The Sinking Boat And Leaky Boat Analogies

Whether we are aware of it or not, we are constantly using analogies in learning, thinking, and communicating, and I use them frequently when teaching exercise principles. I’ve written about a few of my favorites here, including the sun tan analogy, the clothing analogy, and the swimming pool analogy. Some of you may also be familiar with the analogy comparing the futility of bailing a sinking boat with some small container to the inefficiency of some means of solving a problem, such as attempting to out-exercise a bad diet. I recently read a great version of this written by HIT trainer Tom Traynor, which I’ve quoted here with his permission:

Sinking Boat Analogy

A parable: You have a boat. But it’s taking on water slowly somehow. The short-term immediate solution is: Start bailing out the boat. With a Dixie Cup. So you start endlessly and relentlessly bailing water out with the Dixie cup – scoop-scoop-scoop-scoop and maybe – at best – manage to almost keep up with the water intake.

Oh, by doing this your boat might not sink – so fast. But it’s going down – trust that. But if you try to use the boat taking time off from bailing – it of course takes on water at an accelerated rate. You cannot really use the boat for much as you are constantly bailing – or else.

Moral: The water intake is food-like substances, crap and alcohol coming in through your pie hole. You body is taking on fat. (the water). By constantly bailing (“cardio”) you may see a slower rate of water intake (body-fat accumulation).

But constantly bailing is not the answer. The problem is your pie hole management (the hole on the boat)! The answer is not to constantly bailing out the boat with the Dixie Cup–the Dixie being long, slow, relentless, chronic, “cardio”.

You need to patch the fricking pie hole – man!

Related to this is the leaky boat analogy: Often, when there is a problem or something is going wrong we tend to look for a single, large, obvious cause when the problem is actually the result of a multitude of smaller causes. It’s like being on a leaky boat looking for a big hole to plug that may or may not be there while ignoring all the little ones because you don’t think they could be the source of all the water you’re taking on.

One little thing might not make much of a difference to your long term results, but a lot of little things can add up and undermine an otherwise effective exercise program and diet just like a lot of little leaks can sink a boat. You shouldn’t focus on these to the exclusion of the things that matter most to your results – get the big things in order before you start worrying about the little ones – but be aware of them and how they can affect your progress and make the necessary changes to improve your training, diet, or other lifestyle factors.

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