Sprinting to Fitness – Get Fit with Agile

Happy first day of Spring! Now is the time people emerge from their winter hibernation and get active. For me, it’s running, and a few weeks ago I tore a ligament in my ankle (while running). So I’m taking some rest, So I’m taking some rest, doing some yoga, and learning a bit about moderation, restraint and measurement – all critical if you are looking to get fit and reach your goals. I recently listened to a great interview with Malcolm Gladwell, who observed that the great paradox with runners is that during events they need to go hard, but throughout their training they actually need to be restrained and measured.

I realised that he’s right on the money – so often I see great intentions crash and burn because a plan has no inbuilt feedback loop. People set great goals, with clear visions, then open up the throttle and do EVERYTHING they can think of to achieve that outcome. Simultaneously. Until they inevitably max themselves out. We all know how that story ends – injury, overtraining, exhaustion. Yes, I see you there!

Here’s the thing: You can’t know in advance how your body is going to react to each new strategy you introduce.

Sprints and Feedback

That’s why sprints are such a wonderful tool for training success. ‘Sprint’ is Scrum terminology (a time-based approach to implementing Agile) for a timeboxed effort. That means that a period of time is agreed upon, usually two to four weeks, in which work is completed and effort expended. It’s a super effective way to approach fitness as there are structured processes for continuous feedback and review. And it is the feedback that makes the sprints so effective.

Here’s how to prepare for your sprint:

  1. Write Your User Stories (To-Do List)

A ‘User Story’ is one specific piece of work with a clear outcome that will step you toward your ultimate goal (the fun run, marathon, or ironman).

Write your ‘stories’ in the format “As a (health identity), I want (lifestyle feature) so that (health outcome). For example, “As a cross country runner, I want a meal planner so that I always have nutritious healthy food”. “As a lean & fit woman, I want to drink 2L of water a day so that my body is well hydrated”. “As a long distance cyclist, I want to cycle 100km per week so that I can increase my endurance”. The important thing here is that you are connecting the ‘what’ you need to do with the ‘why’ you are doing it (long term outcome). This makes it more compelling.

Decide before you start “what is my criteria to know that this item is done?”. What is my evidence?

  1. Estimate the Effort

As you look through your stories, find the one that represents for you 100 points of effort. This is utterly subjective and intuitive. Just go with it. (I can hear left brained heads exploding across the country!) Now give every story effort points as relative to that 100 point story – will it take twice as much effort? Half? This is a great way to plan your rate of implementation.

I LOVE morning runs, so my perceived effort of a daily run is about 250 effort points for the week. I do not love not-wine. Not-wine costs about 500 effort points. See how that works? The things that are harder for you to implement, are allocated more effort so that you don’t get maxed out. Because that requires wine. Are you following? We are measuring energy expenditure as opposed to time. Some activities might take a long time but are no or minimal energy/effort. Other commitments may take a short amount of time but take a lot of energy (that phone call you have been putting off for example).

  1. Prioritise your Stories

Ask “If I were only to do ONE of these things in order to achieve my outcome, which would it be?” Move that story to the top of the list. Keep working through until the most important things are at the top, and the “nice-to-haves” at the bottom.

*High Fives*

Doing ‘just enough’

You have now shot to the top of the class by realising that you don’t have to do ALL the things, just some, really well. This makes the difference between whether you get great results or the same results you’ve always had, and follows the honoured Agile principle of doing ‘just enough’.

Tune in next week, same bat time, same bat channel, for Part Two: Planning Your Sprints.

Like what you read? You may be interested in my book, The Agile Project Manager. You can buy it here.



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About Emma Sharrock

Emma is the author of The Agile Project Manager: Thrive in Change with Agile. An experienced change leader, Emma is passionate about working with people to facilitate successful change. Emma utilises Agile techniques, coupled with the Agile mindset to coach leaders and teams to achieve their business goals.