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Planning is Obsolete: Why You Should Never Plan a Workout Again

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It's 2020, plans don't exist here.

The pandemic changed the way I’ll train (and coach) forever.

In March, I left New York City for Toronto for a weekend storytelling workshop with John. We left on a Wednesday and got back on Saturday.

In those three days, the country (and world) flipped on its head. By the time we got back to John’s place in Midtown, all major sports had postponed the season.

Universities had canceled classes.

CVS had run out of toilet paper.

And Times Square was empty. Empty. (I took some pictures if you don’t believe me).

As I walked through the normally congested, overcrowded hell-storm that Times Square was just a week before, I felt the historical moment seize me. The rarity of the scene trapped me in the present tense.

I kept walking through an abandoned Manhattan all the way to my place in the Village.

As I entered my building I saw people flying out the revolving dorms with suitcases. The elevators all coming down, none going back up.

When I got to my place, I sat on my bed overhearing the sirens out the window from the ambulances likely carrying COVID patients.

Was This The Apocalypse?

My hypnotic trance on the present moment snapped away.

I now thought of the future. My breath shortened, my mind raced with possibilities.

Should I leave New York for a bit? Stay? Will I have to wipe my butt with old homework assignments?

As soon as I couldn’t stay in the moment, I felt crippled by the uncertainty of the future, unable to race through the possibilities I could even try to answer.

Any plan I thought of was completely contingent on the rest of the world, at the mercy of a microscopic pathogen and the world leaders’ reactions to it.

I opted to leave New York “just for a bit.” At least, that was the “plan.” 

With each passing day in the early pandemic panic, those plans kept getting pushed back. Uncertainty about the world grew. How deadly is this virus? What’s going to happen to the businesses? What’s going to happen to New York?

Uncertainty swarmed in my head like a hornet on cocaine.

Then I got a text from a client, a high school hockey player who used his school’s gym:

“The gym closed can we write a new workout plan?”

Forget about my workout schedule (not a priority at this point). My clients’ workout plans (and maybe their results) going astray was when the hornet finally stung.

Amid the uncertainty, I decided to not write him a new plan. Why write a program we’d have likely have to scrap after a few days or weeks?

“Planning in 2020 is obsolete. I’ll text you your home workout tomorrow.”

At first, it was a snarky comment, but then I realized, I was totally right.

“Plans,” and “2020” Just Don’t Go Together. 

And the only way to be successful (at or least at peace in some form) in 2020, would be to accept that making any sort of plans was pointless.

I couldn’t plan where I was going to live.

When and if I could travel and see my friends.

I couldn’t even plan on having some god damn dumbbells to lift (and more importantly I couldn’t plan for clients to have equipment either).

Embedded in this, though, was an important workout (and life) lesson.

Instead of writing out a program for my clients, I molded it and customized their workout for them each and every day.

When designing their workout for the day, I asked them how they felt, how well they slept, and what they felt like they needed to train instead of just giving them a program and checking in weekly.

With these daily changes, my clients’ progress accelerated.

legs progress pic

(these pictures are just weeks apart. His vertical jump increased by four inches).

I had embraced a plan not to plan, but to adjust daily, and the results showed for themselves.

Why could this be the case? Well, it’s not rocket science. Unlike before where I mostly gave a plan and was available as-needed, here I was dialing in the workouts every single day. 

It’s not unlike how actors get in superhero shape in a matter of weeks: they have someone optimizing every part of their training every single day.

While the “no plan is the best plan” was going great for my clients, I was exhausted from overdelivering my services.

Fortunately, it coincided with a conversation with a strength coach who was working on building a technology that used computer code to give anybody a completely custom daily workout just from answering a few survey questions.

The same types of questions I would ask my clients, like how they were feeling, what equipment they had, and more.

With this technology, anybody could get a completely custom world-class program delivered to them daily.

So, I started testing it on myself and eventually a few clients.

My workouts felt more in tune with what my body needed than ever before. Within a few workouts, I was convinced the code was simply better at writing workouts than me (given that it was created by several NHL strength coaches putting their programming brains together, I didn’t feel so bad about this).

What makes this technology so effective, I believe, is the same reason my clients started to get better results: by embracing the uncertainty of the future and working to perfect the present.

In other words, do the absolute best you can today.

Some days that meant putting on the throttle, other days it meant taken it down a notch and focusing on recovery.

But by dialing in exactly what you need every day, you can always make progress.

Unlike programs that rely on a normal world to even complete (this is not a normal world, friends), this seizes the day.

Where you’d normally take two steps forward and one step backward, you can keep taking three steps forward and accelerate your way towards your goal.

With this in mind, I wanted to help make this technology accessible to anybody.

That way anybody can take advantage of daily custom programming without needing to hire a coach (most coaches won’t be this thorough anyway. I know I wasn’t).

After months of tweaking and streamlining, we’re excited to announce our brand new RFS BioAnalytic Coaching Program, the technology-driven custom training program.

This technology has not only changed the way I program for myself and my clients, but it’s tailored for the world we live in today: one where we have no idea what next week, next month, next year is going to look like, and allows to accelerate our progress in spite of uncertainty.

It has taught me to grab the present by its horns, to seize the day, and embrace and accept the uncertainty of the days ahead.

Sign-up for the RFS BioAnalytic Coaching Program Today

bioanalytic coaching program

About the Author

David is a writer and strength coach and co-owner of Roman Fitness Systems. In addition to helping run RFS, he's also the head editor for prohockeystrength.com, the official website of the Strength and Conditioning Association of Professional Hockey.

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