by Steven M. Ledbetter
3 minute read
If there is one problem that leads more people to ruin than anything else, it’s that we think we’re pretty smart. It’s a problem so pervasive in social science that it has a name. The Dunning-Kruger Effect is an identified cognitive bias that people who do not know a lot about a topic tend to think they know a lot more than they do. Because, as Dunning points out, “the skills you need to produce a right answer are exactly the skills you need to recognize what a right answer is.” And I see the heartbreaking result of this ignorance play out at gyms every day.
Sometimes we even mistakenly call this stuff “common sense.” For example, if I go to Bojangles and get a refreshing cup of water only to have my friend point a blow torch at it on full blast, the paper will obviously burst into flames and ruin my refreshing beverage. See? Watch:
If you don’t know anything about the high specific heat and low heat of vaporization of water, you’re probably watching that video and saying, “WTF?!??!”
Let’s take another example. Something that humans think we are pretty damn good at knowing is cause and effect. If I told you that the decline in the number of pirates since 1820 has caused global warming, you’d probably laugh at my face. But look at this graph! And we all laugh, because we’re smarter than that, right?
But what if I showed you this:
Do you think the guy on that cover got those chest, shoulders, backs, and legs by doing “4 New Workouts for Chest, Shoulders, Backs & Legs?” Maybe. Did he also use steroids? Yup. Since he was 16 years old.
Ok, so that’s probably not surprising to most of us, but what about Hot CrossFit People?
If you walk into any gym, you are going to see hot people. You might even think, “these hot people are hot because they come to this gym.” But that’s the same as thinking global warming is caused by a lack of pirates. You didn’t see how they arrived. After 2 years in a CrossFit gym, I can tell you most of the really hot people arrive pretty goddamn hot. Then they see other people who are hot like them (you know the “Crossfit type”) and get to know them. And they stick around in cliques of hotness, showing up to classes looking all hot. Us “normals” see them working out in the classes and think, “oh, look at all the hot people doing this workout. Working out like that made them hot.” But we’re wrong! They showed up hot!
"At best, we can say that working out like that helps keep them hot."
So people join, see some improvement, but keep seeing those cliques of hot people thinking, “dammit, I’m here every day; why am I not getting hot like those hot people!” And they quit after a year, unless they find another reason to keep working out. In that year 50 not-as-hot quit and 2-3 more really hot people show up. The clique grows, and the ratio of super-hot to less-than-super hot gets more skewed. So that more and more beginners show up thinking, “look at all these super hot people! This must be how they got so hot!” And the cycle continues. Look, the people in that video work really fucking hard. Each one of them is an amazing athlete (and the ones I’ve met are also extremely nice). But they were athletes before CrossFit. Jackie Perez was a college volleyball player. Andrea Ager was a 400m hurdles runner (which might be the hardest thing in the world).
Here she is now:
And here she is in college:
Changing your appearance takes work, dedication, time, and patience. And it also takes realistic expectations. It’s not the lack of pirates causing global warming. And going to the gym might not make you look like the people in that gym. Just like the blowtorch and the cup of water, there’s a lot more going on here like genetics, age, diet, bone structure, age, a propensity for muscle gain, testosterone levels, age, etc. But you knew that, already, didn’t you? I mean, it’s just common sense…