“All I Do is Teach People How to Pick Up Heavy Things.” (Yeah, right. You are doing so much more than that.)

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As I posted on Facebook recently, the book titled ‘The Power of Habit’ by Charles Duhigg is an absolute gem. It really can’t even be overstated as to how much I am enjoying it.

How do I know?

Well when I read, I try and highlight things I find important, interesting, or want to remember. Usually, it’s something small every few pages. In this book however, I feel like I just want to highlight Everything.

In short, the book explores why people do what they do, consistently. In other words, how habits form, how are they ‘broken’, and how they affect everything from shopping patterns (Big Brother, anyone??) to hospital protocols?

In probably the most fascinating portion of the book, Duhigg highlights how the superstore Target can predict based on shopping patterns, how far along in a pregnancy a woman is, in order to capitalize on her new shopping needs. At one point, a teenager began receiving Target’s typical ‘pregnancy coupons’ and the teenager’s father went to the store, furious that Target seemed to be encouraging his daughter to get pregnant. A few weeks later, he returned to the store to apologize because certain ‘developments’ had occurred in his house, and in fact his daughter was already pregnant! 

And while all this is interesting, a portion of the book pertains directly to the exercise and fitness industry. It comes as no surprise that fitness and healthy living are most certainly about forming good habits, but how then can it correlate to the rest of our lives?

In short, you ladies and gents out there in the fitness industry literally have the ability to change every aspect of your client’s life simply by getting them to the gym.

Without going too much into the background of the experiment (you really should just read the book) researchers theorized that willpower is something that can be exercised, improved, and strengthened just like a muscle. Theoretically, you can exercise your willpower muscle similar to your bicep.

In this experiment, researchers took a group of sedentary individuals and gave them a workout program that consistently progressed them in amount of weight lifted and time spent in the gym, forcing them to use more and more willpower each time. After two months, they wanted to see how this increased willpower at the gym translated to other areas of their life seemingly without any direct changes. After the two months, not only were they healthier from the workouts, but they smoked fewer cigarettes, drank less alcohol, caffeine, and ate less junk food. They were even less depressed.

Now you may be thinking this is no coincidence. Most of us realize that all these habits that changed for the positive are healthy lifestyle changes and correlate simply from working out in the gym. This may be true, but based on the next experiment, there is certainly more to it.

In the next experiment, these same researchers worked with a group of subjects on a money management plan. Interestingly, as the money management plan took place, the people somehow became more disciplined in other, seemingly unrelated parts of their lives. They ate better, smoked less, and exercised more. All from simply taking an active role in managing and budgeting their money.

So really, what is the correlation?

As health and fitness professionals, or any type of service business for that matter, we can not downplay our role in changing our client’s lives. For example, creating good fitness habits may help someone do better in their line of work. Think about it… Do you really think someone who can never seem to get to work on time will somehow find the ‘time’ to consistently get to the gym and train? Or, think about someone who may battle with addiction to drugs and alcohol. Now please, don’t get me wrong, these people certainly need to be in the care of a professional who deals with this on a regular basis. But, is so outlandish to think that working their ‘willpower’ muscle in the gym won’t translate to other parts of their lives?

Truthfully, the impact of this book can be profound to many of my colleagues and friends. I think it’s time that we stop selling ourselves short as just the ‘dude who teaches people how to pick things up’ or the ‘crazy voodoo doctor who does some magic and makes people feel better’.

The ability we have to change the lives of individuals is powerful in more ways than we realize.

Let me just leave you with two quotes that illustrate exactly what I am talking about:

“We’re not in the coffee business serving people. We are in the people business serving coffee .” -Starbucks former president, Howard Behar

If all you learn from me is how to lift weights and sprint, then I’ve failed you as a coach.” – Michael Ranfone, Owner of Ranfone Training Systems

About the author

Justin Rabinowitz

1 Comment

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    Tuesday 130521 | CrossFit NYCMay 21, 2013 - 4:20 am

    […] The front squat CrossFit is a sport The truth about the 7-minute workout Food freakshow “All I Do is Teach People How to Pick Up Heavy Things.” […]

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