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Last year, at around this time, I was wrapping up some one-on-one online coaching. I found myself sitting in a coffee house (drinking tea, tho, naturally) getting ready to do a final chat with one of my clients. It was the one I was looking forward to the least.

Because… Well…

She had been a challenge, to put it mildly. Her initial consultation was a veritable smorgasbord of red flags. At least to me:

  • She practiced at least 2 times a week and trained off-skates up to 6 times per week.
  • She did high-intensity interval training nearly every day.
  • She did HIIT for 45 minutes to an hour.

She both chose and rated her workouts based on how wrecked she felt at the end of them. She didn’t come right out and say the words, “If it doesn’t make me puke, it’s no good.” But I’m pretty sure she thought them. A lot. If only to herself.

For the entire first month, she argued with me about her customized programming. I was inundated with complaints about the lack of difficulty. An entire cloud of contempt surrounded my rules that limited how often she could train (just 3 times per week).

She wanted to be gasping for breath and so sore she couldn’t lift her arms.

And I wasn’t delivering.

Then, after the first month, she pretty much stopped communicating with me altogether. Whenever I would check-in, she’d assure me she was following the training program, ask me a few clarifying questions about the exercises, and I wouldn’t hear from her again until it was time for the next check-in.

So there I sat, in this coffee shop, running through all of this in my mind and wondering. Was I really ready to have her tell me that my programming sucked? That she hadn’t gotten ANY better? That she had wasted her money on me? I had to be ready because I was 1000% sure that’s what was going to happen.

She walked in and I held my breath as she sat down at the table before launching into my first question: How did your assessments compare? 

Turns out that sometimes what you’re expecting isn’t what you get:

  • Every aspect of her assessment improved dramatically. (Except cardio because we weren’t working on that.)
  • She had tons of energy that she didn’t know what to do with. Probably one of the reasons she was always hounding me for more workouts.
  • She loved being able to confidently go into the free weights section in the gym and crank out some reps.

But…she just liked the feeling of being drained at the end of a workout, so she wasn’t going to continue working with me. You win some, you lose some, I guess.

I totally get it. I used to be in the “Wow, that looks hard so it must make me better” camp. I killed myself with training 6 times per week. I trained until I felt like I was going to puke — or actually did — and then rallied to train some more. I would randomly pick and choose workouts based solely on whether I thought I might be dead at the end of them.


Because when you don’t know how to train for what you want, training based on how you FEEL makes sense.


It’s easy to assume that you just did a killer workout (because you literally almost died) and it’s easy to wake up tomorrow and choose another killer workout. Wash, rinse, repeat. Then one day you wake up and all the training you’ve been doing doesn’t seem to be making you better at your sport.

You foam and rage at the mirror, “What do you mean my 9,000 minutes of wall sits didn’t make me a better athlete? My legs were shaking at the end!!!” Or, “How could a quadrillion burpees not make me the best at my position?!?”

I hate workouts that are thrown together simply because they make you sweat. Or hyperventilate. Or puke. Sweat equity does not an athlete make.

But it’s so seductive, right? It FEELS like I really did something when I left a big sweat angel on the floor. I’m worn out and therefore must have somehow become stronger/faster/better during that time. And maybe you did, but it could all have been done with much more efficiency.

As an athlete that also has to attend practices and LIVE YOUR LIFE, efficiency matters.

I don’t quite know why I was thinking about my meeting with my “difficult” client today. But I do know that I’ve been seeing a lot more of these random amalgams of push-til-you-puke workouts around on the interwebz. Something to do with bikini bodies, perhaps?

Since most of us are always looking to get an athletic edge with our training, the question becomes:

HOW DO YOU EVALUATE PROGRAMS TO FIND OUT IF THEY WORK FOR YOU/YOUR SPORT?

  1. Find another way to collect data. I’m notorious for my love of #datacollection and it’s helped me step away from the constant thought that every workout has to kill me. Mostly because I have other ways of determining where it’s helping me get where I want to go. Paired with this: always, always, always do pre-assessments and repeat them every 1-2 months. You need a baseline to determine if you’re improving.
    • BONUS TIP: your pre-assessments should be directly related to your goal. You can search the internet for assessment ideas that measure strength, speed, agility, quickness, power, and cardio endurance. Pick a handful and get going.
  2. Look at who the program is designed for and targeted at. Programs like P90X and Insanity are not targeted toward athletes. They are targeted toward the general population. Finding a program that is specifically targeted toward athletes or your sport is the best way to start. Why does it matter? Programs developed for athletes are usually more well-rounded in terms of pre-hab, mobility, and dynamic strength.
  3. Ask yourself why it is the way it is. If you stumble across several workouts that focus on smaller muscle groups (biceps, triceps, calves, etc.), ask yourself if that will help you reach your goal. Will having more defined arms make you a better athlete? Are there better exercises than planks or wall sits to help you reach your goal?
  4. Check the source. What background or experience does the person designing the program or workout have? Are they just good at what they do and have a rad physique? Is there some sort of trust or knowledge built up around them? Have they been doing this for awhile or worked with a lot of people?

You might decide, like my client, that you just like to be covered with sweat and have the taste of puke in your mouth post-workout. Or you might decide that you just like a specific trainer and it doesn’t matter to you whether what they have you do makes you better at your sport. All those things are fine!!

But, if you want to train like an athlete and train for your sport, you’ll need to be a little bit more discerning. And that’s okay too.


WANT MORE?

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Let’s crush it.

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IronOctopusFitness

About IronOctopusFitness

Online athletic training and nutrition coach, full-time mom, okay skater, and connoisseur of all things tea, chocolate, and roller derby. I'll help you unleash your inner athlete by building a strong, capable body that can withstand whatever life throws at you.

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