2023: Project Par
In Victory & Defeat - My Athletic Goal of 2023
Welcome Players! I set a lofty goal for 2023, spent 3 months planning, developed a comprehensive physical- and skill-training program, and am going to use all the knowledge and resources at my disposal to accomplish it. It won’t be easy, but the journey is more important than the destination. Follow along as I describe the build-up and my process for developing the program. The first of a year-long journey.
A Moment of Reflection
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A Moment of Reflection
Over the course of my career as an Athletic Trainer I’ve dedicated my full time and energy to helping my clients achieve their goals and unlock their full potential. This is one aspect of my life that I’m most proud of. I’m thankful that I’ve been able to impact so many lives in such a positive manner - moments and feelings that will last a lifetime.
I love what I do. I’m starting to learn that it comes at a cost though. As a small business owner it’s easy to sacrifice personal needs for the growth of the business - and if one in the healthcare industry isn’t careful the time and energy poured into others can be so great that there is nothing left to pour back into oneself. It’s no surprise then that there is such a high degree of burnout as well as higher rates of suicide in healthcare workers.1
Fortunately I have been cognizant of my lack of self-care recently. I am starting to realize that if I do not balance my personal life and professional career, I too could end up in a position where I have no energy left to give. It was in this realization that I set a resolve to re-committ to myself in 2023.
I will set more boundaries. I will hold myself to the same standard I hold my clients to. I will lean on my support group. I will reach out for help if I need it. These are all promises I’m making to myself.
Why am I telling you this?
Because the way I’m going to commit to myself is by committing to an athletic goal.
Something I’ve had for most of my life. And it’s the one thing I gave up in lieu of business pursuits. Not anymore.
I’m taking back my life by pursuing a goal purely for me. Something I want to achieve. Something I’m willing to work hard to do. Something I’m dedicating my time to practice and improve at. Something I won’t accept failure at. Something that’s fun. Something that will serve my body as much as my mind.
What is it?
Shoot Par ⛳️
That’s right. I want to shoot even-par on a regulation golf course.
Many (most) golfers spend their entire life without beating the golf course. No easy feat.
Especially for me, considering I’m currently playing at a +21-23 handicap right now (I wish I was kidding 😅).
But why Golf?
This was not a hasty decision. I spent a few months thinking on it starting in September of 2022. I knew I wanted to re-ignite my athletic desires but also knew I’m not as athletic as I used to be when I played competitive sports. I can’t just roll out of bed and workout. I’ve had a few musculoskeletal surgeries and some chronic medical conditions to consider.
I wanted to be safe and secure in knowing that the goal I picked would be amplified by my strengths and not limited by my weaknesses.
Here’s a quick run-down of my mental model:
One of the most important things is I wanted to pick a sport that I genuinely enjoyed - something that I would look forward to practicing. And when I didn’t feel like it would still have the discipline to do it anyway
I knew I wanted the sport to be primarily skill-based
I wanted the skill to be able to be influenced by athleticism, but not determined by it
I wanted something that included a higher degree of strategy and critical thinking
I wanted something that I could practice (in part) at home with limited equipment or resources - and have unrestricted access to practice facilities
I wanted something that could be practiced in small intervals that were not massively time-consuming
I wanted something that would serve me for a long time - far past the reconciliation of a goal set in 2023
I wanted something that was competitive, yet the outcome not decided by the ability of the competitors
I wanted a low-impact sport that did not have a risk of catastrophic injury
And here were my self-identified strengths & weaknesses:
I had a propensity for skill acquisition - I played nearly every traditional sport as a kid and many more throughout my life. I felt like I understood deeper aspects to “playing the game” more than just being bigger/faster/stronger
Pound-for-pound I had great degrees of strength & power, but I had never been able to consume enough calories to have a high absolute-ceiling of either attribute. This is why I ruled out contact sports or 1v1 competitions
I had traditionally always been quick and agile - but had not trained in that manner in so long I was sure my levels of speed/agility were far below optimal and would be difficult to get back
I have a neutral height and a naturally-lean frame, so knew that as long as height wasn’t a limiting factor I could put on weight + muscle with relative ease
I have a strong mental willpower - quitting has never been or will be an option for me. In this sense my stamina and stress tolerance for practice is high
I felt that I could train for skill acquisition better than any other attribute due to my own personal philosophies on training and lifestyle (admittedly probably biased)
Due to my career I feel I know more about physical training and preparation than 99% of competitors
I have all the knowledge and skills to build a comprehensive program complete with data-tracking and sport analytics
With these things in mind there were really only a few sports that fit my criteria:
I nixed Padel because the sport was too new and was higher-impact than I wanted - although I thought my length and athleticism would serve well if I could re-build my previous levels of agility.
I thoroughly enjoy Swimming & Cycling but endurance sports require a far greater amount of time commitment than I wanted to spend. You can’t become elite in endurance without consistently logging a significant amount of miles/laps.
I played Tennis in high school and really enjoyed it. There’s something very therapeutic about being on the court with just you and an opponent hitting the ball back and forth. One main reason I opted out of tennis is because you need a partner to practice effectively and I didn’t want my practice time to be at the mercy of logistics.
With Golf the remaining option, I made sure it ticked all my boxes:
I truly love the game of golf
It was primarily skill-based, although could be influenced by athleticism (hello Tiger/DJ/Rory/Bryson)
I could practice alone - and at home using a few low-cost training aids like a swing mat and putting mat
It was low-impact
You score in golf against the course, not an opponent, which means I would win/lose based on my ability alone
I’m confident I can learn proper swing mechanics and then build the supporting physical attributes around it
It requires a great amount of mental effort and strategical planning to navigate the course effectively
I could play for a long time beyond 2023 - especially with my father who’s an avid golfer himself (and the main reason I got into golf years ago, to spend more time with him)
It was settled then. I knew that this was the sport that I could happily devote my time and energy to in 2023!
Now, the game-plan…
The Par Program
Once I had decided on a firm goal, I went into ‘work mode’.
Just like the dozens of NBA or NFL athletes I’ve worked with, or the Professional Golfers, Auto-Racing Drivers, Business Mogul’s & F500 CEO’s; I started constructing the framework of my training program.
Except this time I had the one thing every coach dreams of but never actually gets: complete autonomous control.
Between the 5 Pillars of Health, Performance Attributes, and Lifestyle no coach is ever able to completely execute a comprehensive program. We do our best but at the end of the day we can’t live the athlete’s life for them. They have to go home at night and make the decision of what to eat, when to go to bed, etc.
But with myself, I have full power over these decisions. So I planned like it.
I broke my program into 7 parts.
Metrics: Benchmarks, OKR’s, KPI’s, & KPM’s
52-week Strength & Conditioning: Block Periodization Program
Monthly Training Log
Daily Training Log
Daily Report with Habit Tracker + Accountability check-ins
Golf Skill Tree
Skill [Golf] Practice Log
Each one I created for a specific reason. Let’s get into it.
First, I developed a set of Objective Key Results (OKR).
OKR’s were developed in the 70’s by the CEO of Intel as a way to guide long-term decision making at the company, and became popular when Google adopted them with great success in the 2000’s. The concept is, as the title says, have a set of objective key results that you can measure success against and guide short-term decision making. They are made by setting an objective goal that is actionable, measurable, and with a time-constraint.
Because this is a year-long endeavor, I’ve left out the timing aspect with assumption that I intend to accomplish these goals before Jan 1, 2024.
I then moved on to developing a set of Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s).
These are things that you measure to indicate progress towards your goals set by OKR’s. For me, my KPI’s are all golf-related statistics, the idea being that if I can improve in a certain statistic that’s correlated to scoring well, then during play I can expect my scoring to improve too.
I opted for simplicity here - knowing that analysis paralysis is a very real thing.
The reality is, right now I would be considered absolute trash at golf. A +38 handicap is laughable.
The goal is to have a structure in place for measuring improvement so that I can grow into more refined metrics and practice throughout the process.
As you can see I’ve set columns to make quarterly goals, splitting the long-term goal into four manageable chunks. I have yet to take my initial evaluation, which will set the baseline for how I develop my Q1 goals.
After KPI’s, I went further to create a set of Key Performance Metrics (KPM’s).
The KPM’s are, again like the title says, performance metrics that I can use as an even more refined gauge to guide my strength & conditioning program. If I can correlate improvements in KPM’s to improvements in KPI’s, which are correlated to progress towards my OKR’s, then I now have a very real and tangible way to break my lofty goal into smaller, actionable steps to begin working towards.
With the same concept as my KPI’s, I went with a less is more approach, opting for a few key metrics to guide my programming instead of a huge infrastructure that would be overwhelming.
Here’s an example of how the framework of OKR’s, KPI’s, and KPM’s are put into use:
One of my OKR’s is to put myself in the best position to score as measured by driving distance.
This is reflected in my Tier 1 KPI’s as strokes gained, a measurement of distance off the tee relative to the field. Even though I won’t be competing against a field (yet), PGA statistics have shown that the further the driving distance the greater strokes gained on the field.
With this information I can reverse engineer my KPM’s with the thought, “What performance attributes will lead to increased driving distance?” This led me to Swing Speed, Grip Strength and Cable Rotary Power.
I know that if I improve these three performance attributes, I will be increasing my driving distance, and if I’m increasing my driving distance I’ll be improving my strokes gained, which will thus be accomplishing my OKR of putting me in a better position to score.
I can now confidently begin to write a Phase 1 training program that focuses on improving physical traits to improve the attributes identified in my KPM’s.
This framework allows me to take a huge, lofty goal, and sequentially break it down into the largest-impact metrics that will move the needle for my goal. I continue this process until I have enough information necessary to begin making actionable steps towards that goal, today.
For those in the business-world, this terminology is nothing new. The worlds largest corporations have been using this for decades to maintain company direction and achieve massive success. While I may not be applying the terminology in the exact way it was intended, it certainly is an advantageous way to structure a long-term physical training program.
To round out my metrics tab, I decided to create Benchmarks for myself to make sure I stay on top of updating these throughout the process.
It’s naive to think that the goals I set on Day 1 will stay the same throughout the entire year, so I made sure to leave room for flexibility and adaptations by not planning specifics too far in advance and mentally being open to change should new information arise.
The benchmarks are a way to objectively hold myself accountable to continuously adapt to my practice and experience so that I’m constantly progressing. I don’t need to be perfect, I just need to be moving forward.
52-Week Strength & Conditioning Plan: Block Periodization
Next I went to work on developing a year-long block periodization plan using a template I humbly stole from one of my earliest mentors, Ciaran Fairman. I broke the year up into two repeating, three-phase cycles consisting of a Prep, Pre-Competition, and Competition period.
Within these cycles I accounted for Physical Training attributes of Mobility, (Muscular) Endurance, Strength, Power, Conditioning, Connectiveness (Force-Transfer), and Recovery.
As you can see it’s not very specific at all - it’s not meant to be. To try and accurately plan out an entire years worth of programming is a fools errand. Life, travel, family, events, accidents, unforeseen obstacles, all come into play and will throw off your program rendering the hours of work put into planning useless.
So instead the 52-week program is more-so a guide that will be continuously updated to reflect current status. It allows me to have a general idea of what I should be working on any given week, and allows me to make adjustments and keep track of the attributes I’m training to be a well-rounded athlete in addition to the specificity laid out in my metrics section.
The general idea is that in the Prep Phases I’ll be focusing on foundational work such as mobility, endurance, and strength while the competition period amplifies power and force-transfer capabilities. The pre-competition period is the transition between the two where the goal is to lock in adaptations and springboard into performance enhancement.
For more information on Block Periodization and long-term programming, you can find multiple articles I wrote on the topics here.
Monthly & Daily Training Logs
There’s a common theme that I hope you’re starting to see here as I take you through my process.
It’s the simple idea of breaking up a big idea/goal into smaller, manageable pieces.
Big goal → OKR → KPI → KPM
Annual Calendar → Monthly Log → Daily Log
This is the key to sustained success and avoid becoming overwhelmed.
With that said let’s take a look at how I developed my monthly training log to reflect the phase of my annual block periodization.
One thing I want to point out is how I decided to form my monthly calendar. We all know it’s common practice to lay out a monthly calendar view starting either on Sunday or on the 1st and consisting of a 7-day week.
The 7-day week is something I consider extremely destructive to strength & conditioning programs. There is no optimal workout split that fits in a 7-day week. Point blank.
So I made sure I wasn’t going to degrade my program by following a conventional calendar, and instead split my month up into a 10-day sequence with the change in days/month only affecting the 3rd split in the program (ie. months like Jan. with 31 days would be added to the 3rd ‘week’ instead of starting anew).
This allows me much greater creative freedom in visually designing my program as well as being logical in the structure without having to sacrifice convenience.
As you can see I’m going to start with a three-days ON, one-day OFF split, with flexibility accounted for days I’m traveling. There’s a few reasons I picked this split:
Resistance Training is not a focus of the beginning parts of my prep phases, so I can afford repeated training exposures without negative effects
I wanted to make sure I account for my life: over-committing to a program of too many planned interventions is a recipe for falling short
I know I can handle more than a two-day ON, one-day OFF split but don’t think I could maintain a four-day ON, one-day OFF split
This is a guide, not a rulebook, so if I feel good (and is validated with my HRV / daily check-in metrics) I have the liberty to add another training day at will
Likewise if I am feeling overworked, tired, or have declining HRV / subjective scores I have the freedom to take a needed recovery day
Now let’s talk about what I chose as my interventions.
For aerobic conditioning I plan on road cycling.
Anaerobic conditioning will be on an air bike.
Resistance training in the weight room.
Mobility = self-guided stretching.
Pilates/Yoga self explanatory.
Travel/fill is my way of saying I’m going to allow myself the freedom to enjoy my life and make a game-time decision as to the propensity to train when I get to it.
A quick note on some of these interventions:
I think aerobic conditioning is an undervalued aspect in golf. While we know that a short, powerful swing is a function of the anaerobic energy system, we also know that anaerobic energy is developed on a foundation of aerobic base. For this reason I believe it’s important to be in good cardiovascular health for long-term success. I chose the road bike because cycling is an excellent way to develop an aerobic base (when paced properly) and it also allows me to cycle - which was one of the options for my goals in the first place!
I also think mobility in the form of targeted stretching is overvalued2. I’ve written at depth about the benefits of stretching here, but for my purposes as a high-training age athlete I believe I’ll get much more adaptation input from an intentional movement practice that combines increased range of motion with control - which is why I chose to incorporate Yoga and Pilates into my early prep stages. I think there can be great benefits from properly stacking these movement practices into my larger program, and plan to continue them intermittently throughout the year.
The daily log tab is where I will be tracking what I’ve actually completed for the days intervention based on what was on the docket through the monthly training log.
It’s important to delineate between what was planned and what was completed because as any seasoned athlete will tell you; things rarely go according to plan.
I’d show you an example, but because I haven’t started yet I’ve got nothing logged!
Daily Report with Habit Tracker
We’re now at the smallest increment in the overall program.
The daily report & habit tracker is where I’ll be logging activities that I’ve committed to doing every day. Not only is this to hold myself accountable (I don’t want to, and won’t, log a 0 for any of these), but also to retroactively analyze the data throughout the process and see if I can find interesting correlations to improve the efficiency of my program as I progress.
Once again leaning into less is more, I wanted to minimize how much I would be committing to and opting to only include less than 5 things to include on a daily basis. While ending up with 4, I believe they are one of the most important parts to the entire program.
How many putts I roll a day, whether at home on carpet or on putting green, how many swings I take with the club on air, how many balls I hit on the range, and the total amount of time spent practicing golf, I believe will be a direct correlation to the improvement in my score - and metrics that are attached to my OKR’s!
I say “I believe” because at the end of the day this is an experiment! I have included as much data and tracking as I have because I don’t want to guess what made an impact, I want to know.
The second part of this is the intrinsic physiologic measurements that I take every morning, including Heart Rate Variability (rMSSD), Resting Heart Rate, Sleep Opportunity, Motivation, and Energy Levels, all of which I’ll be tracking through the software HRV4Training.
I believe these measurements will be vital to staying on track which is why I am not only relying on them for myself but also why I built a collection of resources for others to learn too.
I won’t be logging these measurements in my sheet because the HRV4T software will hold all that data for me, but I do plan on exporting it into my database on an interval I’ve yet to determine.
Golf Skill Tree
Next is a golf skill tree that I built myself after doing some research on golf statistics.
I went in with the understanding that some people have dedicated their lives to the statistics of Golf, and that in todays age of data-driven insights this area of the game is rapidly changing. I simply wanted to have an idea of different aspects of my golf game that I need to work on based off the outcome of my most recent play.
The skill tree, like in a video game, is meant to break out aspects of a players game that contributes to overall performance. Similar to how I broke physical attributes into smaller components, breaking Golf scoring into its components will allow me to focus on specific portions of the game during practice to improve. This will lead to more efficient practice time and a greater impact on scoring.
Because it’s data-heavy, this won’t be very useful in the beginning phases of the program. But it also isn’t meant to be. Once I’ve got more practice time under my belt and gathered more information on my game - both strengths & weaknesses - this will become a lot more relevant.
Skill Practice Log
Similar to the Daily Training Log, this tab will be where I record the amount and type of skill practice I completed that day. Until I begin practice, this will have nothing to show!
If this all seems a bit… much… well, that’s because it is.
I set this goal with the intention of using my knowledge and skills to the full extent of my ability to achieve success. 100% effort. No cut corners. Full send.
And this is what I ended up with.
Months of thinking, preparation, planning, brainstorming, creating templates, deleting them, creating new ones.
This is what it looks like when a Certified Athletic Trainer & Sport Performance Specialist with nearly a decade of experience working with the worlds greatest athletes develops a comprehensive program to achieve an athletic goal.
And I did it for me. No one but me.
On Jan. 1st I’ll clean my clubs, roll a few putts at home, take some 7i swings on a swing-path mat at home, and begin my first scheduled training.
Even as I write this, on Dec. 30th 2022, the butterflies swirl in my stomach.
The feeling of nervous excitement.
It’s the same feeling I got before a game when playing competitive sports. A feeling that I’ve went far too long without experiencing.
I look forward to all the challenges, achievements, and small wins that will come with the process.
I’m prepared for the failures, difficulties, and unforeseen obstacles that will do their best to de-rail me.
The most comforting thought of all though, through all my personal and professional experiences, is that I’m finally doing something for me again.
Project Par, here I come.
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Disclaimer: This is not medical advice. The content is purely educational in nature and should be filtered through ones own lens of common sense and applicability.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still be self-stretching targeted muscles based on my musculoskeletal alignment, but I won’t be doing generalized stretching to “improve rotation” or anything that’s historically been billed as beneficial for the golf swing