The Law of Sticking to a Program

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The Law of Sticking to the Program:

 

We are remarkably bad at evaluating our current state.

A trained eye, or a familiar one, is much better at that.

We are good at sticking to plans.

But we are really bad at making them.

Better to have someone else (help) make one.

 

That’s my “Law of Sticking To a Program” If you stopped reading here, you’d get all the wisdom needed to excel in the weight room and sports. But it’s never that easy, now is it?

Here’s how I arrived at the above idea:

Give us room to wiggle out and we will. And you know what? It’s not a sign of some lack of discipline. It’s usually (perceived) self preservation. It’s ourselves being kind to ourselves.

Most of the people I train, including myself, train hard. There are many days I think to myself, “there’s absolutely no way I am hitting the numbers on my squat program today.” I’ll be groggy, tired, out of sorts, and that’s the time I feel most nervous about doing physical things.

There’s also people who walk into my studio some mornings that look like the train rode them instead of the other way around. Their early warm-up sets look objectively terrible, but they slowly start to come to life after a few rounds through, and the moment the real workout begins, they show up and crush everything I outlined that day.

Had I asked them when they walked in if they were in the ideal training state, most would answer in the negative. That would have set a powerful tone. We spoke into existence the idea that today was going to be a bad session. That’s really bad for a few reasons:

  1. The problem with the ideal training state is that it’s remarkably elusive. If you’re a competitor, chasing the ideal competition mindset is like finding a pink unicorn. Instead, you learn to focus and create opportunity in whatever state you find yourself. You train repeatedly to make your worst day default to a state you’ve rehearsed over and over.
  2. If you’re a very thoughtful person about your training and overall health, you’ll be quick to want to preserve yourself. If you take enough of those days and look back at your training logs, you’ll realize you logged far too few workouts to get the results you were looking for. Ask me how I know...

The days that are hardest to get yourself out there are the ones that you need to be there. On these days, you simply need to progress (and not perfection, as Charles Poliquin would say), improve (and not prove, as Cobrinha reminds us often), and put points on the scoreboard (in Mark Bell's words). It's not about setting a PR every day. 

I’ve shared my rule before about dreading the workout vs. dreading the commute: where if I dread the workout more than the commute, I’m probably just being a coward. If the commute seems hard, that means I may be in some pain (how hard is it to drive or take a train somewhere after all?).

From the coach's perspective, this is one of the moments you have the biggest opportunity to show the power of coaching. If you privately identify some type of monkey wrench in the training efforts of a client early on, but know it's not a case of overtraining (or if you're convinced you aren't going to have to send someone home), you can actually do a lot to help the mindset and confidence of the individual by having them go through and excel in the workout. Doing difficult things while being unsure of your current state may be the best training stimulus out there. By the end, I am certain they'll remark how glad they were that they went through with the day's efforts. You'll have the quiet satisfaction of knowing you did the right thing, and their confidence moved up a few ticks on the meter.

I'd be remiss if I didn't say that one big takeaway from this all is the power and beauty of coach/player or coach/client relationships: you both do it together. The definition and context of these titles can change too, especially for the individual lifter or fitness goer. That person you consult on your training effectively has a coaching relationship with you. So when I say that we are bad at making plans- I actually believe that that it can be done by ourselves, but in reality, it's never by ourselves. Ask for help. Talk it out.

There are a lot of Insta-trainers and “novel thinkers” that would have you believe that you’re a “life hack” away from getting over the hump, but it’s not the case. Consistency in training, showing up and doing your best are really all you can do. And you know what? That is enough.

Be well, be strong,

Mark