What’s Broken Can Be Fixed

Changing How we Learn

The Broken

When I started Evidence-Based Fitness, what was taught about evidence-based practice was just enough to pass the an exam, when what we needed was a framework for lifelong learning.

Fast forward more than a decade and things have really gone off the rails.

Not only is there an evidence-based practice movement, but “experts in evidence” are popping up everywhere (some with advanced degrees), falsely passing off their own research or their “evidence-based” method (i.e. "do as the research tells you") as the only decision-making framework. You have been fed into a Matrix of what “evidence-based practice” is, and it is being sold to you as something that is beyond your ability to reach.

The problem we have now is not an absence of evidence, but so much noise on what people are passing off as "evidence" that there is no longer a reliable signal of what is useful and what is false. The vast majority of it is static. It’s a marketing tool that beats you into a confused submission.

This has fundamentally changed our relationship with research: as professionals, and as people.

Another digest/review is not the answer. You are reading something in which someone else has decided what’s important, when it’s YOU that knows your clients, patients, audience best and what their needs are. 

The reality is that you are given a set of rudimentary tools (that you often have to learn how to use on your own) and tested in a compliance fashion on how to use them (often in a multiple guess format); if you were given tools at all. 

The framework you are sold is that your inability to move forward in a relationship with science is on you. You are fed a narrative of deficiency. After you graduate, you are asked to ignore a deep education and a rich collection of actual experience and superimpose research that you are told you are not prepared to interpret and integrate (or not integrate) into your practice. That's blind adherence, not practice. Evidence is not meant to replace decision-making.

Fixing the Broken

Evidence-based practice is contextual for every decision. Learning when to heed or not heed research evidence is critical, as all research has limitations. 

Developing the skill to practice to your full potential is a is no different than any other skill. You have to do the reps. 

The only way forward is through. But going through involves changing the way you see your relationship with research at the most fundamental level.

It's a lot like snorkelling

Learning how to use research, therefore, is an iterative process. Like all skills, ease comes with practice combined with feedback. It's a lot like snorkelling: You stay on the top, nice and shallow until something makes it worthwhile to dive down for a closer look. But no matter how interesting that thing is, you need to come back up to the bigger picture view. You'll never see everything up close at once. But over time, you'll become familiar with a lot of it; you'll be more comfortable spending more time in the deeps. The key is to have someone there to remind you come back up when you get lost.