In the states, we are in the full swing if summertime. For many, this is time to recover from a harsh winter, enjoy some downtime with family, and experience a change in routine. This change in routine is a great thing! The only downfall is when it chips away at your training progress. When the kids are in school and the weather is not so nice, it seems a lot easier to carry on with a training schedule. With all of the changes, you might feel your performance pathway starting to slip away from you.
I challenge you to change your mindset this summer (or during any busy season) and remember that micro efforts are powerful.
What is a micro effort? I categorize these as short 10- or 15-minute sessions of meaningful movement. They can be built to be completed with little to no equipment or utilized to tweak your existing training schedule.
Why are micro efforts powerful? Instead of completely missing the mark with your training, you can maintain current levels of fitness (and maybe even improve) while your schedule isn’t so friendly. Then you’re not playing a constant game catch up with your training. These efforts also teach you to deal with adversity and navigate a common issue that arises with goal achievement. That issue is TIME. Also, at the end of the day, training is about putting in valuable work. Some days you put in a lot of work. Other days you might only put in a little work. It is all funneling into the same goal, regardless of workload.
Yes, it would be great to execute the “perfect” training schedule. However, this crazy thing called life is a master at intervening. Implement these steps to navigate your summer schedule or next busy season.
Micro Effort Example #1: Pick a Focus
The easiest way to make a micro effort effective is to work on one of your limiting factors. For example, if you know you are prone to shoulder overuse injuries or pain, make your micro effort a shoulder focused effort. You can pick 3-5 exercises and complete two or three sets of each in a circuit format. This will take 10-15 minutes to complete. In the end you just completed valuable movement to combat one of your performance limiters. If you can complete this a few times a week, your limiter will quickly begin to dissipate. In this case, a micro effort multiple times a week will be more effective than completing one long session on the weekend. Spacing out your efforts into smaller doses more times a week will help groove proper movement patterns and minimize the time that old habits are allotted to return to form.
Wall Angels x 12
Shoulder Pullapart Series + Band x 4 each variation
Hands Up Push Up x 12
Micro Effort Example #2: Pick a Performance
Back when I was coaching a full week, I didn’t always have the optimal amount of time to train myself. This is when I started implementing “Pick a Performance” out of necessity. While it started as necessity, I quickly realized how powerful it was for both my strength and overall conditioning. It is also supremely helpful for the time-strapped masters athlete. The format is simple, pick two exercises and the total repetitions you want to complete during each set. I like to pick one loaded and one unloaded exercise. Take five minutes to warm up for each of the exercises you pick. Then you’re going to set a running clock for 10-minutes. You have one-minute to complete the first exercise. Whatever time is left is yours to rest (ex. It takes you 40 seconds to complete a set of squats. You get 20 seconds of rest before starting the pull-ups). Then once the second minute begins, complete the second exercise with the same format. By the end of 10-minutes you have completed five sets of each exercise and will also enjoy a nice heart rate response.
My favorite combination is to use a squat variation for my first exercise and then a pull-up variation for my second exercise. With the squat variation, I try to work up to the heaviest weight I can manage with good form by the fifth set. For the pull-up variation, I try to maintain the best average I can for all five sets.
10:00 running clock
Odd Minutes: Front Squat + BB x 5 repetitions
Increase the weight for each set until hitting a maximum weight for five repetitions.
Even Minutes: Pull-Ups x best average
Aim for the best average score you can achieve by the end of five set.
Micro Effort Example #3: Training Session Modification
This example works best if you’re able to do a little bit of something each day and currently follow a program. If you need help with your training, feel free to check out our 1:1 online training and membership community options. Let’s look at the training session listed below.
You will see that there is an A, B, and C section listed. While this is meant to be one training session completed at the same time, there is still plenty of value by completing this in multiple segments instead of during one sitting. For example, maybe you can complete part A and B on Monday and then part C on Tuesday. While it is not perfect, your weekly volume adds up to the same. Instead of scheduling out 45-60 minutes to complete the session, you are completing two sessions that are half that time or less due to equipment switches and setup.
Again, is it perfect? No. Will it still lead to progress? Yes! Understanding the value of making a mind-shift from daily volumes to weekly volumes can be very freeing.
As a coach, I enjoy helping athletes achieve things they once thought impossible. Whether it is shifting a mindset around aging, tweaking some technique, or popping the hood on some weaknesses, I love solving the performance puzzle. A lack of time can be a performance killer, but it usually boils down to making a few adjustments to maintain the correct course. We all are short on time. It is what we do with the time we have that leads us to goal achievement.