Best-Laid Plans

I am a sucker for a concrete plan. I love black and white. Nuances freak me out. Give me a 12-week plan with reps, weights, sets, and rest times all specifically defined, and I will blissfully and religiously follow it to greatness…and injury.

Best-laid plans…we all know how those turn out!

Of course, whoever wrote this perfect 12-week plan (whether it’s someone I’ve never met, someone I’ve hired to tailor this program specifically to me, or even myself) has no idea what these movements feel like in my body, how I’ve fueled for the workout, what my recovery has been, how well I slept last night, or what other physical and mental stress I’m experiencing. Did I have a few more drinks than usual the night before? Drink any water yesterday? Eat any breakfast? You get the picture…there are literally hundreds of ways my workout can be influenced by seemingly unrelated factors. And it’s impossible for anyone, even me about myself, to predict this 12-weeks in advance.

Does this mean we should throw all plans out the window? In my black and white dream world, why yes! It means we just haphazardly workout, doing whatever feels appropriate that day. I say this tongue-in-cheek, but there ARE approaches that follow this thinking. What I’d propose instead is having a plan (If we fail to plan, we plan to fail), but (and this is the key I struggle with) we have to be FLEXIBLE in the plan!

It’s called Exercise Science for a reason. Treat your workouts as experiments.

Use a plan as a guiding principle rather concrete rule.
Plans are good. They provide a framework, progression, and purpose for your workouts. As you are blissfully following your plan, however, remember that YOU are the expert about your body. Look at the plan for each day in light of how you feel coming into the workout, taking into consideration sleep, fuel, recovery, and other stressors. If you’re entering the workout under less than ideal conditions, adjust your loads accordingly. Conversely, if you’re coming in off a good night’s sleep with a go-get-em mindset, it might be the day to bump it up! Remember that workout adjustment is ideally proactive instead of reactive. If you find yourself plateauing or downsizing more workouts than you’re upsizing, try going to bed a little earlier, drinking an extra glass of water instead of wine, or making better pre-workout food choices.

Pay attention to how not only each workout feels, but how each REP feels in your body.
Just because it’s written on the paper doesn’t mean it’s a good idea in that moment of that day. Be open to adjusting weights and reps as your workout progresses. If you do the first set, and it feels like you have more than a few reps left in the tank, try a heavier weight next set. On the other hand, if you struggle to eek out that last rep, don’t be afraid to cut the reps short or move to a lighter weight. While there is definitely a time and place to push the limits, these are also the times we are most susceptible to injury. Be sure your mental game and form are on!

Track your workouts.
Most people can’t remember what they ate for breakfast yesterday, much less how their workout went last week. Write it down! Keep track of your sets, reps, and weights at a minimum. Even better, make a quick note of pre-workout sleep, fuel, and how you felt pre and post workout. Not only will this make your weights easier to choose next time, it will also show patterns over time and allow you to adjust accordingly.

Wondering what this looks like in practice?

Join us at Catalyst Monday-Wednesday-Friday mornings through July. Grab your plan, track your weights, and evaluate your progress to make each workout your best for the next four weeks. Can’t make it in to see us? Let us send you a plan to guide you through your own workouts at home.  Contact us here for more information.

author: Steph Hoeper