A few things I've been thinking about. Lots of them incidentally prompted by reading and listening to Dan John.
- Get off my back – there are times in life when you realise enough is enough. I am strong enough, flexible enough, lean enough. Let’s lose the stress of always trying to improve and just recognise that where we are is actually OK. The challenge is actually maintenance. Can you stay lean, flexible and strong as the years roll by? Can you stay injury free, mobile and capable as you get older?
- There are seasons – bus bench/park bench whatever. Sometimes life is crappy. Work is hard and long. Your parents get ill. You argue with your girlfriend. You get ill or injured. Those are not the times to go all out balls to the wall in your training. Macho Nietzsche quotes are just stupid. Work hard when the rest of life is smooth push hard. If you are working 12 hour days and stressed about your family, then cool it off. Keep moving but that is enough. This is not the time to deplete all of your reserves – you need them elsewhere.
- Learn from everywhere – when you listen to Dan John or read his articles and books you pick up quotes and ideas from Ellington Darden, Pavel, Brad Pilon, Josh Hillis, Tim Anderson, Brett Jones and Vladimir Janda. He will reference Dick Notmyer and DeLorne….and so many others. All these people have their own philosophies, their own approaches often that seemingly contradictory..but they can all teach you something. All have something to offer. Exclusive commitment to one guru is for the cults. For the rest of us we need to recognise truth everywhere; test it, play with it and build on it. Use it.
- Everything works – at times I’ve been pretty committed to HIT training. You know – 1 set to failure, once a week. I still think that a simple whole body HIT routine 1 time per week- like Hillfit – can give huge benefits to the general population with minimal investment of time. You will get stronger, healthier and more capable. And it worked for me. I got stronger and maintained my muscle with very little training. But…..I enjoy time in the gym. I like training. It might not be necessary, but more training time, more movement is fun! More training sessions have worked too! Training with several sets not ever to failure works. Sometimes a long slow jog feels great. There is space to do lots of things.
- Movements – I read this first in Paul Chek’s book. He had 7 Primal Patterns – Squat, Bend (hinge), Lunge, Push, Pull, Twist and Gait – Dan John has push, pull, squat, hinge, loaded carry and the sixth one - but the idea is the same. There are certain movements that we are built to do and which are fundamental to all human life. It is not about the bench or the squat, the kettlebell snatch or the leg extension. You need to be accomplished at pushing, pulling, squatting, walking, hinging, and rolling/twisting/lunging etc…..Build every workout around these patterns and you will be going in the right direction. I would always choose low skill moves too, so that you limit your chance of injury and messing them up.
- Eat like an adult – This is a nice little rule from Dan John. Diet is not complicated. We know what is good food. So eat it. IF, low carb, paleo etc are all ultimately pointless. Eat proper food. We get fat because we eat too many calories. This is not rocket science – even though for some years I indoctrinated myself in what I now see as a deception of low carb paleo. Breakfast, lunch and dinner (or breakfast dinner and tea if you are from the north of the UK) with sensible real food choices is enough. Porridge, yoghurt and fruit, toast; a sandwich with meat and salad; meat and 2 veg for an evening meal. You will not go wrong. Get enough protein and enough calories to support your activity. Add in cakes, cookies, coke, chocolate and a bag of crisps and things get a lot harder. Grow up.
- Persistence – so much of the fitness industry overcomplicates things. They prescribe complex routines, difficult diets, intense workouts. We really need patience, consistency and persistence. The more you simplify the less you have to worry about. Nowadays we have too much information. Everyday we are exposed to the latest great routine – this new secret will make all the difference. So change routines each week, like magpies we look for the latest shiny thing hoping it will be the magic bullet. We really just need to commit to something and give it a chance for a few weeks or months.
- Maturity – there is more to life than your bench or squat or snatch. Your life needs to get bigger, rather than you muscles. As you get older you realise both the extreme value of strength training (maintaining muscle and making everything easier) and pointlessness (family, friends, health and fun are all more important). We need to recognise that health is more important. We need also to realise that we are mortal and this life is short. Training can enhance life…..but life is so much more.