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.
The 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)