med ball tossI have been progressing through the MobilityWOD course, Movement & Mobility 101. Kelly Starrett is a great influencer in the performance world and he provides wonderful educational resources for practitioners from many different realms. He is an entertaining educator who successfully simplifies troubling topics.

One thing Kelly Starrett does to simplify movement is discuss it in terms of entering and exiting a tunnel. Identifying the positions that begin and end a complex movement and ensuring that these positions are achievable for each athlete is a superb starting point.

This thinking in terms of a tunnel sparked another relatable topic to the analogy – an annual plan.

Traditionally, strength & conditioning coaches have utilized the construction of an annual plan to guide their programming for the year. The annual plan, or macro cycle, is a major component of periodization – a guiding practice in strength and conditioning (you can find my thoughts on periodization in a previous post and therefore I will stick to the annual plan with this piece).

A detailed and structured annual plan was expressed to me in my formal educational years as a necessity for a successful training year. I was led to believe that it would be negligent to construct micro- or mesocycles prior to detailing the entire year.

I had never taken the time to think critically about this widespread practice until years later when I arrived at ALTIS. It was then that I saw the practice of world-class coaches programming 3 weeks at a time. I also heard these same coaches discuss that they had yet to figure out how to accurately predict how the athletes they worked with would respond and adapt at any given time – even after decades of experience!

Without a doubt one reason they can succeed by building 3 week programs at a time and only progressing after the preceding training cycle has completed is due to their profound experience. It is likely that not all coaches will be successful operating this way.


I also do not think it is likely that these coaches need to provide detailed programming months in advance. One risk of such practice is becoming emotionally tied to these details that took such valuable time to piece together. It is certainly possible for such an attachment to cloud any real-time observations and intuitions.

So what do we do if we are not experienced enough to be comfortable building out programs on a microcycle or mesocycle basis but realize the issues with attempting to predict the future through a detailed macrocycle?

This question brings us back to the tunnel analogy. If we know how we want to enter the tunnel, or where we want to begin our training program, and we know where we should exit the tunnel, or where we want our training program to take us, we will hopefully have enough understanding to navigate the tunnel itself.

Sure we may want a few checkpoints throughout the tunnel to help light the way – and that’s ok. We just can’t light up the entire tunnel and allow ourselves the opportunity to walk through without hesitation.

Allow some darkness to remain.

Use the art of coaching to navigate.