Plan to Re-plan
“Failing to plan is planning to fail…”
The above is a well known quote attributed to Alan Lakein, a well known author on time management, and is one that anyone who’s ever set themselves a goal of any description is likely to be familiar with. For those of us who have taken on any sort of athletic challenge in the past, you will undoubtedly know exactly how important some good planning is!
So a challenge comes along and we set ourselves a goal. To get the best results or have the most fun, we plan what we’re going to do. It’s a tried and tested method that delivers results time and time again but, as we’re always looking to improve things at Positive Kinetics, I thought it would be worth a quick blog on how to get the most out of planning your training.
In general, it’s a fairly simple process that is familiar to most of us – we start with the end goal, what is it we’re trying to achieve, and work back from that. The elites amongst us will usually have an over-arching plan that covers multiple seasons, perhaps an Olympic cycle for instance, or the time between major competitions, whilst the amateur and more recreational athletes amongst us will tend to start with a yearly, season long or even event specific plan. With this in mind we then set about the detail, creating smaller training blocks and planning out our average week so we know what we’re doing when, going down to daily and session specific plans to ensure we’re doing the right thing. Just grabbing your trainers when you find you have some spare time for a run just won’t cut it these days and won’t bring the results most athletes are looking for.
So with all this planning dutifully in place we head off to get stuck into the training and start chasing those goals. Chances are, with a sensible plan and the opportunity and dedication to consistently follow it, you’ll achieve all or parts of those goals, but how can we improve this process and look for increased impact along the way, making you more likely to achieve or even exceed your expectations?
The purpose of any training is of course to force physical adaptations to make you fitter, faster, stronger and/or more efficient at what you do. All good training plans will therefore be progressive and gradually increase the training load on the body, which will continue to encourage these physical adaptations. The best training plans must therefore be flexible to adapt to these changes and allow for that growth. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, or have trained with Positive Kinetics, you’ll know the importance we place on performance testing which allows us to set a benchmark for an athletes current training ability. It’s no coincidence that this goes hand-in-hand with producing an effective training plan. Once you know exactly what your current physical ability is, you can produce a plan to ensure you train at exactly the right level to force those adaptations we mentioned. Assuming those adaptations occur then it stands to reason that in anything from 4 to 8 weeks time you are capable of training at a slightly higher intensity. If the over-arching plan doesn’t allow for this, then the potential growth is curbed as you continue to train at the levels set by your previous tests. Testing and then crucially, re-testing, is a huge part of ensuring that you keep pushing your body to make those physical adaptations and don’t plateau whilst others around you continue to improve. Re-testing also highlights whether you are in fact doing the right kind of training. If improvements are being seen, or aren’t happening at the expected rate, then here is the chance to change things and try something different.
For those with an over-arching plan covering a year or more at a time, it is normal that there’ll be some smaller targets on the way towards the bigger goal too. It’s here more than anywhere that we must truly allow for a plan to be flexible and ensure that we revisit and adapt the plan to suit. You may want to spend some time concentrating on a specific discipline, technique or style of training in order to boost confidence or be able to adequately achieve other targets further down the line, if you don’t go back and check where you’re at, compared with where you thought you would be, then you’re likely to miss a trick.
As you might expect, I’m involved in a lot of planning discussions throughout the season, and never more so than this time of year. By far the most rewarding discussions I have are those involving athletes who are invested in a plan already and can feed back on previously laid plans; what’s working, what’s not, are the goals still the same, what’s changed along the way? Some see athletic coaching as a science, some as an art. I like to think of it as art based on science and it’s at this point in a plan that the art of coaching can really come into its own, whether that’s private coaching, club coaching or self-coaching, taking the time to review and adapt a plan may be the most beneficial thing you do in your training all year, but of course, you won’t know that unless you give it a go.
So once you’ve made that plan for success don’t just leave it there and follow it blindly. Take the time at relevant intervals to interrogate your plan. Look again at what you’re doing, what you’ve achieved so far, and check that you’re still doing the right thing or whether you need to/want to change. Seeing improvements along the way isn’t just good physically but mentally too, helping drive the motivation for more training and more improvement, so dust off that plan and chat it through with someone else, a different perspective may prove invaluable.
And with that, I hope you enjoy your training throughout 2016 and exceed all your athletic expectations.