Wash. Rinse. Repeat. {Feedback Loops in Cross Training}

Even if you haven’t been following along with all the other pieces of #intelligentcrosstraining, perk up your ears.

perk up your ears

Much attentive. So focus.

For all you program hoppers and sufferers of “shiny object syndrome”, this rule is for you: give your program at least 2 months.


  1. Set your goals.
  2. Figure out your on-skates schedule.
  3. Determine how often you need/want to cross train.
  4. Schedule in your cross training days (either specifically or vaguely — whatever you prefer).

Month 1

Do your program. As written. As closely as possible.

If you’re not sure how to choose cross training or programming for your specific goal, you can use these guidelines to evaluate the programs you’re thinking about.

While you’re following your program, collect data. When in doubt, write it out. Even something as seemingly small as your inability to finish a set that you normally kill is important.

It’s also not a bad idea to double-down on your data collection by spending time every week on reflection. Open up to a blank page of your cross training log and do a free write for 10-15 minutes where you vomit up all the things you think/feel about your cross training. This data is likely more subjective, but it’s a valuable tool for assessing your motivation — because if your motivation is lacking, you’ll need to tweak that right along with your program elements.

Post-Month 1, Pre-Month 2

Evaluate your data. There are a lot of ways to do this, but there are 2 easy ones that I recommend:

  • Re-do your fitness assessments. If your fitness assessment results show that you are closer to your goal, the only changes you’ll have to make to your program are progressive. That means you want to stay the course, but make your specific cross training progressively more challenging for your body.
  • Review your data for signs of improvement. If you can clearly see a pattern of increased strength in your workouts (because the amount of weight you are lifting is increasing), then you may not have to re-do your fitness assessments. The same thing is true for other data you might collect like how quickly you can sprint a specific distance or how quickly you recover after high intensity intervals.

If your assessments or data don’t show improvement, stick with it anyway. Often change doesn’t start until 30 days out.

This is also a time where you get to decide if you want to lift more weight, substitute exercises that work the same muscles for ones you’ve been doing, change around your schedule, increase or decrease the amount of training you’re doing, and generally check-in with how you’re feeling about the program.

Month 2

Do your program. Again.

Collect data. Again.

During this month, you can fiddle around a bit with making changes on the fly during your program and see how they work for you. Don’t go overboard, though. Stick to the written program as closely as possible.

Post-Month 2

Re-evaluate. Use the same guidelines as before. And if your program REALLY isn’t working, now is the time to overhaul it or ditch it completely.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

The purpose of the feedback loop isn’t to make your cross training life more onerous, it’s to get you to pay attention to something that’s happening inside your body anyway.
The last big rock of #intelligentcrosstraining is what I call the “Feedback Loop“. Your body is actually a feedback processing machine and it works best when you let your body lead the way.

Imagine you put your hand on a hot stove, your nerves and brain yank your hand back from the heat source before you even have time to process what happened. Pretty cool, right?

That’s a feedback loop and it’s so efficient and so fast, that you didn’t even realize it was happening at all. (At least until the pain sets in.)

Following the steps of Intelligent Cross Training is only half of this loop.

The rest of the loop requires you to return to your data and spend time reflecting on how the program worked (see above). Rome wasn’t built in a day and it probably took a lot of redesigns to get the Coliseum just right for the public to enjoy their death movies.

The first time you go through Intelligent Cross Training it’s going to feel weird. Your body has been throwing a lot of feedback at you that you’ve just been ignoring. Starting to listen to it and THEN make decisions based on that feedback will challenge (and maybe even change) the way that you do things.

I distinctly remember, a few weeks after I’d made a promise to myself to be more intelligent with my cross training, that I had a day where I was just exhausted. But I was also scheduled to do a workout. What should I do?!?

Normally, I would have pushed through the workout — probably had a terrible one — and been even more tired. Instead, I took a nap. Rescheduled my cross training day. And fucking killed that workout when I did it. (And you know what, even if I hadn’t made up that workout, the sleep was probably more important anyway.)

Open up your Feedback Loop

  1. Collect your data.
  2. Evaluate it.
  3. Use the data you collected to make an informed decision about what to do.

So often, we discard our data if it doesn’t match up with what we want. That’s the challenge of the feedback loop. Listen to your body. It would save you from being burned, remember?

Want more?

If you’re interested in learning the basics of Intelligent Cross Training for yourself, sign up for the 7 Day Intelligent Cross Training Crash Course. It will take you through some of the big rocks of #intelligentcrosstraining and teach you how to schedule your practices and cross training commitments so that you get the most out of it.

I can’t wait to share it with you! Sign up ==> HERE <== and get the scoop.


About IronOctopusFitness

Online athletic training and nutrition coach, full-time mom, okay skater, and connoisseur of all things tea, chocolate, and roller derby. I'll help you unleash your inner athlete by building a strong, capable body that can withstand whatever life throws at you.

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