Killing Buddah: Why Gurus Aren’t Such A Bad Thing
“If you see Buddha on the road, kill him.” This is a somewhat famous quote used by spiritual-types to protest the blind following of gurus. The prevailing thought being, I think, that if you follow a guru you will not seek and find your own path. A very similar sentiment has popped up recently in the fitness and training world as well. Grilling and killing established industry leaders who have a specific (and often controversial) point of view has become the go-to move at conferences, in articles and, most pervasively on the bastion of all rational thought, internet forums such as Reddit and Facebook.
I think this is bullshit.
Let’s get the caveats out of the way first: do I think you should blindly follow outrageous claims made by anyone when they don’t even pass the common-sense smell test? No. Do I think that there is value in utilizing an evidence-based, scientific approach before making good programming and training decisions? Of course. But I also believe “evidence-based” does not soly rely on laboratory research studies. Evidence happens everywhere. Even in the squat rack. Go ahead, call me a “bro”. I don’t care.
There is such a fear of actually buying into a coach’s point of view or following a gym’s program to the letter for risk of it possibly being debunked by a keyboard warrior that you end up doing something much, much worse – you do nothing.
You’ve heard of “paralysis by over analysis”? This is it in it’s worst form. You get so freaked out that you’re not following the right program. Or worrying about where your knees should be when you squat (over the toes? as wide as possible? but the Chinese let their knees cave in!) that you do nothing. Even though what you were doing was working. But that program came out of Muscle & Fitness magazine. So even though it worked, it couldn’t have been good!
Charles Poliquin is one of the most well-known, controversial, loved and hated strength coaches in fitness industry. In fact, he, along with Paul Chek, was one of the first people to offer continuing education to trainers on the systems he used to get people into great shape, including Olympic and professional athletes. When Charles was still part of the Poliquin Group I attended several of his seminars and certifications. Charles had a point of view on everything. Often spitting out statistics and answers that he was seemingly making up on the spot in answer to the dozens of questions he would get asked at each lecture. My take on Charles was always this, 85% of what he says is genius, 15% is probably bullshit. It’s up to you to decide which is which.
And, I will say this: without fail the attendees at Charles’ workshops were in better shape than in any other continuing education opportunities I ever attended. And I think that is because Charles’ did not attract the casual strength coach, medical professional, personal trainer or physical therapist that filled the ballrooms and gyms at which he would speak. These people were all in. And whatever Charles’ said is what they followed.
Which brings me to my main point. Find something that you want to accomplish. Figure out the best person to get you there. Dedicate yourself with full effort and consistency to their teachings and programs. Unless you really choose to follow a complete crackpot, you will reap more benefits from this than being critical of everything, doubting everyone, jumping from program to program, gym to gym and, ultimately, doing nothing.
At our facility we ask people to be all in. We are set up for high frequency training and we offer enough of a variety of movements and strength qualities that for the average client who isn’t looking to specialize in something specific, they can get an extremely comprehensive program that keeps them stimulated both physiologically and psychologically. Is it some special, magical program that no one has ever thought of before? No. Does it have “one cool trick” that will get them six pack abs? No. But the people who dedicate themselves to it, who follow it through, who don’t try to ‘supplement’ with outside spin and sculpting classes, those people by far make the best progress.
Find a guru. Be critical in doing so. But once you choose, go all the way with her for a while. It will be incredibly freeing. And you’ll probably get the best results of your life.
In the meantime, I’ll be in the squat rack with Buddha. Dude needs to get in shape.