Here are the most important lessons that I have learned as a coach. I hope they will help you understand the importance of the reverse Pareto principle and its role in eliminating weakness in your training and mental health journey.
Definition 1: The Pareto principle is a principle, named after economist Vilfredo Pareto, which specifies an unequal relationship between inputs and outputs. The principle states that 20% of the invested input is responsible for 80% of the results obtained.
Definition 2: the diminution or counteraction of an effect by its own influence on the process giving rise to it, as when a high level of a particular hormone in the blood may inhibit further secretion of that hormone, or where the result of a certain action may inhibit further performance of that action. If we were to use this analysis in reverse we could determine what 20% of the inputs were creating 80% of the problems. In this case the 20% of factors negatively affecting the individual’s ability maintain a healthy relationship with food, training, sleep or stress.
As an example, let’s look at personal hygiene. One misconception about health and fitness is that personal hygiene plays almost no role in determining your results in the gym; how scary it must be for individuals ignorant of these facts to see the scientific literature highlighting the negative effects that poor oral hygiene can have on the gut microbiome.
The reason for this is actually a kind of bias. As human beings our motivation for determining our progress is motivated by the extrinsic desire to make progress which often simultaneously ignores obvious requirements for success.
When we acknowledge that progress is as much about what we don’t do rather than a ‘plan’ or overly structured regime we can accelerate optimisation at a much faster rate.
Brushing your teeth every morning and eating the right breakfast is more important than what Whey protein you waste your money on. Liquid meals are often a source of allergens and Soy. You don’t need them in any way shape or form to make mindful progress with any goal. They are an add-on, that is all.
Let’s take the concept of ‘rest and digest’. The ability to assimilate the food you eat is more important than taking expensive supplements but, not all foods are created equal. Before we begin counting calories it is important that we understand that the Calories from 100 grams of Broccoli is never going to be the same as a 100 grams of Paleo bread. These foundations form the basis of a strong and lean body BUT, the more we look at branding and advertising in the fitness industry the more we see trends developing that tell us to do the reverse.
Great for selling merchandise but definitely not for long term health and satisfaction.
Stoic Lesson No. 1: Begin In The Way You Wish To Continue
So if you have read any of my other writing you will know that I am a huge believer in up-regulating the secretion of the endogenous hormones responsible for becoming stronger, leaner and happier. By manipulating variables related to lifestyle design and training it’s actually really easy to wake up in the morning feeling rested. Now you can start making progress from training session to training session further influencing a positive head space.
The first and most important step to normalizing your hormonal status and improving your health is and will always be, eating the right foods for breakfast. Now for some of you that might sound too simple but learning how to train is a lot like sharpening a sword.
What you put in is what you get out.
Stoic Lesson No.2: Focus On What You Can Control
For so many people learning how to train properly is an uncomfortable experience. I remember the first time I was taught an offset dumbbell curl on incline (this was when I was 16) and oh man, it burned so bad. You are going to have to learn to never give up, more importantly, your ego is going to get ahead of you in quest to do something as fast as possible. Fast simply does not last.
I would spend a little bit of writing down your goals with a specific date, taking some before and after pictures and also giving yourself a reasonable time frame to change. If you have a chronic history of anxiety or depression it’s even more important to avoid competitions that force you to publish your results before you are ready. Remember, social media is a major trigger for some people.
Lesson No. 3: Let Go Of Your Ego
It’s a widely accepted fact that fitness professionals do not always agree but some of the best advice I have ever received from other coaches is downright rude. The truth is progress is not always linear, rather take harsh advice from a coach that has been in the trenches.
Two universal realities: most people do not tolerate carbs well and certainly, most people don’t train hard enough. That does not mean going to the gym 5 days a week but rather educating yourself about basic compound lifts and sprinting.
Lesson No. 4: Train Your Muscles To Train Your Mind
Training has been conclusively demonstrated to increase the secretion of every hormone required to live a longer and happier life. When people say, ’I’m depressed’ my first reaction is always to ask them, ‘when was the last time you trained’ and find out if they enjoyed the workout.
It’s really is easy to just do some chin-up’s, push-up’s or sprints and immediately feel that sucky feeling go away. Most people don’t need Prozac, they need to get some fresh air and start sticking to a routine!
A trick that I learned a long time ago was to train right before I engaged with a stressful or anxiety provoking situation, similarly, time in the sun has been dramatically shown to decrease the symptoms associated with depression. It’s a no brainer.
Practice the stoic art of focusing on what you can control and then doing the work. It’s a healing experience.
Lesson No. 5: Only Strong Foundations Matter
Normal people should be eating up to a Kilogram of cruciferous and leafy vegetables each day. The Sulphuric content of these food groups makes them excellent detoxification tools.
I’ve seen clients easily lose up to 3% bodyfat in two weeks by just eating as much veg as possible each day. Do you need a fatburner? No. Do you need a diet? No. Do you need to become an athlete to become healthy and happy? No.
I’ll say it again, great coaches stick to utilizing tools that are timeless. They work for a reason. Unfortunately, most people just don’t want to sit and chew their food. If you care about your health you will make the effort.
Lesson No. 6: Embrace Constant Change
As we approach the end of this article I want to reiterate that change is measured by how you feel and not a quick before and after picture. Throw out the scale, 12 week programs and all the bogus diets you think are the priority. Nobody should be actively ‘dieting’ unless they engage in sports or have performance related goals.
I challenge you to look honestly at your training and ask yourself if you are really working hard enough to justify so much of the complexity we see in training and nutrition.
It’s not about completing 50 workouts a month, it’s about realizing that with the correct progressions you could get lean, strong and happy with just two sessions a week. A method I have already used with countless people.
In the words of Seneca, “True happiness is to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future, not to amuse ourselves with either hopes or fears but to rest satisfied with what we have, which is sufficient, for he that is so wants nothing. The greatest blessings of mankind are within us and within our reach. A wise man is content with his lot, whatever it may be, without wishing for what he has not.”