We delight in games, hate structure but crave it, and can do more by incorporating both.


How funny, but how true, is it that we all have aspects of our life we plan to the gram, sometimes literally, while others we leave completely up to chance. Don’t worry – I do this too! For, as much as I am adamant about devouring the guidebook prior to trekking out to a new climbing area, and figuring out exactly what to pack, quite often it was my training and diet that went out the window. Over the years I have learned that this, instead of being the least important, is the most.

Think back to the sports you played in high school and college, if not afterwards. You had a pre-season, the season itself, and a post-season. If doing multiple sports over the year, you may have gone through several of these phases as you peaked for different competition cycles.

Swapping out a team and a coach for the rigors, and solitude, of the mountains is great but with it comes the loss of structure. Too often we end up simply doing our sport in order to train for it. What’s more, we only do the things we like – or are good at – and not the ones we don’t (or aren’t). It’s all well and good to improve on what we are good at, but not at the cost of shunning that which reveals our faults. Applying structure to ourselves, and our training, prevents this from occurring.


While it may seem counter-intuitive, nay, even a drag, to impose some rules and structure to your ‘fun’ outdoor pursuit, ruminate on this zinger from John Ciardi,

“Every game that was ever invented by man consists
in making the rules harder – for the fun of it.”

Imagine you were graded on a scale of 1-10 on every aspect of your fitness*. Does it make more sense to work hard on your 9’s to make them 10’s? Not if your 5’s are still a 5! The lesson here is, yes, it’s great to top out the scale, and probably a whole lot easier to get better at something you’re already good at, but working on your weaknesses lessens the difference between the two.

Imagine  you’re given the following ratings – which would you say is a better way to go?

*You can, of course, do this on any aspects of your life, work, or any skill set you like.

Option 1 focuses improvement on the highest rated skills, Speed and Strength, but at a loss in other areas, increasing the difference between your strengths and weaknesses.

Option 2 does the opposite and, by so doing, evens out all the aspects of fitness, to form a more evenly skilled athlete.

My Lesson Learned

While structuring your year is important, and having both an ‘on’ and ‘off’ season can not only give you a mental break, but also allow your body to recover, structure is much more than that. Look at different aspects of what you do, such as your training sessions. What are they made of? Measure yourself and see where you’re at in various exercises and skill sets. Have you improved since last season? If not, take your ego out of the equation, and program work on those things you should focus on.

Regardless of whether you are focusing on your health and fitness, work performance, or anything else, periodically measuring your performance is one key to success. Test your outcomes, speeds, times, lifts, etc to see if improvements are being made. Consequently, you will also see what works and what doesn’t.

And remember, don’t cling to something if it’s not helping. Give yourself enough data to work with, simply writing down what you did that day in a notebook is a good way to start.

Look back a week, or a month, at a time and see your patterns. All of this will provide a structure for you to coach yourself through a better season next year, than you had this year.

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