31 DoB: 29. The Bare Minimum

If you’ve been following these blog posts so far, you’ll have noticed a few patterns.

Grammatical whoopsies, a penchant for gains spelt with a z, and emphasis on doing a little better or a little more each time.

That last one is there for a very specific reason. Aside from a couple of instances for specific scenarios, the message it’s not “go all out and give 150%” or even “do much better, double your effort each week” - it’s just to do a little better.

Yes, we could do more.

But why would we? Do we really need to if we’ve already hit our MED?


MED stands for Minimum Effective Dose, which is the smallest amount of something that will produce a desired outcome. I’m borrowing the term and using it as described by Tim Ferriss, someone who makes a living experimenting and finding the MED needed to learn things and affect his body.

In the most popular example, once you heat up water to 100 degrees, it will be boiling. Any extra heat is a waste of resources, because the water won’t get any more boiled.

In a fitness context, once we’ve done enough work to stimulate a change (whether is growth, performance or fat loss) we can stop, and let our bodies do the rest.

If we apply the exact same thinking in the water example to our fitness endeavours, does this mean we’ve been overtraining this whole time? Wasting hours of our time on training we don’t need?

It depends.


It depends, because we are more complicated than water. We have dreams, goals, and other things to do - simple water simply waters.

If we want to do the bare minimum, for maintenance or we’re having a rough week, then hitting our MED and cutting out is fine - we’ve done enough work to stimulate adaptations in our body, job done. No more work needed, it’ll just be wasted time and effort in this context.

If it’s because you don’t like what you’re doing, then why are you doing it in the first place? Maybe instead of finding the MED, you need to find something that you enjoy?

HOWEVER, while we’ve stimulated adaptation it might not be that much. It will count, and everything adds up in the end, but we could be adding more stimulation for greater adaption.

This is where MRV comes in.

MRV is our Maximum Recoverable Volume, or how much we can train and realistically recover from for the next session. This is at the other end of the adaptation scale, where MED looks at how little we can do, MRV looks at how much we can do.

*Strictly speaking, MEV (Minimum Effective Volume) is more appropriate than MED here, but I feel that MED is easier to conceptualise, and they’re basically the same thing so I’m going to keep using MED for this post. MEV is just used purely in fitness (describing the lowest amount of training volume needed to stimulate growth), while MED is used across a range of things - including nutrition, learning, medicine etc. This post will lose points from the technical accuracy crowd, but as long as the concept gets across I’ll be able to sleep at night. Like a log.*

We are not water, we have more adaptations than boiled or not boiled.

In this context, more stimulation means more adaptation (up to a point, then we get into actual overtraining territory - where we can’t recover sufficiently from our training and do more damage than building).

It’s not by leaps and bounds, but these small increments will add up over the course of your training. So by doing more than the MED we can make more progress, slowly but surely.

The trick is keeping within these limits so we’ll always have a productive workout.


Our MRV is hard to estimate (mostly trial and error due to individual differences in work capacities and training stimulus), but our MED is not.

To reach our MED - just do a little more, or a little better, than you did last time. If you’re starting out, then “last time” is 0, so anything you do is a little more. Just start doing something.

From there, do a little more, or a little better next time. Doesn’t necessarily mean every single aspect of the workout needs to be better - but if we can do that’s pretty awesome.

By doing more than the bare minimum, we can stimulate our bodies more and trigger more adaptation. Again, it might not be huge amounts - but if we’re wanting to achieve a goal it will get us there a little quicker.

This is why I’m a big advocate of just doing a little more, or a little better - it applies to everyone. From beginners to top level peeps, starting with the bare minimum to stimulate adaptation is going to have a positive effect, even if it is a small one.

From here, we can certainly do more - a lot of people do, the ones enjoying what they’re doing, the challenge of it or just tapping into the drive to achieve more. For other people, it’s not so easy - so the focus should just be to do something positive (something is better than nothing), and any extra is a bonus.

This can vary from day to day, so don’t beat yourself up if you’re not all guns blazing each and every session.

Get in, work hard, recover, and keep kicking ass.