[Have fun with this article. I had fun writing it, and am completely aware of my role as archetype for the King of the Snobs – Chip Conrad]
How to be a Training Snob
Faute de mieux drives me to write this article, and yet I am secure in the knowledge that few have the ability to pursue this road. This guide to being a true training snob will let you rise, like a fine virgin oil, above plain farmland tap water, to guru greatness, able to sway masses of the deluded fitness brethren into doing any ridiculous thing you want them to. For each section I’ve included a small reference list, simply prefaced with the words “Know Your.” These are sometimes examples of the point being made, but more often they’re folks (not always of the fitness persuasion) who should be read as quotable resources that can, with the right spin, add support to your cause.
Trainers should probably stay silent when the dinner conversation turns to debating the impact Leonce Perret had on modern film, or the devastation Bertrand Russell caused on the previous two millenniums of philosophy before his theories. What the heck does any of that have to do with deadlifting half a ton anyway?
While you daydream of spitting in the aperitif, or how good the knife currently used to cut the Chermoula rubbed Junee Lamb Rack with Pan Seared Cumquats would look hilt deep in the host’s chest, keep an ear half open to the current mess of a conversation going on. Someone, anyone, might mention a possible IN for you to suddenly steal the show. It can be as easy as a conversation about a current sporting event to something as obscure as a reference to the recent narrow Kenyan presidential victory of Mwai Kibaki, who’s interest seems more about his own Kikuyu tribe than offsetting the 20+ years of corruption through the previous regime of President Daniel arap Moi.
An attentive, au courant ear can quickly make this into an easy gap in which to slide in on your soapbox. You now say “they should elect a runner from the Kalenjin,” and just wait for the inevitable reply (don’t worry, your door is now wide open).
“Who are the Kalenjin” or, if there is a particularly astute world traveler amongst you who happens to know his Kenyan tribal demographics, the response might be “what makes someone from a collection of tribes in the Rift Valley a more qualified applicant for the nation’s presidency?”
Now I can’t hold your hand through the rest of the dialog. I refuse to be your Cyrano, despite all pleas of “I need eloquence, and I have none.” No, it is your task to have a working understanding of Kenyan dominance over the sport of long distance running (a simple, quotable fact: 28 of the top 50 male runners in 2007 are Kenyans, and most, if not all, from the Rift Valley area), but now you need to spin your passion for fitness into a diatribe for how truly fit people could teach the world a thing or two about life. Could a world-class runner, or athlete in general, make a better president? I’m willing to make a case for it. Are you?
But let’s get out of the dinner conversations for a while. If you’re stupid enough to hang out with folks smarter than you, then perhaps you are a louche and deserve to suffer by having to work a little for any respect. Take the easier route by creating and leading a conversation amongst the insipid masses instead of waiting for an opening in a debate that is probably of a higher intellectual caliber than most of us trainer folks could ever really hope to grok, much less participate in.
Frankly, trainers should only speak when they are teaching, and even then, most of them should shut their pie-holes. Trainers are actually piss-poor leaders, gleefully reciting gibberish that is spoon fed to them through their certifications or degrees, or, more common and vastly more devastating, from magazines and websites. The vast majority of training professionals prove quickly that any trained monkey can teach exercises.
See what I did there? Already I established a solid snob quotient. C’est la guerre! This isn’t tactful Socratic dialectic. If you are to establish yourself as the all-knowing hot shit, then yours are battles of attrition, leaving no one left to fight against you in the end. Know Your: Sun Tzu.
Okay, now the following tips will help eradicate any hope of actual dialog, since the uneducated can’t possibly create any defense against your onslaught, and anyone else will want to seem smart by sharing your beliefs, although they weren’t witty enough to pontificate with such piquant passion, and therefore now envy you as a true mentor or guru. Know Your: Thomas Paine, Jello Biafra, Vladimir Mayakovsky
1) Preach the charlatanism of any ‘fitness expert’ who embraces common fitness vernacular as unoriginal hacks. Denounce trendy copy, like ‘core’ and ‘functional’ and ‘toned’ as hyperbole, sans any real meaning, and dare real trainers to think for themselves (while actually trying to subvert them into believing any nonsense that spews from that gap you call a mouth). Know your: Noam Chomsky, Theodore Kaczynski.
2) Embrace no program or affiliation. This is paramount, since any association with someone else’s concept or idea means you haven’t come up with your own. So even if you actually HAVEN’T come up with your own, do not give anyone else any ink or publicity, unless in the form of vehement disagreement. Know Your: Abbie Hoffman, Thomas Hobbes.
3) Create your own program. This lends more credence to #2 above and also gives you something to sell. There are two options here.
a. Keep it simple. Steal from good, basic methods and make them your own. Present concepts that have been around for a century or more as having a renaissance. You are the teacher of the simple wisdom of the past, but you’ll support it with modern science, often remarking that the ‘basics always have been, and always will be, the best.’ But personal flair is needed, like some ‘principles’ and a good dose of easily quotable copy that outlines a unique philosophy. Know Your: Bill Starr, Dan John, Mark Rippetoe, Occam’s Razor.
b. Make it esoteric. Steal from good, obscure methods and make it your own. If you want to achieve immortal status among fitness geeks, make your program confusing and practically impossible to follow, giving your followers (and detractors) something to debate about for years. Keeps the name alive and gives people the goal that some day they’ll ‘get it.’ Within your program, or anything you write or preach, throw in archaic or outright made-up terms. Base some of your program off an ancient philosophical or mathematical concept and give the slight hint to those who would get it that following your program may incur the wrath of the Illuminati. Why there isn’t a Masonic Fitness Program yet, or the Rosicrucian Workout and Diet Template, is beyond me. Know your: Scott Sonnon, Paul Chek, Charles Poliquin, and a little Aleister Crowley for good measure.
4) Point out how today’s modern gurus are experts at stating the obvious with fancy terms. By vehemently embracing the dernier cri of fitness vocabulary, other so-called gurus are simply trying to usher in the next wave of overused fitness terms, but they’re still currently hip. It’s not just exercise, it’s ‘biomechanical exercise,’ or better yet, ‘metabolic.’ Speaking out against this bandwagon now lets your denouncement have even greater force, rather than in 5 years when they are ‘exploited’ and ‘diluted’ by mainstream trainers. If you preach now that these terms actually don’t mean anything special, then you can manipulate them to your advantage, stripping so called gurus into naked obsolescence. But if you find that, during step #3 above, you peppered your program with such terms, then you deserve to be stripped of your guru status and embarrassed publicly. Know Your: Dr. Mel Siff, Frederick Nietzsche.
5) For the truly bold, embellish a colorful past, dropping names that often have too many consonants in them as your teachers and mentors. “My summer(s) spent training under Verkhoshansky brought to light the dire necessity to teach, pour encourager les autres.
You are now ready to embrace your role as supreme trainer snob, and only you and I will understand you’re simply amongst the more daring of the pseudo-chevalier d’industrie, able to create the façade of wisdom through snobbery. Good luck.