But What Do I DO? {Experimentation in Cross Training}

Brace yourselves, the truth is coming ==> This step in #intelligentcrosstraining is often where I lose people. Wait, don’t go…

hot rod gif


Everyone wants ready-made programs and I usually don’t offer one.

There’s not anything inherently wrong with ready-made programs. I’ve certainly purchased and done my fair share, but let’s be realistic. Most ready-made programs cause one (or more!) of the following issues:

  1. “I’m a failure” SYNDROME — Wherein you follow the program for a few weeks and then start to get off track. Every time you miss a scheduled workout — for any reason — you die inside a little. Until the whole damn program just makes you so mad that you quit. Which makes you feel even more like a failure. Ugh.
  2. “What do I do now?” SYNDROME — Wherein you successfully finish the program. (Yay!) But then have no earthly idea what to follow it up with. Another ready-made program, I guess…???
  3. “These are not the droids results you’re looking for” SYNDROME — Wherein the program you’re doing isn’t taking you where you want to go. Or maybe you didn’t even know where you wanted to go, but it doesn’t feel like you’re getting there.
  4. “Close, but no cigar” SYNDROME — Wherein this program would be sooooo great, if only…

Here’s that truth I had you brace yourself for earlier:

There is not a ready-made program that will tell YOU exactly what to do and when to do it, that will help YOU meet the goals YOU have, that will tell YOU when YOU need to rest and how YOU should be doing active recovery.

That’s where experimentation comes in.

ICT quote = embrace experimentation

They who experiments the most, wins!

THE GOOD NEWS: I’m not going to tell you not to buy or use ready-made programs. In fact, I think ready-made programs are great. (A little secret? I use them. Ain’t nobody got time for designing their own program.) There is absolutely nothing wrong with convenience. They’re like pre-made food or frozen vegetables — when you use them correctly, you can do amazing things.

THE BAD NEWS: I *am* going to tell you that you can’t just blindly follow your ready-made program. Because your ready-made program wasn’t made for you. It was made for everybody.

Let’s start at the start…

and assume that you don’t already have a ready-made program at hand, but you want to find one — or you have one in mind that you want to start doing.

You're about to meet Professor POHECK.

You’re about to meet Professor POHECK.

P = Problem

Does the ready-made program you have your eye on solve your problem? “Wait,” you might be thinking, “I have a problem?” Hopefully.

In this case, your “problem” is actually your goal — the thing that you can’t do yet, but want to be able to do. If your goal is to gain stability and mobility, but the program you’re looking at is focused on gaining muscle mass, LOOK ELSEWHERE. However, if you’re interested in becoming more agile and your program focuses on building strength and working on speed, agility, and quickness, GO FOR IT.

The ready-made program you choose should be as close as possible to a perfect solution for your problem. (At least for now. Once you get better at experimentation and Intelligent Cross Training, you can start mixing and matching workouts from all over.)

O = Observation

This really comes down to collecting data.

The basics are to:

  1. Assess where you are in regards to your goal BEFORE you start your program
  2. Keep track of what you’re doing and when.
  3. Periodically check-in with yourself about the frequency of your program and how intense it is. (i.e. Are you going too hard and need to rein it in? Or could you do more and need to ramp it up?
  4. Assess where you are in regards to your goal AFTER you’ve been doing the program for a specified length of time — I usually recommend 1 month.

H = Hypothesis

This probably sounds like a weird thing to add in. BUT…hear me out. The ultimate purpose of using Intelligent Cross Training is to improve your self awareness and mindfulness.

Before you start a program, it’s worthwhile to take an educated guess about how you think the program will work for you. If you’re way off, no big deal. As you practice #intelligentcrosstraining, though, you should notice that your educated guesses get closer and closer to reality.

It’s exciting when that starts to happen because it gives you WAAAAY more freedom to mess around with your cross training. Imagine! Acro-yoga followed by rock climbing with a day of hiking and a day of heavy lifting; your program could conceivably start to look like that. Once you’re able to accurately predict how your body responds to the cross training you want to do.

E = Experiment

Really all of these pieces are a part of your larger experiment but this is the part that Nike endorses: JUST DO IT!

And collect data as you go.

C = Conclusion

At some point, usually after about a month, you’re going to want to sit down with all of your data and come to some conclusions about whether the ready-made program you’re using is doing what you want it to do.

In other words, is it solving your problem?

  • IF IT’S NOT: You need to ask yourself how far off it is from being able to solve your problem. If it’s close, this is where you get to have faith in yourself and make some tweaks. If it’s WAAAY off, you find something else. You’ll likely be revisiting “P” in either case.
  • IF IT IS: Stay the course. Go back to “E” and keeping going.

K = Knowledge

The real reason to follow these steps is to gain knowledge about 2 things:

  1. Yourself. As you go through this process, you’ll start to see what type of schedule, exercises, and programs your body responds the best to. You’ll start to pick up patterns that work well for you (and ones that don’t) and your cross training will continue to get further streamlined as you learn how to read what your body can do and how it will adapt.
  2. Programming. One of the {very few} benefits of program hopping — going from ready-made program to ready-made program — is that you get exposure to A LOT of exercises and the way they are scheduled. Over time, if you pay attention, you can start to see some of the variables and experiment with your own programs.

Life’s a journey, not a destination.


The last piece (that isn’t connected to Professor POHECK) is this:

It doesn’t matter if your program doesn’t work. You’re not married to it. You don’t have to do it forever.

But you do have to start somewhere. Don’t analyze yourself into a state of paralysis. Just get started. You can learn as you go.

It’s kind of like life. Or Aerosmith.

Want more?

If you’re interested in more exclusive content, access to my FREE resource library, and the slightly weird workings of my inner mind, you can sign up for the Iron Octopus Fitness email list HERE. Wherein I harass you weekly with all things intelligent cross training, mindset, and…other.


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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