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30 Minute Magic

“I wasted time, and now doth time waste me…” – William Shakespeare

Of the many health and wellness misconceptions that plague the general public, the most insidious is the notion that to be in great shape requires a time investment approaching that of top athletes. And, being the all-or-nothing culture that we are, that misconception easily translates into an excuse to do nothing at all.

So let’s dispel that time requirement myth, once and for all. And remove any remaining excuse you have not to get in great shape.

Now, to be fair, most people I speak with do have a pretty accurate notion for the time investment required to perform at the top level of any sport. For instance, few would be surprised over the details of a day-in-the-life of Michael Phelps, depicted below:

Note: for the full infographic, depicting the example daily schedules of many Olympic athletes, see this. The overall time commitment required of these athletes is mind-boggling.

And yes, reaching and maintaining athletic mastery requires an unworldly devotion and dedication to task.

So where, you might ask, does this leave your average Joe or Jane? Those juggling jobs, kids, family and, well… life? If we were able to manage to eek-out a bit of time during the week for exercise, is that effort all in vain? Would that time be better spent binge-watching old Seinfeld episodes?

Well, the short answer is, absolutely not. And the more expounded answer is that even the smallest time investment can pay huge dividends. The caveat here being that most are just squandering that time. It’s all no doubt well intentioned… though, at best, misguided and misinformed. And it’s painful to witness.

Let’s do this right

The first thing we need to consider when examining the daily schedules of top-end athletes is that a preponderance of their training time is spent in what is known as skills acquisition. That is, the laborious, repeated (and time consuming!) act of practicing those skills pertinent to their particular sport — over and over and over again. Baseball is a fine example: the batting and fielding practice never ends. The tennis player honing her serve and volley. The golfer’s putt after putt after putt.

Now, to the extent that the body is in motion, there is a degree of low-level physical exertion present. And that’s a good thing… for those who choose to devote time toward such ends. But is that activity necessary to be healthy? Or even to look good naked? The good news is that it’s not. In fact, there’s much more effective, low hanging fruit to pursue.

That “low hanging fruit” forms the bedrock of every top-end athlete’s training regimen: his strength and conditioning program. And if we think of that program in total as being a pyramid, the base of that pyramid would be basic strength, ease and range of movement, and work capacity. The very things we prioritize at Efficient Exercise. And when compared to the time investment that skills acquisition requires, that portion of an athlete’s overall program is minimal. Unless, of course, the sport in question is strength and conditioning, (think CrossFit).

So now we’ve reduced this time requirement beast into something much more manageable. But we’re not done yet. By intelligently targeting those aspects of strength, movement and work capacity that offer the biggest bang for the time investment buck, we can fashion a commitment to health, wellness (and looking good naked!) that even the most time-crunched professional or soccer mom can adhere to.

The Great Equalizer: Time

At Efficient Exercise, we recognize that there are many strength and conditioning programs that are highly effective at achieving results in those “base of the pyramid” qualities described above. But from our perspective, the major drawback to those programs is, again, the required time investment.

For example, during my collegiate football days, it was perfectly normal for me to spend up to two hours a day, in the off season, just on the strength and conditioning portion of my training. Was it effective? Extremely. A huge investment, both in time and physical recovery ability? Absolutely. But at that point in my life, the time investment (both in actual training, and in recovery modalities) was a non sequitur. My job was to be a student-athlete.

I laugh at devoting that much time to training now. And although mentally and emotionally I’d love to spend that much time in the gym, with my hectic schedule, it’s simply not possible.

And let me be clear: there was no wasted effort in that two hours a day of training. I was lucky enough to come under the tutelage of one of the finest strength and conditioning minds of that time. The programming was highly efficient, effective and directed. And therein lay another thread of the fitness tapestry that we need to define in order to create effective programs for our Efficient Exercise clientele: the idea of diminishing return on effort.

The Winning Combination: Technology + Expertise

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” – Lao Tzu

The greatest advancement in any endeavor comes in the transition from doing nothing, to doing something. With everything after that being a balance between effort and return on effort, vis-a-vis one’s goal. The key is to strike a healthy balance between the two. And at Efficient Exercise we’ve done just that by combining ARX’s 21st century technology with the finest in training protocols and expertise.

So in the case of my former football jock self, I was more than willing to trade an inordinate amount of time and effort investment for the smallest of incremental returns. In fact, I had to, if I wanted to compete with more naturally gifted athletes. My goals at that time were well beyond the purview of health and fitness, and were directed to competition at the highest level. And at that level of competition, incremental differences in strength, speed and mobility are everything.

But now the same “me” can stay in great shape with a fraction of the time investment. And so can you. How is that possible? Because at Efficient Exercise, we put into practice the theory of the 80/20 rule — The Pareto Principle — which posits that 80% of an effect comes from 20% of the causes / effort. The flipside of this is also true: that to reap that extra 20% requires an additional 80% time and effort investment. An investment I was happy to make in my late teens and early 20s. Not an investment, however, that I’d even consider now.

And neither should you. Unless you plan on competing at the highest levels, and where that extra 20% will make a substantial difference. Olympic gold not on your bucket list? Cool. Then our innovative, twice weekly, 30 minute sessions will be more than enough to get you beyond 80% of your fitness and body composition goals.

In later installments we’ll discuss what you should do (if anything) in addition to your Efficient Exercise workouts. Because we’re certainly not opposed to extra physical activity, we just want to make sure you’re assessing that activity — and the motives toward pursuing that activity — correctly.

In Health,
Keith

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