Coach Tom’s Corner

Careful planning for your success



R olling into the eighth week of my total knee replacement gave me some painful reminders of why good planning is so critical to successful programming. As a coach, I never enter a session without a plan. The plan is never set in stone, of course, as there are always variables beyond my control I am unable to nail down prior to being there. But I arrive with a plan, having specific objectives and methods that includes variations, progressions and/or regressions to be deployed depending on what unfolds in the session. Regrettably, I sometimes don’t bring that same attention to detail when training myself.

In defense of my latest lapse, I had just been released from physical therapy. While I found the physical therapy process invaluable to my recovery, I have been chomping at the bit to do more. Two months of relative physical inactivity made me a little stir crazy. With a few restrictions, I was allowed back into the gym to do my own thing and immediately overdid it. My quads were so sore I barely moved the next day. Properly chastised, I went back into the gym and proceeded to tweak my lower back. Today finds me a little angry for creating these setbacks for myself. Arguably minimal, these setbacks were nevertheless avoidable with a minimal amount of planning.

So, let’s talk about planning, adjustments and execution as they relate to physical training. For the trained athlete who understands her or his own needs, the only thing I can advise is to err on the side of caution. Don’t hurt yourself. Use Reps in Reserve (or the sport-specific analogy) and total volume as opposed to One-Repetition Maximum (1RM). In other words, leave a little in the tank when training.

For folks getting started (or restarted), identify your training objective (strength/ endurance/whatever), detail the methods you intend to use (weight lifting/running/ whatever), decide the frequency (1x week/3x week/whatever), target a reasonable amount of volume per method (reps/time/whatever) and then take some time (weeks) to ease into your training. As you gain knowledge of your own responses to the training, you can adjust as warranted. W hile this may seem unduly vague to those of you getting started, in my experience, this is more detailed than most new exercisers ever get. A more typical approach is to buy a “XYZ

Mega 3000 Workout” video, try and keep up with people who work out for a living and, ultimately, end up discouraged at your inadequacy. At the opposite end of the spectrum is the “Old Fogey’s Workout” where you do a few seconds of bicep curls with soup cans and one-armed rows with the refrigerator door.

Not satisfying and your milk curdles.

O ne size does not fit all. If you’re going to create a dynamic plan that adapts to your progress and occasional setback, you need to take the time to become aware of your own responses. I feel mildly hypocritical as I grunt and groan my way to an upright position. However, I’m taking my own medicine here. My back is really bugging me today but these things happen. I now have a plan so onward and upward! A long similar lines, fall sports are getting underway. Student athletes should already be transitioning their training plans to in-season accordingly. And for the rest of you, get out there and play!

Consult with your healthcare professional before starting any weight loss or exercise program.

Tom Duffy is the owner of Good Sports Fitness, a wellness, fitness and athletic conditioning business based in Babbitt, MN. He can be contacted at

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