Critical thinking in fitness

written by Philip Stefanov  |  APRIL 18, 2023

Like most people, you probably think highly of your ability to consume the right information from good sources and make informed decisions about your training, nutrition, habits, and life.

However, we are actually quite prone to dogmatic thinking because of biases, ego, and laziness.

Have You Noticed?

Information on every subject imaginable is more accessible now than ever. A quick Google search nets you millions of results on almost any topic you can think of––fitness or otherwise.

Then why does it feel like we are more divided into ‘niches’ than ever before? Even something as straightforward as working out to get fit has spawned countless groups, each with unique beliefs and rules. We have CrossFit, powerlifting, bodybuilding, circuit training, Tabata training, and more.

Ask a dedicated CrossFitter what they think about bodybuilding, and it will probably not be good. Of course, the same applies to other groups: powerlifters, bodybuilders, etc.

People follow a set of rules, convincing themselves that their approach is the best and everyone else is wrong. The world of nutrition is even more divided. Everyone is convinced their diet is the best and that any other approach is a waste of time and harmful to our health.

But Why Is That?

We have all the answers we need, which means we no longer have to think for ourselves on different topics.

At first glance, that sounds good. Everyone is busy, so why not have easy access to the information? Why must we learn things or think, for that matter, if a quick Google search nets us the answers we need?

The problem is two-fold. First, we get lazy and complacent. Instead of thinking for ourselves, we pick several sources of information (Youtube channels, websites, books, etc.) and use them to get all the answers.

Second, we stop thinking critically because there is no room to wonder or form opinions. Instead, we fall for clickbait and superlatives (best, worst, most effective, biggest, smallest, etc.).

“This is the BEST diet to build muscle!”

“Here is the WORST muscle-building mistake!”

“The MOST EFFECTIVE workout plan for six-pack abs!”

As a result, the average person seeking information is more likely to gravitate toward people with confidence, conviction, charisma, and marketing skills. That results in niches and division between people with common interests, such as building muscle and losing fat.

But That Doesn’t Make Sense!

Yes, I know. That sounds counterintuitive because, given the sheer amount of free information available, how can we possibly be more dogmatic than ever?

It all comes down to three things: laziness, biases, and ego. We seek quick answers to our questions and build a belief system around them. Over time, our biases and ego make us more likely to value information that confirms what we already know. We discard other information, labeling it as stupid or inaccurate.

Instead of forming our opinions, we adopt other people’s unrefined ones. In essence, we don’t have to think for ourselves because it’s much easier to listen to outspoken folks and what they say on different topics.

How to Break Away From This

1. Be Wary of People Who Claim to Know Everything

A simple way to get better at critical thinking is to stop following people who claim they have all the answers. Gurus are a dime a dozen, and one common characteristic among them is their firm stance on specific topics.

Such people don’t leave room for discussion or for their followers to form opinions.

2. Consume Information Widely

Broaden your perspective by consuming information from various sources, even those that share ideas you disagree with. You don’t have to accept or apply everything you read.

Giving more people a chance to teach you something can make you more flexible and help you see old topics and questions from new perspectives.

3. Think Critically

Yes, my final recommendation is rather obvious, but bear with me. Most people believe they are critical thinkers who approach situations and questions without bias, but that is rarely true.

Our biases will always take over our thinking and decision-making if we allow them, which is why you must slow down.

For example, when someone presents information on a subject, be mindful of your immediate reaction. Do you immediately accept or reject the information? If so, why? Does it confirm your existing beliefs or go against them?

Also, perhaps you don’t immediately reject a piece of information, but maybe you immediately come up with reasons why the advice is not ideal or even helpful.

This isn’t to say you should become more trusting of every information you get. My suggestion is to simply spend more time examining information and trying to see it from a point of view different from your own.

Thank you for taking the time. Until next week,


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