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Why You Should Never Blindly Follow A ‘Guru’

Last Updated on December 11, 2015 by Jeff

fitness guruRaw vegan! Paleo! Intermittent fasting!

Which is going to work for you?

Only you can find the answer to that, and this is why you should never blindly follow any guru. No matter how convincing their argument. No matter how much sense it makes scientifically. No matter how much your friend achieved incredible results with their system. No matter how impressive the guru’s physique/life is.

We are all different.

What makes perfect sense for me, might be a terrible idea for you. I see this happen a lot in the fitness world where ordinary people with a little bit of training experience are trying to emulate the workouts of elite athletes or champion body builders.

Here’s John – John is 37 years old, he works 8 hours a day, sat in his office chair doing a job he doesn’t like. His third child is 12 months old, still waking him up a couple of times a night. When John was a teenager he played football, but had to cut his career short after rupturing an ankle ligament in a heavy collision. He still walks with a slight limp from where the ankle was repaired.

Now here’s Robert. Robert is 22 years old and in training for the Olympics next year. He is sponsored by the government in their elite athletes training program, as well as a few sportswear and supplement brands. Robert is a natural athlete, he was always the fastest, strongest and most gifted at any sport he put his hand to throughout school and even at the elite college level – he stood head and shoulders above his teammates and opponents. Robert is a once in a generation athlete that has everything going for him. He’s even good-looking and idolised by many. A genuine Olympic medal hopeful.

John see’s Robert’s physique, his athletic ability and he wants to emulate that. He searches online and manages to find some interviews with Robert, and his coach, where they explain his training methods. John wants to give them a go, in the hope of ending up like Robert.

Do you think this is going to work?

No. It’s not. Here’s why:

Robert is in the genetic 0.01%, he has access to the best coaches, physio’s, doctors, nutrition and facilities in the country. His whole life revolves around training, he eats, naps, gets massages and trains. All day, every day.

That’s a very different situation to John, the genetically average, 37 year old with a bum ankle, chronic sleep deprivation and high-stress levels.

Of course they shouldn’t be doing the same things!
This goes for nutrition too. I opened this article shouting about some of the most vocal eating plans you will find. Which one is right for you? Which guru should you follow?

The answer is going to be – none of them.

None of those people are you. None of those people have your unique situation, your genes, your habits, your personality. You should be guided by the system and guru who makes the most sense to you, but you should never blindly follow everything they say.

I am intolerant to oats.

“Woah!” Big statement there, I know.

In my late teens and early twenties I did everything that the guru’s said in the fitness magazines. I would have oats for breakfast, because they give you a consistent slow-release of energy throughout the day, apparently.

I would add oats to my protein shake before and after training, because it would help me gain weight and build muscle, apparently.

Only, they didn’t give me good energy levels and they didn’t help me build muscle. I didn’t realize at the time, but they were leaving me lethargic, unable to concentrate, and probably making me fat (in combination with a host of other factors). I didn’t know this until years later. I thought it was natural for me to have bad energy in the mornings; I was just a night-owl. I thought I wasn’t training hard enough, or doing enough cardio, to add muscle without getting fat (maybe I just drank too much while at university, but that’s another story).

It wasn’t until I actually had food intolerance tests done years later that I found out I was intolerant to oats. I’d actually stopped eating them a year or two before because I was following a Paleo diet. Guess what? My energy and focus improved, my physique improved and I thought Paleo was the holy grail!

I still think Paleo is a good starting point for most people, but did I make that progress because I was doing Paleo, or because I eliminated a food that I was intolerant to? You could argue both. Fact is, it was a case of accidentally stumbling on the right answer for me.

Does this mean you should stop eating oats? No! You’re not me. You probably aren’t intolerant to them. Though by all means eliminate them if you want.

The point I’m making here is that me placing myself as the ‘guru’ and telling all of my Personal Training clients they must do Paleo would not be the right thing to do. They are all individuals and they should look for an individual solution, not follow what someone says because it worked for that other person.

You should look for your individual solution, not follow what someone says because it worked for them.

Work with an expert to help you identify your best solution if you can, but realize that your body is unique. The way you should eat, train, sleep, etc. depends on your unique situation. Be wary of any guru, even if it works for you, don’t put all of your eggs in that basket and think it is the holy grail – it might well work by accident.

Always be open to experimentation, to different opinions, and always base your decisions on the evidence – do I look/feel better or worse when I do this?

Phil Hawksworth is a body transformation coach and author from the UK. He is currently traveling the world and blogs at philhawksworth.com about fitness, travel, remote working and lifestyle.