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The Ultimate Fitness Guide: Chapter 2 (First Principles)

First principles are the foundation on which everything else is set.  Think of it as a foundation of a house.  Can't have the roof, the fireplace, and the nice interior without the foundation.  It's unseen, but without it nothing gets done.

The problem with first principles is mistaking secondary principles and data as first principles. Most people would think first principles of fitness would look like this: “Eat enough protein to foster muscle recovery and growth” but the more fitting first principle would be “nutrition is a necessary tool for performance in the body as a system.”

First principles allow expansion on an idea.

Current first principles in the fitness arena are garbage. Here’s a few:

  • More exercising = better.

  • Less food = better.

  • Thin = healthy.

  • Physical goals = happy.

  • Big muscles = strong.

  • Strong = healthy.

  • Bad tasting food = healthy

  • Miserable physicality and nutrition = necessary

It’s time to clean house.

Here’s how it actually works: first principles should align with reality (science).

We produce the desired response (health/lower body-fat/more muscle/balance/etc) with the tools of stimulus (training) and food (nutrition).

If we desire less body-fat, then training for balance is probably not the way to go. We should instead train and eat for less body-fat if we want less body-fat. It sounds overly simplified, yet people perform 50 crunches at the gym only to go home and binge eat. (Crunches alone will not make you lean). This is also called the specificity principle. It’s not a first principle, but it illustrates the point.

The human body is antifragile.

If something fragile is dropped, it breaks. If something robust is dropped, it withstands. If something antifragile is dropped, it strengthens for the next drop. The human body is the same way (given that we use a few other first principles - more on that later). Example: If we deadlift, the body will prepared and strengthen for more deadlifts. If we run, the body will prepare for more running. It boils down to this: The only way to get better at anything in the fitness world is to do it. You can’t get better at squats if you don’t squat, or squat once every two months like most average gym-goers. You will stay the same or delude yourself into thinking that you’re getting stronger. Talent does not count here and there is no shortcut around the work, so don’t try to skip it.

We have control.

There are always, and i mean always things within our control that we can affect. Many people tell themselves that the way there are right now is the way it’s supposed to be. Not so. We all have a say in our own direction in life (and fitness). Zero equipment, zero time, and zero money? Cool. Let’s get started.

We get what we want / We are responsible.

Throughout my career I hear excuses “I didn’t have time to train this week on my own” or “I don’t have enough money to get a gym membership.” All of these boil down to one simple thing: “It wasn’t a priority for me”. We humans will go out of our way to get what we want. Human history is filled with real stories of people overcoming amazing challenges because they wanted to do something. Diana Nyad swam from Cuba to Florida without the use of a shark cage. It took her 53 hours. She was 64 at the time. Let that sink in. She wanted it, she took it on her shoulders, and it was nuts. When was the last time you wanted something that required some real sacrifice? Wanting something bad enough is a superpower. Making it your responsibility is where the magic happens.

This last one gets most people. Take a look around the next time you go to the store. The vast majority of them have tried and failed at some sort of training and nutrition plan. Did they want it deep down? I’m sure they thought they did.

Let’s recap:

  • We produce the desired response (health/lower body-fat/more muscle/balance/etc) with the tools of stimulus (training) and food (nutrition).

  • The human body is antifragile.

  • We have control.

  • We get what we want / We are responsible.


It’s going to be gnarly.

Don’t forget to leave a comment with any questions or suggestions. Thanks!