Escaping the Guru Mentality

We have a new GMB policy: You must listen to everything we say all the time, and never question us. Or else.

…uh, don’t worry, that’s never gonna happen. 

In case you haven’t noticed, we are not big fans of the “guru mentality” that pervades the fitness world. It’s just not our thing. But there’s a good reason for that.

This episode of the GMB Fitness Skills podcast is all about the dangers of the guru mentality, and how to escape it.

Get’yer ears on and listen up!

Here’s some of the things we’ll cover in this episode

(2:35) Do you even lift? (Spoiler alert: We do!)(5:30) Why you need to figure out your goals.(9:40) This may be shocking, but someone who’s a trainer for a living should train differently than someone who’s not a trainer for a living. Unless you’re a fitness professional, don’t train like one.(13:45) The problem with the “guru epidemic.”(19:02) And an important point about GMB: “Doing GMB doesn’t make you better than someone who does something else. It makes you better than you were before you started doing GMB.”(20:30) Find something that’s good for you now. Stick with that for a couple of months, and then find the thing that’s right for you then.(21:44) The problem with “fitspiration”

Andy: Breaker breaker one niner, get your ears on for the GMB fitness skills podcast. Over the next half hour or so we’re going to give you some tips and advice on getting more out of your physical training so you can have more fun in real life. I’m Andy Fossett, and here with me is the hero of the GMB epic saga, Ryan Hurst, our program director and head coach. We are going to drop the hammer on today’s podcast. Ready, set, go.

Ryan: What’s up? Let’s hit it.

Andy: All right, all right. First off I want to say thank you to everybody for listening and sharing the podcast, it really means a lot to us, and especially everyone who sends us questions and asks us for advice, because you guys are the ones that we do this for. Our entire professional existence is geared around your success, so please keep it coming. We live to serve actually probably a lot more literally than you might think. Ryan, how’s everything been going?

Ryan: Great man, feeling great. It’s actually a very nice sunny day here in Osaka. I can’t actually say how clean the air is, but it is sunny so that’s a good thing. How is Hawaii treating you?

Andy: Hawaii is as beautiful as ever.

Ryan: Oh yeah man. Hey, what are we talking about to day? What’s going on?

Andy: Right, tonight we’re going to, tonight, well, it’s still afternoon for me.

Ryan: Well for afternoon, yeah.

Andy: Okay. Well today what we’re going to talk about, we’re going to do the guru talk today. We’re going to talk about gurus.

Ryan: Oh yes.

Andy: I’m going to try to be nice, and we’ll see how that fucking goes.

Ryan: I don’t think it’s going to go well.

Andy: We’re also going to talk about Fitspo if you’ve heard about this, fitness inspiration, and slogans, and all these “go hard or go home” kind of attitudes that people throw around. As you can probably already guess, our synopsis or our attitude towards that is not very positive. We’re going to hit on both of those topics, and I’m going to try not to be too sarcastic or make it a total downer episode for you guys. Hopefully this can be uplifting and beneficial to everyone here.

Ryan: Oh this is going to be good.

Andy: Speaking of uplifting, let me ask you a random question that people seem to throw at us sometimes. Do you even lift?

Ryan: No, no not at all. That’s why I’m so skinny and have no muscles at all. I don’t like to work out, I’m against weight lifting and anything that would make me stronger.

Andy: I’ve noticed a pattern. Every time I ask a question like this, you always-

Ryan: It’s going to be slow, sarcastic, you know.

Andy: You’re always give a sarcastic asshole answer first.

Ryan: It’s got to be like that. It’s got to be that way. I do lift weights. It might not seem that way in all my pictures, but yeah, I lift weights. Actually, let’s see, when did I start? This year from April I’ve been hitting the weights pretty hard lately as a supplement to my other training. My weight training isn’t just for my guns, for my biceps, it’s also to help strengthen up things like my shoulder rotator cuff, make sure that I can keep training doing the stuff that I want to do. Now that I’m 40 years old, by the way that’s seven years in dog years. Now that I’m 40 I want to make sure that I can continue to keep training, and so what I do is I do my weight lifting after I do my skill work. I also right now, I’m trying to put on a little bit of weight, a little bit of muscle, so aesthetically, yes, that is helping me right now.

Andy: Ryan, I’m sorry, but you just totally lost my respect. After all, I thought the entire purpose of GMB was to be anti-weight and pure body weight fitness because you believe that weights are not functional.

Ryan: Shit. I guess I’m fired.

Andy: You’re a total liar, I can’t trust you any more.

Ryan: Damn it, yeah.

Andy: No seriously though, we don’t actually have a weight lifting program and we’ve talked about this before. There’s some very good reasons, mostly because there’s a shit load of great weightlifting programs out there and we are not experts in training people that way so we don’t want to add noise to what’s already brilliant out there. The other thing is we don’t sell a weight lifting product, so how can we jive the fact that we do like weight lifting and recommend it in some cases versus the fact that we don’t actually teach weight lifting? How is that not a conflict?

Ryan: Yeah, it is tough, and it seems like it should be one or the other, but to be honest I don’t think, I know it all comes down to your goals, what do you want to do, and making sure that you’re not overloading yourself doing too many things. For example in my case with my weight lifting, it’s not my main priority. It’s as I mentioned earlier, a supplementation to help me keep doing what I want to do, and of course I could just focus maybe on just the rings or just the parallettes and I would be fine to a point. I think one of the reasons that I’m using the weights, things like that, is I’m at a point now where I’ve built up my skill base to the point where, by adding in the weights it’s going to help me without overloading me and causing me to over train. Sure there are times when if I do hit the weights too hard I’m going to be pretty sore the next day, but I use the weights to help me to be able to do my skills better to be strong, and so by not doing them to the point where it’s going to keep me from doing my skill work it’s actually going to help me.

How do you incorporate these things? You need to take a look at what you want out of your training. Let’s say that maybe you also want to work on the aesthetics of it. You want to have this body, okay? Well to be honest really, look at your diet first. Make sure that you’re eating properly, getting the proper nutrients, and doing what you need to do to make sure that you get your body fat down. Then you can start looking at your skill work, where are you in your skill work? Do you have a solid grasp on what you’re doing? Are you making sure that it’s not exhausting you to the point where the next day is tough? If you’re at that point, then you can look at maybe adding some other supplementary exercises, and I’m talking about weight lifting whether that be barbell squats. Maybe you want to take a look at doing those, or maybe even dead lifts or something like that.

Thing that you need to be careful of though, is that when you start adding in things, don’t go overboard in the beginning. Go very very light, and work your way up. Always listen to your body. You use auto regulation to see how you feel that day, and go from there. If you need help with weight lifting programs or something like that, find a coach that understands what’s going on and let them know that you are doing other skill work so that they can help you create a solid program that’s not going to kill you. I just said a lot of stuff, but really it just comes down to making sure that you’re not doing so much stuff that it’s going to kill you.

Andy: Yeah. Maybe one of the really good things to keep in mind is don’t worry so much about all the things that you’re supposed to do.

Ryan: Yeah, that’s a very good point, yeah.

Andy: Everybody says, “Oh, well you should squat,” and that’s true in a lot of cases, but don’t just go to a fitness forum and say, “What should I do?” And someone says, “You should squat, end of story.” Don’t take that as the word of God, okay? It’s some guy on a forum, and the guy on the forum might be very knowledgeable, but he’s not looking at your whole program in a holistic sense, and he doesn’t know what skills you’re after. That said, we actually recommend in our manuals, I think all of them are now updated now to say that if you’re doing rings or parallettes training and you want to squat for leg strength, have at it. We’re not against squats or dead lifts by a long shot. We think they’re great exercises, but you need to know what your priority is. Ryan, you said that you do your skill work first and then you do some accessory weight lifting, but the important thing to keep in mind is that you’re also not a beginner with the skill work you’re doing. If you were just starting out on parallettes, you would want to probably devote 90% of your effort to learning the moves on the parallettes and mastering those.

Ryan: Absolutely, and another thing too, I do this for a living. This is my job, so I’m not just working out an hour a day. I don’t suggest this for anyone-

Andy: Almost anyone?

Ryan: Almost anyone, but I’ll work out four to sometimes five hours a day, and that sounds crazy, that might sound crazy, but really this is what I do, and my workouts, I’m not doing something like hardcore crossfit five hours working out like that.

Andy: You mean you’re not doing four hours of back to back kettle bell snatch [topitas? 10:11] That’ll make a man out of you.

Ryan: Yeah, grow some hair on your chest. No. When I say skill work, I mean it’s maybe two hours of doing one particular skill, let’s say the handstand, but it’s not that I’m trying to cram in as many sets of handstands as possible. I’m trying to perfect what I’m doing, and then as far as my lifting weights, it might only be 45 minutes. I want to get in there, hit it hard, and then get out. Just to give you a quick overview of what I do, in the morning I’ll do my handstand work, then I’ll do some other hand balancing, and then mid afternoon I’ll do my weight lifting after I’ve had a good break from my skill work and had some food. Then later in the evening I’ll actually probably do, I wouldn’t say skill work, but I’m moving my body, I might a locomotion kind of thing, working with some of the students and doing some other things. By working out, it’s not just me in there cranking stuff out.

Just like what Andy said, if you are a beginner and you’re just starting out with parallettes, just focus on the parallettes in the beginning. When you get a good grasp of that, then you can start thinking about maybe adding something in. If you do that, I suggest adding it in in another day, a day that you don’t do your parallette work. Take a look at how you feel after a couple days, and then if things are doing okay then continue with it. Don’t just try and cram something on top of the other and think that it’s going to be great. By the way, if you go to a forum and you go to a body building forum and you ask them if you should be adding in certain things they’re going to say yes. That’s what they’re doing. If you go to a bench press forum and ask somebody if you think that you should add in a bench press to your current workout, they’re going to say yes.

Andy: If you go to a body weight training forum and ask them, they’re going to say, “No, you never ever need to bench press. There’s more than enough push-up variations.”

Ryan: Exactly.

Andy: It’s that whole hammer and nail thing. People have their own thing that they love, and they want to think that that’s the best answer for everyone, and there’s nothing at all wrong with that because usually they have great intentions, but we think that there’s not a place for everything under the sun. There’s some stuff that’s just dumb, but weight training is not one of them, the kind of stuff that we do is not one of them. They both have very great results for their specific uses, and they can be cycled back and forth with amazing, amazing, great results.

Ryan: Speaking of that, it kind of leads us into the talk about we mentioned the guru talk, following a person. If a particular person is only doing one thing, that’s what they’re going to prescribe. Everything else might be, “No no no no, you shouldn’t be doing that because that’s bad,” or something. Really take a step back and look at what you want. That’s what’s important. Then find how you can incorporate whatever you want into your particular program. Speaking of gurus, what do you have to say about gurus.

Andy: Oh man. You know I could go about this in a really asshole way, but really I don’t have a problem with anyone. I know I sound like I do, because honestly I’m not a very nice person. I apologize for that, but everyone listening, I mean you guys know this. It’s not necessary for you to want to be my friend. Not that I would reject you as a friend, it’s not that I dislike you, I’m just this way. I apologize for that. I’ve always been like this, and I’m just not very nice, but the good thing is unless you are coming to Hawaii you don’t have to deal with me. Ryan does almost all of the coaching here, Amber answers almost all of the emails, you never have to deal with me, so it’s okay for me to not be nice, right?

Ryan: That’s a good point, I didn’t think about that, yeah.

Andy: That said, I don’t really have a problem with anyone out there who is branding themselves as an authority and wants to say that their system is great, because hell, a lot of them are authorities and their systems are great. You know what, I’ll even go so far as to name names of people who are our competitors and say that they’re really fucking good at what they do. Christopher Summer? Yeah, he’s a really good coach, and what he makes is really good for the people that it’s a great fit for. Ido Portal? Yeah, the dude is a bad ass, [crosstalk 15:08] and he’s genuinely a really good teacher when you work with him in person, and the people who follow him and train with him? They seem to get pretty good results, some of them who are able to dedicate the time and energy that he demands. He’s a very demanding teacher, that’s part of his shtick, but those people do really well. Odelia Goldschmidt is just ridiculously-

Ryan: Amazing, yeah.

Andy: I think Jarlo would probably leave his wife for her. Well probably not, but Jarlo’s in love with Odelia just if anybody who knows him is happening to be listening to this. I don’t have a problem with either of those guys or anyone else doing this stuff. What I have a problem with is in some cases people who are devotees or disciples of a particular guru thinking that, here’s the psychology of it: I have my own skills and abilities, and maybe they’re not quite what I would like them to be. However, I see guru A, and he is amazing. In order to feel better about myself despite my low level of skills and abilities, I’m going to call myself a follower of guru A and henceforth judge myself not on my own skills and abilities but on what guru A is able to do. This is what happens in 99% of cases where people are having a “my sensei can beat up your sensei” argument on the internet.

Now this is something that sends Ryan and Jarlo and I, we all did martial arts for a long time, so we know about this stuff. You say, “Oh, I practice Judo.” Ryan, how many times has somebody said, “Who’s your teacher?”

Ryan: Yeah, it’s ridiculous. It’s just so funny, and if you do martial arts you know what we’re talking about. My sensei can beat up your sensei, that’s what it comes down to, or my martial art is better than your martial art. It’s just silly. I don’t really give a shit what martial art you do. All I care about is what you can do, that’s all I really want to know. At GMB we’re pretty anti guru. I mean we make jokes about, and just recently on what was it, Facebook? One of our GMB trainers, his lovely wife made a funny comment how I was an internet, what was it? International Fitness-

Andy: Celebrity [crosstalk 17:33] something. I don’t remember. International man of mystery.

Ryan: Yeah. Thing is, we teach here in GMB. We teach a lot of movement skills, things like that, and even though my picture might be on the front of the homepage and I might be the poster boy for GMB, it’s not about me. It really isn’t at all. It’s only about the people involved in GMB and what we can do to help them, and to make them, you, better. That’s all it really comes down to. With that being said, just because you do something and you’re trying to do something doesn’t mean you’re any better than someone else doing something different.

Andy: Absolutely. We have a kind of community, and we love it that our people are very tight knit. We love it, especially Alpha Posse is a very tight knit community, and people are very very keen on being members of that, and I love that, and it’s great, but we never ever ever encourage anyone to say, “We’re better than other people because we use GMB,” and none of our people actually say that, and it’s great. I don’t want anyone to feel like just doing GMB is going to make them better than people who do stuff from [Al Kevadlo 18:56] or people who do stuff from a weight lifting program. Doing GMB does not make you better than someone who does something else. It makes you better than you were before you started GMB.

Ryan: Yes, and another thing too, we encourage even our GMB trainers. I encourage them to go out and try other things. Look at me, a good example. Right now I train with Steve Atlas. If we had the mentality that, “No, GMB is it, it’s this shit, it’s the only thing you should be doing, end of story,” kind of thing, then I wouldn’t [crosstalk 19:35]

Andy: And anyone else is a lesser human being.

Ryan: Yeah, if we had that mindset then of course I wouldn’t be training with someone else. We feel that there’s always going to be good stuff out there, just like we were talking about earlier. Weightlifting, we don’t discuss the weightlifting part of it. The reason why is because we feel that there’s great coaches out there and they cover it way better than we could. Again, just because you’re doing something, I don’t feel that that gives you the right to think that you’re better or that system is particularly better than something else. It comes down to the goals and what you want out of it.

Andy: Find something that’s a good fit for you now. You don’t have to find the ultimate system for you to follow for the rest of your life, and this is not a religion. This is not your soul we’re talking about at all. You need to figure out what you can take action on right now and get started with, and what’s going to get you in a better place over the next two or three months, and just do that thing. If you change your mind in a couple of months and you want to move on to something else that’s fine, but-

Ryan: Good for you.

Andy: … that’s what you should be focused on, not choosing the number one perfect program or the only guru you should ever follow. That’s not helpful, and so I know this sounds like we’re talking about ourselves in the industry and stuff, but it’s really not. What this really comes down to is we want you, all of you, everyone, to judge yourself and judge other people based on the efforts that you’re putting in and the progress that you’re making. Not what tricks you can pull off, not what system you’re using or what tools that you use or don’t use. None of these things matter at all. The thing that matters is that you are working. Just work. The work is the answer to all of the things that you truly want out of your training.

Ryan: Yes, yes, and anything outside of your training.

Andy: Yep, and that gets us to the next thing that I want to touch on. We talk about doing the work and how important it is, but you can also take that too far and you can get into this thing where you’re constantly saying, “How bad do you want it? Are you man enough to put in the work it takes to be a bad ass?” This is a terrible mindset.

Ryan: Oh I love that, that is so awesome.

Andy:This is a terrible mindset because yes it’s work, but it’s not work that only a certain kind of person can do. Any kind of person can work. Any kind of person can put in their own correct level, their own correct degree of effort towards improving themselves. You don’t have to work as hard as a cage fighter. You don’t have to because you’re probably not a cage fighter. Actually, I’m sure there are a few people listening to this who are in fact cage fighters, because I know we have some clients who are. Those people, if you’re one of them, work as hard as a cage fighter. In fact, work harder than other cage fighters please.

Ryan: No kidding, no kidding.

Andy: But for most of you you’re not a cage fighter, and so you don’t need to work as hard as a cage fighter. You need to work as hard as you need to work to get the results that you personally need. We have this, go ahead, go ahead.

Ryan: Don’t judge yourself based on other people. Just because someone else says that, “Oh, you don’t want it bad enough,” well what the hell do they know? I mean really, everything is based upon you. You have to understand where you want to go with something. What is your goal? Just because there are days maybe that you say, “Oh yeah, I really want to do this,” and then you might change your mind. That’s okay. I’m not suggesting that I’ll let you just change your mind every single day and say, “Oh, today I want to do a planche, oh tomorrow I think I might want to do an L sit or something like that.” No, if you do decide to do something put your mind to it, but understand that you’re going to have days of varying [want-it-ness. 23:42] New word for you there.

Andy: The law of variable want.

Ryan: Variable want, there you go. Just because someone tells you that you’ve got to do it until you puke, or if you don’t do this level of something you’re never going to get it, I don’t agree with that.

Andy: If you don’t give it 100%, you don’t deserve it!

Ryan: Exactly, exactly.

Andy: That’s bullshit. You do deserve it. You deserve everything you want if you are willing to put in the incremental, piece by piece, day by day work it takes to get it.

Ryan: Yes, exactly. Practice, and just keep going after it. Keep going after it.

Andy: One more thing that I think is terrible about this mindset, this “how bad do you want it” or “you don’t want it bad enough” or that kind of mindset is that it makes this presupposition that being healthy is difficult. Well it’s not actually. Being healthy is not hard. It’s not difficult to be healthy. You know what’s hard? Being unhealthy. Being unhealthy sucks. Being unhealthy takes a lot of work. Have you ever been sick? Was that fun or comfortable? No. Being unhealthy is hard work. Your body needs to heal. Being overweight is harder than being at a comfortable and healthy weight. It’s harder on your body, it’s harder on your joints, it’s harder to get off the sofa and go to the toilet, it’s harder to do everything when you’re overweight. Stop saying that people who are not as healthy are not working hard. You know what? They’re probably working harder than the people who are healthy.

Ryan: Oh yeah, oh yeah.

Andy: It’s just they’re working harder at the wrong things.

Ryan: And in a different way, yeah.

Andy: And in a different way. Being healthy, honestly, it just makes things easier. If you do that day by day, bit at a time work, and you can get to a point where you’re healthy, and if you can stay healthy and maintain that, it actually requires less work over all. This is my number one philosophy of life, is that being lazy has made me a smarter, healthier person. I’m a very lazy person, and that has helped me find ways to do things in a clever way that doesn’t take as much work, or do things in a healthier way that doesn’t cause as much sickness.

Ryan: Seem to be more efficient basically.

Andy: Yeah, being efficient. Health is efficient, so don’t worry about how bad you want it and all this macho crap. Seriously, just accept where you’re at and judge yourself by the work you’re putting in and whether it’s the right degree for you, because you can’t judge yourself against someone else and you can’t give 100% effort all the time on everything. It’s just not possible.

Ryan: Yeah, totally agree. Very good, very good about that. Something else kind of related is that just yesterday I received an email from a person who’s going to be attending one of the GMB seminars, and was worried because didn’t feel that he had the skills necessary to participate because he saw who else was coming to the seminar. Basically he judged himself on the other people and was worried because he didn’t think he was going to be able to put in the time to get ready to be able to attend the seminar. It’s related to what we’re talking about, how bad do you want it? It’s fine, he’s going to be fine. If you come to a GMB seminar I’m not going to kill you. What I’m going to do is I’m going to make sure that you work at a pace that is good for you. I’m going to challenge you, but I’m going to make sure that you enjoy it and that it matches your level.

I think that if we start thinking more about that in our own life, about what you’re doing. Work at a level that matches your level and just continue practicing so that that level increases slightly day by day or just week by week, then things are going to be okay. Don’t push yourself to the point where you think that, “Holy crap, today I missed my workout because I had to go to my daughter’s doctor appointment, so I need to punish myself and do more,” something like that. No. I think that’s kind of ridiculous. Work at your own pace in your own level, and I think things will be okay.

Andy: Yeah. Choose the appropriate depth and degree for your own training. I think that’s really the important point.

Ryan: That’s good, I like that, I like that.

Andy: I know, I should write that down on a fortune cookie.

Ryan: You should do it for them.

Andy: Is there anything else you want to cover today Ryan?

Ryan: Not really, I think we covered quite a bit.

Andy: I think I managed to get my rant on without actually being 100% offensive.

Ryan: That was very good.

Andy: Only 98% offensive.

Ryan: I’m a little worried to be honest, because you’re kind of calming down in your old age, you know?

Andy: Fuck you?

Ryan: Yeah, oh yes, that’s what I was waiting for. That’s the Andy we love.

Andy: With that said let’s wrap it up. Thank you for listening. Remember, you can choose what your training consists of, and you can choose for it to be right for your now. Don’t worry about choosing the ultimate path of righteousness for the rest of your life, you know? Don’t take it so seriously. Do you chose your flavor of doughnut based on what you have to stick with for the rest of your life? Granted a training program is a little more permanent than a doughnut, but you’re not going to follow one forever. There’s no program that’s so good you can follow it forever. There isn’t one, so choose what works for you now, follow it, and when you follow it to its logical conclusion choose the next thing. Thanks for listening, be good or be good at it, and we will catch you next time. Thank you.

Ryan: See you next time.

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