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The Profound Fitness Manifesto Part V: Test. Track. Tweak.
In the previous installment of The Profound Fitness Manifesto we learned the value of seeing fitness as a Process, instead of a "recipe" or "destination," and we learned that the fastest way to optimize the results produced by a process is to focus most of our time and energy on eliminating the current biggest bottleneck--whether it be a transformational action or a needed resource "upstream" in the process. In this Practice, we’re going to talk about another crucial aspect of processes, namely, that all processes can be measured, tracked, tweaked, and improved. Implication: if you don’t measure, track, tweak and improve the most important aspects of a process (especially your current biggest bottleneck), don’t expect it to improve too much. The 3 T’s Of Process Improvement: Test. Track. Tweak.
(Repeat.) Testing Really, "testing" is nothing more than intelligent doing. "Testing As Doing" just means that right before you take action (performing a workout for example) you write down specifically what it is you intend to do, and what you hope these actions will accomplish. Then, you go about your business as usual. For example, let’s say you plan to train some Upper Body Pressing movements today.
Instead of doing your workout and writing down how many sets and reps of Handstand Pushups and Dips you achieved like you normally would, you would first write down the exercises, loads, reps, sets, and rest periods you intend to perform before going and working out--ideally with a short statement of purpose for the upcoming workout somewhere on the page. This simple exercise of "mini-planning" your intended actions beforehand accomplishes three important objectives: * It saves time. If you’re already written down what exercises you’re going to perform, how many sets of each exercise to complete, and how many reps to achieve on each set--plus the rest periods between the sets--then at a minimum you’ve saved yourself the time it takes to write these down during your workout. All you’ll need to write, is what you do differently than your plan, say, for example, if you were able to complete more reps on a particular exercise, or, if you had to rest longer than intended between one or more of the sets. You’ll also save time because now there’s no "wondering what to do next" that inevitably occurs with the unplanned workout. you’ll be able to attack your exercise session with a sense of urgency. All of these factors combined can turn an hour-long session into a much more effective (higher Density) 45-minute session. * It increases awareness and focus which translates directly to added intensity and therefore results. What you think about intensely, so you will become. And that’s exactly what writing something down will cause you to do: think.
According to cognitive psychologists who study brain function, the act of writing is the single most difficult conscious process the brain can perform. So writing out your workouts ahead of time, and your reason for performing it, will add tremendously to the act of manifesting fitness and health in your life. If you’ve never tried this before, get ready to be shocked about the added intensity and drive you experience during your next exercise session. * It transforms a mere "training log" into a rational tool for reasoned learning and the basis of future progress. Essentially, writing out your workouts (and meal plans) ahead of time--along with a statement of purpose for each--turns them into something very close to a scientific experiment. With a traditional log, your only insights come after you’ve completed the workout and reflect back on what you’ve written. With this approach, you take a more active approach in the learning process. You’ll ask yourself questions like, "I wonder what will happen if." and then you’ll construct an exercise protocol to test it out. You’ll transform yourself from a "reactive" seeker of fitness, who simply does what others tell them and ponders the results (or lack thereof), into a proactive enthusiast who actively creates the results you seek, and even customizes the tactics others have successfully used to your individual quirks--such are the possibilities "Testing As Doing" makes possible.
Tracking The way I described Testing As Doing above already implies that you’ll be tracking the important parameters of your fitness pursuits. But that still leaves exactly what types and which specific parameters to track. Essentially there are two types of parameters: 1) Process. 2) Performance. Performance based parameters are what most folks usually think of tracking. Stuff like pounds lost, inches gained, body fat percentage, etcetera. And these are indeed important, as they help describe, in empirical terms, the results we seek from our fitness routines. But they’re only half the picture, and if you spend all your tracking energy just on the performance-based parameters, and none of it on process-based parameters--then guess what--you won’t see a whole lot of performance improvements. You’ll be like the ill-fated NFL quarterback who obsesses over the scoreboard, but forgets its connection to watching game film of his opponents. More On Tracking Process Remember that a process can be characterized by its RARs (Resources, Actions, And Results).
Eventually, you’ll want to track one important parameter addressing each of these for each of the Big 3 fitness processes (nutrition, training, recovery). Delineating all of these parameters, and the best way to track them, is beyond the scope of this manifesto (and I’ve done so elsewhere in-depth--refer to The Tao Of Functional Fitness for more). But I would like to discuss the most fundamental type of process-related tracking: adherence. Remember: consistent, focuses action is job number one when it comes to staying in great shape. I’ve already said this in the introduction to this manifesto, but I’ll say it again: it doesn’t matter what you do to get in better shape, unless you DO. Tracking adherence helps you develop the consistent habits necessary to make significant changes to your body. So let’s talk measures… With regard to exercise adherence, it’s pretty simple. Ultimately, you want to work your way up to exercising 5 days per week, for 45-50 minutes each session (resistance training + a 15-minute bout of Strength Endurance style exercise at the end). The standard you want to meet with all types of adherence is 90%.