How the White Stripes influenced my training philosophy
Jack created a band in a most unusual way.
To start, it was minimalist in structure: vocals, guitar, and drums were the only musical ingredients permitted.
He intentionally recruited a drummer (his wife Meg) who didn't know how to play the drums, favoring a simpler, child-like approach to the instrument over flashy fills and tempos.
His band used primitive recording equipment and minimal effects. No autotune. No high-tech recording studios. Jack's guitar was cheap — made of plastic and originally sold in department stores during the 1960s.
They had a color theme. All artwork, promotional materials, instruments, and wardrobe were all limited to the use of white, black, or red. Even his roadies had uniforms.
Their shows were not pre-planned, each song was chosen spontaneously. There were no guest or backing musicians.
He designed the stage to be as difficult to navigate as possible, intentionally spreading out the microphones, pedals, and other instruments that he needed, forcing himself to rush to where he needed to be in time for the chorus or tempo change.
Jack made it all as difficult and uncomfortable as as he could, and gave the band as few luxuries and options as possible. He wanted to work.
Jack did this because he knew that options are the death of creativity. He knew that boxing himself into a corner would force himself to innovate and think differently if he hoped to create something truly original.
The idea was that comfort leads to complacency, and technology was often used in the music industry as a cheap shortcut to faking creativity.
The good stuff comes from the struggle.
And the work of The White Stripes speaks for itself.
I think of this philosophy often when it comes to training.
The fitness and exercise industry is full of distractions. Full of claims and promises, comforts and hacks, apps and innovations.
Gadgets that monitor, track, and measure. High-performance clothing. Scientifically-based supplement formulas. New exercises and cutting-edge routines.
While these things can have a place in a training program, it's easy to get pulled away from the essence of the task at hand by overvaluing them.
Training is often a practice in suffering and discomfort. We get better with stress, not supplements. We improve through the habit of taking on more work, not high-tech moisture-wicking socks. We make changes to our training plan by listening to our bodies, not our smart watches.
Believe it or not there was a day when people trained in t-shirts and sweatpants. Their only piece of technology was a stopwatch. And they did just fine.
I'm not anti-technology. I'm pro-thinking.
I'm not anti-comfort. I'm pro-understanding-whats-important, which sometimes means learning to deal with discomfort.
Find what matters, focus relentlessly on it, and discard everything else.