My Asymptotic Relationship With The Perfect Physique, Time & Effort 


I was listening to a sports talk show today. Surprise, surprise

Yes, for me, it’s either learning podcasts of entertaining sports talk. Ah, but the things you learn if you do listen.

Oh yes, I said “asymptotic” in the headline. I’m getting there.

On the show, Dan Patrick (host) was talking with Urban Meyer, Ohio State head (football) coach about his new book, Above the Line.

The conversation was so clearly about and between two middle age men. How can I tell? Because I am one. And because I have these sorts of conversations with men of my age all the time.

Urban Meyer says obsession with going undefeated ‘drained the enjoyment’ out of Florida team



Both of them are able to look back on their life, career, success and very clearly express their regrets. Regrets for the important times they missedusually with family and kidsand the sacrifices they made in the quest for perfection and success.

Dan expressed how he makes every school play and function now, “because I missed too many. I find myself easily moved to tears.”

Urban spoke of the booster and recruiting trips that would have him on a plane while his kids were winning games, having birthdays… even his daughter signing a scholarship that he nearly missed to study punt formations.

In our 20’s we think this thinglife–is going to last forever. In our 30’s we get consumed with winning, getting ahead. Yet, somewhere along the way, if you are lucky, it comes to you. This is it man.

This is the one time. The one rodeo. You don’t always get a second chance to say “I love you,” and you never get back the time you lost with your kids and family.

Those of you who see me as a “fitness dude” may be expecting me to lecture you, tell you how being out of shape sucks, and how your kids are going to look down on you… or whatever.

Standard Fitness Guru…NOT

You know, anything to sell you something. That’s the standard “fitness guru” M.O.

Those who know me know better by now.

Being fit is a lovely thing. Perhaps as much because it gives you more life, more energy and greater clarity and confidence as any other reason. I am an advocate of wellness, strength and fitness.

You know that.Shawn phillips column photo

You also know I want your best for you. I want you to overcome any resistance and embody a life that is working for you, inside out.

May I add, awake beats six-pack abs every day and double on Sunday. Just thought you should hear that, again.

Yet, the last thing you are going to get from me is some lecture on the virtue of being 7% bodyfat, ripped and living your life obsessed with fitness, exercise and some radical diet.

This is why I tend to just toss out the extremes of pseudo-science. While it’s rich ground for marketing and great attention getting stuff, taking your creatine in perfect harmony with the lunar cycle for a potential 1/10th of a % advantage, or trying to master your leptin levels from the outside in, have really lousy ROI’s.

Addicted to Your Body?

In a world where we’ve come to better understand and have compassion for addictions, we still love to celebrate the addictions that seem to be “working” for us. You know, the ripped fitness man or woman who lives in a self-created prison of training and food.

The millionaire success addict whose relationships and life is sheer torture to everyone around them. Yet, we think they have it made. They are so lucky and so privileged.

Yes, everything in moderation, even six pack abs.

As for Asymptotic

At the pinnacle of my physique years I never competed. I trained less than more people would believe. yet, I was single. I did work all the time and we had a gym at the office, EAS. It was part of life. So, as it goes, I spent a hell of lot more time honing it in that I feel the urge to do now.

The way I view fitness, from the physique / image standpoint is to live at about 80% of my relative peak, is pretty effortless. It’s not without effort but it feels right, fits and allows me to manage what is a very challenging life at the moment. It doesn’t require extremes of time nor sacrifice.

Now, I know, for another 5-10% improvement I will have to nearly double my effort and focus. If I want to move above 90% of peak, it’s another double effort at least.

Are there times that this is called for and sensible?

Sure! Perhaps one chooses to compete in a physique contest of every an Ironman. (Performance athletics is a different demand from image but the effort curve is related).

This sort of exponentially increasing time and effort as one approaches excellence reminds me of golf. It’s one of those sports that I can play moderately well. and enjoy. But I learned long ago, that for every 3 strokes I want to take off my game I have to invest another 20 hours a week in. And it’s just not worth that for me.

time_effort_perfect_bodyThus, I use asymptotic to describe the relationship between time and effort and the theoretical absolute 100% peak condition. For as one approaches the mythical 100% physique, the line of time and effort grow exponentially and infinitely. Such that 95% is 10x the effort of 90% and 96% 50X the effort of 95%, etc.

It’s true, you can always get “better’ and you can always put more time in. You can learn more. Take more peculiarly supplements. Follow more cutting edge hyperbole. Chase more rainbows and wear more ruby slippers.

At the end of the day, your day is over. And that’s one more day of your life gone. And you have to ask yourself, how did I invest it? To what end is all this serving? Am I chasing a feelingof better, or “adequacy”I should have now without exerting one iota of effort?

And perhaps, if you had that good feeling inside now as your right of birth, you’d be in better shape, easier. Maybe.

Whatever the case, I will tell you that I believe there is a point where time and effort intersects with a level of physical fitness, wellness and strength that is a happy place–for me, and for you.

While an addiction to bodybuilding / fitness is often clear to those around the person, for most of us it’s a matter of making a eyes-open decision about what your point of diminishing return is. You have to ask yourself what it’s all about for you and what you’re willing to sacrifice.

And like the two guys in the opening of this story talked about; if that includes time with your kids, family functions and things you will one day regret, you might use this as a chance to look deeper into your motivations.

For if you are using fitness to chase self-esteem vs. using self-esteem to fuel your fitness, you are on the infinite treadmill to nowhere. But the people selling diet and programs love you. You’re probably one of their best customers.

Here’s to your life at Full Strength: Body, Mind and Soul.






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  1. Gary A. November 30, 2015 at 11:13 am #

    As always, your profound, yet intellectual perspective, blows me away…… Dumb question…where did the shakes go??…. Please tell me you didn’t stop production!

  2. Kevin October 28, 2015 at 10:27 am #

    This is a great article. One important lesson I have learned is even the fitness pros don’t look “shredded” year-round. Believing you can look like that all the time is a sure-fire way to be frustrated (and maybe neurotic).

    I’m in my 40’s and I still enjoy training. But my self-worth doesn’t revolve around how much I can bench press or my body fat level.

    • shawn_phillips October 28, 2015 at 8:30 pm #

      Cool Kevin. Thanks for the words…

      Yeah, it’s not all about the bench! Haaa..


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