How Plan-Do-Check-Act (#PDCA) Helped My Running

Article written by Michael Girdler

I had a bit of an issue. Actually more than a bit, I had an issue. I  run nearly every day, for almost 30 years. I’ve always found great pleasure in my running and would arrive home after a run invigorated and with high energy. However, over the last 3-4 months, something had changed. I returned home and just didn’t have that pep. That post-run energy I was so accustomed to was almost gone.

What is PDCA?

PDCA is an acronym for Plan, Do, Check, Act.  A technique used by many organizations and individuals to problem solve, test, and make improvements in quality, or process, or generally anything that increases your efficiency.

The steps of a PDCA

Plan – In the first phase you identify the problem, analyze it, and develop an approach, or plan to test and tackle it.

Do – In the do phase, you implement your plan and collect feedback that you will use in the check and act phases to analyze how the planned response to the problem is working.

Check – How did your plan work? How effective was the solution you generated in your plan? Did it work? Does it need re-work? Or, are you ready to implement it fully.

Act – Here is where you implement your tried and tested solution completely.

So, back to my running story and my use of the PDCA technique.

Plan – I felt fine, I wasn’t sick. So, I could rule that out. I was getting plenty of sleep, and my diet had always been good. I felt that I didn’t need to focus on those variables. What I did notice is that I was really hungry about 20 minutes after I got home, which traditionally had never been the case. I never ate prior to running in my life. A couple mugs of coffee and I was good to go: no matter what the distance. So, I decided to test my hypothesis that a small pre-run meal one hour prior to running would give me back the energy I was missing post-run. To do this, my plan was that I would eat one piece of toast (whole wheat, light margarine) and one piece of fruit (navel orange) one hour prior to my run. I would alternate between my usual no-food routine and the test routine of eating one hour prior, for two weeks, and collect feedback on my post-run energy level.

Do – For the next 2 weeks I worked my plan, I alternated days and either ran on coffee alone, or on my pre-run eating diet. I collected data each day. I rated my energy on a scale of 1-10.

Check – After  2 weeks I looked at the data and I averaged an 8 on my energy scale on days that I had eaten prior to running, and only a 5 on days that I had run on coffee alone.

Act – Armed with my data and successful test of a pre-run meal, I implemented fully my plan and ate prior to running every day. I still kept data for the following 2 weeks, and my level of post-run energy continued to remain high.

It’s a great illustration of a simple, yet, powerful technique to help you solve problems and make significant improvements in a personal or professional setting.

If you have to make a change, do it the PDCA way and give yourself the best chance for success.