are revealed in conversations, questionnaires, and between the lines.
This is not quite what it seems at first glance. It’s about deep understanding of yourself, yourself and others. Previously, I have only covered this issue at a very superficial level. I have not answered the main question. The big “Why?”
No matter how skilled you become in fitness, you will have to constantly develop your ability to do exercise. In fact, as you get more experienced, you are faced with a completely different problem. Fitness trainer and writer John Romaniello explains here :
“The real answer is intimacy bias: the point is that you are too close to the project – the project is about your body, diet and exercise. It is often difficult to take your own advice seriously.
The same thing happens with friends and especially with family. Your mom may ask you for training advice, but does she accept it? No. She’s doing the same yoga / cardio hybrid she’d read about in gossip magazine again.
Why is this? Well, simply because for someone who knew you when you were in diapers – before you acquired ANY level of knowledge – it is difficult to view you as an authority. Even if this person consciously values your discernment on a deeper, subconscious level, they don’t feel any real incentive to listen to you.
The same applies to yourself. The only person who knows you longer than your mom is YOU. And so, while you can give advice, sometimes your subconscious residual self-image, that is, your self-image and, in particular, who you USED, is so strong that it replaces your conscious belief in your own advice.
Or, when we first meet a coach or coach, that’s all we know about them – that they are a coach or coach. This immediately puts them in a different category. You never think about what your coach was like when he was 5 years old. You never stop thinking about all the idiocy they got into high school. The only thing you think about is the results that you saw with them with your client, how confident they are in their abilities and perhaps how impressed you are with their physique and level of knowledge.
In short, you view them as authority and nothing more than authority. This means that you are much more likely to heed their advice than your own, even if you know some of it is wrong.
It’s a weird little thing, but we humans are, after all, weird little creatures. “
How to overcome this obstacle
The first thing you need to do is believe in yourself. By the time you reach this stage, you will have obvious results. Trust in your ability to be considerate. Do not hesitate yourself.
Then rethink the knowledge you want to bring to life as a friend asking for your help. For example, suppose you know that planning for failure will help you make this journey while dieting, but you are still tempted to see it through. What would you say to a friend if they ask you for help with the same problem? It can also be helpful to find a coach (even I use one for this very reason) or an accountability friend.
The saying “knowledge is power” is somewhat misleading as it relates to fitness. There is a lot of knowledge; it becomes power only when you take action.