I love a saying in circus training: Quantity brings Quality. I know this to be true from my own experience in training and from others I’ve trained during the years. But what is more important? Quality or Quantity? Of course, you refine Quality over time, but you need to have a solid foundation first.
Currently, I am building my aerobic base for endurance training. It’s a long phase that demands patience and repetition at low intensities for long periods. Quantity, days, minutes, and hours of accumulated distance at a relatively low heart rate teach my slow twitch muscles to use fat for fuel.
Scott Johnston, Steve House, and Kilian Jornet distill the base-building principle in their excellent book Training for the Uphill Athlete: A Manual for Mountain Runners and Ski Mountaineers: “You will never maximize your endurance potential without first maximizing your basic aerobic capacity (AeT).”
Once you have created your base, which takes time, trust, and patience, you can work on improving technique, Quality, and execution.
So yes, as the pros say, do not skip this phase. It is foundational. It’s time for quantity at a relatively easy and slow pace. On the trapeze, it takes you time to get your body to understand what’s required, hanging upside down, using strange parts of your body to hang from and hold with.
It’s teaching the body to operate in the air, against gravity, with all your limbs and body capacity. That’s full body training, where what you mainly develop is strength and flexibility simultaneously. The aerobic element comes in only when you start swinging, the base is trained on a fixed trapeze (that does not move) and therefore works more on your strength, high-intensity anaerobic system.
So, what are you working on now? What’s your focus? In life, yes. Whatever it is, ask yourself – what’s the foundation for this work? Do I have it under my belt? Or does it require more time for me to build the base before proceeding with the rest?
You may be in the middle of a project with a preeminent deadline, suddenly realizing that you don’t really “own your base,” so to speak, that you need to go two steps backward and work on the foundation to be able to proceed.
This may have happened to you if you’re like me. I hate repeating myself in terms of the projects I take. I love changing and challenging my body, mind, and spirit. What drives this in me, I guess, is my growth orientation, working on new bases and foundations for several years, getting to a reasonably good level at things, and then moving on further to new things.
They say the most challenging thing is the beginning, but I love the starting phase with the stupid mistakes and daily frustrations, with occasionally a little progress here and there. One step forward, two backward, and on and on it goes.
Then one day, you are miles away from where you started.
Insidentaly, you can look forward to creating new and higher levels of art, business, science, or simply a gourmet dinner for your loved ones.
At this point, something exciting happens, and you start imagining things you couldn’t even consider before. A whole new world opens up for you, a change in how you live your life and possibly how you perceive and are perceived by those around you.
Instead of training and building yourself, you now look at what you can do in the world with your refined skills. Then, your focus turns outside and onto what you can do “out there.” That’s when the spiritual nature of reality becomes apparent to you, and your creativity comes into play. You have added one or several more tools/skills to your living toolbox, and you can create your reality and that of those around you with more ease and flow.
Now is where artistic responsibility and conscious work and creation come in. As you create, you refine your tools and skills – increasing intensity towards specific events. Expanding techniques that give more refinement to your output, speed, and precision.
It’s an excellent time to give back and teach others what you’ve learned. We learn a lot more by teaching. And there’s always an advantage and even a necessity to go back to basics.
The fact that one is at a higher level does not mean one should neglect the foundational training and basic elements of one’s craft or art. These need to be refreshed constantly.
OK, now I’d love to hear about your experience with Quality and Quantity. Please share in the comments below!