Sunday, January 19, 2014

Charlie Munger's Lollapalooza Effect Explains Why CrossFit Works

Charlie Munger's 'lollapalooza' effect:

Munger gave a talk that focused on the causes of psychological misjudgement. He lists 24 factors total, but what's truly interesting for CrossFit is what he went on to describe as the 'lollapalooza' effect that occurs when several of these psychological factors combine. He asks, "What happens when the situation, or the artful manipulation of man, causes several of these tendencies to operate on a person toward the same end at the same time?"

And his answer is that, "the combination greatly increases power to change behavior, compared to the power of merely one tendency acting alone." The difference, though, isn't just one of addition, but multiplication. Sometimes exponential multiplication.

Munger notes that "When you get these lollapalooza effects you will almost always find four or five of these things working together."

What does that have to do with CrossFit?

Take a look at a CrossFit workout. Any will do. Doesn't look that bad, does it? They're short. They might tax the upper body heavily and then give the upper body a 'rest' while the lower body gets taxed. One example: 'Diane' 21-15-9 repetitions of deadlifts and handstand pushups. Deadlifts work the lower body, & handstand pushups mostly upper body, right? So, when a person does one she's basically resting the parts of the body required to do the other.

Only it doesn't work that way.

Here's a personal example. About two weeks into CrossFit, I came across a workout called 'Helen.' I had been running a lot, & 400 meter repeats were a major staple of my (pre-CrossFit) routine. I was very light weight (from all the running), and about the only lifting I'd been doing was weighted pullups. So this workout looked easy: 3 rounds of 400 meter run, 21 kettlebell swings, and 12 pullups. Simple. I thought I'd kill it.

I did the workout. My goal was 8:30. Thought it'd be easy. I did finish. But not in 8:30. It took nearly 10 minutes. And almost killed me. It felt like I stood bent over with my hands on my knees staring at that dumbbell (didn't have a kettlebell) for longer than 8:30 my last round.

I hadn't been that tired in years. Not since high school. Maybe ever. And certainly not from doing 400 meter repeats. I didn't need math--my legs could tell me--that there was a Mungeresque lollapalooza effect with that workout.

As far as I know Munger's never heard of CrossFit. The program is infinitely scalable, but Charlie's disdain for manual labor leads me to believe he's unlikely to try it. But I'm sure he'd be interested in seeing the physical example of his lollapalooza effect in it.

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