You Got Guru’d

By February 14, 2014 Grill the Guru

gu·ru

noun \ˈgu̇r-(ˌ)ü, ˈgü-(ˌ)rü also gə-ˈrü\

: a religious teacher and spiritual guide in Hinduism

: a teacher or guide that you trust

: a person who has a lot of experience in or knowledge about a particular subject

If we take the Merriam-Webster definition shown above, being a guru is a good thing, right? Well, not exactly. Let’s see what Wikipedia has to say about gurus:

Guru (Devanagari गुरु) is a Sanskrit term for “teacher” or “master”, especially in Indian religions. The Hindu guru-shishya tradition is the oral tradition or religious doctrine or experiential wisdom transmitted from teacher to student. In the United States, the word guru is a marketing term used by ad agencies and the meaning of “guru” has been used to cover anyone who acquires followers. In the west derogatory uses have been noted whereby gurus exploit their followers’ naiveté, due to the use of the term in new religious movements.

As you can see, the United States likes to confuse guruism with popularity. Unfortunately, the fitness industry contains an alarming number of charlatans who pose as experts and take advantage of their followers’ naiveté by utilizing pseudoscience combined with boldness and charisma in order to profit. And this is nothing new – it’s been around since the dawn of health and fitness.

snakeoil

While there are certainly a number of fitness authorities who possess highly advanced wisdom and should be revered for their contribution and passion for our field, I personally wouldn’t refer to these folks as gurus. To me, the guru term now possesses negative connotations.

You Got Guru’d!

My colleague Layne Norton has recently popularized a new term – yougotgurud. But it doesn’t stop there – the guru term is more versatile. As you can already see, when a follower falls for this psuedoscience, they got guru’d. When a fitness guru promotes pseudoscience to their followers, they are guilty of guruing. If you know you’re about to purposely mislead your audience, then you’re about to guru the hell out of them. If you listened to a 60-minute presentation whereby the speaker relied on studies from the 1980’s which have been disproven over time, then the speaker was in full guru mode

I suppose the term sensei could be applied here too. You got sensei’d, or you are sensei’ing people.

Here at The Glute Lab, Andrew, Joey, and I use this term on a daily basis in our discussions. If one of us uses outdated science, we get called out for guruing. The other day I was training a new client and I wanted her to go heavier in loading. When she resisted and told me that she didn’t want to bulk up, I told her that heavy lifting works more on the neural side of the things and therefore wouldn’t cause her body to bulk up. She obliged me and went heavier. Afterward, I confessed to guruing the client. In a strange way, guruing can be effective from time to time. I call Joey and Andrew out quite regularly for trying to guru me. As you can see, the guru term can be quite versatile.

Now, we’ve all been guru’d many times in the fitness industry, so don’t feel bad about it if you were led to believe something that turned out to be false or incomplete. Moreover, if you’re a strength coach, personal trainer, or physical therapist, you’ve undoubtedly guru’d hundreds of clients over the years. This doesn’t automatically make you a guru. 

I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve been wrong a hundred times in regards to fitness. There’s really no way around it as we have so much more to learn and we rely on so many assumptions. But I like to think that I flow with the research and update my beliefs as time advances. In contrast, many gurus will stick to their notions even when it flies in the face of emerging research. This is where you will want to call gurus out – when they’re knowingly promoting pseudoscience just because they don’t want to admit they’re wrong or take the time to investigate new scientific literature.

guru

Spread the Word

You got guru’d needs to catch on to the fitness mainstream. You can start using it on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media. Here are some examples.

  • If you draw in your abs when you squat, #yougotgurud
  • If you eat 8 times per day to stoke the metabolic fire, #yougotgurud
  • If you stick to 2 lb dumbbells because you don’t want to get bulky, #yougotgurud
  • If you do Pilates to acquire “long, lean muscles,” #yougotgurud
  • If you do high reps to tone your muscles, #yougotgurud
  • If you think your knees can’t move past your toes when you squat, #yougotgurud
  • If you prancercise to get fit, #yougotgurud

Guru, Get Real!

If you’re a guru and you’ve been guruing the hell out of your followers, please stop. It makes it very annoying for science-based professionals who have to deal with these misconceptions on a daily basis. Sadly, many fitness newbies gravitate toward gurus and prefer fitness entertainment over science-based fitness. This will limit your gainz (another term we use a lot here at The Glute Lab, but that’s fodder for a different blogpost).

conman

27 Comments

  • Maitland Barbell says:

    Can we get a video made to the song “But then i got high” by Afroman, but replacing it with “but i got gu-ru’d”???

    For example:

    I thought i had to eat 6 meals a day,
    But i got gu-ru’d,
    I thought squats for legs was the only way,
    But i got gu-ru’d

  • Sohee says:

    Hilarious, Bret! Didn’t expect to see this kind of post from you, but it was a fun read nonetheless!

  • Cowboy Gene says:

    Great article Bret! You nailed it…..again.

  • Fantastic article.

    This really resonated with me because I have the same conversation with people all the time. It takes too damn long to find out who the best trainers are and where the best information is regarding health and fitness. There are too many gurus and too much fluff. For my brother and I, it took several years to move past poor training in high school, past reading Muscle & Fitness, past the gurus, to eventually find the people we should have been learning from on day one. People are finally starting to recognize Cressey, Gentilcore, Bornstein, and yourself. The young guns know there shit and are killing it (JC Deen, Sohee Lee, Jon Goodman). Transparency, solid research, and clean data will allow the cream to rise to the top.

    Keep grinding Bret. We appreciate it.

  • ooi choon ee says:

    Hi Bret,

    In my country (Malaysia, where guru indeed is in our language dictionary), guru = teacher. But it more widely use as a title to someone that hold more prestigious teaching position. Example will be elementary principal will be called Guru Besar, which loosely translated to Big Guru…. or Grand Guru…. or there’s religious leader that will be referred to Tok Guru…. well… loosely translated to Grandpa Guru…. So over my country, Guru will most likely be refer to occupation~~~ just thought wanna share it this since i been following your site for some times~~~~

  • Midas says:

    Just because something is not supported by science, doesn’t automaticly make it nonsense. Science can be pretty limiting in it’s self. Lot’s of studies are done in an environment that doesn’t resemble the real world. Having real working experience with people, can give you that in the trenches knowledge. What works and doesn’t work sort of thing. I think the otherside of the coin these days are the guys who are “outsmarting” every body with science and start bashing every one who has some genuine ideas of their own.

  • Trev says:

    I think #SnakeOil! could be pretty biting as well. The supplement industry is full of it.

    • Derrick Blanton says:

      Hey Trev! Good news!

      Did you know that there is an industry watchdog that keeps a sharp eye for this kind of unethical supplement marketing nonsense? I know, right? So freaking cool!

      Yeah, so anyways, these watchdog dudes came out in 1998.

      Aw heck, let me just copy and paste from their very first post circa May, ’98, which was their mission statement:

      “Our goal is to create controversy, to cut through lies and the incredibly thick and distasteful veneer of marketing. We’re consumer watch dogs. We don’t worry about who we’re going to tick off. We create the kinds of supplements we want to use and give to top-level lifters and professional athletes.”

      I don’t know about you, but I feel WAY BETTER about supplement truth in advertising with these guys around. They sound like tough cops! They don’t care who they tick off. I like that!

      Because frankly if there is one thing I personally just cannot abide it’s a “distasteful veneer of marketing”. I find it just so…uh…distasteful.

      Now if you’ll excuse me I need to go do my daily 1RM deadlift…

      • Tman says:

        This was a really great article!
        First the prancercise video
        and then Derrick’s comment.
        LMAO (including my strong glutes)

  • G says:

    Never go full guru

  • Shahnawaz Islam says:

    I got guru’d for 2 years wherein I was doing 3-5 sets of 15-20 reps with light weights and lots of cycling and elliptical walking to become fit. 2 months back I cut down on my reps and start going heavier, and 6 weeks back I started 5-3-1 as an experiment, and now I feel stronger and , in general, better.

  • Ha! Love this phrase, and I have a friend who “gets guru’d” every time she reads a new fitness or diet book 😉

  • John says:

    Popular fitness gurus that have made dubious claims over the years:

    John Berardi:
    – high-meal frequency (6+ meals/day)
    – avoiding combining fat + carbs in the same meal (P+F OR P+C)

    John Romaniello:
    – Engineering the Alpha Male
    – shallow/simplistic understanding of hormones, human physiology, etc.
    – low-testosterone fearmongering

    • Bret says:

      John, JB has changed his stance since then. I used to think this way too. Now I know that meal frequency is flexible to accommodate different types of schedules. So JB is definitely no guru since he updated his knowledge based on emerging research. And I didn’t read JR’s book but I have various thoughts on hormones. I’ve been doing a ton of researching this in the last year (my T-levels aren’t very high – so it’d be nice to have them higher) – I’ve read so many studies on hormones and it’s a pretty interesting puzzle. I’ve written in the past how lifters can still get jacked with low T levels, but I that doesn’t mean that more progress couldn’t be made with slightly higher levels of improved profiles. Anyway, it’s good that you’re staying on top of things and questioning dogma – that’s the essence of an evidence-based thinker.

      • John says:

        Bret, thank you for responding. My problem with JB is not that he held a flawed position (e.g., because the data was limited at the time) and then changed his position once new research emerged. On the contrary, that’s what a scientist should do. My problem is that he took a hardline, dogmatic stance early on, when there simply wasn’t good evidence to support his claims. I think a big problem with the gurus you speak of, is that they never seem to acknowledge the “gray areas.” Everything is black and white. Why? Because that’s what’s sexy and that’s what sells. But it’s not honest, and it’s irresponsible. When you have “Dr.” in front of your name or “Phd” behind it, people listen to you. That’s a fact. Therefore you have a responsibility to acknowledge ambiguity, not play fast and loose with the facts, and not make baseless claims because it fits your agenda or helps you sell a product.

        • Fredrik says:

          This is spot on. But at the same time I think much of the problem lies between the actual facts and what one is supposed to say to clients without making them more confused or even worse – don’t trust you and end up going to a guru with “all the answers”. The way I see it there is often a very thin line between concrete advice based on facts and “guru statements”.

          • John says:

            Fredrik, great point. I think that’s a challenge for all coaches. What you don’t say can be every bit as important as what you do say. But remember, the end goal (it least it should be) is to “teach a man to fish.” I strongly believe that part of a coach’s job is to educate (as opposed to just telling people what to do). Individuals can’t learn to think for themselves if they start off with a false premise or false base of knowledge. In an ideal world, all clients would eventually reach a point where they don’t need their coaches anymore. Obviously, it often doesn’t work that way (e.g., some clients really do just want to be told what to do), but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive for that ideal.

    • Adrian says:

      To add, look many of the pieces of advice given in ETA can and do help you get more fit (get more sleep, eat lots of veggies, good fat and protein, fast, etc). Remember also the target audience is NOT necessarily a heavily empirical science fitness based populus. They may just want instructions, and to be quite frank people have gotten more fit from it. I sure have. Even if I can’t yet empirically prove every point I’ve seen broader shoulders and more abs

      • Adrian says:

        Anyway, don’t hate on things that tend to work man-though yes you should be aware that any one method probably isn’t the complete be all end all in fitness, because people are different and have different goals. I love intermittent fasting, but I for instance wouldn’t recommend it for people who want to maximize fat gains, and of.course the routine in the book would suck for powerlifting 😉

  • Bob Dannegger says:

    The gurus that tick me off are the ones that have interesting lead-ins, especially about nutrition or miracle finishers and complexes, that take you to a website that has a video that has no play, pause, or volume button and of course they are always selling something. Joel Marion and his many affiliates are big offenders.

    I used to like Dr. Johnny Bowden when he wrote for T-nation and even bought one of his books about 100 best foods, but he has joined the supplement/ obnoxious video brigade.

    Even though sometimes they have a bit of useful information I’ll never see it because I fix them with the unsubscribe button.

  • donna says:

    At the risk of sounding like a lemming
    (aka guru-ee), I appreciated this article. I try to read as much current research as I can on a wide variety of subjects as my clients are constantly coming to me about the “latest and greatest”. Of course they are not asking about what kind of training they can do to but what supplement they can take because they saw it on Dr. Oz. Ugh! Also, thanks for the nod to prancercise– that dude is disturbing! 😉

  • lindsey says:

    Hmmm, let’s take a term with huge meaning for a religion, deride it, change it’s meaning, and try and make it a meme.

    Switch ‘guru’ to ‘pope’ and you wouldn’t dream of using it. I don’t have a problem with your concept, but your terms are offensive.

    • Bret says:

      Lindsey, people in our industry refer to themselves as “fitness gurus” all the time for marketing purposes. I didn’t start that trend. At any rate, I apologize for offending you, that was not my intention.

    • Chris Bifareti says:

      Offensive, lol! Go home, turn off your internet.

  • Geoff says:

    I just googled guru on an unfiltered search engine. Just to see what would come up with out influence of past searches.

    The first reference was to sales and marketing, the second was spirituality. At least on an American search engine.

    I think you got guru’d is an accurate take.

    I also like sensei’d and would add in ministered, pope’d, cult-ed, baptized, and whatever else term. Doesn’t offend me at all. Only points out how dogmatic, and self righteous people in fitness can become when they are not open to change and rational discussion.

    I also like Dave Tate’s description, he calls them yodas. Because they can only lift weight with their mind 😉

  • Kyle Henson says:

    A lot of the talk shows today just rehash the same stuff over and over for health and fitness. Dr. Oz and for that matter Opra used to. All these talk shows have to come up with some kind of content that “gives” out information to “help” everyone. I know people still living in the 70’s still eating a macrobiotic diet or whatever that is.

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