No Plan Survives First Contact

Back at the start of December I was asked to take on a client who was getting ready for a special project. The brief was to get them into shape as quickly as possible and we wanted him to look a certain way (lean and mean, very, very mean!). We had 35 days to get a grip and sort out someone, who, shall we say wasn't in the best physical shape. Given such a short time frame and lack of training base I set to work with a 'master plan' to bring the client to a peak for the 18th January. We got cracking with the training and I have to say he was working really well, we cleaned the diet and were building up the training sessions nicely. Then after just a week I got a call to say that there had been a drastic upheaval in his personal circumstances so the daily training sessions with me were going to have to go on the back burner.

Disaster, the plan I had put in place was now redundant. What did I do? Sit in a dark room rocking back and forth muttering to myself about what a great programme I'd written. No, of course not. I've been in the game too long not to realise that training programmes are rarely cast in stone. I sat down, looked at the new situation and came up with a plan B. It wasn't as good as plan A, but as a former coach once told me

"you can only do the best given the circumstances you are faced with".

The client has been working under his own steam now on plan B for 2-weeks and I should get to see him next week (hopefully an opportunity to crank things up a little and fine tune his training). We will get to the end point, just via a slightly different route.

Take Home Message

Many coaches and athletes think that a programme has to be followed to the letter, despite changes in circumstances. What every good coach understands is that the training plan is not a prescription, it's a process and you need to be adaptable.

The situation reminded me of a great phrase that I picked up from a coach attending a workshop I was delivering. We were talking about programme design and he said that in the military they have a phrase.


Now this is not an excuse that allows you to rock up to a training session without a plan or programme, you must have a plan, but a good coach has the skill to adapt the plan if they are faced with a different situation.