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Using Agile Methods to Achieve Your Training Goals

We have all used plenty of online training programs in order to accomplish our goals. I’ve used a few training programs to run marathons, a handful of triathlons, and help get ready for ski season. However, I feel that training programs could borrow a few principles from the business world. From Fortune 500s to non-profits, companies have utilized agile concepts to create immense value for their customer by reacting to change and focusing on what is most valuable. The same should be applied to your training strategy.

 



Limit Work in Progress (WIP)
Have you ever had such a long to-do list that none of it ends up getting done? One of the tenets of Kanban is to limit your Work in Progress (WIP). Kanban originated with Toyota to improve efficiencies. One goal of Kanban is to focus on just a few things instead of spreading yourself too thin. Many of us believe we are excellent multitaskers but studies show that it’s just not true! By limiting the amount you work on at any given time, you are allowing yourself to fully focus on accomplishing it before moving on to the next task.

When I started training for a marathon, I read that you must concentrate on nutrition, running shorts, shoes, socks, blister prevention, running form, stretching, proper timing for fuel, setting a routine, and getting enough sleep. No wonder it’s so hard for people to start off when there’s so much information out there that says what you need to do in order to be successful!

For me, I limited my Work in Progress by focusing on just a few of those aforementioned “must dos” every two weeks. I focused on where my feet literally hit the pavement - quality socks (like Balega) and proper fitting running shoes seemed like a good start. Once I became comfortable with my setup I then pulled in two other items from the “to do” list to focus on.

 



Retrospectives
When in a race, you’re always looking in front of you - anticipating the next hill where you’ll need to really push yourself or eyeing when the next water station is. However, when training, it is valuable to look backwards to see what worked well, what didn’t, and what you learned about your training from the past week.

Scrum is a popular agile framework that focuses on transparency, inspection, and adaptation to work on complex problems. A Retrospective is one of the meetings where a team inspects itself and the work it completed in the past few weeks and adapts to improve the team’s processes for the next few weeks. A simple Retrospective frequently asks the question of: what to start doing, what to stop doing, and what to continue doing.

This same concept can be used while training for an upcoming event. I had candid conversations with myself and my partner as to how the previous week of training went and it proved fruitful to see what I should change for the coming week. When I missed a few training days, I asked myself why I missed them and realized I was doing too many other activities. Therefore, I chose to prioritize my training runs and stopped overtraining. I experimented with various foods/snacks for my runs and found what worked best for me, so I continued that fuel strategy. I realized I wanted to know more about how my training was going besides Strava data so I started journaling my training experiences.



Pair up with a friend
One methodology in software is called “Extreme Programming” which has a variety of practices - one of which is called paired programming. Two heads are better than one, and in software, that makes a difference when delivering value to the customer both quickly and without bugs (errors).

If you don’t already have a partner in crime who runs with you, be sure to find a friend close by or even one on Strava or Instagram who might be able to hold you accountable! You’ll be able to share in each other's successes and lift each other up when it’s tough to continue on. I found a great community in the Balega Impi Ambassador Program and had plenty of accountability partners to share in the successes and learnings of training. Especially now, during a pandemic, rely on interactions outside your normal community to stay motivated and reach your goals.

 

4 things to remember
When you start your next training regimen, keep these things in mind:

  • With a large goal, limit your Work in Progress and focus on just a few things at a time. Stop starting, and start finishing.
  • Prioritize the smallest thing that will have the largest impact.
  • Look backwards in order to move forwards. Inspect and adapt your training to determine what to start, stop, and continue doing.
  • Pair up with an accountability partner (or two!) to help each other focus on each other’s goals.

Photo credit: TJay Greber (IG: @teejadventures)