Barbells and Bibles: How to Share What you Know Without Being a Jerk

Today, in the gym, a guy asked me to critique his form. That’s not necessarily a noteworthy occurrence, except for the fact that this guy was a crossfit instructor. For those of you that aren’t familiar with crossfit, for many of its practitioners it’s practically a religion–to them, crossfit is the only way to work out. However, this crossfit instructor wasn’t too proud to ask a guy who was clearly doing a non-crossfit type workout for advice on form for front squats and push presses. We ended up having an interesting conversation between sets, including discussing the merits of doing kettlebell swings to eyeball level or continuing them above eyeball level. Why did this guy, a crossfit instructor, ask me for advice? Probably because I was doing strict form deadlifts, and because I carry a lot of muscle mass at a relatively low body fat percentage.

I’m out of state for some training right now, and the accommodations here are in two-man rooms. This morning during a class break, I was asked “Is it true that the first thing you do as soon as your alarm goes off in the morning is read?” I guess my roommate likes to tell stories on me. After I replied that I indeed do read first thing in the morning, I was asked the reasonable follow-up question of why. I replied that I like to read from my Bible to get me in the right headspace to start my day. One of my fellow classmates actually said, “that’s a cool idea.”

When I go to the gym, I don’t give out unsolicited advice. I see people all the time doing exercises that aren’t really going to do them any good, like leg adductions, but I don’t go up to them them and tell them that what they are doing is worthless. People can be very sensitive about their workout routines, and no one likes a stranger telling them that they don’t know what they are doing. However, when asked I am more than happy to help people. One time a co-worker, having seen me do heavy squats, asked me to help him with squats, which was a weak point for him. By helping him correct his form, I was able to increase the weight he used by over a hundred pounds in a single workout. The reason that he was willing to listen to my advice was because he asked me for help, rather than me offering it unsolicited.

My philosophy on sharing religion is pretty much the same as my philosophy on sharing fitness advice–I don’t do it unsolicited, but I don’t shy away from answering questions or sharing what I know with people who ask me to. Like workout routines, religious beliefs are something that people are sensitive about. Many religious people do not seem to grasp this concept. Either they will alienate a person that they could befriend by telling them how their religion is wrong, or when asked by someone why they do what they do or believe what they believe they shy away from the question. While I won’t go up to the person doing leg adductions and tell them that what they are doing is worthless, if that person comes up to me and asks me why I do squats I’m not going to say “well, I do squats and you do leg adductions, we both work out our legs so really it’s just a matter of personal preference.” Instead I’m going to explain how squats work the whole body, stimulate testoterone production, and stabilize the entire lower body and posterior chain while working the adductors in a stabilizing role more than they would be worked by straight adductions.

In both the gym world and the religious world, people take exception to, and generally disregard the advice of, the person who comes up and tells them that what they are doing is wrong. Don’t be the person who does that. At the same time, it’s pretty low down to hold back your knowledge when someone comes to you and asks you to share it. Don’t be the person who does that either. Both of those kinds of people are jerks.

Don’t be a jerk.

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