McDermott: Rubik’s Cubes and Fitness

Scott McDermott’s monthly column on health and fitness

Remember the Rubik’s cube? Invented in 1974, and after some efforts, it was sold to the world massively in 1980, which is when I came to know about it. It was an enormous success and of course, everyone got one. I was able to solve the cube by one method: pulling it apart and putting it back together. I could never master the actual method of endlessly turning the colours in different ways to get to a solution. On occasion I could (accidentally) get 2 sides to both be ‘solved’. I remember watching TV shows like ‘That’s Incredible’ where a row of people would line up with equally scrambled cubes and solve then in seconds. SECONDS. Yah… as in 38 seconds. I gave up on it as ‘not something I was capable of’.

I think a lot of people feel this way about fitness and health. They try this diet and that, this plan and that, try fads, famous plans, read what Oprah did, or what Dr Oz says, etc. They try many different training methods, download apps, join programs but nothing ever works and it all remains a grand mystery. Weight comes off for a bit, but then comes back on. What works for their friend never seems to work for them. They watch a documentary or see someone do something and the pounds melt off seemingly without effort. But the mystery remains. No matter what is tried, no solution comes.

My 6 year old son saw a Rubik’s Cube 2×2 (the smaller version of the famous 3×3 cube) at the dollar store. He saw it and thought it looked really neat and since he had some money saved up from helping with chores, he bought it. I showed him how to solve a side and really thought that was great. He is often able to solve a side by himself now. This is where the fun begins. He would ask me to solve a certain colour. No problem, then he would ask me to solve a second colour without messing up the other colour. (uh oh). I would explain that I did not know how to do that, which is stressful, because he thinks I can do anything, and I hate to disappoint him so early in life! Soon he would even ask me to solve the whole thing (big uh oh). More explaining.

This past week while on a mini vacation to do a fundraiser bicycle ride in British Columbia, I had some time and he had his cube with him as a current favourite toy. So, I did what anyone would do these days: I Googled it. What happened next floored me and shook my world.

I solved the Rubik’s Cube in two hours. Not only did I easily solve it, but I solved it while hardly even looking at the cube as I moved it! I learned something, that I never looked into (reading about the solution), and shattered my nearly 40 year old thoughts and assumptions on how this cube solution worked. Solving the Rubik’s Cube has nothing to do with memorizing endless combinations of colours, or complex math or understanding the visual clues presented by each rotation. All I had to do was solve one side (easy) and then learn 3 algorithms and apply them. The first one is: R, U, R’, U, R, Ux2, R’ That may seem like gibberish, but each letter represents a movement. R is Right side up one. U is Upper blocks rotate left once. There are a few simple rules to learn, but once you do, you simply follow the formula a few times until the cube looks a certain way. Once you have 3 sides solved by repeating the algorithm three to five times, you perform the 2nd algorithm, then the 3rd and the cube is solved. I was stunned. I was staring at a solved 2×2 Rubik’s Cube (the steps are the same for a 3×3 cube, just a few more algorithms). I now understand how it could be solved in 38 seconds. You just learn the algorithms and run them quickly, being a genius is not required.

Honestly, dropping body fat and being healthy is exactly the same. You learn the basic formula for eating well, with real food, no tricks, no shortcuts. You exercise consistently in a certain way, and drink water and the results just happen. I have seen it over and over and over again. People keep looking for some amazing, popular, tricky, cool way to do it, but in the end, it is simple and just requires doing a few basic things over and over again. Some folks have to run the first algorithm a little longer until things re-align and then the next few steps are all it takes to solve the challenge. And please don’t feel bad, it took me 20 years as a trainer to distill it all down to this simple process, just like the Rubik’s Cube – except that took me nearly 40 years.

Happy Training!

Scott

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