The more research I do, through reading books or scientific studies, the more I realize that finding a system that works for me to decrease pain or risk of injury and do the things I enjoy to my maximum potential (I hope), is all about finding my own one percent. There are as many convincing studies that contradict each other as there are ways to accomplish a goal. It’s not that any of these studies are wrong (well, maybe some of them are misguided), it’s more that some systems work better for some people than others. There are so many reasons my body might respond better to a specific stimulus that it’s nearly impossible to program and get it right the first time. The journey is worth it.
Here are a few things that I consider when building my program:
- Joy: If I don’t enjoy what I’m doing, then the end date is looming. I’ve found this with a lot of sports and activities I’ve tried over the years. If I didn’t wake up every morning and look forward to running or obstacle course training, I don’t know if I’d still be racing. Sure, there are days when I don’t feel like it, but it’s the minority.
- Variety: It doesn’t matter if there’s one system that would technically work best if I did it every day the same way. I’d likely still end up quitting because it would get stale. I have a plan to work on specific skills or muscle groups during a training block, but exactly what movements I’m going to perform I rarely decide until that day. I run, but I also enjoy grip work, hiking and rock climbing. Biking is fun to mix in too, especially if I’m working through a minor injury. Keeping things fresh and fun is far more important to me than following a specifically designed program.
- Experience (and journaling): Years of process have taught me what injuries I’m prone to. I’ve learned dumb ideas to stay away from (i.e. a hard plyometric workout the day after a hard run when I haven’t done plyometrics in a while), and some of the psychological signs to watch out for (e.g. under-recovering, low energy from poor nutrition or quality sleep, mood swings from overdoing it or putting too much pressure on myself). This is all part of my own one percent and this year I’ve been documenting a lot and listening to my body and mind so I can learn more about myself and my responses to different stimulus. I know a lot about what stretching too little or too much results in for me, how to warm up for hard runs or shoulder activities, what muscle groups I need to keep working on to stay injury free and I’m always trying to learn how to peak on days I want to perform at high levels. If this sounds like I have it all figured out, I’m far from it, but I know a lot about fitness and my body and I’m having a lot of fun testing. Side note: I like to geek out on spreadsheets.
- Reading (or listening) to learn and to be inspired: Books, research, and podcasts are a staple for me. Most days I spend an hour reading about different athletes’ journeys (some of my favourites include Dean Karnazes’ Ultramarathon Man, Kilian Jornet’s Above the Clouds, Matt Fitzgerald 80/20 Running), or listen to podcasts (my favourites are Podium Runner, Science of Ultra and Rich Roll) about the sport of Obstacle Course Racing, Ultramarathon running, Skyrunning or athletes accomplishing what we thought was impossible.
Looking for your one percent? Start with what you enjoy, not what you think you should enjoy or what someone you know is doing (but if it sounds fun, by all means give it a shot!). Get lots of variety in that sport or activity, so it stays fresh. Track your progress and learn from mistakes. Read, listen, and find inspiration from those who are at the top of their game.