CHOOSING A PROGRAM
… accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Mainsite programming (Crossfit.com) is the best publicly available program in the world at improving people’s general fitness levels. Heck, it essentially invented the wheel when it comes to comprehensive fitness models. It’s free. It’s accessible. It’s followable. It provides information on nutrition, mobility, rest, hydration, technique, endurance, and on and on and on. Some of the world’s most qualified specialists have come alongside Crossfit to help equip followers with all the informational weaponry needed to live fit. When someone asks me, “So, what is Crossfit?” My go-to response goes something like this:
“Crossfit is an enterprise, not just a daily workout routine. It serves as the informational grocery store for physical fitness and health. The main elements are what you see when you first walk in: running, jumping, lifting, pushing, pulling, swinging, and sweating (lots of sweat, at least for me). People doing physical things. These are the meats and veggies. But, like the grocery, there’s also aisles scattered throughout. There’s an aisle for seasonings to flavor chicken. There’s a snack aisle for appetizers. There’s the freezer aisle full of desserts to polish off the meal. You can even get a bottle of wine to share with your better half to help put you to sleep. That’s Crossfit, but in fitness terms. There’s information about every possible area of fitness imaginable. And just like the grocery, if you go in hungry, you can walk-out with way more than you intended.”
It doesn’t usually flow that well in a discussion, but you get the point.
But what if general health and fitness isn’t the ultimate goal? What if someone wants to be supremely fit? Extraordinarily fit? Say…
The fittest in the world?
Crossfit now has an aisle for that, too.
It’s called the sport of fitness, and it’s arrival roughly a decade ago changed the game. Literally. To the Crossfit Games.
The question has been raised and debated…
25-year old male/female
Passion for sport of fitness
Single or married and no children
Flexible work schedule
Competitive athletics background
42-year old male/female
Passion for general health/fitness
Married with 2 kids
Works 60 crazy hours/week
No competitive athletics experience
Should these 2 individuals follow the same training program?
Does the University of Louisville O-lineman preparing for the NFL combine - train the same as-the 5’8” 210 lb O-lineman in rural Kentucky who just wants to be a part of the team?
One is not necessarily better than the other. The difference hinges on the objective. The mission. The goal. Whatever you want it to call it, training programs are most effective when each day better positions athletes to achieve an identified __________ (fill in the blank from above). Genetics and lifestyle strongly influence one’s athletic ability. And athletic ability strongly influences the goal-setting process. Therefore, as I learned in philosophy class, genetics and lifestyle strongly influence the goal-setting process.
When general populations increase, often the disparity does as well. The growing popularity of CrossFit has naturally attracted new members. From the stay-at-home mom to the elderly veteran. The separation between these newcomers and the elite seems to grow annually as games athletes continue to post superhuman PRs. Surpassing the limits of physical human capacity. If the worst of the best are better than the best of the rest, it’s time to reclassify. Clemson doesn’t fill its football schedule with D-IAA and D-II opponents. It’s unsafe, unfair, and not much of a challenge (excluding App State’s win over Michigan in ’07). To keep it CrossFit:
Casual crossfitters should not, and cannot, compete with elite crossfitters. So… their goals should differ… their training programs should differ.
Nonetheless, I’ve seen athletes try to cross the limitations of their genetics and lifestyle by setting unrealistic goals combined with unsustainable and often unproductive training programs.
“I hurt my shoulder doing heavy overhead squats.”
“Do you know of a back-squat cycle that can get me to 500 lbs?”
“What can I do to get a muscle-up?”
“Trying to get all this extra work in is stressing me out.”
“I know I shouldn’t eat fast food, but it’s all I had time for.”
“Between work and the kids, I didn’t sleep 3 hours last night. Why can’t I recover?”
If there’s a problem with the product, deconstruct the process.
How are you doing what you are doing?
Why are you doing what you are doing?
Choosing a program: 3-step process
Believe in it.
In the words of my pastor (one of the wisest men I’ve ever met under the age of 40), “belief affects behavior.”
Simply knowing something (possessing information) does not always translate into coinciding behavior. Knowing stops with knowledge, and it may or may not cause action. Believing something, on the other hand, is another idea completely. It connects the mind to the soul, and drives one to take significant action. All effective programs require activity. You must believe in a training program from the beginning (ie: the programmer, the theory, the proven results… whatever), or your follow-through will dissipate. If you aren’t convicted to a point of action, chances are you are trying to make sugar out of s#!t.
Believe in the program: step 1.
I get irked when I see “fad following.” From time to time, people will jump on the proverbial programming bandwagon without conducting their own research and/or asking meaningful questions. The simple psychology begins like this:
Athlete X is a beast.
Athlete X uses Program Y
Athlete X + Program Y = Beast
So if I follow the same program…
Athlete X “Me” + Program Y = Beast
People link his/her athletic success solely to the program as the primary factor in their performance. The problem with this logic is the failure to consider all the other variables required for Athlete X‘s dominance.
The reality looks more like this:
Athlete X is a beast.
Athlete X uses Program Y
Athlete X + Genetics + Adaptability + Nutrition + Hydration + Sleep + Supplementation + Mentality +
Approach + Program Y = Beast
Not to say each of these areas are prerequisites for superior athletic performance. Some athletes reach substantial advantages in one area, thus lessening the need to focus on the others. For example, Shaquille O’Neal was 7 ft 1 inches tall and weighed 325 pounds (genetic). His “beastly” performances required less attention to nutrition and approach than, say, Steve Nash. Every athlete is different, so their formula for success is different. There may be other contributors not listed, but you get the idea. While training programs are a part of the equation, they are still only a part of the equation. Not all of it.
So before following a program because someone, or everyone, else is falling in line to be the next beast, consider answering these questions:
Who is creating the program and what is their background in the field?
What pool of resources are they using to develop their ideas?
What’s the goal of the program and how does it align with my own?
How has the program’s effectiveness been measured?
Is it realistic (at least 80% positive) that I will follow this program for the next 6 months?
Do the research. Ask the important questions: step 2.
Buy in. In the words of the self-proclaimed country boy from Alabama, “All In.” For those scratching your heads, the country boy is Dabo Swinney. For those still scratching your heads, Dabo Swinney is the head coach of the 2016-17 NCAA Football National Champion Clemson Tigers. For those STILL scratching your heads… welcome out from under the rock.
The phrase “soft commitment” made its way to the conversation stage over the last decade. If you read over that phrase without scratching your head once again, re-read it. The definitions of the 2 words collide in opposition.
I first heard it while coaching college football.
On the first Wednesday in February, high school football players nationwide sign a contractual agreement to attend colleges or universities. Leading up to the moment when the ink hits the paper, college coaches spend endless amounts of time and money courting these young athletes.
The coaches’ objective: get a commitment from the athlete.
As obvious as it sounds, commitment in recruiting jargon is a verbal bonding agreement from the prospect to the athletic program. It’s an engagement- without the ring. While a commitment is not the formal finish line in recruiting, it is a close checkpoint. To this day, I vividly remember when I received my first commitment in 2008. It meant a lot back then.
I spent 7 years coaching and recruiting. By the time I exited the profession, the recruiting process hijacked Webster’s and redefined commitment. It now means… I have no idea what it means. Words that contradict its original meaning became a common preface (soft). During my last recruiting season, I saw a prospect commit to 3 different schools in a week (all of which were in the same conference). As far as I can tell, a
commitment in today’s recruiting world has been diluted to a mere strong consideration.
com·mit·ment - the state or quality of being dedicated to a cause, activity, etc.
Concede to “commitment’s” new identity. High school seniors can have it. The base word is the focus- commit. Verbs are stronger than nouns anyways. They get things done.
The long-winded rant above displays people’s natural desire to transform the status quo into a self-benefitting mechanism. Society has gradually backed away from noble traits that require sacrifice. Don’t be like society. Be different.
When you choose a program, be all-in. At least for 6 months.
Follow the coach’s instructions (warm-up included)
Absorb criticism positively (it’s a growth opportunity)
Retain information (ask questions once)
Seek advice from coaches and other athletes (perspectives are invaluable)
Read objective, relatable literature (outside sources affirm good programming)
Do additional work (attack 1 weakness per week)
Learn something new every day (small or big)
You may come to realize the value of a training program isn’t solely in the numbers. The process is as important, if not more important, as the product. Even if you spend 6 months following a program, and your numbers show little return on investment. The level of focus required to stay committed will better position you for success when it finally arrives.
Commit. All in. step 3.
- AARON JOHNSON