A little while back, reading The 4 Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferris, I came across a quote from William of Occam that read “It is vain to do with more that can be done with less”. Ferris mentioned this with regards to efficiency when it comes to business, a philosophy he applied to sports, dieting, cooking and learning skills in subsequent books. Although obviously I value efficiency, keeping things simple can also be a major contributing factor to effectiveness. Whereas efficiency refers to ‘maximum results through minimum investment’, effectiveness refers to achieving a goal. The relationship with the former is obvious when it comes to doing less, but the relationship with effectiveness is two-fold and possibly less obvious.
Sometimes, doing too much will directly mess with your results. When it comes to strength training, the simple logic of “do more so I will achieve more” can easily get you injured or stop your progression through lack of recovery. The same thing can happen when trying to lose body fat. Eating less than you burn will assure loss of body fat? Well then, let’s just eat even less and less so I will lose more bodyfat even quicker! Except you risk losing muscle mass, overall strength and in the process turn yourself into a wreck, both in terms of athletic feats and in terms of looks. Most people who have read up a bit on strength training and nutrition will know about this, but there is another danger in trying to do too much. One that is a lot more subtle in sabotaging your progress.
Doing too much, or being faced with overwhelming changes in your lifestyle, can easily set you up for falling off the bandwagon or simply giving up before even trying. We all want superhuman strength and a gorgeous body as quickly as possible, preferably yesterday, but achieving extraordinary results in record time may require rigorous training regimens and giving up many of your current habits. Some quit when hearing this. Others will write up a perfect plan to achieve their goals and will quit within weeks because it’s too hard. It’s easy to laugh at quitters, but making major changes is fucking HARD and people will often focus on willpower instead of setting up proper systems and starting small. Willpower is limited and it’s not always reasonable to expect people to stick to something hard when other hard stuff constantly pops up in their life.
This is where patience and a little self-restraint come in. You can get 90% of your results by getting the basics right and not worrying about every single detail. Will it take a little longer? Probably. Will it be a lot easier? Probably. If you’re a competitive athlete or have some other extreme need to achieve your goals in the fastest way possible, this may not be an option, but otherwise I would simply recommend to start simple. It’s a lot more satisfying to expand from there than going all out at the start and having to take a step back later on.
“Don’t fall for that crap that people are peddling on the message boards, in magazines or on TV. Start kicking ass, and take out the crap that doesn’t matter. Stop all the things that make you a pussy and steal your energy. Get your life back.” – Jim Wendler