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The traffic light idea to training

by Ben Dearman, KDR Fitness

People come to us for all sorts of reasons, from weight loss to rehab.  When it comes to goals, after helping thousands of people, we can put people into three buckets:

  1. I want it now.
  2. I want it now, but am ok with getting it later.
  3. The rest.

1. The “I want it now’s”.  Those people are the ones that join the gym, lose 10 pounds in two months and then disappear/drop out because results aren’t coming fast enough for them.  These people are willing (sometimes) to buckle down HARD for a few weeks if it means they get the results they want.

The problem with the “…now’s” is that they generally have a lot of weight to lose (20+ pounds) and are unrealistic in their approach their training.  They go balls out – low calories, 6 days of exercise, weight loss supplements, etc.  You don’t lose 20+ pounds in a few months and then keep it off.  The habits necessary to lose weight and keep it off require months of practice.

2. The “I want it now, but am ok with getting it later’s”.  These people understand that some progress is better then no progress and are perfectly fine with the benefits/results that the small lifestyle habits they have adopted are paying off.

The problem with this group is that they often could be getting faster results, but they only want to change so many habits. The “laters” are generally people who continue to drink/party on the weekends (every weekend), have excessive cheat/treat meals and don’t get enough sleep.  These people generally work out 2-4 times per week, eat pretty well, don’t write their foods down and generally don’t get great recovery in.

3. The rest.  The rest are a mix of both camps and this is where the majority of people find themselves.  The rest understand that their lives aren’t always conducive to losing 20 lbs in 3 months, training for a Tough Mudder or increasing their deadlift.  But, that doesn’t stop them from having traits of the “I want it now”s and the “…ok with later’s”.

The problem with this group is that they have no plan.  These people bounce back and forth – between 1 – 6 days of gym, write their foods down and then don’t, get good sleep and then 3 hours, etc.

There is a very simple concept that Dan John talks about that I refer to the as the “traffic light idea”.

Basically, it boils down to:

  • Green light – go all out.  Focus on your diet, exercise and recovery.  There are minor to zero distractions in your life.
  • Yellow light – coast.  Focus on getting into the gym and recovery.  There are minor to sporadic large distractions in your life (like a wedding or trip).
  • Red light – possibly stop.  You are injured, or you have major distractions (a party every other weekend in the summer is a pretty big deterrent to keeping a food journal and trying to focus on your diet).

What does all that mean?

Well, most people know that the holidays, between Thanksgiving and New Year’s are busy family/social times.

Then there is usually a lull in January for about two to three weeks as we come back to reality.

In New England, Feb t0 April are times people are sick of the cold and want to get outside so they start thinking of summer.

March to June is RAMP up to summer time!

July to September is outside and enjoy the weather time!

September to November is a mix of outside, get back into the swing of school and ramp up for the holidays.

So, a possible plan for New England would look like this if we put it into the traffic light concept:

Jan-March = Green Light!  If these months are green light months for you, that means focus on your training, nutrition and recovery.  These are the months you hit it hard.

April to June = Yellow light!  Take some time off, focus on getting ready for the summer.  Or, if you yellow lighted the beginning of the year, turn April to June into a green light!

July to September = RED LIGHT!  If you did it right, you’re ready with how you look and feel for summer.  Take these months and focus on activity and fun!

September to December = these can be a mix of red, yellow and green depending no who you are.

You might also have a green light for 3 weeks, and then a red light for 1 week.

The longer you say in the green, the more you need to transfer into the yellow.

Reds can happen out of the blue!  If you find yourself in a red week, do yourself the favor and focus on exercise and recovery or if you can’t exercise, diet.

How do I apply this to my training?

First – understand that you will have green light and red light weeks/months.  Be honest with yourself and treat it as such.  If you’re in a red light month, but are trying to act like it’s a green light month in the gym — trying to lose those last 10 pounds, be honest with yourself.

Second – PLAN.  Plan your green, yellow and red light months and stick to it!

Third – communicate with your coach!  Tell your coach, hey, this is a yellow light work out for me.  I am just here getting it done.

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Ben Dearman

Ben Dearman

Co-Owner at KDR Fitness

Hi, my name is Ben. I am a cancer survivor, blogger, educator and coach. It’s my passion to educate people on health and fitness. The current state of the field is unacceptable to me – overly complicated with too much conflicting information. It’s my goal to help people be as healthy as possible while spending the least amount of time working on it. Work smarter, not harder!

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