'Plan' is a 7-Letter Word

While visiting a friend this past weekend, he mentioned something that the owner of a brokerage company, which he works for, said.

-"Don't think of a plan as a four letter word, because in many ways, a sound financial plan can help you achieve a state best described by a seven letter word: Freedom." Super cool quote.

Insert 'training' for 'financial' and wahlah, some relevance.
Let me be the first to say, I am somewhat anti-plan. It depends on what kind.

Short term plans are essential. If I don't plan my workout, then write it down just before I do it, it's like I never came up with a plan, and without that plan, nothing constructive gets done. I'm just not that talented.

Long term plans? Dumpster. Financial long term plans? Rock and roll, but training long term plans - I'm not so sure. Here are the reasons I am skeptical of long-term training plans.

1. Nothing ever goes as planned. Essentially, when one workout follows another, you're somewhat planning on how you might feel that day. What if you're crushed from the previous workout and you've got intervals that will have the wheels coming off if you do them? Should you forge the river and loose your supplies to the mighty waters and your women to dysentery? Rhetorical question.

2. Long term plans give me the feeling that a lot is weighing on my performance at the end of the plan. Unofficial statistics show that a person's success in a competition is inversely proportional to the amount of pressure they perceive and directly related to how much fun they perceive to be having prior to race time. Sports fans often observe the opposite. They say, wow, that person really performs well under pressure. But mid-game or prior to the competition, if they don't have time to get caught up in the hype, or they are somehow diverted from it, they perform much better. I've seen this in the swimmers I coach. They instinctively know the race is big time, so no need to mention it. Instead, telling jokes and being lighthearted about things is the best approach. Never fails.

3. It's easy to get distracted. A lot of Olympic athletes give talks to kids who are just beginning in their sport. I watched a video of this just today. The athlete tells the kids he's speaking to, "my dream was to swim in the Olympics. I thought about it everyday and worked to get there everyday." I'm sorry, but I don't think you did. You broke it up into segments, focusing on each independently. I'm not 100% on that, but I know that if I left a talk like that in my early years and thought about the Olympics each and everyday, I would be fried crispy in a matter of weeks. I tried it once with a goal not so lofty, but far away. I stopped the next day.

4. It can be daunting. If I want to run a marathon, which I do, during the race I'm not going to think about however many miles I have left to run. That's a quick path to discouragement. Thinking shorter-term will be more successful - just hit your pace on the next mile, then the next, then the next.

In the fine print, if you have a long term training plan for yourself, and you get injured early on, or even later on in the cycle, it can feel like a tremendous burden - I've been there. Instead, by splitting things up in to small, manageable time periods or goals, if you don't get to one of them because of setback, it's no sweat. You already made it to this level. You're game gets saved, and the mental anguish is avoidable. In this case, the plan IS freedom.

Essentially I'm not telling you anything you didn't already know. This is just how I manage my plan and how I manage training plans of my athletes.

There's a lot of truth to this plan=freedom logic. If you don't have a plan of some sort, then how will you know the freedom when you get there? Freedom could be anything. Be sure you know what you're looking for.

Something I struggle with, probably the most important element, is that a plan is nothing without execution. Plans, just like ideas, are multipliers of execution. The original creator of that statement, Derek Sivers, says that the greatest idea with no execution is worth $20. The greatest idea (plan) takes excellent execution to be worth $20,000,000. That's why he doesn't want to hear people's ideas. He's not interested until he sees their execution. (Props to Sue recommending Derek)

Be careful how much time you spend on your plan. Your time might be better spent working your way to freedom without one.