Friday Musings: Core Principles

Another bite-sized (well, almost) tidbit from IHD. I've slightly exceeded my self-imposed 500 word limit for Friday Musings, but only slightly. With the weekend looming, it has never been more important to examine and commit to your core principles.

By Justin Lind

In the RKC, we use a speaker and amplifier analogy to describe a training phenomenon called the core-to-extremity principle. Your brain and nervous system are a stereo that can play a huge variety of beautiful movements. Your extremities (arms, legs, etc.) are the speakers through which the final sounds resonate. However, for that sound to be as powerful and crisp as possible, it must pass through the amplifier of your core. The more powerful the amp, the louder the music.

For most athletic movement, we think in terms of extremities. They certainly attract all of the glory. We talk about a quarterback’s arm strength, sprinters’ foot speed and turnover, and soccer players’ kicking strength. However, beneath these demonstrations of world-class athleticism is thousands of hours of practice. Beneath that practice is a strong core.

The core-to-extremity principle means that all compound athletic movements originate at the core and travel outward through the extremities like a shockwave. A throw begins with a strong core, travels through a coiled torso, into the shoulder, through the arm, to the final release through the finger tips.

Even though we fixate on the final release, by the time a quarterback lets a pass fly his final arm movement is an after thought. His practice has taken hold to make the individual motions of throwing flow into a single coordinated, but entirely subconscious act. Beneath that still, his core is strong and fully engaged to allow power and precision to come through his arm.

As with all physical lessons, this principle has a far more to teach outside of training and athletics (in fact, this is exactly why two coaches, several timezones apart have teamed up to offer what they can about fulfillment and development beyond fitness).

This principle applies to just that: our core principles. These are far deeper than our habits and decisions, but like the core is to athletic movement, are the base that healthy lifestyles stand on.

Imagine your lifestyle as a body. The individual movements that bodies makes are daily choices and actions. Just as we focus on the quarterback’s arm, we tend to only see a healthy lifestyle in terms of healthy choices. Tracing back the steps that created the perfect pass, we see relentless practice and finally a strong core.

When you see a “healthy” person turn down a slice of cake or wake early to train, you only see the individual action. You are seeing the final release of the pass. It is easy to assume that, as we do with NFL quarterbacks, the healthy individual is special and capable of something that we simply are not.

Fortunately, a healthy lifestyle does not require any lucky blessings. It does, however, require core principles. Those “healthy” choices that we see others makes are not simply expressions of their superior willpower. That is the observable final outcome of a cascade of steps that began with their core principles.

Your core principles are those that truly matter. This may seem abundantly obvious, but we can see what truly matters to an individual by examining their choices. We simply need to trace back the decision of nightly ice cream to the principle of mouth pleasure over health.

This may seem like an argument to build more willpower. It is not. Willpower absolutely has a place to create change but beating yourself up for each unhealthy decision is like denigrating yourself for not throwing a Tom Brady quality pass every time.

Core principles dictate the actions to follow. It is far easier to be a person who doesn’t eat sugar than to refuse sweets at each opportunity.

Commit to your core principles. Practice them like you’re throwing a pass, until they groove into deep habit. Release your expectation that they will be perfect every time. Even MVPs throw the occasional interception. The more you practice and allow your choices flow outward from your core principles the healthier you will be.