Workout of the Day

Sliding Tile Puzzles


Did you ever play with one of those sliding tile puzzles when you were a kid? The handheld square puzzle that contains tiles that you have to slide around, using the single open space, to put the numbers in the right order, or to complete the image? The puzzle has a net sum of zero -- nothing is added or taken away -- pieces are just moved around in an attempt to get them in the right pattern. And, because there’s only one open space, sometimes you have to make a dozen moves just to permit yourself to move a particular tile to a particular spot. In short, it’s not a game based on efficiency (and of course it’s not, because that would defeat the purpose of the puzzle).

All too often, I think we try to address the challenges of life a lot like the sliding tile puzzle. We move pieces around in an effort to get things just right, often with very little margin or “open space” to allow swift and effective movement; and when it comes down to it, there’s no room to add anything additional. If something is added in, something else must be removed. It turns into a largely futile game of trade-offs and shuffling pieces around, and unlike the tile puzzle, there’s generally no “right” order of tiles.

Now imagine solving the sliding tile puzzle if you added just a few more open squares. Tiles would move easily, getting a tile from one side of the puzzle to another may take three moves rather than eleven, and you could even solve a puzzle with more pieces or a more complex pattern with relative ease.

You and I are a lot like a container or a tile puzzle in many ways. We have, at the moment, a fixed capacity. In order to add more, something else must come out. What’s rather sad and remarkable is that many people spend their efforts trying to cram more into their rigid container or continually shuffle things around within the same fixed capacity, not recognizing that their efforts don’t actually manifest in any net change. Sounds pretty dismal. So, what are we to do? Well, expand your capacity, of course.

Rather than ask, “what should I give up so I can make room for this new thing?” ask, “how can I adapt to increase my capacity?” This may look like efficiency. It may look like some type of training (after all, training is just an effort to expand capacities, right?). Almost always, it will look like an adaptive change: a change not in what you know, but a fundamental change in who you are.

The person you are today is a puzzle or a container with a specific capacity. And, if you’re anything like me, I’d be willing to bet you’re butting up against the limits of that capacity on the regular. Start asking the right questions: how can I be a person tomorrow who has a bigger capacity? We’re here working on it daily.

- PS


  • Thruster - 1,1,1,1,1


  • 4 rounds for reps:

    • 45s max thrusters (95/65)

    • 45s rest

    • 45s max DUs

    • 45s rest