It’s natural to think that we should learn as much as possible, survey and ponder all our options, and customize it to fit what’s best for us. After all, we live in a world which encourages individualization and gives us the choice to design exactly what we want, in all areas of our lives.
The other day I was at Starbucks when I overheard another customer order a “Half-caf, quintuple venti, vanilla, organic soy latte at 195 degrees.”
This is how bad it’s gotten.
The wide variety of flavors and options for a CUP OF COFFEE isn’t enough anymore, and we now feel the need to specify the temperature.
The Starbucks approach is fine for yuppy coffee, but it just doesn’t work when applied to creating the best exercise routine.
Here’s why you’re much better off following a standard program for your fitness goals.
You are a Beautiful and Unique Snowflake (but your body’s not all that special)“You shouldn’t follow programs. Instead, follow training principles. – Random fitness “expert””
This is something we hear a lot, and it sounds very reasonable, but here’s the problem with it:
It just doesn’t work.
You are your own special snowflake, so you need a highly individualized program if you are going to make any gains at all.
If this were true, it would mean that no one would gain strength or endurance, lose fat, or improve their flexibility without a complicated daily spreadsheet of exercise and diet designed by trial and error over months of fastidious journalling.
And this is most certainly not the case.
The vast majority of people actually do very well on a program that was not specifically tailored to their DNA and particular intestinal flora.
Of course there should be considerations and substitutions in case of injuries and other conditions, but this falls under the realm of common sense. You shouldn’t follow a program to the letter if it’s causing you pain.
That would be silly (and dangerous).
Also, you can’t “train principles.” You can use them to create a program, but the definition of program is to apply those principles progressively over a set duration. So as soon as you try to apply the principles, you’re doing a program anyway – like it or not.
In our programs, we discuss in detail the concept of auto-regulation and how to vary intensity and volume based on your performance from day to day.
This is perhaps the best way to “individualize” your training on a given program, and allows you to emphasize your strong days and get you safely through the crap days.
(We all have crap days.)
You Don’t Have to Be a FishermanSome people liken ready-made programs to giving somebody a fish when you should be teaching them to fish for themselves.
The implication is that it’s somehow nobler and “better” to teach theory and make you figure it out for yourself. Or they’ll say they are doing you a disservice by showing you what has worked for them (and lots of other people).
After all, “teaching someone to fish” is a parable, so it must be right for everybody all the time. Right?
The reason this approach isn’t appropriate for the vast majority of people is simple – you probably have no desire to be a fisherman.
Sure, you could try to learn to do everything.
You could grow all your own food. You could service your own car. You could cut your own hair and make your clothes.
But you won’t, because it’s easier to pay someone else to do those things.
And there are a lot of people who will judge you for that. They’ll say you’re lazy.
You do your job and leave other jobs for other people to do. We aren’t subsistence farmers, isolated and hundreds of miles from other people.
It’s called civilization and it’s a good thing.
You have to make decisions, and for most of us, the choice is easy. Why spend the little free time you have trying to re-invent the wheel, when there are perfectly good airplanes to jump out of?
Four Insanely Smart Reasons To Follow A Ready-Made Program
1. You don’t know what you’re doing!
Well, you don’t.
If you did, you’d already be doing it. And since you don’t, this means you’ll have to study and spend quite a bit of time looking at a lot of material. And this is a mistake in itself.
The time you’ll be putting in looking up stuff on the internet is time better spent on training!
Once you finally get to training, it will be difficult to figure out what’s happening when you eventually make errors. Because there’s no way you’ll just happen to devise a perfect program on your first time out.
The best training programs are developed from a lot of trial and error (and with the experience of many clients that have been coached through the process).
2. You’ll tend to over-optimize.
The more you learn and try to combine towards your perfect program, the more you’ll steer towards the complex.
For the beginner, complexity is a killer.
Novice trainers will make faster progress on simpler, generalized programs. The more complicated a program gets, the more ways there are to mess it up.
More moving parts in a program increases the chances for error, which increases the likelihood of quitting altogether.
And no program is any good if you aren’t doing it.
3. You have very little experience.
Even if you are a jogging champ, if you’ve never seriously focused on a strength training program, you are still a beginner. There may be some general things that you know, but the intricacies of this programming will be beyond you.
And that’s okay!
If you try to create your own programming, you’ll essentially be guessing at which exercises and their variations would be best for you at any particular time, as well as what should be prioritized for your particular goals.
This is especially true for the skill training we emphasize in our programs.
There are dozens of progressions out there for each particular skill. Some are great, and some not so much… how would you know what works best?
That’s right – you wouldn’t.
4. You don’t have all day.
Let’s assume you have a day job, family responsibilities, and what most people would call “a real life.”
As mentioned earlier, planning and scheming about your workouts, takes actual time away from your workouts. If you’ve budgeted your workout time between waking up and getting to work, or at your lunch break, you don’t want to waste time figuring out what you want to do.
What do you really want to do with your time?
Do you want to spend it exploring your options and all the possibilities that can “maximize” your training?
No, you would want to get right to it and follow a well designed program that has worked well for many others that wanted the same thing you do.
Leave it to the Experts
Seriously, there are LOADS of people who know what they are doing, but you probably aren’t one of them… yet.
Follow a ready-made program for a few weeks. Better yet, follow it for a few months. It takes time. You were going to work out anyway, right?
Will it be perfect? Probably not.
But it’ll be better than the programs you make on your own.
If you want a custom solution, hire a coach, but for most people, a general program with a bit of customizable variation such as auto-regulation and frequency choices is the way to go.
Start Making Continual Progress
With Elements, you’ll build the strength, flexibility, and control you need to tackle any physical skill or challenge. The foundation you build will set you up for a lifetime of staying fit and active.