by Matt Basso | March 2015

Nothing Is Linear

I’m forced to think about the book Antifragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb almost everyday. If you don’t know who he is or anything about his writing skip the research an just buy his books. Particularly Antifragile and The Black Swan.

Though his books aren’t about fitness, he uses health as a marker and as a profound example to prove his thesis. Which is basically, or at least how I see it - One cannot predict anything so you should put yourself in a position to benefit from any kind of outcome.

So if you think that past results equal future results, or furthermore believe that a certain set of events will definitely lead to your predicted outcome…You are Dead Wrong. What’s even more amazing is his exploration into how to understand this concept and put yourself in the best position to thrive under uncertain circumstances. I’m not going to explain his books, just go read them.

However I will tell you how I see the connection of nonlinear outcomes and what I’ll call “exposure” to daily life and fitness.

Expectations can easily get out of line quickly. I see this all the time when it comes to fitness goal setting. For example, if you’ve just started working out after a long hiatus, or never, then a simple goal such as consistently meeting with your trainer or committing to 2 workouts a week is a great place to start. Not “I’m gonna lose 30lbs by x days from now”

This is true for many reasons, but lets focus on two.

1.From the training perspective weight isn’t always the best way to determine how well you’re doing because muscle weighs more than fat. It’s very likely you are healthier after working out 2 time a week for 2 months even though you haven’t lost as much weight as you though you would.

2. Reverse engineering the results you want is usually the best way to approach planning. Meaning, if you truly understand that health and fitness is achieved with a consistent effort rather than a quick fix, you understand that looking better and feeling better is a by-product of getting healthy, which you’ll be adding exercise to your life.

So to the point of NOTHING IS LINEAR-

People expect to get positive linear results from fitness programs all the time. While following a plan allows you the most chance to succeed in your fitness goals, it’s not the case that they will come in a linear fashion. More than likely you will have ups and downs. No matter how well you’re performing during consecutive weeks, if you’re pushing yourself, or even more randomly when life intervenes (no sleep, the flu, extra work, you fell on the ice) you’re going to experience a plateau, or possibly a set back.

Maybe even more to the point…YOU HAVE TO LEARN TO ADJUST DAILY.

This happens almost everyday in my life. Just today I had a workout planned for a client but because of soreness, a house guest, and work, that plan went out the window. My understanding of my clients body and physiology on top of my well over 10,000 hours of training experience allowed me to make the necessary adjustments and get in a great training session. This kind of flexibility is key to success across the board.

I’d like to challenge you to think about how flexible you are and to what degree you are immune - or Antifragile to rapid unpredictable change in your environments. Maybe your work environment is a good place to start. 

For example - If there was a fire in your office and you were forced to work in a different location, maybe home or at a tempt office space how would you react? Would your OCD kick in and distract you from getting things done because you weren’t facing a window anymore?

Even better - Does your very job rely on a certain set a scenarios that can’t change. So would you automatically not have a job if one person above you messed up, or if you lost just one client?

Even further - Are you in a position to gain from an auspicious situation? Example - A freelancer vs. a full time employee. The full timer could be bogged down with company work and miss opportunities, but a freelancer could literally ditch one contract for an even bigger one at the drop of a hat… What’s your exposure to random profitable situations?

Think about randomness for a bit. It’s interesting to see how egotistical some people can be in believing they know the answer because they've had past success. It’s also interesting to see how we can easily believe those people if we lack the perspective of randomness.

Filed under: Training