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    Articles | future

    Are you creating the life you want to live?

    By Tim Stevenson

    Everything comes at a cost. As much as we might like to try and convince ourselves that we can have it all, the reality is, we can’t. On a daily basis we are therefore confronted with accepting the ‘opportunity cost’. This being the benefits you miss out on when choosing one alternative over another.

    When you consider opportunity cost from a business or investment perspective the key measure is the expected return, whether that is financial or otherwise. The prudent decision is to choose the option that generates the greatest amount of value. Even if the alternative represents something desirable, a choice has to be made as to which is more important in helping the business achieve its objectives.

    In training terms the same conditions apply. It is extremely difficult to have top-end speed and explosiveness whilst at the same time having high levels of endurance. Developing and sustaining large amounts of muscle mass is not complimentary to high levels of athleticism. Being able to execute complex skills may come at the cost of high levels of absolute strength. Whether we are aware of it or not, we make training decisions that come with an opportunity cost all the time.

    Following Jacko’s blog last week you may have chosen to start training in a way that focuses on what your body can do, rather than what it looks like. I’m totally onboard with this ethos, but it doesn’t mean that I don’t often think and even worry about my aesthetic appearance. Both things represent some value to me.

    Ultimately, it boils down to becoming crystal clear on what is more important and it is essential that we check in on this regularly so that we gain and maintain clarity and perspective on what we are striving for. We must truely understand and accept the value of our end goal in order to know why we do what we do and to avoid getting distracted and confused.

    Don’t be the kid in the sweet shop

    Before I started calisthenics I used to programme hop. This was largely due to the fact I had a good amount of knowledge about different training styles, potential adaptations and a desire to ‘taste’ everything. One day I would decide to start a strength endurance block. That might last a couple of weeks before I would get distracted and switch to some max strength work instead. Then my body dysmorphia issues would raise their head and I’d panic causing the instigation of a hypertrophy, bodybuilding-esk phase.

    Now as I reflect back on the months and years over which this continued, I realise that I ended up getting a whole lot of nothing. The training time I had was spread too thinly, much like playing blackjack with the minimum bet. The wins are not big enough to yield a meaningful return on investment. As such, I ended up getting a whole lot of nothing.

    The four burners

    There is a theory that in your life you have four burners, just like a stove top. Family, friends, health and work. It is suggested that in order to be successful, you have to turn one of those burners off. And to be really successful, you have to turn off two.

    The opportunity cost is reflected by the burners which get turned off. This confronts us with the stark reality of our current situation and the challenge of making some potentially difficult decisions.

    For those of us who have exercise as a consistent part of our life, your training habits and goals represent a secondary stove top. If, for argument’s sake, your training burners represent power, endurance, aesthetics and skill in some form or another, (you can replace these to fit your own preferences), to be really successful in any one area you are going to need to turn off, or at least turn down, some of your burners.

    Generalist Vs Specialist

    It would be sensible to say ‘well I’ll just do a bit of everything’ and that is a perfectly acceptable training strategy. However, you need to consider which of your main four burners (family, friends, health and work) are turned up because that will determine how much time you have to direct to your secondary training burner.

    If family and work are on full whack, and you’re committed to doing a really good job in both those areas, the available resource (time, energy and money) you have available to keep all four training specific burners to be on at the same time is going to be limited. That may mean that your results will be too.

    In a recent blog I put forth a case that calisthenics is the greatest form of training. My evidence included the physical and mental health benefits, accessibility, community, longevity, growth mindset and play. When you are making training decisions that include an awareness of the opportunity cost, it is important to consider how to maximise your return on investment. My view is that calisthenics gives you a massive kick-back in many areas, potentially more than that offered by other forms of training. But if you read the blog, you can be the judge of that.

    On the flip side you might decide to embrace specialism and become really good at one thing. That too is also a good strategy, if it makes you happy. The challenge here comes in not rueing the missed opportunities and being peaceful that there are going to be some things that just can’t focus on right now.

    I’ve experienced this over recent years with my conditioning training. I’m currently in the process of turning this burner up because I want it back in my life. But during the period where work was crazy busy and included lots of travel, a new baby in the house, a startup on the go and a desire to really progress my skill-specific calisthenics ability, I didn’t have the time or energy, nor was it a priority, to get out and elevate my heart rate on a regular basis. Now my landscape is changing, I have got my calisthenics burner almost to a point that I’m happy with and therefore I have freed up some training time. Family and work are still burning bright.

    Making choices that shape your world

    My experience of the four burners theory is that it holds true. I’ve had the work burner on high since I became self-employed over 11 years ago. Throughout this time the opportunity cost has changed and at certain periods family, health and friends have all been negatively affected. Since Jack was born 2 years ago the family burner has been turned up. Work has also stayed high. Training has lacked consistency and my friendship circle now is pretty small, (I’m blessed however with quality rather than quantity in this regard!).

    One thing I know now better than ever is that the health burner has to stay on and that we should make sensible decisions regarding what we sacrifice in order to ensure it stays as a priority.

    Extended periods of stress, poor nutrition, less than optimal lifestyle choices and a lack of resource dedicated to moving your human body will leave you decrepit, in pain and potentially unable to enjoy the things you dream about. Your body is an amazing piece of art and engineering. You are designed to move and in another recent blog I explained why beauty is more than skin deep.

    Create the life you want to live

    Every choice you make has an opportunity cost. We hope that over the last few weeks we have helped outline the benefits of making good decisions when it comes to your training and wellbeing.

    Life is about experiences and it is these things we remember and cherish.

    I hope that you have positive relationships with your family and that your friends are invested in you as much as you are in them. I hope you have a career that brings you enjoyment and fulfilment. I hope your health remains a priority in your life and that you resist all the reasons to turn this burner off because it is the glue that binds everything together.

    This conversation is about more than solely your physical strength and ability to move. Think about your nutrition, how you manage and minimise chronic stress, depression and anxiety, the people you spend your time with and how frequently you give yourself the freedom to play and be happy? These are all important factors in reaping full enjoyment of every facet of your life, whichever burner is fuelling the fire.

    Calisthenics means beauty and strength.

    Life is beautiful and we encourage you to make strong decisions that mean you create the life you want to live.


    If you have enjoyed reading this blog please let us know by commenting on social media. Also if you think someone else would benefit from reading it then please share it with them.

    Until next time,

    Class Dismissed



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