Why the 'how' could be more important than the 'what'

Why the 'how' could be more important than the 'what'

by Evigan Xiao 28 Feb 2020

Living a healthy, active life is far from easy. When there are a million and one things demanding our attention, it’s too easy to forget how to take care of ourselves, even though we know how important that is (funny how it becomes even more important as we get busier)! Times like these calls for a plan of attack; a decisive strike to turn the tides to our favour. The question is, how do we win the battle without losing the war?



Every battle plan consists of strategies and tactics. Strategies are broad, overarching approaches that dictate where the bulk of your efforts should be concentrated at. Tactics are the tools with which you carry out said strategies. In today’s high-tech and gimmicky world, we are quite literally spoiled for choice when it comes to picking out the tools for success, but placing too much emphasis on them can be a good example of “missing the forest for the trees”.


After all, what good is a professional-grade hammer if you don’t have a pan on how to use it? You’d be as productive as a monkey swinging a wrench around! When it comes to health and fitness, methods get the lion’s share of attention for one simple reason – they’re easy. They’re easy to digest and even simpler to execute. But principles? They’re a different story altogether.


Principles demand more than just action; they require adherence. That means placing what some might find an inordinate amount of faith in them. More importantly, principles don’t just apply themselves in a singular fashion. A principled approach – no matter the goal – reaches out to practically every aspect of daily life. So if you’re looking to get fit, that means taking stock of what’s going on at home, outside, in the gym, at work, in the kitchen, and many more.


Putting methods before principles may see you enjoying some form of success in the short-term – if you’re coming off a completely sedentary lifestyle, any form of physical change towards greater activity will definitely reap rewards. But what happens when the progress stops? Will doing more sets and repetitions get things going again? Maybe, until the next time things grind to a halt. What then? As the saying goes, “Everything works until it doesn’t.”


There’s nothing wrong with loving your methods. Mine happens to be powerlifting and it makes me extremely happy whenever I hit a personal record! But we need to keep the bigger picture in mind. Having strong and sound principles matter because they’re what prevents us from becoming lost when our methods break down. Personally, my principles lie in challenging my athletic performance and work capacity, which means there are a multitude of ways I can achieve this – volume, density, intensity and frequency. This also keeps me aware of what steps I have to take to ensure the sustainability of this pursuit (e.g. prehab, injury prevention, etc.). I don’t have to restrict myself to the sport of powerlifting either. I could look to bodybuilding, weightlifting, girevoy (kettlebell sports), yoga and even martial arts as ways to achieve my goals.


If you’re just getting into fitness, then you have the advantage of starting with a clean slate. Take the time to ruminate over what your goals might be and what your principles should look like. If you’ve already started, then maybe you should reflect more on the “how” instead of the “what”. It is important that these principles resonate with you; taking someone else’s and adopting it wholesale will not work and can backfire magnificently. Stand on principle, or you risk standing on nothing at all.