Optimizing Human Performance

Data Driven

pen and paperDo you remember science experiments in the 4th grade? One of my favorite ones was the famous egg drop. My classmates and I were partnered up together and given a select number of items, such as an egg carton, cotton balls, tape, string, streamers and tissue paper, and told to make an "egg drop parachute." Over the course of 15 minutes, we had the mission to construct a contraption to sustain an egg (from cracking) from a 5 to 8-foot drop. In doing so, we also had to form a hypothesis, identify the control, independent and dependent variables, put our experiment to the test (against the others in our class) and then collect results. The conclusion?  The kids who used the tissue paper to literally be a parachut’ to float the egg gently to the ground (as opposed to the kids who forewent this element) came out on top every time. And so, a lesson was learned, for the future in particular: The data, the results from the egg carton experiment revealed that 100% of eggs survived the crash if they had a parachute attached. The other contraptions without a parachute? They had about a 50/50 chance of survival. Today, my experience (and this data) has now taught me that if and when I build an egg drop—I should attach a parachute to it. The point?  Data driven projects, or programs, are an assured way to get results. In the case of your workout or exercise regime, consider yourself, and your training, to be the experiment. Want to make gains or see progress?  Then keeping up with your results, or testing, and re-testing methodically is a no brainer. This is not a foreign concept within the realm of gym but often an underutilized or poorly executed effort. Consider the benchmark "Girls" WODs in CrossFit, for instance. You have your Fran, you have your Grace, your Helen, your Isabel. These are tests you know full and well, and like your bench or squat personal record for your lifts, your time on these little testers, in essence, defines your CrossFit game right? However, while tests, benchmarks and even going for a new PR, are all great endeavors in the gym…how do you know if you are really getting there (making progress towards benchmarks) over the course of your day-to-dday training? The answer? A data-driven program. More than just showing up to the gym to do work or exercise, your training sessions involve progressive training plans targeted at building upon your current strengths and improving your current weaknesses. Data may be collected for all sorts of movements: From your 500-meter, or 1-min max watts rowing splits; to the amount of 1-legged split squats you are able to complete with good form, gradually increasing the load or reps over the weeks; or the number of reps you can do parallel bar dips; to the length of time you can hold your chin over the bar… Little testers such as these play a larger role in the bigger picture of your program and performance—working towards your bigger goals (such as, improving your strength on your squat or overhead push press, enhancing your anaerobic power output on your row, or even improving your Fran time) through the smaller picture movements week to week. The key factor in data driven programs? Plain and simple: Black and white. Pen to paper (or computer logging). A clear picture of data that you are able to compare week to week—and not just second guessing yourself, or making up a workout day to day, or randomly doing whatever is assigned on the whiteboard (and not seeing that movement again for a week or two), or just squatting all day until the cows come home but really not getting any stronger (as fast as you would like), etc.

This Central Athlete client has been diligent about recording his data and retesting through Central Athlete's individualized programming.  Here are some of the gains he has seen over the course of 1-2 years of training.
6/25/13 155
12/22/14 255
Overhead Squat
7/29/13 225
5/12/15 335
500m Row
8/1/13 1:27.8
10/13/14 1:20.7
Through diligently following a prescribed plan, collecting data through logging and communication with his coach along the way, this client has already experienced the results. Get it? Got it? Good. Don’t guess or speculate on results. Know what you are working on, what you are working towards, and you will get there. Photo credit here.


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