Updated: Dec 16, 2022
Kaizen is a Japanese philosophy that focuses on continuous improvement. Translated it means "change" (kai), and " good" (zen). The concept of Kaizen was first introduced by Masaaki Imai in his book Kaizen: The Key to Japan's Competitive Success, as a set of managerial practices and techniques to help organizations improve their business. However, the principles of Kaizen can be applied to various other areas of life, including endurance training.
I first heard the word “Kaizen” about 8 years ago when I was reading about the best way to make a pour-over coffee and it immediately resonated with me as the article talked about striving for perfection and being present, something I have always tried to incorporate into my life in everything I do. When choosing a name for my coaching company, it just clicked because it’s everything I hope to instill into an athlete.
The fundamental principles of Kaizen include:
Small, incremental changes: Kaizen encourages making small changes over time, rather than trying to make drastic changes all at once. This approach is more sustainable and allows for easier adjustments along the way with a focus on consistency over perfection.
Focus on the process: Rather than fixating on the result, Kaizen encourages focusing on the steps and processes that lead to success. In endurance training, this might mean focusing on proper form, nutrition, and recovery rather than just the result of a race.
Continuous improvement: The goal of Kaizen is to never settle for "good enough", but to always strive for perfection, while at the same time acknowledging that perfection is not attainable.
Some ways that the principles of Kaizen can be applied to endurance training include:
Setting small, achievable goals: Rather than setting a goal to finish in a certain place, try setting smaller goals that are more achievable. For example, a goal to reach certain checkpoints, such as aid stations, in a certain time, or to increase your weekly volume by a certain amount.
Tracking progress and making adjustments: Tracking your progress in your training app and making adjustments as needed. This could include increasing or decreasing your training volume, trying new training methods, or adjusting your nutrition.
Seeking feedback and support: Work with a coach or training partner to get feedback on your training and to hold yourself accountable to your goals. This can help you stay on track and make improvements along the way.
Celebrating successes: Don't forget to celebrate your successes, no matter how small they may seem. This can help motivate you to continue on your journey and keep making improvements. If you’re always focused on how far you have to go sometimes it can feel like you’re not making any progress, it’s important to turn around sometimes and appreciate how far you’ve come.
Overall, the principles of Kaizen can be a valuable tool for endurance athletes looking to make sustainable improvements to their training. By focusing on small, incremental changes and working collaboratively, it is possible to make progress and reach your goals. A little bit better every day.