We talked a little bit here about goals and plans. For those who are loath to click links, I can summarize: solving your problem–i.e., meeting your goal–will probably be harder than you would like it to be, but easier than you think it ought to be. I guess I should add that we’re primarily talking about health and wellness goals here, though I suppose this could apply elsewhere. Simpler usually does work better, after all.
When thinking on goal-oriented training or diet, I like to focus on two main areas: congruence and balance. Congruence is relatively simple to define but a bit harder to enact. My plan should be as plain or complex as the problem I am looking to solve, but with the clear caveat that most things are not often as simple or complex as they seem. The dieter aiming to lose 100 lbs is a useful index of the difficulty and importance of congruence: he will first need to lose 5 lbs, and he will last need to lose 5 lbs (actually more like first 10 and then last 0.5), and his plan will best move from simple to relatively complex and ardous in concert with the ascending difficulty of his task. Week one of the diet will begin and end with “eat better food”; week fifty-two will probably be pretty low in carbohydrate and quite high in protein at regimented intervals. The history of human behavior, episodically akin to watching a stone roll down the hill, tells us that a guy with a hundred pounds to lose will be far better served to begin with “eat better” and the momentum build of the resulting 10 lb weight loss than with “eat perfect.”
Conversely, the guy who’s been hammering away at his shoulder press for years and is stuck just under bodyweight may require something a little less simple. Those last two pounds may seem like a bridge over the pond at the end of your driveway, but in reality they represent some of the hardest-won increments in strength training. The simple steps we might take for a newer, weaker presser (‘press twice a week,’ ‘do 5 sets of dumbbell presses for assistance,’ hell, ‘fix your rack position!’) won’t do much for our stronger presser and in fact may take her back a step or two. Complex problems require compound solutions: perhaps some tricep work, heavy singles counterpoised with volume, a bit of lower-weight ‘bodybuilding’ work on the rear delts, and so on.
But here’s the crucial part–we don’t want to make anything complex that we can keep simple. Is your near-bodyweight presser also hitting herself in the chin on the way up? Tell her to move her head out of the way and shake her hand ten seconds later after she PRs. There is always time for complex, after all. The rest of our life is complex. In training and in diet, simple only works for so long. Newbie gains slow, water weight loss stops. The trick is being diligent enough to seek out the simple in congruence to that part of the goal which can be rendered simply. Because even as simple only works for so long, simple always works best.