Workout of the Day

When Less is More

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In college, one of the most inspiring professors I ever had also happened to be one of the finer culinary artists I’ve ever known. Though he never worked professionally in the culinary arts, most of his peers (and students) knew that if you had the opportunity to enjoy a meal he had prepared, you didn’t pass up the offer. His cooking was, in a word, unforgettable. (And this high praise doesn’t come from just me, either; he was once invited by Pope John Paul II to serve a stint as his personal chef. One might say he was “legit.”) He was a particular fan of Italian cuisine, and was kind enough to share his culinary affinity and talent with some of his students on a few occasions. One particular meal that we were invited to included, among many other things, an appetizer of bruschetta. My initial inclination was to overlook the simple appetizer in anticipation of the fancy main dishes, thinking that something so simple as bread, tomatoes, and basil, with some garlic, olive oil, and salt couldn’t be all that exciting. I was quite wrong. The bruschetta, though simple and rather “un-fancy,” was beyond good. I was struck by how unbelievably satisfying the simple combination was. Made from only a handful of simple and readily accessible ingredients, and to this day, that bruschetta stands out as one of the finest foods I’ve ever eaten.

In my experience, people have a strong tendency to overcomplicate things, and the culinary arts are a perfect example of this. The more ingredients, and the more obscure and complicated the concoction, the better it must be, right? We operate under the assumption that more = better. The Italians have a word for this inclination to overdo it: strafare. People trying to recreate classic Italian dishes think there’s no way it could be this simple… if I just add some extra this and a little that, I bet it’ll be better.

This inclination just so happens to be a common one in the world of fitness, too. In a lot of ways, fitness is like cooking. You have ingredients (exercises, modalities, implements), and you have to mix them up in the right proportions to get the best outcome. And just as in cooking, we often feel this need to do more. We assume that if some is good, more is better. And, just as in cooking, often the opposite is true.

The bruschetta that rocked my world was no more than 6 or 7 ingredients, and its preparation didn’t involve any particularly inaccessible skill, investment of time, or fancy tools. The real magic was in using the freshest and highest quality ingredients, the right proportions, and in keeping it simple. When it comes to fitness, the analogy holds true. We’re inundated with new ideas about training on the daily: new implements that are “the best” for strengthening this and conditioning that, new training modalities that “will change the way you train,” new exercises that “everyone should be doing.” There’s merit to variety, but the truth is that you cannot and should not throw every potentially good ingredient in the bowl, mix it up, and call it proper training. Effective training is simple, effective, and comprised of only the highest quality “ingredients.” Everything else is a distraction.

Don’t fall in the trap of “more = better” thinking. Sound principles and consistent implementation always reign supreme.

- Preston Sprimont


11/1/16

  • Max handstand push-ups in :60s

  • Rest 3 mins

  • Max pull-ups in :60s

  • Rest 3 mins

  • Max DUs in :60s

  • Every 3 minutes for 18 minutes, alternating:

    • 400m run

    • 200ft overhead dumbbell carry (AHAP)