MCI: You need all three for success

I urge you to take a moment in the next few days and examine your own training efforts.

source: Neil Cummings at Flickr

MCI. Like a 3-legged stool, you need all three legs for the stool to work.

Let’s mix metaphors a bit.

Imagine three brothers: Michael, Carl, and Ian. They want to build a bridge over a fast-moving river behind their home. Across the river is the legendary home of a leprechaun who gives sacks of gold to all who visit.

Michael is ready to get the bridge built. He has been strengthening his arms and collected all the tools he might need to construct a bridge. Michael rises every morning at sunrise eager to work and get the bridge built. He just doesn’t actually know how to construct a bridge. He lacks an understanding of mechanics.

Carl also gets up at sunrise, but infrequently at best. On those early mornings, he’s eager to work sunrise to sunset — but, unfortunately, most days he prefers to sit by the fire and study bridge-building with Ian, or poetry, or just daydream about how he’ll spend the gold once they get it. He lacks consistency.

Ian studies mechanical and civil engineering from textbooks. He takes time every day to investigate the mathematics, physics, and environmental factors that need to be considered when building a bridge. Ian just has no interest in collecting the materials and getting outside to labor over the bridge. He lacks intensity.

2 out of 3 will get you results — but likely not the results you want or are fully capable of.

Since I first learned about Crossfit back in 2011, I’ve found that the central tenet of “mechanics, consistency, and intensity” resonated with me and my training philosophy.

“These three aspects are intricately interrelated; CrossFit does not work to its potential unless you execute each one and understand how it is bound to the others.”

From the early stages of my own fitness journey, I’ve realized that each pillar is critical to success. Unfortunately over time — one of the three has had a tendency to slip.

Most recently I’ve been leaning heavily on the consistency leg of the stool and expecting it to prop up and support the others.

As the brothers learned above, having only one or two of the tenants dialed in won’t get you to your goals. I was convincing myself that if I simply made it to the gym 5+ days per week — the sheer volume of my efforts would carry me to the desired outcome. It wasn’t until I was reminded about the importance of all three — that I took the time to honestly look at my training and efforts.

As Vince Lombardi said, “Practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.”

Moving poorly in weightlifting (or any kind of fitness program) is a bad idea. At best you develop inefficient movement patterns and restrict the intensity of your workouts. At worst it will lead to injury. (See Crossfit article linked above for more about the importance of movement efficiency).

For me, Neglecting mechanics lead to the development (and with consistency, the reinforcement) of several bad habits. These bad habits (patterns of movement) have both limited the intensity I’m able to bring to bear on my training (the amount of weight on the bar), and the success I may be able to achieve in my sport.

Now, I may never move as well as an elite weightlifter like Chad Vaughn, but this should not mean I settle for moving poorly.

The same is true for all of us — no matter what stage we’re at (unless we are an elite level athlete — then you better work to move like one!), The fact that we aren’t training for the NFL, or the Olympics, or an Ironman does not mean we should not pay attention to each of these critical tenants. We need all three legs for the stool to work.

I urge you to take a moment in the next few days and examine your own training efforts. Are you pursuing balance in each of these three tenants?

Have you taken the time to learn to move well? Are you experiencing some minor aches and pains that are a little more than muscle soreness? Should you be looking into some rehabilitative exercises before you run your next 5K?

Are you putting in the right amount of work? Have you been skipping leg day? Are you sleeping in when you should be getting after it? Do you take the time to warm up and cool down with each workout? Are you eating well and treating your body right during the 23 hours you’re not exercising?

If you’re moving well and getting your workout in on a regular basis, is it now time to push yourself to the next level? Sometimes we just need to change the routine to bust through a plateau. Or maybe look at your workout log. When was the last time you added 5lbs to your strength work? When was the last time you added some sprints into your running?

I’ve taken a step back (or maybe sideways) in my training to work on my mechanics again. It’s been a few months — but the work is starting to pay off. I brought consistency and intensity to the basics, to the mechanics — and now I can see the results. MCI


It’s simple, and yet wonderfully brilliant how the three work synergistically. It’s a true expression of how the whole (all three working together) is greater than the individual parts phenomena. When all three are incorporated into your training program — the results are magnified in comparison to only focusing on any one or two.

If the brothers work together, MCI, they’ll bring all to bear, and build a reliable bridge to their goal. Do the same in your training and you’ll reap the rewards.

Dad, husband, thinker, writer, exerciser. “It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” — Dumbledore

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