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Defining a Long Term Plan

I was asked recently how I stay motivated to train followed with the question of whether I have a year long plan.  My immediate response to the query was overly complicated and unhelpful Alicia-ese.  I said “…that I’m committed to life long fitness balanced against continual performance optimization. I create shorter term goals that play off of my personality characteristics to motivate me to achieve these ends.”  Super.  How about I try and write something that makes some sense to people who speak English?

The simplistic answer is yes, I do have a year long plan, but that doesn’t even begin to answer the first question about staying motivated nor does it tell you where my year long plan comes from.

When it comes to planning, there are fundamental questions that we can ask ourselves that fall naturally into a hierarchy of increasing complexity.  They are as follows:

  • What we’re going to do?  Short term plans that range from a daily task checklist to goal acheivements several months down the road.  A what-based cycling improvement plan would be to ride my bike.  A lot.
  • How we’re going to do what we’re going to do if things go smoothly and in anticipation of common obstacles?  A how-based cycling improvement plan would be to learn the mechanics of riding efficiently and practice those.  It would be to follow a training plan developed to improve cycling ability.
  • Who does what procedure and when.   This is like a single system project with a distinct beginning & end in an area of expertise.   A who-based cycling improvement plan would implement periodization targeting one or two A races and also accomodating other races and the time available to the athlete.  An annual triathlon training plan is who-based.
  • Which system out of a number of interacting systems do we attend to or apply resources to?  An advanced approach to triathlon skill development is consistent with this fundamental question.  A which-based cycling improvement plan would span several years and would balance training strategies that leverage the effect of several dynamic systems such as bike fit, body comp and nutrition, threshold levels, endurance, efficiency, etc.
  • The Why behind our choices and goals.  The purpose or concept that drives and shapes the resource allocation among the multitude of interacting systems.  This describes policy statements in a business setting.  A why-based cycling improvement plan explores and describes the purpose that drives the desire to cycle better, serving to unify the multi-systems approach.
  • Whether this why is best or that why?  Making decisions between policies or concepts that best advance the individual, business or other entity.  A whether-based cycling improvement plan ID’s and applies performance improvement principles to the problem of cycling improvement based on the context of the situation.
  • Where is this discipline headed?  What vision do we have for the outcome over a longer horizon for ourselves, business or other entity?  A where-based cycling improvement plan visualizes the future of the discipline and how an individual athlete, team or sport type can leverage and apply future changes.

The hierarchy of questions that I list above comes from something a colleague and I are calling the Q Model, which I will explicate in a later post.  In that post, I will also properly credit the brains behind the model.  All I’ve done is put a little polish on it– with help.  It’s good stuff though.

We can have goals that address each of these fundamental questions.   To illustrate, I’ve provided cycling improvement plan examples to give you an idea of what these would look like.

Each of us, as individuals, will be drawn to preferred questions.   We also have a top capacity, because as the question list proceeds, the necessary complexity to fully address that fundamental question increases.  It is a good exercise to try and stretch ourselves to consider the next level question from where we’re most comfortable.  Continuous improvement philosophy and all.

In my initial response to the question, I listed the desire to balance two Why statements:  lifelong fitness & continual performance optimization.  Each why drives decisions about resource (time & energy) allocations, which leads to annual race planning and then periodization and so on.  An annual training plan crops up in there somewhere.

So, again, yes I have an annual training plan and that certainly serves as some motivation.  I am also motivated by the process of balancing multiple interacting systems in a way that optimizes the overall performance.  I am also driven by some powerful policies about living and driving reasons to achieve.  Etc.

So, motivation.  Although goal setting varies according to fundamental question, that’s not the only thing that influences motivation.  Motivation is also influenced by personality, and I will cover that topic in my next post.

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