The Big Picture

I use a lot of analogies when I’m coaching. I try to pick a common reference that the client or athlete has experience of, and lever this to help them quickly grasp whatever I’m trying to get across. I’m going to attempt the same in this post. My analogies only work if you have a frame of reference for them. They’re not intended to be taken literally, but should help you see the parallels and lead to a greater understanding. Please keep this in mind as you read the following paragraphs. Ironically, I tend to learn lessons from seemingly disparate experiences in life too — and this post begins with one such experience. So here we go, remember, don’t take this all literally…

Last weekend, my family was privileged to be invited to a the Catholic christening of a local Filipino family’s son. Having experienced various religious ceremonies in the past, on this occasion I found myself considering both the similarities and differences between the people following various religious beliefs AND also those following gym or training beliefs (Muay Thai, Boxing, Crossfit, Russian Kettlebell, Power lifting, Olympic lifting, Tacfit, Bodyweight, Yoga etc).

There are individuals in both religious and gym environments that are happy in themselves and accepting of other viewpoints, and then those that believe their way is the only way. I’m not knocking any religion or training system, my take is that they all fundamentally say the same things, just using different metaphors and applications. Choose the metaphors and applications that make the most sense for you.

Because of my background in mechanical engineering, scientific metaphors work well for me. The language of Thomas Campbell and Bruce Lipton better fit my personal experience and allow me to comprehend the metaphors used by religious and spiritual teachers. Science offers another set of models and theories (metaphors) to explain how things work, that are constantly changed and refined as more is learnt – particularly from quantum theory right now. It’s actually all converging.

I find exposing and understanding the common underlying principles simplifies everything. Then you see similarities rather than differences and the bigger picture comes into focus – rather than becoming lost in detail. When working as a young design engineer, I remember attempting to calculate the forces produced and transferred through a theoretical mechanism. I had become lost trying to resolve the multiple force vector directions, when the Chief Engineer recommended that I attack he problem from a different view-point. Rather than using specific force vectors, simplify using energy calculations. Boom, just like that, clarity – applying underlying principles removed the clutter.

The same scalable principles are everywhere when you look. You just need to understand the metaphors used. Whether it’s Japanese swordsman Miyamoto Musashi’s Book of Five Rings applied to modern-day business, or mathematician John Von Neumann and economist Oskar Morgenstern’s Theory of Games and Economic Behaviour being applied to athletic programme design.

Rather than blindly following (metaphors) literally, look deeper. Without such reflection you simply have a cult. Don’t be defined by labels – Scientist, Christian, Buddhist, CrossFitter, Thai boxer – and simply follow others that define themselves with the same labels. What fits you? What’s your truth? No single tool can serve every purpose, find which best suits each purpose (for you) and don’t just follow blind dogma.

Understand why you do what you do, how it applies to you as an individual. Why are you performing a Ram Muay, wearing amulets? Just because it’s what Thai boxers do? Why are you eating Paleo? Just because that’s what everyone else is doing at the gym? What are the underlying principles? What’s the bigger picture? At the heart of it all, the principles are consistent, but the applications very. Open mindedly listen to all available input, experiment and then build your own jig-saw with the pieces that fit you. I hope you’ll find some pieces to fit your own puzzle on this site, just keep digging.

Don Heatrick

Founder of Heatrick Strength and Conditioning

Don Heatrick is a family man from the UK, former mechanical design engineer, European Muay Thai silver medallist, former pro Thai boxer (ranked 4th in UK while aged 40-years), a Muay Thai coach, podcast host, and the go-to expert on Muay Thai performance training with over 25 years of coaching experience.

Don helps ambitious fighters and coaches take their game to the next level by bridging the gap between Strength & Conditioning, Performance Science, and Muay Thai.

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