Agile Health and Fitness: Part 1 – The Manifesto

Image curtesy of Dashu Pagla

Image courtesy of Dashu Pagla

I was reading a post by Leo Babauta over at Zen Habits about sticking to a meal plan, and I immediately recognized the same patterns and thought processes that I follow at work everyday doing agile software development.  When I was first introduced to the agile frame of mind, it seemed to fit with the way I imagined software was supposed to be developed.  But this article helped me realize how easily agile practices can be applied to our everyday health and fitness.  Instead of building software to meet requirements, we are executing a plan to meet our health and fitness goals.  I thought I would start a series of posts related to this topic, with the first post starting with the basics: the values in the Manifesto for Agile Software Development itself.

1. Individuals and interactions over processes and tools

Since the text above is primarily referring to a team of people and a customer of some sort, I will narrow the scope of the statement to be “Individual and Self-Interaction.”  What this means, is that is is much more important to be honest with yourself when it comes to your own well being.  It the world of health, you are your main customer (wife is a close second).  You have to acknowledge the fact that you are responsible for your destiny, and the more often you interact with yourself (that’s called thinking) about your requirements, goals, and progress, the better chance you will have at meeting your expectations.  This does not mean processes (workout plans and diets) and tools (exercise equipment and nutrition trackers) are not important, but they will only take you as far as you allow them to take you.  So next time your office-mate waves a box of Thin Mints in your face, make sure to do a little self-interaction and say NO!

2. Working software over comprehensive documentation

Well of course we aren’t talking software here, so I will relate working software to your intermediate and end goals and I will relate comprehensive documentation to your exercise and nutrition logs you keep along the way.  I know I have preached the importance of tracking your fitness results in past articles, and I still do; however, the more important thing is making significant progress against your health goals.  If you want to lose 10 pounds, it is much more important to meet that end goal that to track every step along the way.  That being said, I believe that the end goal can be met faster by constant progress updates, which can be obtained by keeping those metrics along the way.

3. Customer collaboration over contract negotiation &
4. Responding to change over following a plan

When applying these rules to health and fitness, it is easier to take the last two statements together.  Earlier, I mentioned that you are your main customer for your own health.  It is critical you are constantly reiterating to yourself what your goals are, what your health requirements are.  You may try to set a goal up front, a contract for your future health.  You may develop a plan to meet those goals, and that is great.  But the more important thing is to allow yourself room to modify your goals and your plan as things change.  In the world of health and fitness, the requirements (goals) don’t change as much as new requirements come in and take priority (baby, work, 6 seasons of Lost).  Always reassess what is important to you and be flexible in your plans to adjust to any changes in goals you might impose on yourself or changes in the environment you are in trying to meet those goals.  On a deeper-dive into the day-to day planning, response to change is a key to meeting the individual milestones to meet you goals.  If you are training for a 5k and mother nature decides to dump two weeks of rain on you, don’t just push off your schedule and miss your “deadlines.”  Go to the gym and hop on a treadmill, go buy some water resistant clothes and water-proof ear-buds and go running in the rain, or just change the workout to something new altogether.  Just be agile.

Final scratches

I know all of this is obvious.  But it is sometimes easy to forget the priorities to meet our goals.  Remember, the priority is to meet the goal, not to do it perfectly to a plan and have every calorie and mile mapped out. Just get out there and do it.

I plan on going into more detail on some of the 12 Principles of agile software in a future post, so stay tuned.

  • http://geekgirlgetsfit.com/ Kathleen

    Thanks for this post. I can be a bit of a perfectionist, and I have a hard time when I need to be flexible about my eating or working out. It is good to remind yourself that as long and you are doing your best, it is ok to roll with the punches.

  • http://www.geekintoshape.com George Titswoth

    Thanks for the comment Kathleen. I don’t know if you have ever listened to the Motivation to Move podcast, but they use the slogan “Be more gooder than badder.” I always like the simplest, most stress-free, ways of going about things.