• Nicholas Kent


When it comes to exercise and training pursuits, the longer I've done this, coached, treated and advised people, the stronger I'll stand by the principle of simplicity above all else. Of course, any good professional in this game will always tell you that the most common and universal answer to most questions is "it depends", but if there's ever a rule that I'll be somewhat dogmatic about, it is about the importance of simplicity in your work...

The greatest challenge for most folk is the challenge of adherence and I'll harp on this till the day that I die that nothing else matters if adherence isn't addressed, hence we stumble into the importance of simplicity. If something is simple, I've usually found that it's easier to adhere to - particularly for those that are not inclined to do exercise, train or whatever and probably need it more than most. Granted, some folk need the razzamatazz of complexity in order to feel like they're doing something effective or just feel "special" about their pursuit or plan. I hate to be the ball-breaker, but most folks aren't that special. But, on the flip side - if I have to deploy some strategy of "sizzle over steak" in order to get somebody to buy in to what they need to do, then whatever... I'll concoct something complex. But what's actually going on here isn't the magic of special programming to achieve special things, it's just another way to address the greatest challenge - adherence.

Without digressing or going too lateral here, we can see how the road always leads back to adherence, no matter how complex a program or whatever becomes. There are definitely exceptions to the rule of things needing to get complex, but that's usually reserved for the elite athletes or even very special clinical cases. For the rest of us, simplicity does fine... if you'll adhere to that.

When I say simplicity, what do I mean by that? Simplicity in exercise selection, simplicity in routines, simplicity in time frames, simplicity in how much, how often, when and how... The things that can usually wrap up anybody, because there are so many options, possibilities and also, bullshit information out there, that confusion just adds to the problem - again, defying simplicity just makes things harder for ourselves. So encouraging and advocating people who struggle with this conundrum that the ultimate principle to fall back on is simplicity, and that will probably serve you better than fretting over what to do, how to do it and whether or not it's working for you. All these things usually are just getting in the way of getting things done - again, a function of adherence - so if simplicity just dumbs it all down, cancels out some noise and allows one to simply "get on with it", then that'll usually serve us better in the long haul. I promise.

People will stray from simplicity either because of boredom or skepticism. Boredom, I understand - we all get there, particularly with exercise routines and such. Not everybody has the psychological insanity of a powerlifter or swimmer - the sports with the longest and darkest roads of monotony, in my opinion. No, variety is the spice of life and I'll always advocate that too, as variety is probably something that means someone will stick at it if things are changing up a bit - again, that adherence thing. But there is a point where the paradox of choice can also cause problems, in that bouncing your routine around too much might impede on some specific goals in mind - as you do need to be somewhat specific if there's a specific agenda in your exercise/training regime. Also, the paradox of choice can handbrake you by again thinking too much rather than actioning yourself in the short term, like, if you hit the gym and legit only have 30 mins to be effective - then the less postulating about what to do, the better.

Skepticism though is more annoying, especially as a coach and practitioner in that going through the whole "selling of the simple" can be a bug to bear, because many folks just don't believe that the regular stuff that's right in front of our noses usually works the best... But everybody wants something special. As a fan of autonomy, self-empowerment and agency in people being healthy, telling somebody they "must" do anything is something that I really don't vibe that well with. So when the answers are right in front of people, but get overlooked because it all seems too simple then this is where it can get a little bit "ugh", but that's just me personally. Again, I understand it's my business to educate the uneducated and if we were talking about me wanting to service my own car, then I'd be the schmuck that has no clue, quietly frustrating his teacher... But in my defense, I'll want the rules of thumb to guide me and if anything gets more complex from there, I'll seek the expert. I won't judge the rules of thumb, because I'm not the expert. So when I need to sell the simple things it can be tiresome, but also an indication that this person may just not be quite ready to learn yet... That whole "when the student is ready, the master appears" type thing. Anyways, if you're skeptical about the simplicity of the advice you're receiving, it might say more about you the student, client, or patient, in this case than the advice.

There's always a flip-side to shitting on people for just not accepting my simple advice. Yes, I'm aware this is not a helpful tact and if somebody is skeptical, then rather than just turning them away, the advice or plan probably needs to be massaged a bit to get through to the person. But as was aforementioned, that massaging of the advice, or adding complexity for complexity sake is usually not because the complexity is better, it's more to appease the psychology of, yes you guessed it - adherence.

All in all, I guess the main point that needs to be stressed to people when embarking on an exercise journey, or even those whom are versed but seem to be getting a bit in their own way is this - simplicity is king and will never let you down. Exercise is such a broad and robust brush of effectiveness that for most people, whatever you do, so long as it's consistent and the effort is there - then it will serve you incredibly well. Blocking out the noise and sheer getting things done are the key features of simplicity that can untangle you from yourself, hence simplicity is an overarching and critical principle to guide yourself by...

Keep it simple, stupid...

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