For those of you who know me, this won’t surprise you but I tend to read/listen/consume the work of other figures in strength and conditioning and personal training whenever I can. One of the men who really influences how I think and view things is a man named Dan John. He has a way of taking a complicated topic and making it seem simple, actionable and yet still very effective. In studying his work, I have come away with a few things. Here are just some of the concepts I can credit to Coach John:
- The “elite” are usually the ones that are the best at the fundamentals.
- Simple does not equate to easy.
- We should have standards that we work towards.
- Work on improving your weaknesses.
Now these concepts are not just the intellectual property of Coach John alone. In fact I have heard these same things from countless other successful trainers, coaches and business people. Truth be told, I am still trying to figure out how to use these concepts, how to make them actionable, so to speak. However, there is one more thing that I credit to him that I’m not sure I have ever heard him say. It came to me recently while listening to a pod cast interview with him and it sounds like something that would come from him. So I credit him with it:
Do more of what matters.
You might be thinking, “Is that it?” or maybe, “Really? That was your great revelation?” Yup. That’s it. Be careful though. It’s so brilliant that you’ll likely miss it.
Let me apply it to fitness and training here first. You see, we get so caught up in the nonessential stuff that we miss what’s really important. We argue over things that really don’t matter. Do you believe in full body workouts or split routines? Do you work with kettlebells or barbells? Do you believe in HIIT or long low intensity cardio? Do you stretch before or after your training session? You see, none of that really matters. Do you have preferences? Sure. That’s okay, we all do. But they aren’t what matters. In fitness, this is what matters:
- You hinge, squat, push, pull, carry stuff and strengthen your trunk
- Perform the above movements well in whatever variation you can
- You commit to getting stronger in the above movements
- You get your heart rate up
- You stretch
- You change it up at the very least every 6 weeks
The rest is minutia.
Nutrition is another place where we argue over stupid stuff. Do I carb back-load or do I only eat carbs post-workout? Do I fast intermittently or do I eat 6-8 small meals a day? Do I eat 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight or is it 2 grams per kilogram of bodyweight? (Do the math and you’ll see just how stupid that one is.) Do I follow the Atkins or the South Beach? Does Paleo allow sweet potatoes or not? (Really, people?) Can I eat fruit when I’m trying to lean out? All of this is stuff that really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme. You want to know what matters? Here’s a list:
- Drink more water
- Eat protein
- Eat vegetables
- Eat portion sizes appropriate to your goal
- Eat quality whole food carbs
For those of you who have taken Eat Smart, that list might look familiar. All of the stuff before the list is just details that we get lost in. Are they important? No. They do have a bit of an impact but they are down the line. If you aren’t doing the things in the above list, then it doesn’t matter how many meals you’re eating. It doesn’t matter if you are eating breakfast or taking your first meal sometime in the late morning/early afternoon.
Now let’s look at life. This is one of those interesting little places where life and training coincide. (As a side note, that happens a lot.) Do what matters in life. For me this is what that list looks like. It might be different for you, but I would bet if we all do a little more of what I’m about to list, the world might just be a better place.
- Read more scripture. Even if you aren’t a believer, there is wisdom for the ages in the Bible. And if you aren’t a believer, be careful. Time spent in God’s word might just change you.
- Pray more. Or meditate if that suits your life and beliefs better.
- Hug and kiss your spouse more.
- Tell them you love them often.
- Go out to dinner with them.
- Spend time with your kids. Listen to them. Hug them. Chase them. Tickle them. Except for the grown ones. That would be weird.
- Get more sleep.
- Smile more.
- Volunteer more.
That list is just a starting point but I think you get what I’m trying to say here. As a culture, we get too focused on the little things rather than what really has an impact over the course of our lives. We do it with fitness. We do it with food. We do it in life. Just so you know, I’m not preaching here. I’m as bad about this as everyone else. I think writing this was as much for me as it was anyone else that reads it. So I have shared my list of what matters. What does yours look like?