Today’s post is brought to you via Travis Van Allen Wright. 

Who happens to be my husband and baby daddy.

Words can’t describe just how geekified he is.  He geeks out all the time.  It’s crazy.

Much like this post.

Which, by the way, is hilarious!!  (It was his sense of humor that first attracted me – and his pungent pheromones.)  Please give it the time it deserves (I recommend bookmarking it!).  And if you’re not smart enough to catch all the humor, just laugh along anyway. 

I do it all the time.


Hello everybody.  Not literally as “you” are probably limited at least to english speakers, or more accurately english readers.  And thanks for that smashing introduction.  I’m of course writing this before Lindsay has the chance to read over it much less introduce it but I take it on faith the introduction she did come up with was smashing.

What seems like ages ago, Lindsay asked me to write a guest post, and I foolishly agreed. This is not that post.  This is more the introduction to that post.  You understand, that post will be of such life changing importance that it can’t be dumped upon you all at once.  Or rather it’s message is going to be so contrary to what you have read that it will take two tries to convince you that I’m not ignorant.

on to this post

Today <or over the next couple days as I’m a slow writer {not a slow typer mind you, just I only get so much time to sit down and come up with these words that it will probably not all occur in this sitting [you might also pickup if you are very observant that few rabbit trails go completely unexplored (perhaps I should refer to the time at which you are reading this as opposed to the time I’m typing it <so I’m going to type into the future and try to guess how things are then{you’ll notice I’ve run out of brackets for these parenthetical interludes and have had to reuse some I hope you find this easy to understand on whatever day you happen to be attempting understandment}>)]}> TED Talk

So let’s just say over the next little bit if you browse around this site (for me likely a few days, for you well it depends on how fast you read, or give up), we will be discussing my most hated “fitness phrase”.  Allow me to take another quick aside to apologize to anyone whose job it is to come up with filler to put into fitness magazines, so there aren’t too many ads in a row.  My apology can verily be heartfelt as I do feel sorry for you. See I’m not a writer, so I feel sorry for anyone who has to write a lot, not just you.  However, in addition to the general writers pity, I also extend an apology for the rest of this post (or at least the parts that are on topic enough to have anything to do with you).

There’s a fantastic quote in the book The Princess Bride, (sadly it didn’t make the cut for the movie) regarding anticipation.  It’s spoken by Count Rugen (otherwise known as the six fingered man) to Wesley (otherwise known as a couple other things, farm boy, man in black, dread pirate roberts, etc.) while explaining “The Machine” in the “Zoo of Death”.  It’s a truly wonderful quote and if I was even a half decent writer,I’d actually look it up and tell it to you.  Heck I’d even attribute it to the author [Not S. Morgenstern as many suppose but rather William Goldman [it’s a wonderful little Inception-style mind play of a story about a man reading a story)].

(Something great about anticipation)” – Count Rugen [S. Morgenstern (William Goldman)]

So anyway, I hope the anticipation of what I’m actually going to discuss in this post is beginning to build and the enjoyment of which is not passed over, but instead, relished.  Recently while discussing a |Sorry about that I had to go get Clara she woke up from her nap| so anyway in a thread about, “What quote did you get from your grandfather?” someone posted, “Don’t rush to buy stuff – sometimes the wanting of something is more exciting than the having of it.”  I found this to be particularly poignant as the discussion thread was on a board where I spend a bunch of time looking for guitar equipment to buy.  Again I’ve failed the quote attribution but the best I can tell you is it was the grandfather of someone who did not currently have anything for sale (why else would you post something encouraging people not to impulse shop).


ok enough anticipation

(Anticipation is apparently the new way to say rambling.)  |Sorry again – Lindsay reminded me that the key to a good post is multi media so you can thank her for all of the above inserts that kept you interested.  That really is a smug look on Tyrone (Tyrone is Count Rugen’s given name)’s face huh?| So there’s another great Princess Bride quote, {from the movie this time [it may be in the book but the significance is not the brilliance of the quote but rather the condescension with which it is spoken]} where Princes Humperdink during the wedding ceremony says “Skip to the end” a little something like… Try this you may have to jump to the 38 second mark.

skipping to the end

Let me tell you that the most useless phrase in the entire fitness lexicon is “People who X tend to Y”.  I can all but guarantee if you open the nearest fitness (nay, health in general) magazine whether it be this:

or this:

you will find it.

The worthless sentence:  “People who X tend to Y.”

You may find it in the, “People who X are Y times more likely to Z” form (slightly more complex but equally useless).  Behind this useless claim is an “observational study”.  And what’s worse is the next line goes something like Dr. So-n-So who headed the study says if you want to Y he suggests you X.  Now if you took even the most basic of statistics classes you know the phrase, “Correlation does not imply causation”.  Taking the course is hardly necessary to have heard the phrase or even understand it.  For the sake of thoroughness, it means – two things happening together doesn’t mean one caused the other.


Hang on a second – I want an example…I’m going to go find a magazine.  So I just grabbed a Shape and turned about a quarter of the way in.  [From what I’ve seen, this is the prime section for filler.  It’s the regular (“in every issue”) sections like the “Eat Right”, “Look your best” etc.  where they have to come up with something new every time but can’t use cover story resources, so corner’s get cut.]  In this magazine I found this statement, “Women who sipped 4 cups of regular coffee a day were 20 percent less likely to become depressed over a 10-year period than those who averaged 1 cup or less per week.”

Now I didn’t do any followup research to this study, as to sample size or methodology, but let’s simply reword that, “For every five women who get depressed and don’t drink coffee daily, there are only 4 who get depressed who drink way more than average.”coffeesmile

But wait!!  Do we know anything about that one coffee drinker?  Well we know she drinks a lot of coffee.  So she’s either really busy and driven (hey guess what people with a purpose tend to be less depressed a study from Travis Wright has found), or she meets her friends for coffee a lot (Wright Research has made a similar finding regarding people with active social lives).

Now I love coffee, if I had to drink less than one cup a week, I would probably get depressed.  But what I’m trying to point out is, any link between coffee and depression is pure speculation.  And it’d be foolish to stress yourself over this type of evidence, much more foolish to base your health on this type of evidence.

To be clear, I’m not attempting to decry all research.  Certainly not experimental studies, and even observational studies are a great starting point. And certainly I believe lots of things with only observational evidence. But for the big stuff –  it’s not sufficient.

Here’s the coupe de grace if you skipped the rest and just looked at the pictures read this:

“A recent study by Wright Research found that people who have bought running shoes for more than $100 tend to be cardiovascularly fit.  Dr. Wright suggest to get fit, you should strive to buy $100 running shoes once a month.”


“Wright Research found that women with bleach blond hair are nearly twice as likely to have cosmetic surgery than women with their natural hair color.  The researchers suggest bleaching your hair could help those who are seeking cosmetic surgery.”

First off, it should be clear that both of those observations are true.  They are accurate…. they are facts.  However, assuming you’re not; A. Completely brain washed or B. Work for a fitness magazine, it’s stupid obvious that buying shoes won’t make you any fitter, nor will bleaching your hair cause cosmetic surgery.

Next time’s setup

Remember all that is just an introduction to my real post.  It’s just that what I’ve been doing (successfully I might add) and will be talking about goes directly against what some of these studies would tell you and I need for you to be able to approach it with an open mind.

Thanks for geeking out with me sticking this out.  <-I, Lindsay, added the geeking out strikethrough – my specialty.

QUESTION:  Hmm…a question….What fitness magazines do you subscribe to?  Do you geek out on math and research?  Any guesses about what Travis’ next post will be about??


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  1. This post: 1. Hilarious 2. Brilliant
    Yes, I’m a total science nerd. Still cracking up over the parentheses. I love your sense of humor, and your nerdy science way of critical thinking. I demand more posts from you! ;-)

  2. Hahaha! Great post! I keep thinking about all the times I said “Hey, mom, did you know that if you do x you re less likely to y?”. Reading a fitness magazine will never be the same again for me! Thanks, Travis!

    As for your questions, I don’t subscribe to fitness magazines. The ones I read are usually at a doctor’s waiting room. I believe that you can find any piece of advice on the internet, from people who’ve tried it. So, no subscriptions for me, thanks!

    I do geek out on research!

    I have no idea about Travis’s net post, but I can’t wait!

  3. LOL! I love it! I was like, “GET TO THE POINT ALREADY!” great point. but fitness magazines needs an easy formula for sucking you in all the time. And women tend to love it. Yes, I am sucker to this.

    So, Lindsay… does Travis boggle your mind like this all the time? ;) gotta love the brackets. Looking forward to reading more.

    PS – that bleach blond girl is really scary looking.

    1. No way. Then you have a deadline. You “have to” write a post every day/other/day/whatever your schedule. I like this setup where I can come in write something and disappear for months until my next one. Although apparently now I’ve got a deadline. Next post goes up next Monday.

  4. Freakin awesome!

    I just LOL’d in the middle of my office at the correlation vs causation comic (and got lots of weird stares {= highlight of my day})

    Also, You are a guitar playing Travis (Van) Allen and my hubby is also a guitar playing Travis (Alan) and I think he has the same guitar…well…it looks the same anyway, I don’t really know for sure because I only sing…but either way the post rocked and you and Lindsay both rock :)

    1. Many wives find it silly that “All guitars look the same”. But that’s very intentional so that we can secretly buy a new one and then convince you it’s one we’ve had forever.

  5. research suggests we need more Travis – I look forward to the ‘real’ post!

    the Ted talk – parenthesis comic is gold. GOLD. being a product junkie, I read fitness magazines FOR the ads. <– only in various waiting rooms, I no longer subscribe!

  6. I. Am. So. Lost.
    Hoping that the actual post clarifies some things for me (or at least makes me laugh as much as this one did!)

    Well done Travis!

  7. First, you crack me up :)

    Second, I stopped subscribing to Shape, Women’s Health, and all that crap. I wasn’t getting anything out of it. I subscribe to Runner’s World and will probably get Triathlete soon. I occassionaly buy men’s weight lifting magazines if I need some new ideas.

    Third, I think most of the research is crap. There’s likely a 3rd hidden (or ignored) variable that contributes to the findings.

  8. I must be a big geek too- because I 100% identify with your sense of humor. And I feel lame for never having read The Princess Bread in print form, because it is truly one of the greatest movies of all time (and I actually REMEMBER seeing in the theater when I was a kid!). I love the quote about anticipation and totally agree.
    And your pet peeve is awesome- and oh so true. Fitness magazines will tell you ANYTHING to fill a page. I refuse to buy them. Except when I’m at the airport- then I go nuts. Something takes over me, I tell you.
    Can’t wait to read your REAL guest post. :)

    1. You really should read the book it’s just an incredible joy. I’m guiessing The Princess Bread would be a lot sweeter than regular bread and want to save my carbohydrates for Ice Cream.

  9. OMG what a RIOT. I LOVED hearing from the “other side”!! I also have to agree — cannot stand the dramatic cover headlines on most health/fitness mags and the obsession with stats that don’t realy matter in the grand scheme of things. what works for xx population, might not work for EVERYONE so why paint with such broad strokes, right? LOVED THIS!

  10. i am rewarding myself with a cookie for reading all of that. i loved it though. totally worth it even if i didn’t get the cookie.

    i’m a grad student, so reading studies and deciding what to do with and how to interpret all of the positive and negative correlations {with childhood obesity, in my case} running around in my head is a part of my daily life.

    can’t wait to see where this post leads….!

  11. How did we skip over the part that there are VERY FEW people financially capable of purchasing $100 shoes once each month? Let alone MENTALLY STABLE people that would even consider that, if they haven’t hit the bazilliony trillion dollar jackpot for life? I’ve purchased 3 pairs of $100+ shoes in my lifetime, once I had a Groupon and those only came out to cost me a total of $70, but all 3 times I had to go outside and vomit almost immediately after, even though it was a justified purchase. I find that to be a ridiculous price for SHOES. Especially wit as hard as I am on mine. And the Asics I bought for running that cost me $160 cause dry heaves for 2 days and I only wore them 1 time for a 5 mile run/walk and can’t use them because despite the running companies claim that it would stop the shin splint pain, my shin splints were WORSE after running in them.
    So, now I have a $160 pair of closet floor decorations that are quite attractive, but completely useless and I can’t even enjoy or sell them for 1/2 the price I paid.

    1. I like “literally laughed out loud”. Using lol non-literally would seem almost illiterate. And Fred Rogers was one of my heroes. My College English professor once said the only thing I ever wrote worth reading was an obit for him. I’m pretty sure she won’t read this post.