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Brittney Saline, CrossFit website


January 7, 2024

Back to the Basics

WhenI was in music school, I had a terrible case of the novice’s curse.

I played the saxophone, and I only wanted to practice the “best”music. The most impressive concertos — high and fast and complicated; the stuff the badasses played.

I bought top-of-the-line equipment and drilled line after line of complex passages. Yet at almost every lesson, my professor set that music aside.

“Let’s hear your scales,” she’d say.

It’s not just musicians who are prone to the curse — and it’s not just beginners. In fact, the more we learn, the more tempting the tendency to hyperfocus on nuance — when in reality, it’s the fundamentals that make the biggest difference.

“You can practice shooting eight hours a day, but if your technique is wrong, then all you become is very good at shooting the wrong way,” basketball legend Michael Jordan has said. “Get the fundamentals down and the level of everything you do will rise.”

And what could be more essential than mastering the fundamentals of fitness?

I’m not talking about how to get six-pack abs (although that’s a common side effect). I’m talking about your health — right now and for a lifetime.

Blood pressure, blood sugar, body fat, triglycerides, bone density, muscle mass — all these and more measurable values of health can be placed on a continuum that ranges from sickness to wellness to fitness. It’s simple: The fitter you are,the better these values will be.

And despite what industry, social media, and the marketplace would have you think, improving those values is simple, too. 

Eat well: Consume whole foods — no added sugar — in quantities that support exercise but not body fat.

Move well: Practice functional movements essential for life at a high relative intensity.

There is little point in obsessing over the best post-workout nutrition supplement if the rest of your calories are coming from pizza and doughnuts.

Special shoes and belts might boost your confidence while bearing a barbell on your back — but they won’t help you preserve function and range of motion as you age.

And all the customized workout programming and specialty-diet meal subscription services in the world won’t make much difference if your baseline isn’t sound functional movement and a diet of whole foods.

It’s like painting over a crumbling staircase — the fancy stuff simply won’t matter if your foundation isn’t stable. Focus on the basics. Practice the fundamentals. Do the common uncommonly well.

It won’t be easy — good things rarely are — but it will be simple, and the rewards will be cumulative.

Choose meat and veggies over fast food today and you’ll have a little more energy tomorrow. Take that energy to the gym and prioritize squatting better over squatting more, and eventually, you’ll be able to do both.

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