Nobutada: Please forgive, too many mind.
Nathan Algren: Too many mind?
Nobutada: Hai. Mind the sword, mind the people watching, mind the enemy, too many mind... [pause] No mind.
- The Last Samurai
You don't have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.
- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
I have a theory that I've been ruminating on. I can't tell if - in whole or in part - it is something I found in my brain or my ass. I don't think it applies to everybody. Few things do. Just like with everything, many roads lead to Rome.
This theory branches out from my observation over close to the last decade that the people who think the most about training seem to be the people who are the worst at it. They fuck around the most, they stick with their training the least, they do the least work, they change things too often. It seems to me that the people who are the most successful have a tendency to focus their efforts on really simple shit - eat properly, train hard, train consistently.
The theory is that it is easier for some people to just go do the right things - instead of pursuing the answers to a thousand masturbatory questions - because they were on a sports team as a kid. They didn't get to ask questions. Their coach told them what to do, and they did it, or they were in for it. Through this experience, they learned to just shut up and train.
Let me reiterate - I don't think this applies to everybody. I sure didn't play sports as a kid. But here I am, in Rome.
I'm rambling, but I guess that's what I always do. Rule #1 of doing this blog is that I just write and don't get to go back and edit.
Training is a physical thing. The quality or "efficiency" - excuse me while I spit at that fucking insufferable word - of your plan doesn't matter if you don't go out and do it, over and over, for a long period of time. You can't think or plan or research or optimize super duper hard and then it just naturally follows that you get big and strong. You have to actually train.
Thought and planning are not a substitute for effort and time. I feel like people who think too much somehow cannot grasp this, because they just cannot seem to stop trying to make that sieve hold water.
I sometimes get into arguments about overthinking, over-planning, over-researching. It always seems to be with some bozo who has spent years trying to do it their way and having nothing to show for it. But they still think that they're doing things the right way. And they always ask the same question:
What is the harm in researching and learning more and being more efficient and optimizing?
I have thought about that question more than it deserves to be thought about. I can come up with a lot of ideas. I can argue that it takes time, effort, and energy away from the most important part - the actual training. I can argue that it is often little more than productive procrastination. I could make some analogy about how you don't learn to juggle by throwing 30 balls at yourself on Day 1 that some fucking dildo who has been juggling for a month would WELL AKSHULLY me about. I can drop that quote by Patton about good plans violently executed today. I can say some shit about Hick's Law or how perfect is the enemy of good. I can lob out phrases like "majoring in the minors", "the last 5% that matters", "premature optimization", "analysis paralysis" and "god damnit".
But these people make me tired, and I've decided that I give up. I don't think they even care about the answer - they just want to either do a cost-benefit analysis or prove to themselves that there isn't an answer so they can feel even smarter when they do the thing they were already going to do no matter what you said to them.
I don't know what the harm is. I don't know why it's apparently impossible for so many people to both do a ton of research and learning and actually train hard enough, consistently enough, to get the results that they want. Above all else, I don't know how to explain that a strategy is problematic to someone who can't even get it by looking back at their own history of failure.
I know the harm is there, because I have seen the results of it for years. I know that there are a large number of people who cannot handle both thinking and training. I don't know why, and I've decided that I also don't care, because trying to drag people away from the cliff they're trying desperately to throw themselves off of is exhausting.
You cannot prattle on about efficiency and optimization at the very same time that you are waiting for peak efficiency and maximum optimization to get started. People do this, and it makes me insane.
The act of training is what is the most important. This must be understood. Not the specifics - The act. This is what should receive the most attention and the most time.
If you were to plop a human bread loaf in front of me that would for just once trust that I am not a deep cover Russian agent sent to deliver shitty training advice so Americans will become weak - because I swear to God that is the degree of resistance some people give when asking for training advice - this is what I would tell them:
Find a training program that came from somebody who knows what they are doing. This is not as hard as people make it out to be. Well respected professionals are easy to find and you can pick any of them. Failing that, pick anything in the r/Fitness Wiki. Then do the program. Don't ask questions, don't tweak it unless you absolutely have to because of equipment restrictions, don't think about it at all. Just go and do it. Don't go LARPing that you're an academic researcher, don't go read a bunch of shit about rep ranges and INOLs and MRVs. Don't spend more than a day picking something to do. Don't try to make your own routine.
What you should be learning first is the process of shoving your shrieking brain into a corner with a gag in its mouth, and going out to execute a plan with ferocity and dedication. This is a skill and a tool that every person should have in their toolbox. It is not the right tool for every job. It is the right one for this job.
Get into the habit of training consistently without dwelling on what you're doing, where you might be in six months, what you might be doing wrong, what you could do better - learn how to train based on trust. Your results are measured on a time scale that is long - you have to be able to pick and stick with something for a long time so it has time to bear fruit. Think about refining your approach to training later, when it matters. Because it may never matter.
This is a thing that I believe strongly - Most people can achieve their training goals by doing nothing more glamorous than walking in someone else's footsteps, and it is not until one is at a competitive level that it begins to matter which someone that is or where the footsteps are. There is no shame in painting by numbers, because reinventing the wheel is stupid. Using a wheel someone else already created and refined ahead of you is much smarter than pretending you can replace decades of trial and error and experience with a few days of reading.
You do not get bonus gains points for making up a routine on your own instead of doing an existing one - and I'm here to tell you, after looking over years worth of routine critique posts, none of you are making anything new or interesting anyway. All the hours you are pouring into doing research and carefully crafting optimal volume and exercise selection and timing is for shit, because what you're producing from it is also for shit. There are only two answers to 99% of routine critiques - "It's fucking retarded" and "It looks like one of any of two dozen existing, proven routines except you picked a different kind of curls".
I'm rambling again.
When I was growing up, I was "one of the smart kids", and everybody told me this. Looking back now, I can say with certainty that it did more harm to me than it did good. I understand the shackles of needing to be "smart" in everything by thinking, researching, and planning, and I know that I am more useful as a person having taken them off. These things are just tools and they are not the right tool for every job. "Being smart" is not found in trying to use the same tools to tackle every problem.
If you need to know what the harm in thinking too much is in order to take this advice, I don't have an answer for you. What I have is that I have watched tens of thousands of people spend so much time trying to be smart that they forget to do the most important thing in reaching their goals, and so fail. I have fallen into that trap myself. I do not recommend banking on the idea that you might be the kind of person who can think without sacrificing training.
Think less, act more. Act now, think later. Train constantly, think intermittently.