“Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts”
– Richard Feynman
Below is the result of a little Sunday morning think-ering (hat tip to Brent Pottenger, of the Healthcare Epistemocrat for coining that clever word) — so what we have here is my sketched interpretation of the health/performance continuum:
First of all, I’d like to point out that the general shape of this health-performance curve/continuum is applicable across the human genome, however, it can still be “bent” on an individual level, and “stretched” in an applicable, n=1 fashion. The gist of the idea is, though, that health and performance track quite nicely up to a certain point (point A), at which time further increases in performance — let’s call it “sporting proficiency” at this level — do nothing to make an individual any healthier. We might say that competitive athletics (or competitive bodybuilding) begins at or near point B — that point at which an individual is willing to forgo a certain degree of overall health in the pursuit of bettered sporting performance. Point C inhabits the land where the real juggle begins, and where the bulk of Strength and Conditioning work is practiced. At this point, the athlete’s health is just another parameter (among a myriad of parameters) that must be tweaked and dialed so as to keep said athlete’s performance red-lined. Just as in a finely tuned Ferrari though, if a single component wears and fails (as it inevitably will), the whole entity flies apart at the seams. Performances here tend to swing between moments of absolute and stunning beauty, or gruesome spectacles of crash-and-burn grodiness. The significance of this area is that health most definitely takes a backseat to performance — it can be no other way. I won’t deny that the living here is exhilarating (even as it is thoroughly exhausting), but for most — whether by bad luck or genetic weak-link — the ride just doesn’t last long. The consequences, however, can last a lifetime.
The other major point of significance here is that while 95% of Strength & Conditioning brain-power and know-how is directed unabashedly toward that heady land of peak performance in the C-zone, the vast majority of American citizenry is floundering helplessly somewhere beneath the “point zero” bottom left on this graph. My contention is that is takes very little in the way of proper training and dietary intervention to move the general populace into that zone between “point zero” and point A. In fact, we at Efficient Exercise proved this could be done via our recent Project Transformation. And know this: moving the populace into that “pay-off aisle” will result in the end the of American healthcare crisis as we know it today. Yeah, Washington, it is that friggin’ easy.
Of course “easy” and “financially beneficial” mean different things to different folks. I’ll just leave that part of the discussion for another day, though.
Now I’m a little biased here, but I do believe that this health-performance curve ought to be taught at an elementary level, right along with the idea of personal responsibility, basic civics, and the Pledge of Allegiance. Eat right. Engage in a little properly programmed exercise each week. Be a boon to society instead of a drag. Wanna take a walk on the sporting wild side? Sure, go for it — just know that there are going to be some trade-offs where your health is concerned, so tread carefully. What could be more basic, or more easily taught to an elementary-aged kid? Of course the devil is in the details. Give this idea to government, and the next thing you know we’re back to dealing with food pyramids, jogging, and Pepsi sponsorships.
But back to the here-and-now: on an individual level, every trainee ought to begin goal setting (or reassessment) by identifying where they want to fall on this graph. Me? I push the B-point envelope for the most part, sometimes taking the plunge, for brief periods, into C-land. I’m a little older (and debatably wiser?) now, so camp-out, I don’t, in the land of C. Been there, done that, and got a few traumatized body parts as mementos of the fun 🙂 Brief forays, though? Yeah, I just can’t help my stupid self sometimes. And so it goes…
In follow-on posts I’ll discuss how I see time investment and protocol selection fitting into this overall picture. As you might guess, teasing-out increases in upper-end performance requires an inordinate time investment relative to that required to bring one from 0 to 80% of potential peak. Wanna push the performance envelope? The first thing you have to ask yourself is this: are you willing to devote the exponential increase in time and effort required to eek-out those final few percentile points? The next question is, are you willing to play fast and loose with your health? I’m not here to judge, and I certainly appreciate the focus, dedication, and balls-out intensity of the competitive athlete. I just think that potential C-land dwellers ought to go in with eyes wide open.