Balance…With Priorities

Often, we get too focused on one thing. In my case, it’s usually work. This approach works for a while, but if we don’t balance out the one thing, all the other thing’ in our life (family, friends, health, fun, etc) fall by the wayside. Then, we have to stop what we are doing and get all the other things back on track, often to the detriment of the one thing we were working on. It seems counter-intuitive, but if we don’t balance things out, we can actually sabotage our progress in that one thing.

On the other side of the equation, if we focus too hard on balancing everything, we make little progress in anything. Priority used to be singular. We have turned it into the plural. We allocate too much energy and effort seeking that mythical state of “perfect balance.” We make an inch of progress in a hundred different directions.

There are specialists and generalists. There is focus and balance. There are advantages to both approaches. How can we reconcile the differences?

Have Balance — With Priorities

I believe this approach works well. Balance things out but make sure you put first things first. Also make sure that the effort and energy you invest in things is consistent with how you prioritize those things.

In the world of physical fitness, there are people who are specialists. They are very good at the one thing for which they train. They will make huge progress in that one thing and see some progress in other things that slightly mimic what it is they are focusing on. The downside to this approach is a lack of general physical fitness. The specialized powerlifter gets gassed if you take him on a short hike at altitude and the professional marathoner is worthless when it comes time to move furniture.

Then you have people who try to use a more balanced approach. They want to be ready for whatever life throws at them. They combine strength, conditioning, power, agility, and quickness (correct movement patterns throughout of course) and have a much more balanced approach. These generalists are more prepared for whatever life throws at them but they rarely make great progress in any one area or discipline.

My Personal Periodization Plan

Personally, I fall into the latter camp. Each year, I divide my training into four twelve-week periods with a week off at the end of each period. Each period has a different focus. The only specific event I now prepare for is my back-country, high-altitude bow hunting. This event takes place in September. So, my first twelve-week training period is a maintenance phase that takes place early in the year (a.k.a. ski season.) The next is a free period. I can choose something new to focus on each year if I like (example: kettlebells, barbell work, bodyweight exercise, etc). The third period is dedicated to preparing me for the hunt, and the fourth period is pre-season for skiing.

Kettlebell Training for BalanceThe programs I build for these twelve-week periods involve lifting (kettlebells and bodyweight), sprinting, hiking, jump-rope, fight training (for fun), daily walk,s and stretching. I find it to be a very good all-around program. It does have its drawbacks though. It’s very general in nature, therefore, as you can guess, I make an inch of progress in a hundred different directions.

My Simple (But Sinister) Training Plan for 2015

This year, I’m going to try something different. For the first two twelve-week periods, I’m going to do Simple & Sinister. I’d love to accomplish the Sinister goal, but my goal for now is to accomplish the Simple goal. I believe it will build a healthy base of strength, movement, and conditioning prior to my third twelve-week period or cycle that will still be dedicated to hunt preparation.

During these two twelve-week periods, I will still do some fight training two times per week. These training sessions are usually preceded with 4 x 3-minute rounds of jumping rope. I also plan on maintaining my daily habit of walking one mile at lunch.

What really excites me is how simple the logistics are for this program. I’ll have my kettlebell in my office (home or work) and do the same thing at the same time each day per week. I won’t have to drive to the foothills for my sprints or for my hikes. My sessions will take roughly 25 minutes each and I’ll be able to go on about my day.

Balance and Simplicity — With Priorities

Each year, I put myself through a week of simple testing. These tests are not perfect, but I use them as a barometer for my overall fitness. When I test this year, I suspect some of the things I test myself on will suffer slightly and some will improve. I also suspect that I’ll still be pretty generally fit yet stronger overall, similar results to when I did the “Rite of Passage” program on deployments.

But this new approach will allow me to maintain balance with my fitness while having a priority:

  • My fitness priority for 2015 is accomplishing the Simple Goal.*
  •  When I reach that goal, I will move on to attempting the Sinister Goal.**
  • I will do all of this while maintaining a bodyweight of 180lbs or less.

What’s your fitness priority this year?

*Simple goal: 100 1 arm swings in 5 minutes using a 32kg kettlebell and 10 get-ups in 10 minutes using the same kettlebell. (16kg for ladies)
**Sinister goal: same as above using the 48kg bell. (24kg for ladies)

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Eric Frohardt
SFG
Eric Frohardt, SFG, is the Director of Education and Training for the NRA, a veteran US Navy SEAL, and former CEO of StrongFirst. He has been putting our training system to the test for over a decade—first in combat deployments and later in outdoor sports.

13 thoughts on “Balance…With Priorities

  • Hi Eric,

    I’ve been enjoying your articles. The WTH one you wrote towards the end of last year got me excited to get back on ROP, which I did for 4.5 months, and again I saw awesome results.

    Now I’m spending the summer (and beyond, most likely) transitioning from the 32 to 40kg bell.

    I really look forward to reading some updates on your progress as you stick with this program and your other activities.

    Cheers,
    Brian

  • Eric, thank you for the article. As a father of little ones (2, 12 and baby will make three in March) with a full-time job and home remodel projects I can certainly relate to the need for balance and simplicity. This was a big part of my motivation to move to S&S. I am also a bow hunter and am curious to understand more about your 12 week cycles and specifically learn more about your preparation for high country hunting. Living in Colorado, this is definitely a part of my scheme as well and I would like to hear how another girevik prepares for this challenge.

  • Great article.

    My goals for the year are very general.

    I’d like to get to Simple (currently progressing from 24-28 kg) whilst shedding 15 kg (33lbs – I’ve plenty to lose, that would take me down to 209!) and reducing my running route time by 2.30 mins (4.25 miles route). That would take me back to 35 years old – but with way more strength than I ever had.

  • Eric, are you hunting traditional? My hunting goal for next year(2016) is a DIY Moose hunt in Alaska with my longbow. I need to build up some vacation days first though. Retired from the Navy in January 2014 and started civil service work. It’s a slow build up for vacation time!

    Straight shooting!

  • My goal is to work on bench press. 2014 saw big gains in back squat and pullups, but I was flatline on deadlift and bench. But at least deadlift is stuck on a respectable number. So I will be reading lots of muscle mags about “blasting my pecs” and routines that will leave me “no choice” but to get stronger. ha, ha. Actually, just plan to emphasize bench a little bit more than usual.

    Competition is not a high priority for me (I get plenty on my job), but if there is a TSC in Denver this year I plan to enter. If not, I may do the NASA powerlifting meet in Denver in May. I would like to have more competency in bench before doing that, though.

    I also plan to enjoy this ski season – looks like a great one shaping up! Eric, you sure you want to miss this one?

  • Eric, best wishes on your fitness priority for 2015. Please keep us posted on your progress. My goal is the same.

  • great article this strongfirst website is absolutly great so many great articles, not to long but pack with important useful knowledge. I to want to acheive the simple goals for 2015 but also want to accomplish 10 consecutive pull-ups and a 12 mile ruck within 3 hours with atleast 35lbs.

    Thanks again for the great info

  • I’ve wanted a 2.5x body weight deadlift ever since I started lifting weights after high school. The closest I’ve come is 2.28x body weight: once at 217 and once at 230. I was a lot stronger the second time but since I was heavier the increased strength was negated.

    December 26th during a game of casual flag football I broke my right collar bone. It required surgery and a titanium plate that covers the whole clavicle to line up right. My orthopedic surgeon said no lifting for 5 months.

    It’s going to be basically starting over from scratch when I return to lifting in May-June of 2015. With creatine monohydrate, eating right, cycling the intensity and waving the load I can be basically back to where I was before the injury in 16 weeks but with a lower body weight.

    I think the upside to the injury is a break. I worked hard from June-November 2012. And I wouldn’t let myself take time off because I was afraid of regressing. Dan John got hit in the head with a discus and took six months off because the injury made him not like lifting anymore. He said when he came back he was stronger than before. Maybe after 16 weeks of lifting hard and intelligently I’ll have a new 5 rep max.

    My goal for 2015 is to deadlift 465 for 5 reps with good form-my pre-injury 5rm- at 10lbs lighter body weight than I was in 2014.

  • I like your goal and have adopted it for myself. I’d come to the conclusion that between moving, starting a business, and family issues, I should try S&S for a “while”. The Simple Goal gives it some focus.

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