When it comes to overall health and fitness, we can put most ideas into one of the following buckets:
- Willpower and effort
- Conceptual or theoretical knowledge
- Practical knowledge
- Stress and emotion regulation
Four buckets, two questions
Which buckets do you think are the most important?
Which buckets seem to get filled the most?
Those red-lettered buckets are appealing, aren’t they? They are not only more intuitive, they are also easier to create media content around. So that’s how it goes. Alas, they’re not that helpful when compared to their blue-lettered neighbours.
I know. I know.
For the purposes of this little screed, I’m defining high-level knowledge as in-the-weeds exercise physiology; nutrition science, anatomy, biomechanics, and anything else that nerdy exercise pros like us might focus on.
Practical knowledge is knowing how to take constructive action in the next minute or so—and in the 24 hours after that. This has nothing to do with how an expert, influencer, or pro athlete might work out or eat. It doesn’t even have much to do with how Future you might work out or eat. It is only about what will work for you right now—and until tomorrow, give or take.
As for motivation… here’s a shortlist of things nobody wants when they work out:
- Uncertainty about what exercises are effective
- Uncertainty about what exercises are safe
- Uncertainty about your own performance
- Uncertainty about whether you’re making progress
- Not feeling comfortable or welcome
- Not having control over the process
Every bit of ambiguity chews away at motivation. And even the most motivated person in the world will struggle in this kind of situation. Anyone would.
Now invert this whole thing. Here you get stuff that everybody wants when they work out:
- Confidence that you’re doing the right stuff
- Confidence that you’re doing it well
- Feeling like you’re learning and making progress
- Feeling welcome and (emotionally) comfortable
- Feeling like you have control
What happens if we airdrop a person with a just wee bit of motivation into this mixture? Their motivation grows. No shouting or flapping about is required because the work itself feels effective and meaningful. It gives you a sense of control and hope. It makes you want to dig in.
Notably, all of the above is simply a combination of practical knowledge (the right stuff for right now) and stress/emotion management (primarily by getting rid of uncertainty). It’s like magic.
What about those red-lettered buckets? Fill them when you’re on the subway, in line, or relaxing at home. Use them to inform your actions and decrease uncertainty from a strategic perspective. Fill them slowly and carefully. Plug leaks when and if they arise. But bias toward action because that is literally where the action is.