"Simple does not mean easy. Simple is often harder than complex."
Donny and his parents are my good friends and neighbors. I love his enthusiasm for fitness and parkour type activities. Donny is at the stage of the game where an immediate burst of energy is always on reserve. He will take on a backyard obstacle course, shaving seconds from his PR until your thumbs ache from pressing the stopwatch.
Donny has been training for less than nine months. In that time he's improved from zero to a dozen pull-ups. He can climb and hang and tumble and nearly land a back flip on flat ground. His physique has notably changed.
Donny has a lot of questions. He wants to get faster and stronger and see his abs, like nearly every other male on the planet. I...well, try.
I advise him to sprint fairly short distances, focusing on powerful push-off and quick turnover of his feet and resting a lot in between efforts.
Donny wants to do bicep curls and bench press and he bangs out crappy form push-ups. I tell him to instead master the basics, like what it means make push-ups harder with a neutral spine and proper shoulder slot.
I advise him to hang and climb and do challenging tuck jumps focusing on core control and soft landings.
I advise him not to worry about ab-shredder-this and boot-camp-circuit-that and instead focus on getting his hips stronger through some variations of squats and dead lifts. 14-year olds can go all day but I have yet to meet one with too much power.
I advise him to pound the lean meats, fruits, and vegetables and limit but not eliminate treats.
Donny responds with shallow head nods, staring off into space. I've seen this before from other young men.
"Okay, sure. Now give me the real advice..."
"But the guys Youtube videos say..."
"How do you isolate the lower abs?..."
Just like everyone with a rudimentary interest in training, Donny is plagued with information overload, so many Youtube guys and gals providing good and bad advice. In this day and age, knowing what not to do is an exceedingly rare and valuable commodity.
Most teenagers (and their elders) do either nothing in terms of training or they enthusiastically dive into a haphazard approach of over-doing it. But the sweet spot lies in the rhythm of repeated and systematic effort and recovery
At the very least, Donny sees me as one who appreciates what he wants to accomplish and can establish a means to get there. I hope that he realizes the value in one who goes before him and can save him a lot of time and trouble.
I hope that he believes that it's unnecessary and impractical to do everything at once.
I hope he trusts that authentic change and improvement takes time. I have asked Donny to be patient and keep up with what he should be doing for at least three to six months, which translates to 3 to 6 millennia in the life of a teenager.
I hope he learns to appreciate the value of regular, simple and systematic hard work over any notion of magic exercises, workouts, or supplements.
I hope he comes to understand that the real miracle exists in the process and that any simple and easy way removes the most valuable aspect of training.
There truly is more at stake than sharper abs and landed back flips, goals or home runs or rushing yards or what-have-you.