Stephen Covey covers the P/PC Balance Principle in the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
It was one of the biggest takeaways I got from the book, and it absolutely stuck to me like a piece of gum on the bottom of my shoe.
It also got me to thinking.
How could this awesome principle be applied to health and fitness?
Maybe you’re a supernerd like me and thought the same thing.
Maybe you haven’t even read the book and you’re wondering what the hell I’m yapping about.
Well we’re gonna solve this like an 8th grade math problem (please excuse my bad metaphors), and dive head first into how we can maximize our gains while minimizing overtraining, injuries, and burnout.
Let’s get into it!
A Quick Overview: What is P and PC?
PC is For Production Capability
PC is the machine (and more importantly, the health of that machine) that produces.
Taking care of the PC means that the machine is always ready to produce.
Proper maintenance is key.
PC neglect leads to breakdown.
P is For Production
P is the production of the machine.
Production is the output.
It’s the results.
The production is the reason the machine exists, it’s the purpose.
The machine needs to produce results or it’s useless.
P and PC Must Be Balanced
An imbalance in either one is not optimal.
Taking care of the machine is necessary, as is the machine actually doing the work it’s supposed to do.
The machine is useless without the ability to produce.
Likewise, if the machine produces nothing of value, there is no reason for it’s existence. It’s a waste of space.
The Lawnmower Example
In the 7 Habits Covey gives an example using a lawnmower.
Basically, if you buy a lawnmower and use it while performing no maintenance at all (not maintaining the PC), eventually it will break down and you will have no P(roduction).
Yes, it will work for a while, but eventually it will start to break down, until it can’t do what it’s supposed to do anymore.
It’ll become completely useless! Just a hunk of neglected metal.
Would you keep around a lawnmower that doesn’t cut the grass? No! It has no value because it doesn’t produce.
By now you can probably see what I’m hinting at.
You can see how we must take care of our PC to keep getting our P!
We can also become as useless as a broken lawnmower by neglecting or not investing in our own PC.
This can be applied to business, relationships, parenting, or anything else worthwhile in life.
Health and Fitness P/PC
We can also apply this principle to our training, as it is something that’s important and something that takes balance in both P and PC to achieve.
P – training workouts and in turn strength, muscle, balance, speed, and cardiovascular health gains.
PC – taking care of yourself by eating for recovery, sleep (and other rest), proper programming, stretching, foam rolling, massage, ice treatment, etc. proper maintenance of the machine driving the production (YOU!).
If you go hard in the gym, but don’t get proper nutrition and rest and you don’t take the time to keep your body mobile and flexible, you will get injured and make no progress.
Likewise if you go too heavy or too hard too soon.
If you tear your pec bench pressing 400 lbs, you now have no ability to produce (no PC!).
If you don’t let your body heal between workouts and get an overuse injury, your Production Capability is toast.
I think you get the point.
On the flip side, if you eat healthy and get proper rest, but don’t go hard in the gym and don’t put in the work, or you workout inconsistently and when you do you use kid weights, no gains will be had.
Your body needs enough mechanical tension and continual progressive overload to produce gains.
If you eat like crap and don’t workout at all, you’re hitting yourself with the double whammy of a big fat zero for production while still killing your PC. Knock it off! Kindly put the donuts down and get to the gym! It’s never too late to start. 🙂
Another interesting point about focusing on balancing P/PC is that the more you take care of the machine, the stronger and more resilient it becomes, boosting production big time.
This means over time, if you’re really hammering home your PC, P goes up in every aspect of life (as long as you focus on effectiveness).
This is the amazing thing about the human mind and body. We are truly adaptation machines, and we can build our mind and bodies while finding ways to perform better or do something better with less time and effort when we have the ability to do so.
Remember: balance is key!
It’s so easy to get so caught up in the production aspect of life. Produce, produce, produce. We want results yesterday, we want things to be done fast, we want to build 20 lbs of muscle in a month, we think of sleep as a waste of time, we slam coffee to stay alert, we want to lose 30 lbs of fat in 2 weeks, hell we’re even proud of putting in 12-16 hour workdays. All of this may work for a while. But eventually it will all come crashing down. A focus on production is like an airplane trying to circle the world for 80 years on only one tank of fuel and no maintenance. It may go along for awhile, but eventually it will need to stop for fuel and a tune-up or else it will plummet to the ground from running out of fuel or something breaking or wearing out.
I’ve been imbalanced in both PC and P, and each time my progress has stalled in the gym.
I’ve gone extremely hard in the gym, neglected proper diet and sleep, never stretched, never foam rolled, and just generally abused my body. This messed up my joints, led me to be in an overtrained state, and led to me just generally feeling like garbage.
Can you train hard while neglecting proper recovery for a while? Yes! Just like the plane above, we can make it pretty far.
But eventually the joyride comes to an end and your body MAKES you take a break and recover.
I’ve also eaten properly and rested while working out suboptimally or inconsistently, and wasted plenty of time and made absolutely no gains (while wasting lots of money on expensive food!).
I wasn’t producing anything.
There was no overload.
twice a month cupcake workouts are almost as bad as no workouts at all.
Above: A very crude graph I made illustrating health and fitness P/PC. The red line represents P/PC balance, which can lead to steady gains over time. The blue line is P only focus. This leads to gains at first, but they eventually come crashing down until they stop completely. The black line is PC only focus, and it shows how negligible gains are made.
The RECIPE for Health and Fitness Success (Balancing P and PC)?
Train hard, rest hard, eat hard.
Get on a good training program and stick to it! Make sure that program includes proper progression, balanced movements, as well as planned time off. Be consistent, but don’t be consistently overtrained.
Get on a sleep schedule and get 7-9 hours of deep sleep a night (I know this is tough, but it pays dividends for productivity and wellbeing). Don’t be afraid to take a day off, but don’t let that day turn into a month (I often find a day or two off helps me recharge and go harder on the subsequent workout).
Eat clean and supplement properly. Give your body something to build with. Find clean foods you like, get on some sort of eating schedule, and stick to it. Make sure to include cheat foods if you need them, and have a cheat meal or some cheat food to reset, but don’t turn it into a month long binge.
Also remember that your health and fitness journey will be a lifelong endeavor, a never ending journey. It takes time, consistency, and tons of effort to get insanely muscular, strong, lean, fast, agile, and explosive (as well as to age gracefully with minimal aches and injuries). Be sure to take a look at the big picture as well as the small details for everything you do (in the gym, and out!)
Stay healthy, stay strong,