The Courage To Do Less – What Are You Afraid of?
My career path started the way most trainers do, at a big-box gym. I had literally just become certified when I first got hired. I hardly knew how program a workout let alone know what my “philosophy” was.
Times have changed since then, thankfully for the health and well-being of my clients! My gradual progression from a clipboard holding rep-counter to a highly efficient StrongFirst coach took some time – about 8 years to be exact.
In that time I’ve learned a lot; different methodologies, training principles, programming strategies, rehabilitation techniques – it’s all helped me get to where I am today as a professional. However one thing that only time and experience could teach me was to sift through the myriad of information I accumulated and actually have the courage do less in order to achieve more.
Much like my development as a coach this took time, but perhaps more than that it required the willingness to possibly “fail.”
Today I make the point that you’re likely doing too much, and rather need to do less to achieve your goals. Nobody likes to fail at anything, but failure isn’t always a bad thing. In fact, becoming comfortable with the possibility of failure can open many doors in the future. My hope is that in making this point, you’ll no longer fear failure and rather find the tremendous power and strength behind doing less to achieve your goals.
What’s The Worst That Could Happen?
First off what am I talking about when I continually say, “fail”?
In the case of this article I’m referring to the concern most people have:
- Men don’t want to get skinny and lose muscle
- Women don’t want to get fat and gain weight
Both scenarios often give people the impression that in order to prevent either from happening they have to do “more” – more running, more lifting, more sweating.
After all, that’s what the ripped guy with washboard abs does – same with the perfectly fit chick who gets to eat whatever she wants. The media does a great job of hammering this “more, is more, is more” notion home as well, so really – I can’t blame you for feeling this way!
Simply put; you’re afraid of doing less, and less not being enough – you’re afraid of failing to achieve your goals.
That’s a fair concern. Doing less does indeed specifically require you to stop doing more, therefore there’s a legit concern that it may not be “enough” to reach your goal.
But what’s the worst that can happen?
You Don’t Get Results
If you’re being honest with yourself, are you really getting the results you want with your current workout routine anyway? So what’s the big deal if you try something new and it doesn’t work?
You Fail And Learn Something New
I don’t believe in “failures”, there’s only winning and learning. When you’re not winning you’re learning therefore you’re always winning!
Is This A Matter Of Life Or Death
No, It is not. If you happen to try a new approach, what’ the worst that can happen? We already covered it. So, since you know you won’t die from doing less, and you’re perhaps more aware that your current routine is failing to get you to your goals anyway, consider this:
What if doing less actually got you to your goals faster? What if you actually achieved your goals, period! rather than continually chase them?
When You Train To Failure You’re Literally Training To Fail
Most fitness programs are designed to “smoke” you.
If you’d like, there many different ways I can exhaust you. My question to you is, how many of them actually lead to sustainable, long-term results?
I’d argue not many – but where these programs get you is that, they leave you feeling as if you just did a lot. You may not know what it is exactly, or if it worked, but you sure do know you’re exhausted from it. Heck, you may not even be able to walk tomorrow – perfect, right!
My point is this; when you train to failure you are literally telling your brain, “remember this, this is how to fail, this is how to work at something and not succeed.” Your body gets used to failing.
Sounds awful if you ask me.
I too trained this way for many years – until I was exposed to StrongFirst.
“When it comes to StrongFirst less is more; we pursue quality over quantity, programming over workouts and emphasize strength as the skill which facilitates achieving all other physical qualities.” – John Scott Stevens SFG II
How To Break Through – Ask Yourself Why, Why, Why
As humans we’re creatures of habit. We don’t like to change things up much at all and fall into routines fairly easily. It’s one of the reasons why moving is one of the more stressful things you can go through – you’re completely uprooting your life!
- You have to create new routines
- Get familiar with new places
- Find new friends
- It’s all so much change!
The problem is you don’t stop and ask yourself, “why?”, enough – in fear of possibly having to go through change.
- Why are you training the way you do?
- Why are you doing the exercises you do?
Why are you eating the way you do?
- Why are you living the way you do?
- etc., etc.
I love asking, “why”, because it demands an answer. It may not be the answer you want, or like, but you’ll get an answer nonetheless and furthermore you’ll get some direction.
If in asking why, you find that you just might be doing too much, here’s what I recommend you do.
- Find a more “minimalist “program
- Stick to the program
- Be patient
- Stick to the program
- Continue to be patient
- And watch what happens
It won’t take long for you to feel like you’re not doing enough. You’ll also likely find that you are your own worst enemy.
If you do indeed dig your heels in and make it through the end of your minimalist program, you just might learn a lot about yourself, reach your goals, and find a new way of living in the process – all from stopping and asking yourself one simple question, “why?”
Continuing To Do Less – Programs That Work
Doing less and getting more is not something new. The Pareto principle comes to mind. A principle that states, “20% of invested input is responsible for 80% of the results obtained.”
Sounds pretty minimalist to me. So, how would you put this to principle into a functional training program?
- Easy Strength
- Simple and Sinister
- Even Easier Strength
These three programs are all you need. In fact, any one of these programs done alone are all you need!
Do yourself a favor right now, order Easy Strength by Pavel and Dan John, and order Simple and Sinister by Pavel. They’re the only books you’ll need for your new minimalist journey.
Both books are gems! – “Must owns” for fitness professionals and weekend warriors alike.
In the book, Pavel and Dan John ask you to do the following:
- Imagine you’re forced into a different situation
- You only have 15 minutes to workout, 3-days a week
- What would you do?
You only have 45 minutes for the whole week so hopefully it’s not upright rows and bicep curls.
As you’re thinking, consider this quote pulled from the book, “Perfection is finally attained not when there is no longer anything to add, but when there is no longer anything to take away.”
In 15-minutes you’re only going to be able to choose 1 exercise. In case your wondering that exercise should be kettlebell swing…
East Strength looks at everything this way. Do the absolute minimum to get the absolute maximum.
Quantified into actual sets and reps, you’re looking at a lot of volume with a moderately heavy load.
For example you might choose to do 2-3 lifts a day, 3 days a week:
- Week 1 might be 2 rounds of 2-3-5
- Week 2 might be 5×5
- Week 3 might be 1-2-3-4-5-4-3-2-1
The key is that it’s sustainable. Sustainability leads to consistency.
If you’re consistent with any program, you’ll likely get results. The problem lies in the fact that most programs aren’t sustainable long-term, and therefore fatigue, a drop-off, or missed sessions accumulate. Consistency drops and your results follow.
Even Easier Strength
Take Easy Strength and try to be more minimalist, yet!
If Easy Strength is working with moderately heavy loads, say 70-80% of 1RM, than Even Easier Strength would be a lighter load at an even higher volume – loads of 50-65% done perhaps every day, for as long as you see fit.
You might be wondering, “How do you get stronger using a lighter weight?”
The answer again is simple: consistency.
Let’s say your deadlift currently sits at 400lbs.
- 50% of that would be 200lbs.
- 65% of that would be 260lbs.
If you were using Even Easier Strength, you’d perform daily deadlift sessions but only using loads of 200-260lbs. using volumes of upwards of 20-30 reps per session.
Here’s how you get stronger.
Remember you’re only using 260lbs. – very manageable for a 400lb. deadlift – as you get stronger that 260 might turn into 275 or even 280.
If 280 is now your new 65%, that means your new deadlift is a shade over 430.
Consistency always trumps intensity.
Simple and Sinister
This is a way of life for me:
- 100 1H Swings
- 10 Getups
- 5-6-days a week
There is a number of ways you can play around with the actual breakdown of sets and reps, but the overall goal is simple: 100 swings and 10 getups.
I’ve found a combination of Simple and Sinister with some Easy Strength deadlifting to be the ideal “minimalist” way of life. I’ve also seen tremendous results with my clients.
So what to make of all this “minimalist” and “fear” talk?
Stop worrying about whether you’re doing enough and rather challenge yourself to shake things up – you won’t die, you might just get stronger.
Ask yourself the question “why”, then ask again, and again, and again until you reach the driving force behind your actions. It’s pretty powerful once you know your why. The book, It Starts With Why, by Simon Sinek is a great place to start.
Find a minimalist program to your liking, get to work, and be patient!
Also, remind yourself that consistency trumps intensity. The goal is long-term, sustainable results, in order to achieve that you’ll need consistency in your training.