The Dynamorphic Training System (DTS): My own return to first principles
“It is a shame for a man to grow old without seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable.”
Principles form the basis of how you think and how you move.
As with all the sciences, human anatomy and movement, physiology and function, are based on specific laws, or principles, the fundamentals of which do not change within the lifetime of a given species. The physical development of the human body is based on the principles of exercise kinesiology and exercise physiology – of form and function. I will refer to these as the “Principles of Fitness” in this post. If you take the effort to learn the principles of fitness, you will gain a solid foundation for running your body, designing your nutritional strategy and workout regimen, for making smart decisions on supplementation, and for keeping yourself in peak condition across a lifetime. But this means….
First and foremost, respect and build your mind – health and vitality in the body will ultimately follow.
“Every Public Victory is preceeded by a Private One” -Steven Covey
As a human being your basic tool of survival is your mind. Everything you need in order to live must be produced – and nothing can be produced without a process of thought. From weapons for hunting and tools for farming centuries ago, to higher level products like space shuttles and heart transplants, everything we have is produced by that crucial faculty and process of the mind: reason.
A healthy body is no exception. Actually, it is a grave, and common, mistake to consider your mind or consciousness or spirit as set apart from your body. They are inextricably linked. It has been common for me to observe in my medical practice a poor or unhealthy mind in a patient that, over time, eventually leads to an ill body. The correlation of major depression with excessive sleep, fatigue, and weight gain is no coincidence. Neither is the correlation of anxiety with hypertension and various pain syndromes.
I have become certain that a healthy mind is the fundamental foundation and prerequisite for a body that is strong, lean, and healthy.
The respect for, and development of, your mind is a choice. Subsequently, so is the respect for and development of your body. Intelligence, the ability to deal with a broad range of abstractions, is the product of three fundamental factors: genetics, environment, and volition. It is crucial to evaluate each because an understanding of these factors is essential not only to your ability reason critically, but also to your long term health.
Your genetics at present cannot be changed – at least not at the current level of our knowledge and technology. But environment and volition are factors that we can manipulate and enhance in order to achieve long-term success. Your environment, or surroundings, is important; particularly for the development of the mind. It has been stated that you are the average of your five closest friends in terms of intelligence, ambition, achievement, etc. (this is partially true). For CrossFitters, Powerlifters, Olympic lifters, Bodybuilders, Fitness enthusiasts, and Athletes of every sort, environment contributes to success by the presence of supportive and optimistic friends and relatives who share your value of health. It also contributes by not having to be in the presence of food or drugs that may damage your body, and by having the opportunity to exercise the body on a consistent basis and in ways that are appropriate for your goals.
Volition is even more important. It is the same faculty present in someone who is said to have a strong will to succeed It means simply: the choice to succeed – or not. The choice to identify goals and work persistently on them – or to not identify them and drift aimlessly; i.e. to let others define your goals and the ultimate purpose of your life. Success really is a choice and you choose the level of that success by how committed you are to its achievement. To have a better body – to look better, feel better, and function better, there are certain things you must do. Most importantly, eating right and exercising on a consistent basis and in a way that is consistent with your long-term training goals.
Likewise, to have a better mind, a higher and ever higher level of intelligence, self-esteem, and logical ability, you must supply your mind with the nutrients and the training it requires as well. By training I mean a “conceptual” workout. Pushing yourself to learn new things, having new experiences, blasting past points of fear and resistance, READING YOUR ASS OFF. Never resting on your laurels when it comes to your education – both formal and informal. The gym is the appropriate initial proving ground for developing this philosophy of life. So, the first principle of fitness, the sine qua non of health and performance, is to respect your mind as the only means to having a strong, healthy body for a lifetime. This is a choice open to anyone, at any level of intelligence or fitness.
Now there are 2 questions you must ask yourself – and answer – in order to successfully implement the principles of fitness.
The first question before embarking on any exercise, nutrition, or overall fitness program is not: What type of exercise will I do? Or: What type of diet will I use? These are all secondary. The first question you must ask is: Why do this at all? If you are not convinced that working out and eating right will improve your life, make you feel better, make you look better, improve your confidence and self-esteem, then no matter what you decided to use for exercise and nutrition…you will eventually fail. You must convince yourself that it is all worth it – to you. “You” is the key word in that last sentence. If you are trying to get in shape to please someone else, or to make your old enemies at the high school reunion jealous – or any of the various types of “caring what other people think” – then you will eventually run out of motivation to continue. In the first instance you will slack off once you are in a relationship or have pleased whoever it is you are after, in the second instance you will go back to your old ways right after the reunion. You see, putting the power of your self image – and your motivation to improve it – in the power of others, will always lead to failure in your life. Your motivation must come from you – and only you.
Why take care of your body? Because life requires two things for you to live. First you must think. Secondly, you must act. You cannot think without a mind and you cannot act without a body. You cannot act successfully without a mind and a body capable of success. Life is motion. You cannot stand still. You must always be moving – either forward or backward – and the direction is up to you. It is your choice. For your mind, you must continue to learn knew facts and integrate them into your knowledge. For your body, you must discover what types of activity are required of it to live. Longevity is obvious, but longevity without successful function – quantity of life without quality – would be literally “hell on earth”. Needless to say, everyone is happier when they are healthier.
If the facts that you must live, that successful and happy living requires health, and that achieving better health is open to anyone who chooses to follow the basic principles of exercise physiology and nutrition that lead to it, do not convince you that you should exercise and eat nutritionally, then I can do nothing for you. But if you can answer this first question of “should you eat healthy and exercise” with a yes, understanding that it does further your life and make it fuller and more robust, then let’s go to the next question.
The next question is: Why do I need to learn the principles of fitness? This can be taken more commonly as: Can’t I just copy a diet or exercise routine out of a magazine? To answer this, the term principle must first be defined. Then you will need to learn why principles are important, not just for training and nutrition, but in every facet of your life.
A “principle” is a general truth on which other truths depend. The principles of human physiology are just like the law of gravity: immutable. They are made up, in fact, of physical laws. If the basic ones are understood they provide a firm foundation for staying in shape without succumbing to the latest fad, trick, or supplement that someone wants to trade for your hard earned money. Most people fail to stay in shape because they do not understand these basic principles of fitness and are at the whim of the latest contradictory information they hear on the news or read in a magazine. They don’t realize that if they had taken the time to learn a few very basic principles governing muscle growth and fat loss, they wouldn’t fall victim to the latest “slick” marketing campaign for the latest supplement that doesn’t work, or for the routine and diet of the last “Mr. O”, who never acknowledged that the primary reason his 30 set, 2 hour workout for Chest and Triceps resulted in so much growth was the 10 ml per week of certain injectable medications he was pushing in his glutes.
“You have no choice about the necessity to integrate your observations, your experiences, your knowledge into abstract ideas, i.e., into principles. Your only choice is whether these principles are true or false, whether they represent your conscious, rational convictions – or a grab bag of notions snatched at random, whose sources, validity, context and consequences you do not know, notions which you would drop like a hot potato if you knew [their roots and consequences].” – Ayn Rand.
The use of principles is crucial no matter what the field of study – mathematics, physics, medicine, economics, politics – any field. Even in Exercise and Fitness.
Now you are ready to begin learning the principles of fitness. Actually, you have already learned 3 crucial principles in your reading so far:
1) Respect your mind first, health and vitality in the body will ultimately follow.
2) That you should exercise and feed your body properly in order to maintain health and then go beyond….
3) That you need principles in order to organize your knowledge – in exercise and nutrition and in any other field.
What follows are the principles that I have learned and used over the last 30 years in developing and maintaining my own body. They are arranged hierarchically. The first one is more fundamental than the second….and so on. Although they are relatively easy to grasp, applying them consistently from day to day – particularly in the beginning – is a challenge worth accepting. The more consistent you become at practicing them, the better your results will be.
– Lanny Littlejohn, MD