You Can Learn At Lot From Breakfast Cereal

If you learned anything about me from our last post it’s that, if nothing else, I am a man of routine.

So it will not surprise you that when I find a spot that I like, I stick with it. Am I simply loyal? Possibly. Am I obsessive? Likely.

When it comes to my take-out breakfast, I definitely have a ‘go-to’ place.

A cavernous hall filled with everything you could ever want. It is quite literally a Greek diner menu come to life in take-out form. 47 different types of omelets? Check. Full sushi bar? Yes. Fresh juice station? Sure. You want them to whip you up a veal parmigiana hero? They got you covered.

I often wonder as I wait for my Western with a side of bacon what it must take to operate a place that cranks out this number of offerings 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The back room has to either be chaos or a finely tuned machine of fryers, grill tops, wood ovens, blenders and rice cookers. Maybe, one day, they’ll let me back there to check it out.

One of our favorite features in this magical emporium is the self-serve oatmeal bar. You can choose from not one, not two but four different types of oatmeal (cooked in water, whole milk, coconut milk or almond milk). Then you can add in no less than 15 different toppings including fresh fruit, raisins, nuts, granola, trail mix, and coconut flakes. Mix and match any and all of it in any way you see fit.

The oatmeal bar is always one of the busier areas of the entire joint as people sprinkle just the right amount of cinnamon over their hot breakfast cereal.

But, some days, things go wrong at the oatmeal bar.

From afar I can see people lifting the lids on the various steaming pots only to see them close them one by one, put their containers back on the shelf and walk away while shaking their heads. And on closer inspection it becomes very clear what is wrong – in an act of either poor chemistry or desire to save a few pennies all the oatmeals are too watery. And I don’t care what type of toppings you lay on there, no one wants watery oatmeal.

So the oatmeal bar sits vacant as people move on to grab a stack of strawberry cream cheese-stuffed French toast or a flat bread with lox and capers and cream cheese or load up on a Greek yogurt parfait.

Or, most often, walk out the door with nothing at all.

Watered Down Training

I truly hope that the watery oatmeal is a result of an overly zealous sous chef and not them trying to save, I don’t know, the fifty cents worth of oats it might take to get the pot back up to an acceptable consistency. But, who knows? When you run an operation this massive and seemingly costly, maybe you try to save wherever you can.

As much as I’d like to wax on about the proper ratio of grain to liquid in order to produce a spot-on vat of oatmeal, you may not be surprised that every time I see the hungry masses turn away from those steamy, watery pots I can’t help but think about how people make the same mistake in training. Namely, they water down their training so much that it no longer produces results. And it doesn’t matter how many delicious toppings you shovel on there. If the foundation – the oatmeal – isn’t made the right way, the entire breakfast is a failure.

The Pros And Cons of Training Variation

Let’s start with my definition of watered down training. To me, watering down your training is adding on unnecessary layers of variety and complexity in order to (mistakenly) drive results or in an effort to make training more psychologically stimulating.

On the surface this doesn’t seem like a bad idea. Let’s say you hit a plateau in your back squat. Adding box squats or bands or chains to the bar or any other variation could help you bust through that plateau. And if you are mentally burnt out from repeating the same movements over and over again maybe tweaking the exercises will provide the change of pace your body and mind needs.

I don’t disagree. But the biggest issue is that most trainees start layering on too much complexity too soon. They need mental breaks too often. If you water down the oatmeal twice per year no one blinks. Water it down 3 days a week and people start getting their breakfast elsewhere.

Obviously your workouts should not be exactly the same day in and day out. But there is a lot of value in practicing the same movements the same way for long stretches of time. You become more efficient the more ingrained a movement pattern becomes, particularly if you put in the time and care to do it correctly. And if you practice something the same way for long enough even the slightest variations will change (and usually degrade) performance.

So, how then do you continue to progress training while maintaining the same exercises done the same way? In my view, quite simply. When it is time to alter certain factors of training rather than layering on some Bosu-ball, reverse band variation, simply change the reps, sets and weight of the movement pattern you are trying to perfect.

Luckily, for those of you who train with us, we take care of all this for you. Changing the variables in a sensible way that drives both progress and psychological engagement. You’re welcome.

I cannot overstate how the learned efficiency of a movement pattern done to the point of it becoming automatic will free you up to get stronger or build more capacity in that pattern rather than having to learn variations or tweaks of those movements.

Getting great at the basics is the fastest route to reaching your goals.

On a recent soupy oatmeal day I took a cue from my fellow disgruntled breakfast goers and took a tour of the other options. I landed on a “homemade” banana walnut muffin which I must admit was freakin’ delicious. But I was right back at that oatmeal bar the next day. Cause while it may not be as tasty as breakfast cake (which, let’s face it, is all a muffin is) in the long run the oatmeal is going to keep me – and, by extension, you – on track towards the goal.

And that’s why we’re in this whole damn thing in the first place.