My No Plan Training Plan

My no plan training plan is firmly in place now, and it seems to be my year of stripping away the micro-stresses and habits that have consumed so much of my mind space. A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that I have mainly gone dark on my LinkedIn and Instagram feeds, and that’s sticking. I’ve briefly checked in three times, but to check for direct messages, I have spent no time scrolling through either feed.

The simplification of my life has extended to my fitness regime too. I have binned my usual training foundations. I have let my Training Peaks subscription lapse and am not checking in to see what my fitness numbers tell me. I’m looking at Strava only once I have completed a ride; at present, not many rides are taking place. I’m not diarising training plans. There is no significant event to train for this year.

Is my no plan training plan destined to fail? I feel better mentally, so that’s a plus. If it results in no training, that will be bad for mental health. I had a conversation with one of the world’s top exercise physiologists, and we discussed what’s the best for a man of my age — sixty-four and three-quarters old — and it was apparent some change would be beneficial.

The significant issues facing me are primarily reducing muscle mass and longer recovery times, and decreasing mobility is also a consideration. The no plan training plan is designed to deal with longer recovery times, yet there isn’t a way to plan for recovery time. If I train hard, I can wake up and feel fine, and my Heart Rate Variability (‘HRV’) will confirm it. Sometimes I feel fine, and my HRV says to take it easy or not even train. I feel bad some days, and the HRV says go ahead and train.

It’s tough to have a scheduled plan when the body’s recovery isn’t plannable. I’ve used HRV for some years, and it’s an excellent guide to recovery. And a decent guide to stress overall. There have been periods where I haven’t been training, yet life stress is high, and the daily HRV score tells me I’m under the weather. It picks up if I haven’t recovered from a hard session too. Indeed even an oncoming illness sends up a distress flare through HRV. Being guided by this daily reading is much more effective than the tyranny of the diary.

My no plan training plan is self-piloting in that respect. What do I feel like, and what does my score tell me? Then go from there.

The difference in emphasis is more strength and less long endurance work. The ideal world would be three gym sessions a week, one long slow bike ride, and perhaps a short bike ride using high-intensity intervals. In practice, I’m getting four days a week done. I feel good about it, and my HRV trend is positive. I’ve put on some muscle mass, and that’s through the volume of gym visits, rather than I’m pushing hard. Habit is delivering some muscle mass.

I have put some unwanted weight on too, and I guess there are another two or three kilos of waistline damage hanging around. With hours in the saddle reduced, I’m not burning those extra 3,000 to 4,000 calories. I know I should reduce calorie intake, but my gym work makes me eat the same amount.

Increasing my protein is the main route to deal with this. My ice cream addiction is having to take a hit at the moment. I have been playing around with quick, homemade protein ice cream. But I don’t recommend Tom Brady’s avocado ice cream; he may be a hero to me, but he needs to stick to football and not become a chef. I should be consuming 200 grams of protein a day, to get the most from my no plan training plan. That’s harder than it sounds. But the gym sessions require a good level of protein. In general, ageing points towards more protein intake is good.

Some discipline is going to be needed, as my collection of David Ward suits isn’t looking good on me. It’s never a good look when the button doesn’t fasten. That’s my incentive, my suits fitting well.

How do I feel about my no plan training plan? Do I think this is the start of my decline? No, I don’t, I feel in good shape and good health and when I’m on the gym floor, I’m pushing my share of weight around. I enjoy the gym, the buzz of lifting, the environment, the whole experience. Cycling is still hugely enjoyable, and it’s my reflective place, my monastic retreat on two wheels; I don’t feel the need to do eight or more hours a week any longer.

The most positive outcome is my being able to freelance on strength or aerobic work. On reflection a surprising amount of stress has lifted, now I’m led by a data point and feel. The hours I have spent beating myself up for missing sessions over the years can’t be calculated. Missing sessions contribute to a steady, low-level stream of stress and self-loathing. That’s gone now.

I will see how this goes. Is there any reservation about not having a Gran Fondo to train for? — a little. But there’s a good feeling about not having to grind six days a week out on the bike. I am enjoying training, I feel relaxed, I’ve put muscle on. The calories need a little attention; I can do this by setting down the vanilla ice cream. All good, I’m happy.

It turns out that my no plan training plan is a plan. A plan to reduce training plan stress anxiety. To have recovery first as the primary goal. Recognising that more strength and mobility work is essential, but that it can be done without giving up my outdoor time on the bike. I mentioned a couple of weeks ago I have binned my indoor riding; if I’m riding less then let’s do it in the sun or wind or rain and enjoy the outdoors.

Originally published at stephenmoon.com.

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Stephen Moon

Stephen Moon

CEO of performance nutrition company. Executive coach. Startup investor. Generally curious. London based. stephenmoon.com