Lead vs. Lag Metrics
Outcomes = lagging measure of habits
When it comes to engaging in any endeavor that requires a growth curve you will confront a systems principle called “Lead vs. Lag Metrics (or Measures).” A simple way to describe the difference between the two is the following:
“While a lag measure tells you if you’ve achieved the goal, a lead measure tells you if you are likely to achieve the goal.” - FranklinCovey
Your leading metrics can influence change in your approach while lagging metrics can only record what has happened. One is changing/active, the other is fixed/reflective.
For a coach aiming to get their athlete to their physical potential, you need to know the “lead metrics” that get you to your “lag metrics.”
Lead Metrics (Indicators you are “on track”)
Consistent learning and execution of training sessions
Consistent behaviors (sleep, hydration, routine, stress management, soft tissue work, etc.)
Lag Metrics (Indicators that you “want to get”)
Improved competitive outcomes
What was once challenging isn’t any more
As a coach, it’s imperative to have metrics that allow you to track progress across a multitude of areas, otherwise what are you really doing? In my opinion, the key to progress in any program is a comprehensive selection of lead metrics. If we pigeonhole ourselves to just 1 or 2 metrics that could negatively impact our understanding of growth along with our athlete’s mindset around their own growth. For example, if those 2 metrics aren’t improving, the athlete could then believe they are not getting better when they could be improving across 3-4 other metrics that play an important role in the long-term goal. The success of an athlete is multi-faceted.
To use driving as an analogy, you only reach your destination (lag metric) after you’ve traveled down the road for quite some time. The quality of your driving experience and the time needed to arrive is dictated in large part by your management of your lead metrics: ensuring your oil levels are on point, your fuel tank is full, your tire pressure is optimal, your spare tire is in the trunk, your AC is working well, the list goes on. The compounding effect of these pieces dictate how efficiently and safely you arrive at your destination.
Maximizing Lead Metrics
We will arrive at favorable lag metrics through consistent execution and maximization of our lead metrics. We can look at this from two different perspectives: the athlete and the coach.
Control the controllables. This is a maxim that I continually remind my athletes. If we boil everything down, this is all we can impact with regards to our outcomes. Focusing on the controllables each day will compound into your lag metrics, which will either be favorable or not favorable. If we use first principles thinking, to favorably adapt to a training stressor, you must recover from that stressor. Optimal recovery begins with lifestyle behaviors. If we condense that we’d arrive at: sleep, rhythm/routine, nourishment, stress management, hydration. These become our lead metrics. The combination of these behaviors over time will give us our lag metrics. Principles to maximize lifestyle success:
-Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day
-If you take your training seriously, aim for 8+ hours of sleep per night; if you train more than 7 times per week, aim for 9+ hours of sleep per night
-Maintain a consistent rhythm each day with regards to meal timing, training timing, sleep timing, wind down timing, etc.
-Ensure adequate hydration with electrolyte support; 60% of bodyweight (in pounds) equals a starting point for ounces of water needed per day. Increases in training volume will require increases in water consumption
-Understanding your daily stressors and how to best manage them.
In addition to lifestyle behaviors acting as lead metrics, we also have lead metrics inside our training. To reach performance goals, we must have controllable targets to be mindful of during the training process to allow for incremental growth each session. The intention we put behind our training will create a 1% divide each training session. Over the course of many years that 1% will compound into vastly different outcomes. Principles to maximize training success:
-Better understanding of the intention behind your training pieces to maximize proper execution
-Reviewing your results, behaviors, decisions made during training to better inform yourself on what was successful and what was not successful
-Filming yourself to review movement quality, efficiency, and progression over time
-Managing distractions while training to maximize focus and deliberate execution of your tasks
-Taking the time to properly prepare for the training session to maximize the dose response
-Taking the time to properly cool down to begin the recovery process promptly
We need to start with the goal. What is the outcome we want for our athlete? That becomes our lag metric; we only arrive at that after all the work, and a little magic, has taken place. Once we have our goal, we can then identify lead metrics that will help move us closer to the target. As mentioned above, this can come in the form of strength metrics, capacity metrics, movement quality, consistent training over multiple years, daily learning and upgrading of the athlete’s experience to build greater awareness in themselves and their training. Additionally, it’s imperative that the coach communicates this plan and process with their athlete to ensure they are on the same page and understand what our long-term target is (lag metric) and what our short-term targets are (lead metrics). This will allow for full alignment for both the coach and athlete. Then we execute. Principles to maximize success:
-Full alignment with the athlete on the goal, timeline, and lead metrics required
-Comprehensive list of lead metrics to help guide the training program
-Ongoing check-ins to ensure lifestyle lead metrics are being maintained if not maximized by the athlete
-Routine discussion to reiterate the goal, timeline, and lead metrics required
The investment an athlete puts into their daily routine, and training, doesn’t pay dividends tomorrow - it pays you back further down the road (lag metric). If you skimp on the investment today (lead metric), you will pay the price later. Part of this investment process requires the collaboration of a coach who can help inform and dialogue with the athlete to create clarity around what that investment strategy looks like relative to the long-term goal.
Keep a close eye on what matters most, your lead metrics, to ensure forward progress. Do this consistently over time and the performance will take care of itself.