“For every complex problem, there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.” – H. L. Mencken

After a long day of Grand Opening festivities; the nucleus of Efficient Exercise’s San Antonio gang.  Photo by Christopher Lazano.

It’s shocking, at times, when I come face-to-face with just how long I’ve been in this S&C arena.  Usually the question comes up in a new client consultation — or in the most recent instance, in discussions during our San Antonio Efficient Exercise studio grand opening.  “So”, someone will ask, “how long have you been doing this?”

Yikes.  This is almost as disarming as when people ask how old I am.  I feel like I’m no more than twenty-five… but then — holly crap! — I do the math (involves finger-counting) and re-realize that I am, in fact, forty-friggin’-eight!  Where the hell has all the time gone?

Because, damn — it seems like only yesterday when I was trying to keep up with older friends and cousins.  Push-ups, dips and pull-up challenges.  Footraces.  Wrestling.  Smear the queer (yeah, I know, I know…).  How far can you (fill in the blank…jump, climb, walk on your hands, heave a bale of hay [<— redneck alert]…).  I remember dizzying, south Texas summer heat, a dirt floor outbuilding and a plastic-covered concrete weight set.  It seemed only natural that the kid who could put the most weight up overhead was to be revered…and targeted for eventual take-down.  I get now why Lord of the Flies was so unimpressive to me as a kid.  Hell, I didn’t have time to dwell on fictional tales of how brutal kids, left to their own devices, could be; I was living it.

And the thing was that the game never changed, it only became more intense.  Football camp *is* Lord of the Flies in a modern, sporting context.   Military training?  Same thing.

…And by the way — I did eventually come around to appreciate the literary aspects of Lord of the Flies.  It just took  a while, and some hand-holding by a fabulous Southwest Texas State PoliSci prof. 😉

So, yeah — thirty-seven years, give or take?  thirty-seven years of trying to figure out how to get bigger, faster, and stronger…better than the next guy?  Damn.  Time flies.

But I’ve come to see that getting “better” than the next guy — or simply building a “better” you — boils down to juggling the same basics; and juggling those basics over and over and over again.

And by basics, I don’t mean compound movements and sprints — although those basics are important as well.  I’m talking about answering (and the constant reassessment of) basic questions regarding your training.  Those things that I like to call the Five Ts.

A quick rehash of the Five Ts:

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?
Techniques – 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) – Ectomorph?  Mesomorph?  Ox, or gazelle?  John Henry, or Jack Be Nimble?

Now don’t get me wrong — all of these issues are vitally important vis-a-vis nailing one’s goals and objectives.  However, for just about everyone beyond college age, time becomes the most limiting factor in constructing a meaningful and effective exercise program.

In fact, time being the “trump factor” that it is, we at Efficient Exercise have built entire training concepts around optimizing that single, critical element.  My personal answer to the time-heavy, Five-Ts question is HIIRT (High Intensity Interval Resistance Training).  But our other trainers have come up with equally effective programming (Skyler Tanner, for instance) answers, and this is where EE’s true strength lay — not in top-down, Soviet-like compliance, but in bringing the best training minds in the business into our fold, and tasking them with answering the Five-Ts question for each and every one of their clients.  And yes, we provide those trainers with some amazing tools — but we require them to be innovative with the use of those tools.  And we’re constantly sharing, refining and evolving these answers.  Ossifying thought is not an option for us.   And because goals and life situations are constantly morphing, there is always a better way forward for any particular client.  It’s up to our trainers for find that better way.

But in most situations, time still the trump variable.  Because the simple fact of the matter is that you have to be realistic when balancing your goals relative to your available time commitment.  Want to be happy, healthy, have great body composition and still have time for demanding work and family commitments?  Yeah, I can give you that in as little as an hour per week.  Want to be a DI athlete and you’re not willing to give me a 12 hours/week commitment?  I’m going to tell you to re-think your priorities.  Simple as that.

These are extremes, of course, and there’s plenty of room to operate between those extremes.  But the Five-Ts trade-off still exists.

My personal workout time expenditure is probably, in an average week,  pretty close to 6 hours.  But of that 6 hours, probably only about one hour of that is spent in what I consider to be the upper-intensity ranges.  The balance is what I would consider “play”.

But then again, my “play” is what someone else might consider “super high intensity”, which leads us into the realm of “Temperament” and “Trademark”; subjects for subsequent, more in-depth posts on those Five T issues.

For instance, my “playout” this Sunday consisted of tire flips and broad jumps — 1 round consisting of 5 flips + 2 broad jumps over the tire.  I did 8 rounds of that, then moved on to hand stands, and a vast assortment of bar work — muscle-ups, monkey bars, parallel bars, etc.

But here’s the thing: you need to first place a priority on your high-intensity work.  If all you have is an hour a week to devote to exercise, make sure that hour is spent doing the highest intensity work you can handle.  Back-fill with lower intensity stuff as time permits.  And high intensity work doesn’t always have to include heaving iron — sprints can work well, too — but iron heaving *is* hugely effective, time efficient, and safe.  

In health, fitness and ancestral wellness –






  1. haha. LOL. Love every word of it…with the caveat that I’m now in my 55th year of training as I come up on the end of 69 years, going on to the 70th year.
    As I’ve been asking my buddy Frank Zane for the last five years, “when are we supposed to be old?” Amplified by stories in the news characterizing folks of my age as ‘elderly”

    I’m convinced outright I can’t nor would want to do Keith’s workouts. On the other hand, it’s a fair question how well he’d do going through one of mine. And that’s said with deep mutual respect. Not in terms of n=1 but since n=infinity given evolution’s driving force honoring niches of opportunity and biochemical/genetic individuality as the surface of far deeper dormant potentialities we’re only beginning to marginal if not superficially understand, much less quess how to access, train, organize and stabilize as rich resources.
    Keith’s post is worth its weight in gold…and echoes EE’s driving vision thanks to Mark Alexander, Skyler, Michelle – the whole family tribe of visionaries revalorizing classical physical culture not as merely exercise but as what I call Accidentally Fit – live in harmony with the time tested, well formed ancestral human genetics by play and passionate fun testing your limits, discovering your birth right true nature and the ‘side effect’ is uncommon excellent wellness your doctor won’t understand.
    I was about to go to bed when I read Keith’s post. Damn, you upset me – your instilled a sense of appreciation, one rather personal if I may say so. Those of my generation dug their heels in against the dominant social paradigm, and here we have folks of our kid’s age expressing better than us what we’ve kept alive but didn’t know we’d passed on. Our passions have not been in vain, much more so they’re taking deeper roots and embodiment than we could have dreamed of. Count on us elders to be involved as long as we’re around to connect even bigger dots, as well as filling in the gaps of how enlivening playing out/working out moves through the aging generations past your youth for the benefit of the senescent.
    warm regards and much love to the EE pioneers of Physical Cuture 2.0
    Ken O’Neill

    • Thanks for the kind and insightful words, Ken. As and elder (and shaman?) in this movement, you have so much to contribute! Keep the wisdom flowing!

  2. yay! I love the 5 Ts! I also appreciate the stories of you “trying to keep up” — hard to imagine. Still love the blog!

    • Thanks for the good words, Beck! Yeah, there was a time when I was the youngest…and the runt. Made me work all the harder 😉

  3. This article made me smile. I love how full of energy you sound. It really translates in your riding. I know it’s cliche but I truly believe you are only as old as you feel. The 5 T’s are a great checklist to have when embarking on your exercise journey.

  4. I am with you on time flying by. It certainly seems to go past faster and it seems like there is less of it now that I am more mature. Always great to get ideas on how to make the most of your time when exercising.

  5. Time certainly does fly. I look at my body and say, where did all that training get me.But hey, I have so much more vitality than some of my buddies so I guess that is the answer right there.

  6. Time is really of essence to many of us. Actually this is why I switched from workout/gym system to simple running. I know I know, far from ideal, but this really is the only time I have in the world to at least try and stay healthy as I could with some exercise.
    Anything else takes me half day 🙂 So its sort of you get older and your Time shifts not only in meaning of how much it has passed and what you might have done, but also, seems like it shrunk…

  7. Hi Keith. Great post, and I love the idea of efficient exercise. I suffered through those August football practices in Texas and always thought there had to be a better way:-).
    Nancy, I totally understand about simple running being simple and less of a time-suck than going to a gym. I definitely prefer working out at home or running around doing a “playout” as opposed to gym work.


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