Posted by: Street | August 17, 2011

So You Think You are an Expert?

Many sources refer to the “10,000 hour rule,” in order for one to be considered an expert.  I think this rule puts into perspective how long it takes to master anything. I am just as guilty as the next person, but why is it that in the health and human performance field (which you might say is the same case for your line of work), the newer someone is in the field the more they think they know? One thing that I have learned from working with many trainers and fitness professionals is this, having a bachelor’s degree, and a certification means absolutely nothing. To illustrate the 10,000 hour rule, allow me to use myself as an example.  I have been a full-time personal trainer or Strength and Conditioning coach for 5 years.  So let’s do the math on my working life’s 10,000 hours:

5 years = 260 weeks –> 40 hours X 260 = 10,400 hours

Now, this is just on the clock hours; I have not trained 10,400 hours. So, let’s take this a step further. At one training position I held for 3 years, sessions ran 45 minutes long, and we tried to operate at 75% efficiency, which means 75% of a trainer’s time was committed to training clients. Again, let us do the math:

6240 hours X .75 (operating efficiency) = 4680 hours –> 4680 hours X .75 (45 minutes = ¾ hour) = 3510 of actual training hours for the 3 years of employment mentioned above.

The next position I held was as a strength and conditioning coach for a baseball team. This position was held for 6 months, or 24 weeks. While this position entailed long hours, an “off the top of my head” estimate is that half of the time was spent training the ballplayers. Again, let’s do the math:

24 weeks –> 60 hours x 24 = 1440 hours/2 = 720 hours + 3510 hours = 4230 hours of practical experience.

For the past year, I’ve been training as an independent contractor training all sorts of people, from the high school athlete, scholarship bound athlete, and the 30-60 year old population looking for vitality, fat loss, and strength. Sessions run an hour in duration and I train on the average of 12 sessions per week. Not to be redundant, but let’s do the math again:

52 weeks X 12 hours = 624 hours + 4230 (from previous 4 years of experience) = 4854 hours

I think it is important to point out that this is “in the trenches” practical experience. In order to be considered an expert in practical training, one should accumulate at least 10,000 hours in the trenches. This means at the rate I am currently training that I have roughly 5 ½ years left before I can consider myself an expert in the trenches, which would equal about 10 years.  Another theory as stated by Ericsson, Krampe, and Tesch-Romer (1993) reported that expertise in all fields is the result of intense practice for a minimum of ten years (Magill, 2007). If people can believe these theories and hold themselves to the standards, continuing education will be a by-product and all services and industries will improve vastly in quality of service. I say this because the more experience one gets in any field the more he/she discovers that there is more to learn.

Apply the 10,000 hour rule to your line of work, but don’t stop there. As my high school football coach used to say, “Complacency is a sin.” Don’t ever be satisfied with where you are at and what you do. Pursue greatness in all aspects of your life. Evolve to a higher level of wisdom than those that surround you, unless you are surrounded by people more wise than yourself, which is another blog post in itself!

In conclusion, since this is a health and fitness blog, let’s tie this concept to your health and fitness. Don’t for one second think that a 3 month commitment to your health will get you what you want. Don’t think that a year commitment is gonna do it either. Leading a healthy lifestyle is a long-term commitment, which is why it’s called a lifestyle. The faster you can wrap your mind around the concepts laid out in this post, the faster you can put your mind at ease and put your body to work.

Magill, R. A. (2007). Motor Learning and Control: Concepts and Applications. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Pursue Greatness!



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