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How To Be Good At Everything: Be About The Buckets


19 OCT 2023

Back when I was little, I was lucky. Summers were a whirlwind blur of football, tennis, athletics, swimming, climbing trees, bike races and all the rest of it. I was nurtured (consciously or otherwise) by my parents and 2 older brothers to be both active and highly competitive at whatever the active thing was.

Heading into my teens, not much changed. I would give anything a try, including rugby, karate, boxing, kung-fu (wing chun), kayaking, rock climbing, table tennis, badminton, basketball - it didn’t matter to me, if it involved physical effort, coordination and skill, I wanted in.

Although my first and main love was football, this vast array of other activities required different skill sets, and a demand to demonstrate a multitude of qualities, whether speed, strength, agility, endurance, co-ordination, or anticipation.

However. Despite being blessed with this type of upbringing, there is no evidence to suggest that we retain these abilities for life without ever going near them again. The idea of me never having had to obtain, retain and refine any of the skills I developed over the years I hope sounds absurd. A prerequisite for keeping your achieved degree of competency at any skill is to continue to do it - ‘use it or lose it’ as they say.

Another important aspect of skill acquisition people usually miss, is that even if you are incredibly committed to your routine and show up every day, you are rehearsing a highly specific set of skills, and your competency applies only to that. If you aren’t training anything else, it won’t magically appear. An example would be the committed gym goer who gets their 30 minutes on the cross trainer in every day without fail, but still harbours some frustration that their body isn’t getting as lean and toned as they thought it might with 5 days of ‘gym’ per week.

But why would it? 30 minute cross-trainer sessions are developing a very thin slice of the fitness pie, none of which includes strength, hypertrophy, or anaerobic fitness (ie. The activities closely associated to a lean physique with visible muscle). But let’s forget about aesthetics because that’s not what this is about. The problem illustrates itself when we throw life at you. I put a heavy weight in front of you - you can’t lift it. I put a hurdle in front of you - you can’t jump over it. You trip over something - you can’t organise your feet and prevent a fall. You need to sprint for the bus - you can’t get there in time. Your kids want to wrestle with you on the floor - you can’t even get on the floor, never mind mix it with them!

So now, does it make sense to use 2.5 hours of a week on 1 training activity, ignoring all others? What would you say if I told you it was possible to be the ultimate all-rounder for whatever fitness task that could be possibly thrown at you, just by focusing on ‘filling the buckets’?

Imagine you could have all of the following within you:

  • Smashing an endurance challenge like a 10k or a marathon

  • Winning a 100m foot-race against a person half your age

  • Holding a perfect deep squat

  • Outlasting the rest in a dead-hang competition

  • Out-lifting a group of your peers in the deadlift (or giving your partner/best friend a 20m piggy back to make things interesting)

Sounds pretty dreamy right?

Well guess what, it’s not as unattainable as you might think. You just need to know where to start (and where to finish).

Now I’m not going to lie, being an all-round athletic person capable of approaching any physical challenge with skill and confidence does take years rather than days or months, but it is far more achievable once we do away with society’s idea of ‘getting fit’. The basic version usually involves you strolling around the gym, with a vague ambition to get ‘a stronger upper/lower body’ or be somebody who does regular ‘cardio’ (can you define what ‘cardio’ even is? - usually people just end up on the cross trainer for 30-60 mins). We need to be better than that. More specific, more deliberate and more concise with our training to really cut through the nonsense activities that don’t have a beneficial purpose, and gear everything towards making ourselves efficient in all areas to become somebody who is:

  • Fast

  • Agile

  • Strong

  • Powerful

  • Muscular

  • Aerobically fit

  • Balanced

  • Stable

  • Flexible

Each of these capacities require a different focus. Different set and rep ranges, different speeds and contraction types, different durations, recovery times, frequencies, and so on. The key is knowing HOW to train each of these qualities - which unfortunately many people simply don’t - but once you do. The fitness world is your oyster. All you need to do is turn up and execute (and the more consistently you turn up and execute, the quicker and more pronounced your results will probably be).

Stick with me and I’ll take you on a journey to understanding.

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