Efficiency is doing things right. Effectiveness is doing the right things. – Peter Drucker
Do you consider yourself a naturally gifted person, or would you place yourself staunchly with the vast majority of us that have had to learn skills the hard way? Even if you are naturally skilled, have you found that you are hitting a ceiling, and that genetics can only take you so far?
The good news: hitting our limits and experiencing physical (and mental) thresholds stimulates adaptation, and eventually – growth. Henry Ford said it best when he said that “failure is the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.”
Failure is a strong teacher. As a student of failure, a marathoner, a CrossFitter, and a Coach, I have come to identify three trends that exist in high-quality programs. Whether you’re a CrossFitter, a Beach Body-er, a Weight Watcher, or you just do your own thing, always ensure your training is:
This is quickest way to SEE results.
In all things, practice safety. Remember why you are working out in the first place – to reach your personal goals. I’m pretty sure those goals don’t include strained back or shoulders, ACL/PCL injuries, runner’s knee, or pulled hamstrings. If you or your coach are doing something that appears or even feels unsafe, pump the brakes and ask for a reset on the situation.
But if we never take risks, how can we grow?!
While it’s true that risk can can yield return, there’s a strong difference between calculated risk and pure risk.
Calculated risk exists when we are working at a percentage of, or periodically testing our 1RM, or climbing a rope for the first time after developing strict pull-ups, or running a 5k longer than our previous record distance. In these instances, a known-value has been established and the risk exists as a test of limit rather than an experiment in ability. Working with a competent coach or personal trainer can help us take calculated risk to test our thresholds within the confines of safety.
Pure risk is almost everything else. An unknown quantity or modality can quickly become a pure risk with no prior motor conditioning or skill-drilling/coaching. Calculated risk can become pure risk once certain ranges of motion, thresholds, or ability levels are passed. Pure risk can also result from trusting the apparent authority of a coach who may be prescribing too heavy a load or too wide a range of motion for your current ability level.
Remember, we are in control of our own bodies, and are therefore the best judges of what levels of risk are acceptable vs. reckless.
As we determine that we are safe in what we are about to do, a simultaneously logical question would be: “Why are we doing this?”
The most effective plans are driven by goals, not guesses.
Before you start a program, talk to your coach about your personal fitness and life goals. This will largely steer how you approach your workload, and keep your head in the game on those days when it’s really freaking hard to get to the gym. While it’s generally advisable to get specific with your goals, they must first be your own. If your goals are not authentically yours, it won’t matter how specific you are – the chances of sticking with the program will be smaller than a tall at Starbucks. Set fitness goals in multiple areas, especially if you’re using different markers for progress such as strength, weight, speed, etc… Don’t be afraid to get creative!
Frequently assess whether your actions are effectively moving you toward, or away from your goals.
Here’s the catch: if we don’t identify what an effective program looks like for us, we run the risk of doing ineffective things very efficiently.
Now it’s time for the rubber to hit the road. You’ve identified your goals and effective means to reach them, you’ve verified safety in your tasks – now it’s time to learn how to perform efficiently to continuously push the bar higher.
Efficiency is doing things right.
This is at the heart of increasing performance. Once we are on an effective path, we are finally in the right building. Efficiency is the key to opening doors to higher levels. A large problem here is that we all look better doing movements in our mind’s eye than we look to a real eye. In my mind, my running form is perfectly pose, and my deadlift looks epic, but a coach would probably (definitely) remind me otherwise.
As a musician, my teacher always told me to use a metronome to keep the beat while I practiced. He said this because my sense of time while focusing on other stimuli became so distorted that I would always end up rushing the beat. Athletic movement is very similar. A trained eye can catch things you can’t possibly feel while in dynamic motion or under load.
So what happens when the do the right things, the right way, safely? Results happen. The more disciplined we become over time in working the SEE model in our training, the stronger our ability to see becomes. Over time recognizing safety, effectiveness, and efficiency in our fitness programming can become as natural as an air-squat.