December 3, 2012

Tweaking my workout plan to ensure success

I’ve written a lot before about how I often use my Monday morning/Thursday evening flights for a little reset ritual. My Monday through Thursday life in Dallas is very different than my Friday through Sunday life in New York, and it’s nice to have that transition time and separation. Work-life balance is such a buzzword these days, and consulting is notorious for blurring the lines. Fortunately, I find that traveling really helps to separate between my home time and my work time.

Even if I have a pile of work to do on the plane, I usually try to use the first part of my Monday morning flights as planning time. As the plane is taxiing down the runway, I jot down a list in a notebook of things I want to get done on the flight as well as random things I want to add to my long-term to do list. (Why, yes, I am totally Type A.) One thing that’s become a ritual to plan every Monday? My workout schedule for the work week.

In the last month or two, I’ve gotten into a pretty steady routine down here in Dallas. See the following template that I use as a base every week:
Mon PM: Weights/Elliptical?
Tue AM: Flywheel
Tue PM: Elliptical?/Yoga?
Wed AM: Tread
Wed PM: Weights/Yoga?
Thu AM: Flywheel

However, that template just becomes my starting point for the week – and a lot of those optional workouts (with the question marks) get moved around or completely cut, usually based on my work obligations (late night deadlines, team dinners, etc). And of course there are other factors as well – last week, for example, I ended up so ridiculously sore from heavy lifting on Monday (110 lbs deadlifted in three sets of eight reps!) that I canceled all my other workouts except Flywheel in order to rest more.

Now, of course you have to go with the flow and adjust to what’s actually happening. I have always been a proponent of doing what your body feels like instead of just what was on your mythical plan, particularly as a form of injury-prevention. (Fastest way to take yourself out of the game for the season? Run/lift/whatever when you’re already sore. Bad news!) So I have absolutely no qualms about changing my plan around for last week – the reasoning was sound.

But then I read Glenn’s thought-provoking post about rest days, and it occurred to me that maybe I haven’t been planning all that well after all. Writing out my workout schedule for the week has definitely helped me to stick to those workouts that I’ve planned… but having all those question mark optional items may be throwing me off track. I can’t remember the last time I did either the elliptical or yoga when it had a question mark next to it on my list – so why do I bother putting it on there? That list doesn’t have to be the only workouts I do during the work week. If I feel like adding some downward dogs or junk cardio, I don’t need a plan to give me permission!

And that’s when I realized I was setting myself up to fail. Sometimes we need to make and strive for stretch goals, yes, but sometimes we need to let ourselves have a break – not everything needs to be a crazy challenge. It’s hard to push yourself to do one thing when you’re already pushing yourself with everything else. With a workout schedule that aggressively packed, I’m bound not to do everything on the list… and that would really suck if it was the heavy lifting or either of the classes that got dropped. So maybe rather than setting myself up for failure by staring down a plan I know I won’t follow, I ought to be more realistic.

When I thought about it, I realized that it’s the same principle I learned about to-do lists from Chalene Johnson’s book, Push. If you list everything that should get done, it’s way too easy to lose track of the items that must get done – and then they don’t happen. Keep those lists separately and simplify as much as possible! If something has to give, it makes it easier to let the unimportant stuff go.

My new workout plan for the work week:
Mon PM: Weights
Tue AM: Tread
Wed AM: Flywheel
Wed PM: Weights
Thu AM: Tread
Fri AM (I’m in Dallas an extra day this week): Flywheel

Much simpler, much less aggressive, and much more likely to get done.


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