The Golden Rules of Training (What I Learned from Father Guido Sarducci)

Lately, I’ve noticed a trend in fitness related articles with alarming titles that warn about the top 5 or 10 things we should never do. The quality of these lists covers the spectrum from educational to contrarian to misinformed. While there is some good information out there, the thing that always bothers me about such lists is this: once I know a something is wrong… how do I identify what else to avoid, or better yet how do I use this information to find what is correct on my own?  Additionally, if you compile enough of these lists together and you’ll find that nearly every  exercise you can think has made it on the list of exercises to avoid leaving you with little to no options.  I view these sort of negative lists as the equivalent of taking a fish away from a starving man when instead you could either choose to give him a fresh fish or teach him how to fish and feed himself. 

Father Sarducci and The Missing Commandments

Back in the 1970’s and 80’s a comedian named Don Novello frequently appeared on Saturday Night Live playing a character named “Father Guido Sarducci”. I remember one skit in particular where the good Father shared some inside information and let the world know that there were originally more than 10 commandments from the Old Testament. According to Father Sarducci  when Moses came down from Mount Sinai and found his people idolizing a golden calf, he smashed the tablets in a rage. “He-a had a chip on his shoulder because of the cow incident,” Sarducci explained.

“There were actually more than ten (commandments), but Moses was old and grumpy, and after he broke the tablets he could only remember the negative ones. ‘Don’t do this. Don’t do that.’ The truth is, most of them were more like advice. The Twelfth Commandment, for example, was ‘Whistle while you work.’ (People think its from Disney, but Disney stole it from God.)

– Father Guido Sarducci, on The Ten Commandments

I remember there were a few other missing commandments along the lines of  “it’s all right to eat fried chicken with your fingers”,  “Wait 15-minutes after eating before swimming”, “Never give a chicken bone to a dog” and “When you use Q-Tips just go around the outside of the ear.”

In addition to being funny, the skit made me think a little more about the Ten Commandments. Prior to that day I had never really noticed how 8 out of 10 commandments were rules telling me what NOT to do. Furthermore, the “Thou shall not” commandments only forbade one specific act at a time such as “don’t lie” or “don’t commit murder”, which makes you wonder if it’s acceptable to merely wound someone instead of committing murder or avoid telling the truth instead of telling a lie. Conversely, the other two commandments tell us what to do, which seems to allow for an infinite numbers of ways to do good deeds. 

This lead me to think about the Golden Rule which seems to cover at least six of the 10 commandments in one elegant statement: “Whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them”(Matthew: 7:12). The Golden Rule tells us what to do in such a way that it becomes obvious what not to do, all you have to do is screen your action towards others with “would I want others to treat me this way?”  This one simple rule clearly forbids things like stealing, racism, murder, lying, extra marital affairs, disrespectful behavior toward your parents as well as things that never would have been thought of back in biblical times like running red lights, drinking while driving,  suicide bombings, posting rude comments on Facebook and more.

I believe the world is in desperate need of more minimalistic Golden Rules that tell us what we can do and fewer lists from grumpy authors telling us what not to do. After all, if one Golden Rule can cover the majority of something as important as the Ten Commandments then why shouldn’t we strive to create Golden Rules to simplify other things like fitness?

So… I decided to give it a shot and come up with a single golden rule for training (which proved to be impossible) and instead I ended up with two.  These two rules are intentionally very minimalistic, but they rule out a lot of stupid things like overtraining, high-risk exercises, bragging about injuries, poor technique, becoming a selfish gym-rat that hides from worldly responsibilities and so on. They also allow for a lot of things like choosing any form of exercise that appeals to you and gets the job done.


  1. Only use training methods, volumes and loads that do no harm.
  2. Regularly train, eat, drink, rest and live in ways that positively impact your ability to enjoy life and to help others.


There you have it. Two simple rules that tell you what you should do, and by deduction tell you what not to do. Let me know what you think.


If you happened to see Father Guido Sarducci a.k.a. Don Novello, tell him I said “Thanks”.

I was unable to locate any video of Father Sarducci’s Ten Commandments bit. However, I did find this  excellent clip of Father Sarducci explaining his brilliant plan for a “5-Minute University”. Enjoy.

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