Feelings vs. Facts: In Fitness It’s Important to Know the Difference

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Feelings get in the way.

Feelings make things weird.

Especially when they hinder or cast a shadow over fact(s), making them less relevant or murky.


I’ll just come right out and say it: Feelings are a motherfucker.

NOTE: “motherfucker” in this sense can be used interchangeably here: good or bad.

Did you just see how far I hit that baseball?


I.e., Good. You know, you’re happy and excited you hit the baseball a long ways.

I had to take my car in, again, to get the transmission fixed.

Motherfucker! (punches the wall).

I.e., Bad. Sucks, dude.

Hopefully you get the gist.

They (feelings), as we all know, encompass a wide range: from how we feel when we first fall in love to what happened a few days ago in Las Vegas. They cross a spectrum: from warmth, empathy, and unconditional positive regard on one end…to how I feel whenever I see someone perform a kipping pull-up on the other.

Annoyance peppered with spontaneous rage.

Feelings aren’t right or wrong.

How you feel at any given moment, under any given circumstance, is how you feel.

Who am I – or who is anyone, really? – to disregard or question how you feel?

That said, facts matter.[/footnote]It’s not lost on me, given the current political environment we live in, that this point (facts matter), unfortunately, can (and is) debated. Climate change isn’t real, 3,000,000 people voted illegally, Unicorn tears are an excellent aphrodisiac…whatever. Who needs facts?[/footnote]

I mean, I feel like leaving the toilet seat up is perfectly fine and no big deal. The facts – my wife’s dropkick to the side of my face – state otherwise.

I feel like early 90’s Mariah Carey and I were meant to be soul mates. The facts – hahahahaha – state otherwise.

Feelings vs. Facts In Fitness

A few weekends ago Lisa and I were in Toronto presenting our Strong Body-Strong Mind Workshop when one of the attendees, a local personal trainer, shared a story.

She went into detail on how a client of her’s, another female, had been giving her a hard time. You see the client was a perpetual pessimist and had a hard time deflecting negative self-talk.

This trainer even went so far to say that her client admitted to her that the only reason why she even signed on to start training in the first place was to prove to her that personal training didn’t work.

That she was a lost cause.

A failure.

As I was listening to the story I couldn’t help but think to myself, “man, that’s horrible. Who’s got time to deal with that? Fire the client!”

Lisa, to her credit, made a beautiful reframe and rebuttal:

Lisa: “How long as the client been working with you?”

Attendee: “Over a year.”

Lisa: “How many times per week?”

Attendee: “At least twice, if not more.”

Lisa: “And she’s making progress?”

Attendee: “Yes, although in her eyes she hasn’t.”

Lisa: “Hmm, interesting. She’s obviously getting something from her time with you. What she’s focusing on are feelings and not facts.

The facts demonstrate your client has been consistently training for over a year despite her initiate “goal” to prove to you personal training doesn’t work.

The facts state otherwise.”

*Smoke bomb, smoke bomb, exit stage left.*

We see this all…..the…..time in fitness and the strength & conditioning world: people allow their feelings to convolute the facts.

Take my client, Alexandra, for example.

I get that we’re all our own worst critic, but she’s made amazing progress since we first starting working together. Back when we first started working together she came to me with some chronic shoulder and low back pain, and was frustrated with her lack of progress in the gym in terms of some strength markers she wanted to hit.

Namely: deadlifting over 200 lbs and performing her first strict chin-up.

She’s been working her tail off.

She no longer has shoulder or back issues, she hit her DL goal (and then some), and she’s thiiiiiiiiis close to hitting her chin-up goal. Yet, sometimes, like everyone, she has a hard time with allowing her feelings to override the facts.

I posted this video in Instagram the other day:

The bulk of the female clients I work with almost always want to conquer their first strict, unassisted chin-up. And, if not, I kinda sorta “nudge” them towards it anyways. I use many of the same tactics most other coaches use: hollow holds, push up variations, rollout variations, straight arm hangs, flexed arm hangs, hanging leg raises, eccentric only chins, accommodating assistance chin-ups, and a metric fuck load (which is a shade more than a metric ass load) of horizontal and vertical pulling accessory exercises. It wasn’t until I read something from @fitness_pollenator discussing the advantages of PARTIAL ROM chin-ups not long ago that I started adding them as well. We use partial ROM squats, deadlifts, and bench presses all the time with clients/athletes. Why not chin-ups? They’re a great way to build confidence and to strengthen what’s often the weakest ROM where many people putter out. Here’s my client, Alexandra (@therealalexandrashow) demonstrating how they’re done.

A post shared by Tony Gentilcore (@tonygentilcore) on

The cool part was Alexandra’s response in the comments section:

“Thank you Tony!! It’s so awesome to see this cause in my head I’m not making much progress and then I’m ok like damn okayyy haha. 💪🏽💪🏽💪🏽💦 It’s so close i can taste it!”

Taking things a little further we can see the same parallel in other aspects of fitness.

  • Some coaches feel everyone should squat the same way – same foot spacing, same stance, same depth, etc – but the facts state otherwise.
  • Likewise, some coaches feel everyone must squat or deadlift with a straight bar, but the facts – not everyone is a competitive power or olympic lifter, you asshat – state otherwise.
  • You feel as if you’re 7% body-fat, but the facts, well, you’re not.
  • You may feel you’re better off jumping into a live volcano than eating any gluten, but the facts are against you my friend.

Feel the Feels

I am not insinuating you should avoid or disregard all your feelings. By all means love your spouse, enjoy that succulent steak, feel anger whenever someone performs a KB swing overhead, don’t be shy to cry it out when you binge watch This Is Us.

Let your feelings marinate.

However, when it comes to you and your fitness/health goals be cognizant of facts and learn to boycott your feelings when necessary. You’ll be better off for it.

Did what you just read make your day? Ruin it? Either way, you should share it with your friends and/or comment below.

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Plus, get a copy of Tony’s Pick Things Up, a quick-tip guide to everything deadlift-related. See his butt? Yeah. It’s good. You should probably listen to him if you have any hope of getting a butt that good.

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