When learning a new skill or habit, we are often tempted to set ourselves a fix daily target or fix progression, i.e. “I will do 10 pushups for 30 days”, or the linear increase i.e. “ 1 pushup on day one, 2 pushups on day two, 3 pushups on day three…”. While these plans have the advantage to be simple to set up, they are often not a good strategy for the long term and for your progression.
With a fixed daily goal (10 pushups for 30 days), you will most likely start with having difficulties to start at the beginning. Whereas at the end, it will be too easy, not challenging (or fun), and will not allow you to progress anymore.
The linear increase (one additional pushup every day) only works in an ideal world. And I’m sorry to tell you, we don’t live in an ideal world. And our mind and body do not work in a linear fashion.
How to start your planning
Knowing where to start with a challenge and how to make it progress can be tricky. A good starting point is then to do a bit of research. It is very likely that someone has already done a similar challenge and shared about it on the Internet. So take your favorite search engine and type in your challenge (in our case 30 days pushups).
However, it is worth having a couple of limits in this process for you to avoid getting lost in the never-ending internet swirl:
- 1hour is usually enough to find interesting information. In any case, don’t spend more than 2 hours searching.
- If you can avoid YouTube. This might be a bit polemical, but YouTube’s goal is to make you spend time (unlike its partner search engine), not give you the information you are looking for. Some info you would be able to get in 1 minute elsewhere may take you 10 minutes on YouTube.
Example of running planning
Let’s take for example a training plan for running. Most personal trainers and gadgets for running will have a similar for your training. It is usually based on a weekly schedule and looks a bit like this:
- Monday: rest day
- Tuesday: easy run
- Wednesday: speed run
- Thursday: easy run
- Friday: acceleration run
- Saturday: easy run
- Sunday: Long run
Alternate intense days with easy days
Looking at it more closely, you see that most of the days is actually an easy run. You don’t actually push yourself, but you get comfortable with running. Only 3 days are planned for more intensive workout, including only one day for long distance (yes, even for marathon training). The reason is you need to let your body recover, and if you push yourself every day you may injure yourself while training and have to stop training for several weeks.
You can find similar patterns for other challenges: push one day, take it easy the next one, with a harder push at the end of the week to see how much you have progressed.
This way of doing has lots of advantages. First of all, you vary your task every day and are less likely to get bored. Also, the alternation of hard work out/easy work out allows you to have a better progression. And finally, you are able to understand better how your body and mind are reacting to different loads of work and allows you to learn to adjust along the way.
Don’t be too rigid
One final word will be to stay open and flexible in your planning once you started your challenge. It helps to have a good planning, but it should not be written in stone. Day to day life bring a fair amount of unexpected situations you will have to deal with and manage your way around to keep your challenge on track. Some days you will feel like doing more than others. You should learn and adapt accordingly.