Want to lose weight and gain muscle? Stick to the basics.

A number of years ago while living in Ontario, we helped sponsor a young man from Sierra Leone.

He was fascinated by many everyday things we take for granted. I’m not talking the typical Canadian traditions such as hockey, coffee and doughnuts. It was the mundane stuff that sparked his interest. (He stared intently at a hamburger for 10 minutes before asking what to do with it.)

Of course, he was intrigued by snow and wanted to know how we coped in the winter. It was his impression that snow fell everywhere except on the road. I told him that snow fell everywhere, ESPECIALLY on the road.

“How do you get anywhere?!” he asked.

My answer didn’t help: “Guys wearing flannel and neon, driving big trucks with flashing blue lights come out at night to take it all away … Then they drink coffee, eat doughnuts and watch hockey until the next snowfall.”

When we moved to Alberta, I was the one who required a little acclimation.

First, pedestrians, it seemed, were encouraged to wander into traffic at will. (In Ontario, for some reason, half-ton vehicles travelling 60 km/h had the right of way.) No worries, just another minor distraction to keep me on my toes while operating a motor vehicle.

Secondly, in Alberta, it’s customary to drive on snow as opposed to removing it. This became obvious after my first snowstorm, fully expecting to travel unencumbered to my destination.

In Alberta, we “blade.”

I’m in the dark on the principles of blade theory — being from a foreign province and all — but I’m sure it’s rooted in sound pretence. My familiarity with expedited winter precipitation removal (prior to the advent of corrugated, glacial ice roads) was obviously better suited to eastern climes.

I had a front-row seat to these local Ice Capades the other day after passing a “Blading in effect!” sign, wedged into a snow bank a few weeks after a big dump. Shame, I was enjoying my frantic pedal-to-the-metal run up our sloped street. Juggling clutch and stick while avoiding parked RVs and searching for traction is quite the rush. Yes, I have snow tires!

The show was mesmerizing — three skid-steer loader dancing effortlessly around a big yellow “blader” like busy bees. Over two hours to clear our tiny cul-de-sac. What a performance! I was held captive by their hypnotic machinations (more so by the appearance of a three-foot ice wall at the end of my driveway).

A front-end loader and dump truck later arrived to eradicate the 20-foot ski hill now occupying the end of our street. Quite the production.

I guess the five minutes it would have taken a single plow to remove the snow on Day 1 conflicts with western science and blade theology. Hey, what do I know? When in Rome …

Chipping away at any problem has merit, especially when there are no quick and easy fixes.

When embarking on a new exercise routine, it’s important to identify and prioritize your top three goals. Your plan should then reflect this order, emphasizing Goal 1 (assuming the other two goals don’t have equal billing).

Be specific, stay the course and don’t become sidetracked. What gets attention, gets results.

For example, weight loss is pretty straightforward. Eliminate fast and highly processed food, add vegetables, enhance with exercise. That’s it. We can argue all day about the best protein or carb and the most effective exercise, but that won’t amount to a hill of non-GMO legumes if you don’t embrace the basics and establish a rhythm.

Too often, people on weight-loss journeys become distracted by things that don’t move the scale. Should I foam roll? Should I add yoga? Should I perform bridges to isolate my glutes? No, no and no.

By no means am I suggesting that these things are without merit. They all have a place. The question is, do they further your goals?

Foam rolling is more comfortable than cardio, but it doesn’t burn calories. Yoga is relaxing and promotes flexibility, but often falls short of firing your metabolism. Glute bridges can build muscle, when performed correctly — with good form — using the appropriate tempo and weight. Sorry, you probably aren’t doing them properly.

As with any undertaking, understanding the basics is key. I joke about local snow removal, but I’m sure time and experience has led to best practices and procedures.

Once you’ve established a formula that works for you, stay the course. Sure, maybe a little boring, but effective. Adjust when things aren’t moving forward or if things become stale. And don’t be afraid to ask questions from reputable sources.

A final note to those “from away”: when standing on a street corner contemplating life, please cross to the other side — there’s a line of cars waiting.

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