Kaizen: a Japanese term meaning “change for the better”; an approach that values continuous improvement, often via tiny increments of progress.
I came across this concept as it applies to business & manufacturing, and I had a low-grade epiphany when I connected this to progress in the gym (or at meal times).
Believe it or not…
Kaizen, Minimalism, Generalism, & Training Logs share common threads
Kaizen is a method aimed toward “lean manufacturing.” Very simply put, the purpose is to always be making changes that reduce inefficiencies in order to improve profit. I’m sure it’s not too much of a stretch to see how this relates to Minimalism. Generalism complements the simplification nicely, as it allows for excelling in multiple directions by focusing on one specialty at a time. We can layer it on top of Kaizen to improve the efficiency across multiple domains, gradually. And that’s where training logs come in. We must document the small changes we make to determine their payoff, and we must track the payoff.
Tracking the payoff serves us well for a few reasons:
- It reveals which efforts yield the highest return.
- It reveals which efforts barely provide any return, or perhaps are even a hindrance.
- It provides an objective reference to ensure that we always have a reliable and replicable system if we veer off path.
As new members get added to our Facebook community daily, I want to encourage you all–and especially those who are new to strength-training or other such pursuits of fitness–to rely on systems that have been proven effective.
“Getting fit” or “being fit” is not typically characterized by huge, significant, recurrent gains. Rather, fitness goals are reached through a series of systemic, incremental improvements over time.
Because of this, progress must be tracked so that it does not get missed. Similarly, a lack of progress should also be tracked, lest you be tempted to repeat a pattern of failure.
It’s come up in our Secret Group now on several occasions–discussion about Points of Arrival for specific workouts, using the “graduation tests” as programming versus assessment, etc.
My advice is this: Keep a thorough *training log.
*I’ve written before about My #1 Hack for Losing Weight. Spoiler Alert: It’s documenting everything in a log.
Track reps, sets, weights, and time (rest intervals, breaks taken, total workout time), as well as form/technique. Look for small ways to improve every time you workout, especially when repeating a workout you’ve completed before. Don’t go in blindly. Be making steady gains by inching your stats ever closer to the standards set.
That said, if you’re doing any of Pat’s latest challenges, when you post a snippet of your log to the online community, you’re increasing your chances of success. In fact, you’ll see in a moment how Kettlebell Super and Kettlebell Ultimate wrap a pretty little bow around all of the concepts here.
As I discovered, Kaizen requires 5 main components, referred to as the 5S.
[You’d probably do well to dive deeper into the Kaizen philosophy. I have ridiculously limited understanding of the concept of Kaizen. Thus far, I’ve read about it for ~15 minutes. I DO, however, have a pretty firm grasp on tracking fitness progress, though, so…]
Sort: Identify the unnecessary stuff and get rid of it.
Training Application: Separate what matters from the fluff. Choose 1 goal. Eliminate the excess.
Example: If your goal is gaining strength, let go of “also ____” and “____, too.” Focus on big-time improvement in one realm, and switch to maintenance mode for the others. Spend most of your time on what matters the most.
Set in Order: Determine a specific place for every thing.
Training Application: Have a specific plan every day. Stick to your routine. Don’t get too creative.
Example: You shouldn’t ever have to “look around” for a workout. Know what you’re doing and how to do it. It should be spelled out.
Shine: Keep the environment tidy.
Training Application: Don’t let other things–people, goals, shiny objects–sneak in to your physical or emotional environment. Look for opportunities to sweep away the clutter.
Example: While you’re doing Kettlebell Super, don’t also be training for a marathon. Also, don’t let your girlfriend’s texts interrupt your training session.
Standardize: Create a best practice and apply it repeatedly.
Training Application: Figure out what works through careful documentation (training logs). Once you know what works, follow the protocol consistently.
Example: Resistance & Repetition works. Pat’s programs work. Documentation of your efforts will highlight the specific path that will work henceforth.
Sustain: Maintain the system and do not slip into old habits.
Training Application: Once you have proof of what works, remind yourself often, so as not to lose sight of your path. Maintain across the board, even while you excel in one domain. Use your logs to identify when you fell off the wagon and to easily determine how to get back on.
Example: Revisit and review past training logs. Have you maintained the skills and strengths you value? If not, what plan were you following when you reached those standards? Follow that plan again!
Here’s a handy-dandy chart I made that includes nutrition application, as well:
Don’t think about it. This is your plan. Just do it! Make note of “rounds completed within 5 minutes” to your workout log!
See how many rounds you can complete within the 5-minute work period:
5 reverse lunges each leg,
5 lateral lunges each leg,
10 lateral hops,
1 burpee (modified as needed);
P.S. Last week, I had “leg day” but no mental energy to make it happen. So I just pulled out The Destroyer of Legs. I took my brain out of it, tapped into advantages of routine, and had an efficient & effective workout. (Destroyer of Legs, by the way, is one of the more notorious workouts from Pat’s Kettlebell Super–never too late to start, with plenty of folks in the midst right now).