What do you value accomplishing? Is there anything that you would like to achieve? How do you go about getting it done? Successful people take big goals and break them down into smaller, more manageable steps. Use those smaller steps to build some momentum and try bigger steps until you eventually get to your goal. But is there possibly a way to streamline this process to get to your goals faster? I am still including the smaller steps approach here, but with a little more efficiency. And that is to use a system that is already known to work, that takes the guesswork out of the equation.

A system can be defined as a set of principles or procedures according to which something is done; an organized scheme or method. A system can be developed over time and be adjusted and improved until you have an effective process to achieve a specific outcome.

While systems can come across technical, it helps to think of a system as a recipe. If you wanted to make a certain dish for a special occasion you can likely find a recipe online or ask a friend who has culinary skills. The key factor in making the dish, of course, beyond having the ingredients, is to follow the recipe. But the wonderful thing about a recipe is that if I follow it correctly I can end up with the same result as the person who succeeded in writing the recipe.

But what happens if I don’t follow the instructions? What happens if I take out some ingredients and add some others? What happens if I skip a step entirely or cut short the cooking time? The results will obviously be affected. The results could even fail miserably! When you give someone a tried and tested recipe you can give it with confidence that it will result in the desired dish, every single time. Unless someone, for some reason, does not follow the recipe.

What about when we are unhealthy, overweight, or weak? Is there a system, or recipe, for correcting this? There is, in fact. But it requires that one actually follow it. You might be surprised at how often people will interfere with the recipe, though. Often, people will avoid certain ingredients or steps, or add in others which may not contribute as well as they might think. Sometimes they aren’t patient enough to allow sufficient cooking time. Sometimes they will try to make a dish with only ONE INGREDIENT! Oh, what would cause a person to tamper with a successful recipe?!

I am obviously speaking in a metaphor here. We have a successful system to radically change a person’s health, fitness level, even quality of life. This can have a ripple effect years later by changing the quality of aging. It can change the health outlook of an entire family! All that is really necessary is that the person follow the system. Let’s look at the system we have with CrossFit’s Pyramid of Fitness.

First, we have the base of the pyramid. Everything on the pyramid is built and supported by the base, which makes it very important. It is nutrition. At it’s simplest, the nutrition prescription is meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch, and no sugar. Does it sound restrictive? It might if one’s diet is highly composed of addictive, nutrient poor food-like products that don’t meet this prescription. But there are also many, many actual whole foods that do meet it! I have heard from so many people that “the healthy foods are bland and boring” or “I just don’t know what to eat” or even “this is so different from what I’m used to that I don’t think I can do this.” This is like tampering with the ingredients list in the recipe. I am not saying that you can never have the treats you enjoy. I am saying that if you want to have the finished product it will be necessary to learn to work with the ingredients required. You might have to just give some of the ingredients a chance. We so often strive to be able to do our workouts unmodified and as prescribed, but seem to lack the tenacity to try to eat as prescribed.

Next is metabolic conditioning. Healthy bodies move and with seemingly effortless grace. A healthy body is able to be active for long periods of time and is also able to rise to the occasion when it is necessary to push hard. There is a reason that every good training session will require you to exert yourself. It will require you get a little uncomfortable. Regular training at strategic levels of discomfort will make most of the tasks in your life much easier. Elevator out of order? No problem, take the stairs. Bringing the groceries in from the car? No problem, one trip. Encounter a rabid dog in an alley? No problem, jump up and climb over a fence. Building on fire? No problem, climb out the window and shimmy down the side. Workout calls for squats, push-ups AND burpees? No problem, 3, 2, 1, GO! Some recipes call for vigorous mixing of the ingredients. Don’t avoid this part.

Next up is gymnastics. This is being able to move and control our bodies. Watch a chef at work with tools like knives and spoons, with coordinated grace and precision they are like extensions of her body. We need to learn to be able to use and move against (or with) the resistance of your own body. Sit down and stand up, push or pull your body up or over things, get down on the floor and get back up again. Balance. Agility. Your body is how you travel in this world and how you express your physicality.

Pick things up, push them over your head. Carry them. Make them heavier and heavier over time. With everything you do, being stronger makes it better. This is adding spices that enhance and amplify the flavor. It is the difference between a good dish and an exceptional dish. Bland is not good. Bland is weak. And weak is not good. Sometimes getting the right flavor requires marinating, which takes time. Getting stronger takes time. Cooking an exceptional dish takes time. Be patient. This system doesn’t have fast forward.

Finally, we have sport. Sport is the enthusiastic or joyful expression of your fitness. It is Play. Healthy bodies can play at a moment’s notice! Play is not just good for our bodies, it is great for our brains! Dr. Stuart Brown wrote a book on Play, and he says, “Play is fun, and it is anything but trivial. It is a basic biological drive as integral to our health as sleep or nutrition. When we play we are open to possibilities and the sparks of new insights.” Do you have a favorite way to express your fitness? It can even be as simple, but no less important, as playing with our children.

Does your current approach to health and fitness lead you to a joyful and stimulating end-state? What do you do with all your fitness? Break out of your comfort zone and try out a local competition. Or, take up a new sport or physical recreation activity. What have you always wanted to try?

Work the recipe and enjoy the results!

Yours in Strength,

Aaron