“Obey the principles without being bound by them.” ~ Bruce Lee
Michelle and I are currently shepparding a gentleman through the Physical Culture Immersion Experience; a gentleman who, over the past week, has experienced some of the most severe sugar withdrawals that I have ever witnessed. Utterly brutal. Insomnia, racing heart, the sweats, the non-stop cravings. And, of course, the ever-present “wtf am I doing?” doubts. But he’s hung in there, and has now busted through to the other side. The clouds have somewhat parted in his world, and the sun is beginning to shine through. Anyone who has ever doubted just how addicting sugar is needs to witness this process in it’s entirety.
Everyone has their own n=1 “boogeyman” to shake, of course. It could be sugar withdrawal, it could be ravenous hunger. It could be fear of exercise, or physical exertion. It could be that “social pariah” feeling, insecurity, doubt, fear of the unknown, you name it. The fact of the matter is, everyone’s path is different because every individual is just that — an individual. And it’s up to the coach to react and anticipate (hugely important) accordingly. I don’t want to sound smug, but Michelle and I are damn good at just that.
So right now this gentleman is being led on his journey by experienced guides. We say “jump”, and he does so, without question. That’s the deal, and he’s invested not only a lot of time and money into this process, but also (and more importantly) quite a bit of trust. And this process works fine for the first couple of days. But then, days (weeks?) before he thinks he’s even close to being ready, we hand him the machete, informing him that he is now the point-man in this jungle expedition. You lead *us* now, my friend.
Of course, there’s fear, wavering — and of course, he balks. “No way”, he insists. “I need a step-by-step game plan. Explicit marching orders”.
We smile and nod, but hold firm. We teach principles first — not the art of mimicry. We teach our clients the art of health and wellness orienteering vs paint-by-numbers following. Because the thing is this: situation-specific methods can be built (even on-the-fly, if need be), but only from a solid foundation of principles. A working grasp of nutrient density transfers, universally, under any situation. Trying to find a spinach and mushroom (organic!!), 3-egg (free-range!!) omelette with 2 strips of bacon (pasture raised!!) while riding out a 6-hour LAX layover will have you crowding the Cinnabon counter before you know it.
We teach folks to make the best choice given the situation. And yes, sometimes the best choice in a given situation is to simply fast. But not always. You can’t make that decision from method-mimicry, however. Again, you have to know principles.
“Without ambition one starts nothing. Without work one finishes nothing. The prize will not be sent to you. You have to win it. The man who knows how will always have a job. The man who also knows why will always be his boss. As to methods there may be a million and then some, but principles are few. The man who grasps principles can successfully select his own methods. The man who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson (emphasis mine).
The same principles>methods idea holds for the exercise piece of the overall wellness puzzle as well. I’ve covered this previously, in my “Five Ts” post. Hey, I love Wendler’s 5/3/1, too — it’s excellent stuff! — but what if you happen not to have access to the right equipment? Or have the requisite time to invest? Or possess the needed skills (both mental and physical) to pull the workouts off? Wouldn’t it be better to understand the principles (the whys) behind the program’s effectiveness, so that you can construct a program that suits your own specific needs? Of course it would. And once you know the principles, you can then Venn diagram these against your goals and your own Five Ts to construct an exercise plan that works for you.
And again, the Five Ts are:
Time – how much are you willing to invest, per week and per day?
Tools – what equipment/facilities do you have available to you? Full-blown S&C facility, or nature’s playground?
Temperament (tenacity, intensity) – for instance are you more wood, fire or water?
Technique proficiency – Oly lifts? Gymnastic moves? Can you pull-off a devastating set of JReps? Can you effectively mix and match modalities, rep schemes and tempos? Are you simply painting by numbers, or are you an artist?
Trade Mark (basecamp, brand) – Ectomorph? Mesomorph? Ox, or gazelle? John Henry, or Jack Be Nimble?
Remember this: principles flow directly from nature. They may be discovered, but never constructed. By contrast, the best methods are a construct or manipulation of a principle. What are the first and foremost principles to keep in mind as you begin your journey of n=1, self orienteering? (1) nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution (Theodosius Dobzhansky) and, (2) training produces adaptations specific to the activity performed and only in the muscles (and energy systems) that are stressed by the activity. This is otherwise known as the SAID (Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands) principle.
Oh, and this will be hitting TV screens across the nation soon. Spread the word. The little grass-roots-movement-that-could is now gaining critical mass. This Spring, in the Epicenter of Physical Culture, Austin, Texas:
In health, fitness and ancestral wellness ~