This is written to help the trainers that want to offer their clients the best advice.
I hope this spurs you to read more, own your own opinions and look for specific answers to specific problems for specific clients.
Research in the fitness industry appears to be split between those who use science and those who are ahead of science. So let's get rid of one of those groups straight away if you think the following its time to stop reading -
- You are ahead of science
- You felt it work
- Your clients say that it works
- Your clients tried everything else and only your system worked
- Your guru said if they waited for science then they would have spent years not helping clients already
- The placebo effect works so what is the problem?
If this is you, then you could not be more wrong or ill-informed, about science, research, ethics, how to observe results, measure and interpret data and so many more things that I would rather you stop reading now and make peace with your inner genius.
For the rest of you, let's move on.
Another split, two kinds of the science-based trainer, the evidence-based trainer that doesn't care too much about the source, quantity or even the outcome of the research, who will happily make a statement based on one paper, and then the other kind who read more than one paper and make some judgements. If you are the first, and you say things such as -
"Well you can prove anything with statistics"
"These are the papers, but using my clinical experience I would also suggest"
"The Dr. who taught me says things and seems to quote papers, so I am being evidence-based"
"Well according to this book..."
"Here is my opinion article, but rather than tell you that, here are some friends with some qualifications, a whole article on my opinion littered with cherry-picked studies"
"Here is a clever and funny Instagram post, that sounds sciency, but is just passive-aggressive"
If at this point you are thinking, that is me, then move on or if you want to change, then read on. At this point, I lose a lot of fascia guns, rollers and other Magic Wand lovers.
Then we arrive at the level of scientist I am, which in doctoral-level academia is laughably poor, but lovingly trying.
In our industry, my level of research ensures my students and clients get to the right information and don't waste their money on a fascial release (its tough to find the studies that support the benefits of more range of motion from structure, let alone manipulating a sausage skin with pain), postural alignment (all good until you learn it is mainly about feeling and habit), learn by drawing on people (check the science, if you want to learn by art far better to write a poem) and my new favourite, which is better biomechanics or pain science. (If you can hear sighs through reading, you just heard one, and get ready for the biomechanics/pain post!).
So I want to share with you some lessons from someone who doesn't believe his own results, but instead gets guided by following a system of research.
*If at this point you are thinking things like I don't need to research everything, I opened the door and I didn't need a paper to know how to do that, then you are too deep into this article, back off quick.
Here are some of the guidelines (at last you are probably thinking), that I want to share with you to help you.
1 - Attack research in levels, start with opinion, industry sayings, or client questions to help you define the question you want answering, defining the question and knowing it could keep changing is the tough start to the research process.
2 - Start to move towards scientific evidence, I would still use scientific blogs, podcasts and YouTubes at this point. However, I would be looking for professors still working at Universities in that area of study. I would be looking to their references to help me know if I am on the right track to answer the question, and also to get used to the terminology I am about to encounter.
*Look out for the people trying to convince you they are research experts or in the field experts by using unearned titles. I saw an article and talk marketed by an expert who is a Doctor in Physiotherapy, the person in question did not have a degree. You don't need a Degree to have read a lot of research, but it is an alarm bells time if you claim you have a qualification that you don't have. (Alarm bells = fraud)
3 - Get to the papers in PubMed, look for good authors, writing about research conducted on decent-sized groups, with humans, and who seem ethical, so they use a control group and are not sponsored.
4 - Filter the papers you have, use your system but for your information, I do the following -
- Age (under 10 years unless it is classical knowledge)
- Journal (above average IF for its field, because I want to lean on their panel of experts)
- Author (are they an expert in the study that they have written about)
- Statistical Significance of the result (I want the result to be no better than chance statistically)
- Functionally significant (I want the study to show that as well as make a difference, the approach makes a worthwhile difference)
I think you will be able to determine your own research filters. Once you have done this you will find that when you break them to use a technique, you know the technique is poor, and when you find yourself giving an opinion, you will know to make sure everyone knows it is your opinion, which is the first phase of researching a topic.
To learn more about research then you should look at our MSAS and Injury to Performance courses, because these courses will ensure that you get to learn how to research in a context that is fitness based, with a group of non-judgemental learners.