The Great Debate: Generalist vs. Specialist

The Great Debate: Generalist vs. Specialist


From: Jon

This topic has been written about in relation to everything from animal species, to physicians. Hell, I just read an article where the author compared coffee selections at a warehouse club (generalist) and a gourmet coffee house (specialist) and the pros and cons of both.

Of course, being the strange (but I believe genius) one in our Rogue Consulting Group trio, this week I decided to take this topic and apply the debate to fitness.

Lets begin with some quick definitions from our friends in Oxford:

Generalist: A person competent in several different fields or activities.

In the world of sport or fitness these are the people that do so many things that there is nothing that really dominates their sporting life. When asked, they give answers such as “I work out” or “I am a fitness nut”.

Specialist: A person who concentrates primarily on a particular subject or activity; a person highly skilled in a specific and restricted field.

If I asked 10 people to describe them in relation to sport or fitness, I would hear things such as “I am a runner” or “I am a cyclist” or most recently “I do crossfit”.  You may also hear “Climber”, “Diver”, “Golfer” or in celebration of my beloved Liverpool, “footballer”.  These are the specialists in the fitness world and this seems to be how much of the population sees or at least partially defines them.

Is it better to be one or the other?

Well, on one hand the generalist usually has few overuse injuries, they don’t spend as much overall on equipment because they tend NOT to buy the top-of-the-line equipment or at least pay full price. They also don’t usually have to upgrade their gear every year to the latest and greatest. This is a result of having their hand in so many sports (which can be expensive on its own). This group is often less interested in the overall competitive element and more interested in the social element of the sports they enjoy. And finally, their social circles can be a bit more diverse since they are hanging with different workout peeps every weekend.

On the other hand, the specialists do help promote and grow the individual sport in which they participate more so than generalists. They push the technology in their sport more since their demand of new and better equipment is so high. They are often the creators of rules and new competitions within the sport. Although the specialists tend to have a less diverse social group their friendships within the sport are often extremely strong and long lasting.

What do you consider yourself???

At one time, I was a specialist. I lived and breathed my sport. I could be so single-minded that it impacted my relationships and even impacted my health. I spent thousands of dollars each year to ensure I was properly kitted and geared up.

I now consider myself a generalist. I don’t do one sport or activity. This is a result of many things including cost, injuries, time and some of the pompous dicks that I had to deal with, including myself….

Another question for the masses – can we be somewhat both a generalist and specialist?

There are both pros and cons to this debate and we at RCG want to hear from you.

Let’s hear your take! What do you consider yourself and why? Is one better than the other in your opinion?

Sound off and join in!! Comment on our blog at or on our RCG Facebook page.


Cheers and have a active week!!!

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