It's a War Not a Battle

Posted on 11 Jul 2009 19:14

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This post is related to some of the concepts discussed in Strength: Simple But Difficult

I really like a good analogy. And I consider myself pretty good with them. I've noticed that some people are masters of good analogies. And others…not so great.

The trick with an analogy is you have to argue with yourself. When you come up with an analogy to illustrate something you need to try to tear it down. Come up with situations where the analogy doesn't hold. The easier this is to do and more situations you think of…the worse the analogy.

People that don't get analogies are those who take them at FACE VALUE. It sounds right so use it. But since things can be interpreted in various ways and analogies can be so ambiguous a bad one can do more HARM than good.

One common analogy in the fitness world I believe to be harmful is when fitness and health pursuits are referred to as BATTLES. A really common one is fatloss.

Fatloss is a battle, they say.

Well, you've also heard the expression "win the battle, lose the war".

It isn't anything special to battle off 25 pounds. It also isn't anything uncommon to battle off the same 25 pounds again and again.

If you were in an actual war this would be like continually winning and losing the same piece of territory over and over again. And each time you do it, a few more soldiers go down. Eventually, you find you've lost the war. In an actual war you'd have to consider if the benefits of your action were worth the cost.

What you want is not just to LOSE fat you want to manage fat. You want to keep it off. That is a WAR. The difference between a war and a battle is that a war drags on and on. It, in effect, becomes a lifestyle.

Imagine that you are in charge of this war. IN CHARGE. Now imagine that you have two choices. One, you put a large amount of resources into a piece of land (a certain number of pounds). You hyperfocus on this goal above all else.


You win the territory but you lose all your soldiers; finding yourself without the resources to DEFEND it. It is an empty victory. You are King of the Hill for one second and all the other kids are coming at you.

Your other choice is a "war by inches". You commit just the resources you need into small gains of territory. And you OWN this territory. You gain a bit more. And you OWN that too. As you go along you get better at holding on to your territory. It becomes less a sense of trying and more a sense of flow and naturalness. In the end you win the war.

Why does this happen? It has to do with goals. Goals are important but that does not mean that all goals are good for you. To pick the right goals you must do a cost-benefit analysis. You must think of this analysis in regard to the long-term. What will this get me? What will it cost me?

Constantly changing goals is a common theme in all fitness. And I hear trainers screaming "pick a goal and focus on it, pick a goal and focus on it" all the time as if just chanting that will magically make people successful. The question is WHY are they constantly changing goals? There could be many different reasons but a very common one I see is jumping into the boat and shoving off without a paddle.

The fact is, many people ARE focused, as far as they are concerned. They are, in fact, HYPER-focused. Obviously they picked a goal but the reason they bailed out is that they realized that they could NOT PAY THE COSTS until after the fact. This is a mental game. It isn't a fat, protein, or carbohydrate game. And it isn't a barbell, kettlebell, bodyweight game. Those are details.

You will make mistakes. And this will make you better at doing it. What you are doing is attempting to become self-regulated rather than self-controlled.

Michelle May calls this being "in charge" versus "in control". At the heart of this is SELF-KNOWLEDGE

It is the SAME in strength-training. In the long run strength training is a game of ounces, not pounds.

Sure, you will have those times, many I hope, of huge victories. You "go to battle" with the bar and you win. And you should celebrate. But if you are always looking for the big win you will never learn to appreciate the small ones. And I got news for you, if you cannot appreciate the small things in life; if everything always has to be HUGE; you are on the road to losing the war.

Not that I really think life is a war. Bad analogy!

Related discussion » Importance of Progression/Consolidation

This page created 11 Jul 2009 19:14
Last updated 23 Oct 2015 05:16

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