Wisdom in the Pages of a Faded Notebook in My Truck

downloadI was cleaning out my 4Runner over the weekend and I found a notebook that has been in the pocket behind my seat for years.

I was afraid that it was one of my old training logs, and I can never bring myself to throw those out. I have an entire Encyclopedia Brittanica sized set of these black and white covered composition books in my parent’s basement that I look back on sometimes when I go home to visit. I can see when I first bench pressed 95 pounds (November 3, 1994), and when I missed a rep (May 12, 1996-Squat 135×5, 135×5, 135×4. I made a note that I didn’t eat breakfast before, so I wasn’t feeling very strong. Truth is, I was just 13 years old.)

These logs are fun to flip through so I can see how much has changed, and how much has stayed the same. Sometimes I just dumbbell benched the same weight for straight sets because I didn’t feel like unscrewing the dumbbells to change the weights (remember those old dumbbells we all had) and I can see what the newest Muscle and Fitness workout of the month was by the supersetting of leg extensions and leg curls for 8 sets of 20.

Luckily, though, this particular notebook wasn’t a training journal that I was going to have to reluctantly toss in the garbage-this was a notepad I had when I first saw Dan John present back on December 2, 2011 at the MBSC Winter Seminar. I’m going to relay the notes I took here, as much for myself as for you:

The Prisoner’s Dilemma: Imagine that you only had 3x/week to train for 15 minutes to reach your goals-what would you choose to do?

  • If fat loss is your goal, you’d probably spend those 15 minutes preparing your food.
  • If you want to get stronger, you’d probably want to spend some time with some heavy weights in your hands doing compound lifts.
  • If you want to be a pro basketball player, you’d probably want to practice your ball handling and shooting.
  • Build your programs around what these 15 minutes would consist of. Other qualities are important, and address them accordingly, but the meat and potatoes of your time needs to be spent doing the most important stuff. This tends to leave less time doing triceps extensions that squats.

Gambler’s Ruin and Run: Be careful about how you perceive your results. Good athletes make your programs look good. Maybe you got lucky and your good athletes were going to be good anyway, while you might’ve been doing the right things with bad athletes, but, well they’re still not great athletes, so you scrap what you were doing.

Basically, you might’ve been wrong but gotten the right results, but then again you might’ve been right and not gotten the outcome you were looking for. Go back and look at what’s worked in the past. What you thought was working might not be, and vice versa. Be objective, not emotional.

Red Queen: Everyone’s running faster and faster to keep in the same spot. Have the strength to sift through the bullshit and stick to your principles.

Everyone is repackaging old material and handing it back to you in a new form. The ketogenic diet isn’t new, it just isn’t called the Atkins diet anymore. Crossfit didn’t invent strength training, they just made it more popular to the mainstream. Single leg squatting was how people squatted before they had access to barbells. This isn’t good or bad, it just is, so be aware.

When faced with new ideas, run them through your personal bullshit filters and decide whether they align with the principles in which you believe. Otherwise, you just keep changing things that work for what’s new and shiny, leaving you in the same place after a whole lot of work. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try different things, but do so for the right reasons, not because some 23 year old “life hacker” told you to.

I know I write a lot about Dan John, and the fact of the matter is the guy simplifies really complex stuff for idiots like me. I hope that my finding these notes give you a few “aha!” moments, as they did for me.

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