Ten thousand hours. Once you hit that magic number, you've proved your dedication to your craft and can call yourself an expert. At least that's what Malcolm Gladwell says in Outliers.

As a young personal trainer, it was ingrained in me that I should spend at least an hour per day reading and studying something related to my field. I didn't know about the magical 10,000 hour mark back then, but I knew the time I spent studying would correlate in some way to my future success as a fitness pro.

One hour of reading was actually a light day for me. Like you, I got into this field because it's something I'm passionate about it. Even when I spent three or four hours poring over research, scrolling through blog posts, and watching videos, it felt more like pleasure than work.

But here's the problem with all that unfocused reading:

I wasted a hell of a lot of time!

Yep. Wasted. And my guess is that you're probably wasting time too.

Back in the days of RSS feeds, I would open each article on a separate tab, with the goal of reading every single one. Then I'd open every newsletter in my email and click through to read those articles. And that was before I went to Facebook and Twitter to catch up on all the stuff I'd missed in my RSS feed and emails. If one of those links led me to a "Best Articles of the Week" post, I'd find myself with 100 more things to read.

Sound familiar?

Before you know it, you've spent hours reading tons of content not directed toward any specific learning goal, and without any specific application to your training practice.

How many articles, posts, or emails have changed what you say or do in your business or in your day-to-day activities with clients?

Your hours of reading are only valuable if you actually apply what you've learned. The 10,000 hour rule, after all, only applies to dedicated practice. And, as Lou Schuler points out in this post, only if you practice under specific conditions, usually with expert guidance.


So many blogs are sharing information without any real accountability to any organization, it's hard to know how much of what you've read is fact and what's misinformation. So for that information to be useful, you'd actually need to verify it before you could even consider applying it. If you're critically evaluating everything as you go along (as a true professional should be), there's no way you could put in the volume of reading that many appear to be doing.

I can now say with confidence that I think the whole rule about reading for one hour per day needs some serious revisions. I believe that personal trainers need to spend LESS time reading and MORE time trying to apply the strategies to their businesses. After all, knowledge is only power if it is acted upon.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself every time you open a link in your feed reader, email, or social media:

1. Is the content relevant to my business or my day-to-day activities with my clients?

If the content is not relevant to them or your business, you don't need to waste your time reading it. Of course, because anything related to exercise or nutrition CAN be relevant to your clients, you could pretty easily stretch your definition of what fits to anything you choose to read.

Be realistic. If your clients aren't doing rest-pause Bulgarian lunges with a somersault to a half twist, don't read it. If it's something of personal interest to you, bookmark it to read later, rather than in the time you've set aside for professional development.

2. Is the content valid?

After you've narrowed down your list significantly, and separated your personal interests (mTOR pathways and fatty acid oxidation during flexion of the pollicis longus) from the needs of your clients ("how much celery should I eat?"), you'll need to determine how much of your planned reading material is actually true.

At this point, you'll need to investigate the points made in each post to determine whether they're scientifically accepted, or merely the musings of an internet fitness guru. You'll need to consult research and reason while discounting logical fallacies to come to a conclusion about whether they're legit.

You might be thinking, "This would take forever," and you'd be right. You can't read for hours on end if you need to confirm which items are actually true. If someone tells me they spend hours a day reading fitness information, unless they're reading published research, I know they're not validating facts.

Once you start to discover which people consistently misstate or misrepresent or simply make up the information they post, you'll stop reading their content and focus more on the ones whose information is consistently reliable. For those reliable sources, you can read their material with more focus and less skepticism.

3. How does this fit in my model or system?

Say you read an article on a single-leg training variation you haven't seen before. You've determined this variation would probably be a good fit for your clients, and you've validated the claims that it burns more fat per workout than a crate of ephedrine. You now need to determine where this fits in the scheme of your programming.

Does it go before or after step-ups? Is it a progression for something or a regression from something else? Do you use it only in fat-burning programs, or in hypertrophy programs too? What rep ranges would be appropriate for this exercise?

Plug it in where it belongs, and actually use it!

Trim the fat

It takes a while to develop a critical and selective mindset, and to be honest it's a giant pain. But once you've done it, you'll be able to trim your consumption of articles, posts, and newsletters (it's a great feeling to click that "unsubscribe" link), and get much more from the time you invest in reading.

Ten thousand hours won't matter unless you spend that time wisely.