Strategic Planning may sound like something big corporations do… but I’m talking about PERSONAL strategic planning! And yes, it can bring you happiness!
This time of year, many of us are making New Year’s Resolutions. (In my family growing up, I remember my Dad passing out pencils and we would all sit around on New Year’s Day and write down several things we resolve to do in the new year, usually something that was sure to help improve our lives! Perhaps just the act of writing them down made them stick more?)
Anyway, for many people, resolutions tend to be diet and fitness related. For example… “I resolve to stop eating a whole bag of Oreos while I watch reruns of Law and Order.” Or, “I resolve to go to the gym every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 6am.”
I got a bit of a shock last week though when I was listening to a story on NPR about resolutions, and the reporter quoted a statistic that said 80% of the people who buy gym memberships in January because of a New Year’s Resolution will stop working out by mid-February. Shocking! Now we know how fitness clubs make their money. But I have to think that these quitters didn’t have a good plan. (and maybe they didn’t have kettlebells in their basement either!)
Goals are important, but if you’re really serious about achieving your goals, then you need a solid plan. Some people would say it’s impossible to achieve goals without a plan. I had a boss that would often walk around saying “If you fail to plan, plan to fail.” That was his mantra, and I’m sure he said it to every client that walked in and out of our doors. Another way of look at that is: “People with goals succeed because they know where they’re going!”
I’d like to show you how, when you take a few minutes for some “Personal Strategic Planning” for your fitness, you will find success, happiness and strength!
It’s January. Time to go to the book store and get a brand new 2013 calendar. (Yes, I know there’s a calendar on your phone, and another one on your computer… but there’s something very motivating and satisfying about seeing your strategic plan all laid out in a 12-month view, trust me on this one!)
Get a calendar where you can see the whole year on a single page… like this one:
My fitness goal in 2013 is to compete in more races this year (and a wider variety of races) as way to train and prep myself for my most challenging race, The Tough Mudder, in early October. So I’m going to do a little strategic planning and do my “Calendar Exercise” for the year. This is a way I can find out how much free time I have to train & compete so that I can plan my races accordingly.
First, I mark off time away from home with a green highlighter.… Vacations and business trips… These are the weeks I know I will be out of town. If you travel for business for longer than just a couple of days, this is important. Sure, lots of people can work out in hotel gyms, but your training schedule and diet will definitely be impacted while away.
Then I mark off all holidays in yellow. This is especially important if you have school-aged kids, because when they are home from school this will definitely impact your training schedule. But even if you don’t have kids, holidays can definitely impact diet and training.
(My gosh, the kids just had 2 weeks off over Christmas, and they get another week in February, and then 2 more weeks in April… sometimes I wonder what’s going on around here!) I’ve marked off the whole summer!
Now I’ve created a bird’s eye view of what my year looks like so far. This provides a good starting point for planning my race schedule.
The next step is to find a website that lists all the races in your area, and compare those dates to your “un-highlighted” weeks. I’ve recently discovered a pretty comprehensive site called Running in the USA. http://www.runningintheusa.com/
From what I can tell, these guys have spent many hours compiling a variety of races and events all across the country. I found some great events that match my un-highlighted weeks and I’m excited to get these on the books.
Another popular resource in this area is “Race Center Northwest.” You can pick up a copy of this magazine most places, or go to their website: http://www.racecenter.com/race-calendar/
For more strategic planning, I break my races down into 3 categories… A races, B races and C races.
A-Races are challenging, they take a tremendous amount of commitment and training leading up to the event (possibly months), you may consider going on a specialized diet in preparation for these events, and recovery may take several days or even a week. These are races which stretch your athletic ability and possibly experience.
B-Races may also be challenging, but they are not a stretch of your capabilities. These events help you to maintain your strength and speed and will push you to perform well, and they’re often used to achieve a new PR. Different from the A-race, training ramp-up is moderate (maybe a couple of weeks) because they are more on par with your current level of fitness. Chances are you’ve already secured a few good times in similar events, so recovery is easier.
C-Races are typically short and fun, maybe even social… you run them with someone else, or you dress up silly and have a good time. (A good example of this is the St. Patty’s day run where everyone ends up at the pub downtown.) These races can be performed on a whim, recovery is minimal to zero. Most runners would consider C-races a good replacement for a daily workout.
Now I look for my “windows of opportunity” and then space out my races according to how difficult they are and how big my chunks of time are. For instance, if I’ve got a nice block of 2 to 4 weeks, that’s a perfect window to pop in a B-race. If I’ve got a larger window, consider an A race. Check registration dates and go ahead and sign up now if you can. Otherwise, put a reminder in your calendar when registration opens.
Of course… the planning process is JUST the first step!
1. Strategic Planning: mark your calendar and make a weekly exercise plan.
2. Execution: Sign up and start training!
3. Goal Setting: Consider what times you’d like to get for various races and set some goals.
3. Track Progress: How were your times? Did you meet your goals? Did you place for your age-group?
4. Expand Skills: If you’re always running, how about trying a swim race, or a bike race… or even a triathlon?
5. Stay Committed: Don’t give up! You’ll no doubt hit some weeks when your energy level is low, or you get the flu, or you pull a muscle… whatever… but don’t let these things get you sidetracked. Focus on the entire journey and stay committed to your plan.
6. Reward Success: Success can be rewarded all year! I believe in small rewards for each accomplishment and then a nice big reward when everything has finished up for the year. I usually like to start indulging around Thanksgiving, which is also my birthday, and I continue the party straight through Christmas and the New Year holiday! Something to look forward to!
We’ll talk more about this as the months roll by, but I hope I’ve inspired you to do a little strategic planning for 2013. I’ll post my highlighted calendar in a few days once I have my races figured out… but let’s get planning!