As each new year looms near, most of us feel energized with a sense of renewed possiblities for the new annual cycle. And while the energy generated from this optimism can be of enormous value, it’s equally important that your overall plan is sound. Here then, are 7 questions that you can use as you inventory your progress in 2009, and also for engineering an even better plan for 2K10. These 7 questions were culled from my own training inventor for this past year, and I’m certain that you’ll find them as valuable as I did.
1) Saying “yes” to one objective means saying “no” to other objectives. Are you willing to do this?
The topic of goals and goal-setting is very familiar and well-understood, but here’s a take on the subject that I rarely hear discussed. Specifically, are you willing to dismiss some very compelling desires or goals in the quest to focus on an even greater objective? Put another way, are you trying to achieve too many goals simultaneously? In my own case, after a year of lifting poorly in the 94kg (206.8Lb) class in the sport of weightlifting, I made the decision to return to the 105kg (231Lb) class after discovering that it was actually less competitive. I had been struggling to make weight to lift in the lighter class, and my results suffered accordingly. So I gradually gained about 12 pounds to my current weight of 220Lbs, and I’m experiencing exciting progress in my workouts. My first meet in 2010 will be the Grand Canyon Games on January 30th, and I expect to make a new PR total at that meet (I’ll keep you posted).
Now here’s where the “saying no” part of the equation comes into play: I’m not as lean as I’d like to be at my current weight. I.e., I’m not completely happy with how I look at 220. This is something I’ve decided to accept in the quest of renewed progress and a higher National ranking. As you inventory your own situation, should you be sacrificing one or more of your personal objectives for the sake of a bigger win?
2) Which is the greater bottleneck: your plan, or your execution of that plan?
It’s very common to seek further refinement of your plan, but far less common to scrutinize your comittment to that plan. After all, a bad plan isn’t your fault, but poor work ethic most certainly is. If asked to speculate, I’d say poor execution leads to failure more often than using a poor program. I’ll have more to say about optimizing your program a bit later in the article, but for now, suffice it to say that it’s worth taking a long, hard look at your work eithic and consistency. How would you rate it on a 1-10 scale? If you have a coach or a training partner, how would they rate you? Do you both arrive at a similar number?
3) Is your current training regime recoverable?
A time-worn saying among coaches goes something like this: your program is only as good as your ability to recover from it. Assuming your work-ethic is indeed solid, you might ask yourself another difficult question: is your current plan unrealistic in terms of volume, intensity, and/or frequency? Do your Type-A tendencies have you in the gym 5-6 days a week, with no planned recovery weeks? Does your pride in your work-ethic blind you to the fact that your plan simply isn’t delivering results? Hint: If you’re on a solid program and you’re a hard worker and you’re still not getting satisfactory results, the missing link is recovery. This might mean less training, better nutrition, or exploring soft-tissue therapy.
4) Are you ignoring any obvious errors in your training?
So far, the argument could be made that the previous 3 points are “obvious.” But maybe not. In fact, sometimes the most obvious mistakes are the ones we’re least likely to discover— it’s called “proximity bias:” the closer you are to something, the less aware you are of it. I hope this article points to some more common “obvious” mistakes, but it’s worth further exploration for all of us. Do you get adequate amounts of sleep? Are you eating enough protein? Is your lifting technique acceptable? Are your goals realistic? These are but a few questions worthy of your consideration as you anticipate changes for the new year.
5) Do you train alone?
If you are, I’d STRONGLY suggest that you enlist social support for 2010. Training alone is a significant handicap. Although it can be done, the value of having knowledgeable and enthusiastic coaches and/or training partners cannot be overstated— it’s no accident that most of the World’s most successful athletes- particularly successful strength athletes— train in groups. From Westside Barbell Club to the Olympic Training Center, group training is, and always has been, a critical component of success.
6) Did you compete in 2009?
My colleague Dan John is one of the leading voices in the commnadment that “Thou Shall Compete,” and I’m doing my best to further the call. Competition gives you a valid reason to train. It shows how you react to pressure, and brings the best out of you. When you compete, you develop valuable friendships and collaborations that inspire further progress. And as many people find once they start competing, you might just have talent that you never knew about. Why not put yourself to the test and prove me wrong?
7) Are your goals and training consistent with each other?
This last question intersects and to some degree overlaps a few of the previous ones. It’s important nonetheless, because when your goals are non-harmonius, you get nowhere faster than any other error you may be guilty of. To echo an earlier point, trying to lose weight and improve your maximal strength is a recipe for failure. A recipe that even I made the mistake of following in 2009. Less obvious blunders might include trying to succeed at more than one sport simultaneously, trying to be bigger and leaner simultaneously, and/or choosing competitive activities that are inconsistent with your natural abilities— a fast-twitch-dominant person trying to succeed at endurance events, and/or a long-levered person trying to succeed at weightlifting are two possible examples of this.
Make 2010 YOUR Breakthrough Year
I trust these 7 points of introspection will be helpful as you plan your own 2010 training strategy, but don’t limit yourself to these 7. If you’ve had your own thoughts on the matter, please share them with me by clicking the “comments” link below. I’d love your input, and others may also benefit from your experience and wisdom!