What a Glass of Wine Can Tell You About Training Environment

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A few months ago, my girlfriend and I attended the company Christmas party where she’s currently interning.  Like the good boyfriend that I am, I got all dressed up, shaved my head, put on some cologne, and even made sure the color of my shoes matched my belt.  You could say I stepped my game up.

The night was par for the course – filled with introductions to her colleagues, a few courtesy laughs here and there, and an impromptu skull session on the importance of wine and the type of glass you drink it in.

Long story short, one of the big wigs sat at the same table as us – great guy; very amicable, engaging, and clearly a bit tipsy.  Anyhoo, at some point during the evening we (and by “we” what I really mean is I was just listening) got on the topic of wine – the different kinds, how it’s made, where it comes from, how you store it, and even the types of glasses you drink it in. 

Cleary I was out of my element, because this was all news to me.   Then again, I think Applebee’s is a fancy place to eat, so there you go. 

Now, I don’t drink wine – but if I did, I wouldn’t care what it was served in.  Give me an empty pickle jar for all I care.  All the same, it was really interesting to listen to this guy talk about all the intricicies that go into selecting the proper glassware for the type of wine you’re drinking. 

Thing is:  It’s total bullshit.  In his phenomenal book, Predictably Irrational, Dan Ariely discusses the notion that it makes absolutely no difference what shape (or type) of glass you drink your white wine in – it’s still going to taste the same whether it’s served in a tall glass or a short glass, or whatever type of glass white wine is supposed to be served in.   According to Dr. Ariely, research proves it. 

Nonetheless, it’s interesting to note that wine is perceived to be more “pleasant” (and as a result, more expensive) when it’s served in high(er) end wine glasses; that is to say, glasses carefully and strategically designed to presumably bring out the wine’s full aroma and texture.

In other words, you can take a bottle of two buck Chuck from Trader Joe’s, serve it in really expensive wine glasses, and people will automatically assume that they’re drinking an expensive Cabernet Sauvignon. They’re surroundings influenced their overall experience – in a positive way, no less.  Pretty cool trick if you ask me.

So, by now you’re probably wondering what’s my point with all of this?  Well, I was talking with one of our clients, Chris P, at the facility the other day, and he brought up an interesting point that parallels the discussion above.  Namely, the notion that what makes Cressey Performance so successful is the fact that people are surrounded (and influenced) by other people doing things RIGHT!

When he’s not training at CP three times per week, Chris uses a local commercial gym closer to his home.  He watches, first-hand, people just go through the motions.

He notices how many of the members always use the same machines; how most will be watching more television than actually training.  He also watches how people rarely (if ever) squat or deadlift, or perform chin-ups; or do anything remotely hard for that matter.    People rarely change – they look the same now as they did two years ago.  There’s no one to really influence them to do otherwise.

Conversely, at CP, it’s the exact opposite.  People are pushing one another; everyone is either squatting (to depth), deadlifting (without rounding their back), performing single leg work, doing heavy push-ups, throwing med balls (and breaking them), pushing the Prowler (and hating life), hitting tires with the sledgehammer, and just being badasses in general.  Their environment influences them to do so.

As much as we can easily be influenced by what type of glass we drink our wine from, so to can we be influenced by our training environment.  Simply put – if you surround yourself with people who think bicep day and Bikram yoga is “working out,” good luck trying to take your body to the next level.  How’s that for an analogy?

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  • Jack

    The dude drinking the wine works out here

    http://www.thesportsclubla.com/site/

    check out the slide show; gym has a funny resemlance to CP . . not!

  • R Smith

    Could not agree more. Environment is woefully underappreciated.

    RS

  • Ray

    Tony,

    Just wanted to tell you that I've been reading your site for awhile and it never fails to give me something really interesting to think about or try out the next time I hit the gym. Seriously, this blog is one of the best fitness blogs on the net, and I've seen a bunch of them.

    I used to live in Boston and still have family there. Next time I visit, I'm going to hit you up for a session at CP.

  • Tony Gentilcore

    @ Ray: Thanks so much! While I think there are FAR better blogs out there than mine, it's nice to know that you think so highly I it.

    And, when you're back in Boston, you're more than welcome to stop by. Just shoot us an email at cresseyperformance@gmail.com, and we'll get you squared away.

  • Henock aka Nock

    Tony…..you are going to make me fly out to Boston to workout at CP one of these days.

    Jack……lol. nice place. BTW……..did you notice how the free-weights never really made it in the slide show?….smh.

  • Tony Gentilcore

    @ Jack: I used to work at SCLA when I first moved to Boston. I wonder if I crossed paths with him while I was there!

  • Paul Brazelton

    Tony, this phenomena was proven in an elegant fashion a few years ago. Read Gene Weingarten's excellent article in the Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/04/04/AR2007040401721.html

    What's interesting is that there will be discerning people who can see through the immediacy of their environment. There are people who can tell the difference between cheap wine and expensive, regardless of how it is served. It seems, however, that they are the in the vast minority.

  • Chris

    Hey Tony, very interesting post. I spend some time at a commercial gym too and definitely see those same going through the motion type things. But do you think it can have a motivating effect in the sense that I know these people are going through the motions and not improving themselves, so I in turn, don't want to be one of those people. I *feel like I'm working as hard as I can and busting my ass, but is because I really am or because I am just working harder in comparison to what I see around me? Thanks!

  • Tony Gentilcore

    @ Chris: truthfully, I think you can find solace in the fact that you ARE busting your ass. But, at the same time, I feel that being surrounded by like minded people is somehow more infectious. It's hard to explain, really. It's kinda like you just need to experience in order to really understand what I'm gettin in (if that even makes sense).

  • Goi

    So completing the analogy, are you also saying that CP, is, in your earlier words…”total bullshit”?

    Just kidding, of course 🙂

    Oh btw I believe you mixed up “their” and “they're”.

  • That is a hilarious analogy!! Coming from saomeone who DOES drink $5/bottle trader joes red wine from jars or coca cola steak + shake glasses. Sometimes cheap wine is great no matter what you drink it from and you MAKE a less than stellar training environment kick ass every day, at least for yourself!

  • I work in a facility that has many people going through the motions. It is so hard to create change.

    Aggressive music is frowned upon, deadlifts are “too difficult to set up” (I often prescribed elevated deadlifts, as we don't have a trap bar) and believe it or not, one client requested to her trainer (not me thankfully) that she “didn't want to sweat”, although she then complained that she wasn't worked hard enough!

    PS. Tony you should totally start drinking wine, it makes chicks look better, I mean is good for you.

  • I work at a commercial gym in Boston and I must say it was a bit of a culture shock when I visited CP a few months ago. It was exactly how I expected….awesome. It was then semi-depressing to head back to work afterwards.

    For a commercial gym we have few machines and the ones we do have get little use. I would however like to blow up the 20 televisions that are stationed throughout the gym (at least the ones in the weightroom).

    But all in all we do have a pretty large percentage of training clients who do know whats up and train their asses off. These members tend to motivate each other whether they work together or not. Its contagious and pretty badass.

  • Jo

    Noting some of the best wine's I've drank were ones leftover at the resturant by said bigwigs and not even finished. I have drank from the bottle, from a mug and a plastic cup. It is good and works everywhere.

    On the other hand if you take plonk and serve it in a poshy enviroment and make it seem fancy and fuss around it, it gets more attention then it actually tastes like… oddly enough like training advice that's common sense rather then random bullshit in commercial gyms.

    'women should use the padded bar for squats becasue big traps look bad on girls.' is a lovely example.