Building on my previous two posts Expectations, and The Single Most Important Factor in Fitness, it’s time to start discussing how to create a plan and the importance of actually having one. It is no secret that you can get where you want to go much faster if you have a clearly laid out plan. You can’t build a house (successfully) without taking the time to decide what needs to be done and when to do it. It’s much easier to drive across the country if you have a map with the roads to get there. Plans can be complex, plans can be simple. It all depends on how lofty the goal is.
After you have decided on your goal, which in this case we will assume is an outcome-type goal it is often best to come up with behaviour goals – which is when we start discussing a plan. These behaviour goals and plan come from knowing what your current state is and how far you are from your goal, which come from a targeted assessment. This is generally achieved by a formal, qualitative assessment based on your desired outcome. If you have an endurance-based goal there are specific assessments that can tell you what your current level is and can give you an idea from where to start training. The same goes for strength, speed and really any goal you can think of. Deciding exactly which tests to perform is actually an entire post itself. In fact there are courses and textbooks just for assessment and testing. The point here is that when making your plan, have some kind of measure that you can use to track progress.
At this point we know there is a goal and we will assume we have some measure to work with. Now it’s time to start planning. There are two type of plans we need to consider when working towards a fitness goal: Training and Non-Training plans. Often times clients come to me and want a workout plan and think that’s all they need. I tend to disagree. Even if they were to train with me 5 times per week with the best workouts I could design we have amassed only 5 hours of training, maybe 6, and there is still 163 hours remaining in the week they need to be mindful of. During these 163 hours we need to factor in how long to sleep, how many hours they will spend working, family commitments… it adds up quickly. The point is though, there are a lot of hours to undo or at least slow down the progress from that 5 hours you spent training. The Non-Training plans are often overlooked and will look very different client to client, even more-so than the Training plans we create. For example, it may be beneficial for one person to increase their productivity while watching TV so we may agree they will fold their laundry or work on some mobility while they watch their favourite shows. On the other hand another person may have difficulty focusing on one task at a time so we may say not to do anything but just BE and enjoy their show – this all depends on their lifestyle and what stressors they have in their life; it all gets factored into the plan.
With regards to what exactly to put into the Training plan it is important to decide what will have the greatest impact. You need to decide what few activities or exercises will make the biggest difference and get you closer to your goal the fastest. If you have a goal of jumping higher you better be jumping at some point in your program. If you want to squat more weight you better be squatting at some point. If you want to run faster you better be running fast at some point. It seems obvious but so often people forget the following: The goal is to keep the goal the goal. Those are the immortal words spoken by Dan John, one of the godfathers of fitness. In my mind they could not be more true. Too often people lose sight of their goals when designing their program. They want to get stronger and then we see them running 20km per week so they can increase their endurance. Two weeks later they are smashing arm workouts every other day and overall their body hasn’t gotten stronger.
This is where most people can benefit from a plan. It helps them to keep focused on their goal and increases their chances of achieving it. When the plan is well thought-out it is often the quickest route to the end goal. The plan itself can serve as a source of accountability. For some people they need an external source of accountability and that is often where having a trainer is beneficial. The plan and/or the trainer serves as a source of motivation in the beginning. Having a plan that is clearly laid out makes it much easier to follow and ensures you can stay on track, consistently working on behaviours and actions that drive you towards your goal.
I have heard countless times that following a plan is boring, well in my opinion that is where we need to discuss how to make it interesting. There plenty of ways to make a plan more interesting. Personally, I get my kicks by making consistent progress, which comes from the plan itself but I have had clients that I have been able to program some “fun” into their workouts. If your goal is to increase strength then you can get creative with the conditioning and change that from workout to workout or visa-versa if you have a goal that is centred around endurance and fitness then go nuts on the strength work and change how you squat, lunge or press every other workout. The important thing is to plan out what will get you closer to your goal and the rest can be changed when needed. Just remember to keep the goal the goal. Plan out your actions for the next few weeks to avoid making too many U-turns or having to rip apart the walls because you closed them up before you ran any plumbing.
If you need help designing a plan that will work for you and your lifestyle or just want someone to look through what you already have then get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would be more than happy to discuss your situation and go through a free assessment.