Embrace Being the Individual You Are

TAGS: Abdominal strength, information overload, chad aichs, training program, strength training


In our society today, it really seems like information overload is becoming more and more of an issue. Growing up I had to search out information and knowledge if I wanted to learn, but today a whole world of knowledge is in our pockets. It is all right there, literally at our fingertips. Who remembers encyclopedias and the door-to-door salesman selling them? How many of you have ever actually been to a library? Times have definitely changed. Now you can learn about anything, any time of the day. This technology is no doubt amazing, but at the same time, I feel we have lost some of the lessons we learned when knowledge was not so readily available.

So, I will go ahead and admit right now I am old. Okay, okay, okay — 46 isn’t that old and I do still ride a BMX bike. At the same time, I can remember records, cassettes, the Walkman, VHS, black and white TV, rotary phones, cars with manual windows and locks, etc. When I started lifting as a kid, there were only a few magazines that were all bodybuilding and only a handful of books I could get at the bookstore about training. There wasn’t all the strength training information like there is now. There was no internet. I could not follow the social media of great lifters. I could not look at all those great websites full of articles and videos. The sections at the library or bookstores were even pretty small. In those days, the gym world was extremely different than these days. There weren’t gyms on every corner and the fees were a lot more expensive. Memberships for $10 or $20 each month did not exist. One of the main reasons I started training in my basement was that I could not afford to join a gym. It doesn’t seem that long ago but it was a very different time. If you wanted to get strong you were going to have to do a lot of learning on your own.

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Looking back, it feels like we had a different perspective than new lifters in this era. With so much information that is so easy to access, I think something has been lost. Instead of trying to figure it out or working through it, people can just keep looking for different information. Back in my day, you read some programs out of the magazines or books but most of them were still so similar. If these programs did not give us the results we wanted then we had to get off our asses and figure something else out. Instead of just reading about what others had done or tried, we had to teach ourselves through trial and error or experimentation.

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I think this taught us more about what we needed as individuals. I think it taught us to look for answers through our training and not just research it. I believe in some ways it gave us a better understanding of the programs and exercises, such as how they work and why. Today there is just so much information that it is easy to keep trying all the stuff that's already out there without ever giving it much thought or really understanding it. If it doesn’t do what you want, there are a thousand more ideas to jump to. Too often I see lifters trying new programs or exercises without having any real knowledge about them. When I ask what their reasoning is I get answers like, “I saw it on social media” or “I saw so-and-so doing it.” Hell, maybe in my day more lifters would have done that if we had the information of today. Our choices were to stay the same, quit, or figure it out.

Don’t get me wrong, I think the access to knowledge we have these days is incredible. My personal journey has had its ups and downs. There were a few years not too long ago where I really did not advance my knowledge much, but over this last year and a half I have been slamming it down like the cookie monster does cookies. I have been taking every advantage of the internet, the unbelievable amount of seminars, and the access to amazing strength athletes I have. I have come to realize that this great amount of knowledge still comes with its own issues.

Information overload and the amount of misinformation mixed in with the great information are the biggest two problems. There is just so much information that you could spend days, weeks, and months learning without ever actually lifting a damn thing. I could see how someone would just get paralyzed trying to weed through so much information. It makes me think back to my day with a big smile on my face: pick one of a few programs and get training, then learn as you go. Once you start learning, how do you tell the good information from the bad information? On top of that, there is good information, but it is being taught by people that don’t actually understand it. So sometimes the information is good but it is being taught incorrectly. It is just so easy for anyone to throw information up on the web. The amount of quality knowledge is incredible, but you have to be able to recognize it.

I have been in this game a long time and I feel my level of knowledge is pretty high. I am not going to say I am the smartest out there or that I know everything because there are still so many great coaches I look up to. You could say I am confident in how much I know, but at the same time I know I can learn more. I also know knowledge continuously advances. Over this last year, there have been times my head has spun while researching strength training, mobility, nutrition, flexibility, etc. The information just goes and goes and goes. I can only imagine what it must do to someone just beginning this journey.

During this time I've kept remembering my father talking to me about information overload when I was a kid, explaining that you still have to at some point decide what information you like and just go test it. As I would read, watch, or listen to great strength coaches, I would recall other great strength coaches saying just the opposite. I would think, "Well, all these coaches have amazing confidence in their programs. They all have scientific studies to show. They all have amazing athletes they have trained." I remember being in the warm-up room with the best of the best and thinking, "Wow, what knowledge is in this room right now." I thought I could take all that knowledge and write the greatest program, but in the end I realized each one of us trains differently. Sometimes it was very different and sometimes it was only smaller changes, but it was always different.

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I did a lot more research into nutrition this year than I ever have, and it was even worse than strength training. It damn near made me dizzy with all the different points of view. I just can’t get over how they are all so confident in their knowledge. One person says nuts are great and you have to eat lots of nuts because they have protein and good fats. Then the next person say nuts are bad because they are difficult to digest. Eat lots of broccoli; no, broccoli can have a negative caloric effect. Fasting is good for you; no, fasting is bad for you and you should eat every two hours. Fast twice a week; never fast. Keto is the best diet and will work for you; no, paleo is the best diet. Carbs are the devil; you must have carbs to have energy. On and on and on, it just keeps going like that.

Again, they are all so confident in their own theories. They can all quote some kind of studies and research. They all have worked with thousands of people and had amazing results. Let me just stop right here and say that I don’t just listen to anyone. The people I listen to must have real knowledge, experience, and demonstrate in the real world that they know what they are talking about. So when I talk about differing points of views, I am talking about people on all sides of the fence who have opinions I respect. It is extremely frustrating and kind of makes me just want to stop carding and go eat a box of Ding Dongs.

In the end, my blue-collar mind has actually figured it all out, and it really is pretty simple: we are all individuals! Yes, you can say as humans we all have similar physiology, but it is more than that. There are many ways we function similarly, but there are just as many deviations, such as our reactions to foods, allergies, mentality, genetics, and so much more. If we all function the same then why do medications affect us all so differently? Why do foods affect us all so differently? Why does training affect us all so differently? Why do we learn differently? If there were one diet that worked 100% on all of us then there would be one diet, period. If one strength training program worked 100% then there would be one program, period. Why are there so many different strength coaches and nutritionists with different theories, each of them with tons of clients with amazing results? This is because their theories are all correct with the right clients. In some cases, it is also because they know how to change their theories to adapt to that person's individual needs. There will never be one right way when it comes to humans because we are human. We are all different in so many ways.

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As I am writing this article, the proverb about fishing keeps popping into my head: "Give a man a fish and feed him for a day.  Teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime." As you learn about health, fitness, or strength, always remember that you are an individual and there is no one on this planet exactly like you. A key part of learning is understanding what you’re learning enough to be able to bend it towards individual needs, whether that's you or someone you are helping. The truest knowledge lies in the common ground between all the different theories. These are the gold nuggets and building blocks of the program designed for the individual.

I really believe every individual should have some say in their own training, but a great coach or trainer is an amazing benefit. If you do find a coach or someone to teach you, ask them about their program and if they consider the individual. Is that coach asking you questions about you as an individual? Is the program they gave you the exact same as they give to everyone else? Are they giving you the same cues on your technique as everyone else? With a great coach or trainer, it will be individualized but will also have some of those solid building blocks. They will also want you to have a say and ask a lot of questions. This all goes the same for nutrition as it is with training. The bottom line is that it is not about finding the best programs or nutrition; it is about finding the programs and nutrition that will work best for you, the individual.


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