“The only sin passion can commit is to be joyless.” – Dorothy L. Sayers

Dog food GPP.  Doin’ my part to “Keep Austin Weird” by single-arm overhead strolling the few blocks from the pet shop to Efficient Exercise’s Rosedale studio with with a 50lb bag of mutt food.  Did I gather any looks?  Hell, this is Austin — no one even noticed 😉

So we covered time in the last post, and this go ’round we’ll take a look at tools.  In other words, what S&C equipment you have (or don’t have) at your disposal.  Because the reality of life is this: if your goal is to be, say, an elite-level power lifter, but all you have access to is bodyweight and monkey bars, you’ve got a serious disconnect to contend with.

Now, maybe your answer to this disconnect is to “do whatever it friggin’ takes to gain access to the proper equipment“, and to that I say, rock on.  Don’t let anyone tell you anything is impossible.

But what you do in the meantime is also very important.  Because the ol’ “I’ll get started when….” mentality is death itself to any dream.  “I’ll get started when I (fill in the blank)…have a real squat rack, my job lets up, the kids are older, it’s not so hot/cold/wet/windy outside….

You get the idea.

Dream kill…

Because the reality is that, in this scenario, your ass will be doing absolutely nothing.  You know this is true, so don’t fall into the trap.

But remember:  your goals are meant to be viewed through the lens of your five Ts.  There’s a natural give-and-take, Yin and Yang.  In other words, the internal discussion may go something like this –

My ultimate goal is to be an elite level power lifter.  However, right now I simply don’t have access to the proper equipment.  My first vow is that this is a temporary situation for which I will find a fix.  But until then, I do have access to my own bodyweight, a grass field and rudimentary bars and such.   As such, I’ll give serious effort toward building full range-of-motion strength and joint health, mobility, stability (i.e., core strength); I’ll become a master at controlling my body in space.

Sometimes the goal needs to be reduced to manageable pieces — something the five T’s can help you with for sure.  Because, remember: the goal + five Ts union is meant to be an on-going conversation — not just something that you revisit once a year.  I continuously (though I don’t even realize that I do it now) run through this check-and-balance daily.  And so should you.  Life is gonna throw you some curve balls, my friend; pure, unmitigated  junk, actually.  You can either be nimble and navigate accordingly…

…or quit training entirely, waiting for the next “I’ll get started when…” scenario to come together.  Here’s a bit of “I’ve been there” wisdom — it never will.  Something will always be in the way.  Your training situation, relative to your goals, will never be ideal.  Deal with it.

Skyler Tanner clued me in to the fact that this continual evaluation/re-evaluation process is very similar to Toyota’s “5 Whys” of problem solving.  And so it is.  And my Efficient Exercise partner Mark Alexander suggested I should add a 6th T — Trajectory — to cover the wash, rinse, repeat nature of this evaluation/re-evaluation process.  I like it, but damn!  Musashi wrote The Book of Five Rings…not six!  Ughhh, I’m not built to deal with branding problems… 

And as an aside, Ann Wendel suggested I add a 7th T — Tequila — to facilitate the all-important thinking outside of the box that’s required during the evaluation/re-evaluation process.  Right on!  An astute call, I think! 😉 

Ok, back on track, now.  

Listen, I feel your pain on this “lack of resources” dilemma.   I’ve had the privilege of training in some of the finest S&C facilities of their time anywhere, and have either worked along side, or been coached by, the finest in the business.  But I’ve also trained with scant equipment aboard an underway US Naval warship (USS South Carolina, CGN 37) and continued training (months at a time, while on military deployment) when all I had available was my own bodyweight, rudimentary chinning bars, and a crude approximation of what would later be called a TRX system.  The food sucked, the stress was through the roof, and sleep was essentially non-existent.   I’ve got a nice little story of picking up the “mother of all bad-ass parasites” while in the middle-east, a bug that nearly killed me.  Buy me tequila sometime and I’ll tell you all about it 😉

Anyway, the point is this: I used what I had at my disposal, re-adjusted my goals, and kept on training.  Where there is a will, there is a way.  It’s hackneyed all-to-hell phrase, but it’s true.  Through it all, I kept…friggin’… training.  I kept the table set, and I adjusted my goals to get good at what my tools dictated I could get good at.  These deployment periods weren’t the time to fret about upping my deadlift max.  It wasn’t going to happen.  But I could sure as hell get better at bodyweight exercises, and that’s exactly what I focused on.  And you know what?  Even though gymnastics is well outside of my wheelhouse, I got pretty damn good at bar and strap work.  And when I did get back to a real gym, not only did I appreciate the hell out of it, but I found that I’d lost very little conventional strength.  How the hell did that happen?

By keeping the table set, kiddos.  It works.  Really, it does.

And get this: to some extent, having narrow choices is a good thing.  Flip this around to the positive view that you won’t be stymied by excessive choice paralysis.   Less can be more.  Embrace it, and prosper.

Below is a nice little “time and tools” example.  Even though I have just about every imaginable tool available to me at Efficient Exercise (and time, these days, is not so much an issue for me), occasionally I do run into a jam.  Today my partner trainer, Lesley, was training clients during the only window in which I was going to be able to grab a quick workout.  I didn’t want to be in the way, so I relegated myself to a barbell and an out-of-the-way dip rack.  I could have gone a million ways here, but taking into account what I’d done the last couple of days, I did this very simple — though highly effective — combo.  It took all of twenty minutes, left me breathless, and put a big smile on my face.  Not the way Meesus TTP leaves me breathless and puts a smile on my face…but hey, I’ll take it 😉 

In health, fitness and ancestral wellness –




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Keith Norris is a former standout athlete, a military vet, and an elite strength and conditioning expert with over 35 years of in-the-trenches experience. As a serial entrepreneur in the health and wellness space, he is an owner, co-founder and Chief Development Officer of the largest Paleo conference in the world, Paleo f(x) . As well, Keith is a partner in one of the most innovative lines of boutique training studios in the nation, Efficient Exercise. He’s also a partner in ARXFit training equipment, and a founding member of ID Life. In his spare time, he authors one of the top fitness blogs in the health and wellness sphere, Theory To Practice.


  1. Thanks this got me fired up this morning! There is another book that you might like as an addition to the thought process here is Grant Cardone’s The 10x Rule, talks about constantly revaluation your goals. Also, he talks about making your goals bigger than you thought possible and you better plan on 10x or more effort than you think it will take! Anyway thanks for the motivation this morning! 🙂

  2. Nice post Keith (I enjoy this journey through the 5 ‘Ts’). The contingent relationship between available equipment and one’s approach to training, *and* one’s training goals, is important to note, and something too often lost sight of. Thanks. Will

    • Will,
      You can’t imagine how many people I know who get derailed in their training efforts for “lack of the right equipment”. Bullshit!! If you have a body, and even a rudimentary chinning bar — or hell, just the body — you can still get some serious work done! Exhibit A: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=POdzasJklxw

  3. The most important thing is that we start somewhere. We can never have any improvements in our body if we don’t start and get out of our couch. It is vital that we do everything properly and this is not only because of the possibility that we may not reach our physical goals but this is also for our safety. Equipments must be used correctly to avoid any injuries. This is an encouraging post. Thanks!


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