Just Stick with the Program?

We are almost one month into the New Year and one common theme for many people at the beginning of the New Year is to set some resolutions and to add some sort of new routine into their lives so that they can be better people.  These new programs can cover a new diet strategy, training program, even lifestyle routines.  We all know that for most people, including yours truly, resolutions are as easily made as they are broken.  Chances are that new lifestyles, diets and training programs are doomed before they are even started.

There are varying degrees of resolution breaking.  Some break them entirely and give up while the good ones are compliant about 60% of the time.  We need to look at resolutions differently and create a new formula to be successful.

As I see it, the biggest problem with resolutions is the potential success rate.  Usually, to abide by a set resolution you have to be firing on all cylinders to be successful. Let’s take for example the common resolution; “This year I am going to be more frequent with my training.”  So what happens if you have a vacation, a business trip or your kids come home and share with you the latest and greatest strand of flu; you can’t train, your resolution is now shot down.

Along those same lines many will often choose a new training program to follow. Most often I find that in order to follow the specific protocols, the stars have to be aligned just right to get all of the work done that the program calls for.  Again, if you are traveling, sick, or tired, sore or injured, all is lost.  You now have to revert back to week three, and you will never get to the end of the program.  Before you give up entirely, I have a solution to help get you to where you want to be by the year’s end.

First off ditch resolutions and set goals.  Goals just work better; they are specific and not quite as ridged as resolutions. The other nice thing is that goals are essentially open-ended.  If you set a goal for the year you can achieve it on the first week or bang it out at the end. There is nothing more satisfying than completing that grueling deadlift PR on December 31st at 11:55pm; No matter how long it takes you, the goal was set and the mission was accomplished.

Goal achievements do not just magically appear in a box of crackerjacks, they require a plan of attack.  After you set your goal it is now time to think about how you are going to obtain it within the time you allow yourself.  I do recommend that you follow a plan, but if you choose to follow a specialized program generated for the masses, please realize that not everything in the program is going to be right for you in either achieveing your specific goals nor do they allow for changes dependant on non-optimal circumstances.

What seems to currently work well for me is to have a very basic program based on a few main training goals I would like to accomplish and some movements that I need in my training program.  I consider soft tissue work, mobility and flexibility important (especially for my hips) so I do some daily.  I find it is easy to adjust a basic program while still keeping my goals in perspecive based on how I feel on a particular day. For example, I tend to do fewer weights and more mobility training when I am very tight, tired or when I am not feeling strong in general.

One of my current strength goals is to get my deadlift to a new PR.  I have decided to do two different days of deadlifts; one day following Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 program (for the record I do not make any money off of this product.  This program is great for its simplicity and overall effectiveness at increasing strength in the big lifts.  I also incorporate one additional day of deadlifting not following the 5/3/1 program.  This may include light weight with high reps, some fast single pulls with moderate weight or varying my pulling position, like a sumo stance.  The only program I adhere to is the 5/3/1 for my deadlift and it seems to work well because the volume is low.  I do not have a specific day when I do the 5/3/1 deadlift, I go by how I feel both physically and mentally.  If I was training all weekend and was tired coming in on Monday, I may defer until Tuesday and do some light work on Monday.

I don’t follow a specific program when it comes to some of my other goals, I basically have other movements that are important to me and I perform some variation of these movements onece a week.  Some of these movements include: pull-up variation, single leg movement, pressing variation, rowing variation, kettlebells (swings, long cycle or snatches) push up variation, and some conditioning.  I simply perform some variations of these movements when I feel like I will have a good day performing them.  I do tend to mix up the variations of the movements to keep things progressing.  For example for the pull-ups; one week I might perform 10 sets of 6 reps at body weight with 45sec rest.  The next week, if I am feeling strong, it might be 4 sets of 5 reps with added weight and longer rest.  It all depends on how I feel and which variation will give me my best performance for that day.

Don’t beat yourself up over resolutions, sit down and write out some specific goals and have an idea of how to achieve these goals.  Perform your training around your goals and how you feel rather than what day and workout you are supposed to be on according to a specific program.  Finally record your progress either electronically or in a good old fashion workout journal, the journal does not lie about progress and accomplishments.

Good luck and make 2011 your year!