Programming Dogma! An insight to the puzzle.

Wolves think and operate in small packs if not alone. Sheep follow everyone and everything else.

Last night I watched the “Live Open Announcement of 16.4” and one of the questions that came to Dave Castro, the Director of the Crossfit Games, was “How much time do you spend on programming for the open?”. It sparked some thoughts, spinning like the fly-wheel, as I continued to watch my NCAA bracket fall apart via The University of Arizona and The University of Purdue, but I digress. Like many words in the english language, Programming has multiple meanings and uses. With the explosion of functional fitness competitions and the Crossfit Open/Regionals/Games, programming has been used in so many different settings, sparking some of the most intelligent and not so intelligent conversations. It reminds me of the word diet. The dogma that comes with both programming and diet is mind-blowing, so much so you would think we were in some sort of Crusade against another gym/concept. Really though, have you seen how people in the Crossfit community talk about their gym, and their coach, and their programming; it’s like they are receiving the Body and Blood on a daily basis and the rest of us are merely sinners. Taking it a step further, how many follow an online program or follow some “coaches” template, just because. If your coach talks about themselves in the 3rd person using hashtags, it might be time to wake up. To me it’s the same logic (since were on a religious note) used by Pope Urban II in regards to the 1st Crusade,

“All who die by the way, whether by land or by sea, or in battle against the pagans, shall have immediate remission of sins. This I grant them through the power of God with which I am invested”

(who wants a history lesson?)

You would think that Invictus online programming or CompTrain online programming were the Word of God which would lead you to Salvation, and that all other “programs” were training plans of the Pagans! By following that mass produced workout regimen, which tens of thousands of other people do, supposedly you the individual will be blessed by the Lord himself. Now, I am not picking on anyone specific, it happens in the strength and conditioning world too. I know strength coaches that put together this giant 365 day plan/template and run it as if it were the golden ticket, but what if the athlete had glute/lat dysfunction? What if an athlete started falling into sympathetic OT syndrome? What if the athlete didn’t have nutrition dialed in? What if the athlete just didn’t like to work….that perfectly designed program really wouldn’t meant squat, would it?(see what I did there?) My point is, in my opinion, a great coach (among other things) needs to have the knowledge and flexibility to semi-customize an outline to individual needs. The coach needs to have the adaptability and read on his or her athlete. The best program out there is the one that fixes ones’ issues and continues to elevate their strengths. The best program is no “program” at all.

Everything works, in the right setting. Of course I do not want you (if you care about performance) to take that information and think that randomness is the key to getting stronger and faster. What I mean by “no program” is that when a coach puts together a template for a group or team, he or she is not taking into account any specific individual(s). There needs to be a CONSTANT monitoring of the athletes progress and well-being. This includes: soreness, tightness, sleep, nutrition, relationships, outside stress, gym numbers (performance feedback), and a multitude of other biomarkers. If there isn’t that adaptability in a program then it’s the blind leading the blind.

I train/coach triathletes, football players, crossfit competitors, national level weightlifters, rowers, volleyball players, and Operators. As you can imagine their training “templates” all vary with specific needs and interests. Even though all these athletes have contrasting and diverse energy system requirements, similar athletes might have two different style of programs. Take for example my overweight, 9th grade offensive guard who lacks some mobility and body awareness vs my underweight, 11th grade defensive back who has the feet and ball skills of a D1/D2 college football player. Both play the sport of football and require similar energy requirements but are lacking in two total different departments. My approach is usually the same:

1. Define where they currently sit. What is their background, what platform do we have to build off of. What does their sport require, and where/what do they most lack. Find out goal.
2. Find out how many hours athlete can devote to given sport.
3. Put together a “loose” plan revolving around season, meet, race, or competition(s)
4. Lay down some cycles that best suit the athlete
5. Fill in the blanks on a weekly basis and use warm up and cool downs for fixing weaknesses, keeping in mind what “cycle” we are in and progress being made.
6. Monitor progress and make changes where necessary.
7. repeat 5 and 6.

Going back to Dave Castro and programming for the open. That “programming” is merely coming up with tests he thinks would be good events for the community. That is NOT “programming” to help progress an athlete in their given sport. Too many people who do crossfit who act as if they are crossfit athletes, think because something is hard, or they saw a crossfit games athlete do it on instagram, that the “workout” was sent from the heavens. People need to understand the difference between smart training via logical programming, and testing when necessary via logical programming.

Randomness works until you snatch 165/105, have a 2k row of 7:30, and can do a few muscle ups. But then all of a sudden…flatline. Nothing significant gets better. To progress there needs to be a constant change of stressors, a constant addition of variables with the addition of recovery time. If you care about performance, you need to have someone that has the knowledge and care for YOUR performance. It’s all smoke and mirrors until the smoke clears and then all you have left is you and the mirror, and that mirror isn’t changing. Exercises and equipment are tools, but last time I checked tools by themselves did not produce a house without an architect and builder.

Seek knowledge, seek help. Seek someone you trust and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t think their title of “coach” gives them applied knowledge and skill.

I hope everyone had a great St. Patrick’s Day!

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