Just because something is easy to measure does not make it the only thing that matters.

The Cipher Skin’s unique advantages are based on five principles:

  1. Systems evolve to suit their purpose.
  2. The system’s standards of success drive purpose.
  3. Any system that interacts with its environment without a feedback loop will eventually drift out of control.
  4. We learn by making and correcting small errors at the edge of our ability.
  5. Quality determines the path of quantity.

1. Systems evolve to suit their purpose.

The human body is a complex, adaptive and deeply interconnected constellation of systems. Each system is continuously communicating with each other and the environment. No system can be directed, only disturbed or nudged. Training is a strategic disturbance we hope produces an intended output.

In any system, the nature of the disturbances and the adaptations they produce are determined by the purpose of the system. The system will evolve over time to suit this purpose. If the purpose of your workouts is to make you feel sweaty, get your butt kicked or have fun, your workouts will eventually become good at making those things happen. Your workouts will make you very sweaty, feel like you’ve taken a beating and be very enjoyable.

As workouts are customized to a narrow set of goals you risk ignoring the maladaptive consequences to the other systems in the universe and how the systems interact with one another.

If the purpose of someone’s workouts is to get very good at squatting, pressing or deadlifting a heavy barbell, they will inevitably move the person towards that goal. Meeting that goal, however, may not actually correlate with the reason they started picking that barbell up in the first place—such as becoming a more effective athlete, being free from pain or becoming resistant to injury. It’s quite possible that the person will become a great dead lifter yet develop crippling back pain and limited physical function outside of the weight room in the process.

Only by clearly defining the purpose of our training can we control the path it puts us on and the destination at which we eventually arrive. This is harder than it sounds.

2. The system’s standards for success drive purpose.

Purpose is often not explicitly stated, rather it is developed by the measures of success that are imposed.

For example, Wells Fargo spent several years evaluating its employees based on their ability to open new accounts for existing customers. Employees were praised, promoted or fired based on their performance in this area. Over time, the company evolved to become very good at this, to the point that forging signatures, creating fake email addresses and opening bank accounts without customers’ permission became implicitly accepted practices. The Wells Fargo system became very good at meeting the success criteria imposed upon it, while becoming less effective at ethical behavior and customer service.

Training systems evolve similarly. If you’re measuring a workout by how fast, how far or how many times you do a movement, you’ll likely get better at doing that movement a lot. But other important aspects, such as how well you’re moving, will go uncontrolled.

Just because something is easy to measure does not make it the only thing that matters.

Cipher Skin technology allows us to measure the success of a workout by the quality of breathing patterns, autonomic regulation and movement under stress—so we can design our workouts to improve not just how much we move, but how well.

In physical training, more sophisticated success criteria cannot be imposed without a way of measuring them and responding to rapid feedback based on those measurements. Our technology solves this problem. Cipher Skin is the only technology that measures the interactions within complex systems in the world.

3. Any system that interacts with its environment without a feedback loop will eventually drift out of control.

It’s natural to assume (and hope) that if something like body movement quality goes unmeasured and unnoticed, it will be ok—but that is rarely the case. A fundamental premise of the behavior of complex systems is that they will eventually drift out of control if they lack a negative feedback loop.

When a change occurs outside of our awareness and control, it almost inevitably causes a downward drift in quality until something acute or catastrophic brings it to our attention, such as an injury. Without a feedback loop for movement quality during training, the training is likely to drift further and further away from a desirable standard until finally something breaks and we find ourselves dealing with chronic pain or a new injury.

4. We learn by making and correcting small errors at the edge of our ability

We train to improve a skill or capacity. That improvement is impossible without learning, and learning happens when we make and correct small errors at the edge of our ability. That cycle of effort, error, correction and improvement is impossible without first having a mental model of what “good” looks like, and then having a rapid feedback loop to inform how accurately we hit the target.

That mental model comes from either the athlete himself, if she is experienced enough, or from an observant coach. This is where a good deal of degradation often happens, because we have a hard time self-assessing against our internal performance models while moving rapidly under stress in an intense workout. There is also an inevitable delay in feedback from a coach. A coach cannot see or respond to every small fluctuation in training, and in many cases it’s not feasible (for most people) to train with a one-on-one coach closely watching every movement you make.

Cipher Skin closes this gap by increasing the speed and precision of feedback, which allows for more feedback loops, based on more precise information, delivered more rapidly. This greatly accelerates the learning process and enables an athlete to more easily train effectively without the physical presence of a coach.

5. Quality determines the path of quantity.

The quantity of our training determines how far our bodies develop and adapt. The quality of our training determines what direction those adaptations take.

Without controlling for quality, most athletes eventually find themselves with strongly ingrained inefficiencies, imbalances and vulnerabilities. The unintended consequence is athletes get better at doing something ineffectively.

Cipher Skin’s proprietary technology closes this gap and helps to control quality so that intense training over time steers the body in the direction of ever-increasing resilience and performance.