What Christmas Morning Can Tell You About Program Design
I remember it like it was yesterday: Actually, it was 1986, but the movie-like beginning makes the story sound cooler. It was Christmas morning. EARLY Christmas morning. I’m talking 2 AM Christmas morning. There I was, sitting in my room, counting down the minutes before I was “allowed” to rush down the hallway into my parents’ bedroom at 6 AM to wake them up so that we could get the show started.
As we – meaning, my brother, sister, and I – waited at the top of the stairs, my mom would walk down, turn on all the lights, and get everything all situated. My step-dad, on the other hand, would take his time getting out of bed, and after what seemed like an eternity, he’d finally head downstairs, only to set up shop in the bathroom. It was agonizing, because there was no telling how long he’d be in there.
In his defense, though, now that I’m a full-grown man I can appreciate the significance of the morning visit to the can. But goddammit!!! At ten years old – and on Christmas morning no less, it was pure torture.
Anyways, once my mom had the music on, and my step-dad has his coffee in hand, we were ready to roll.
The three of us would sprint downstairs, turn the corner into the living room, and see what Santa had brought us.
To give you more of a visual feel, it kinda looked something like this:
Turning the corner –
Anyways, that particular Christmas I really wanted a Thunder-Punch He-Man. Who didn’t? All the cool kids had one, and I had been bugging my parents for one since like August. What can I say, I was planning a head.
Sadly, while I did get a bunch of cool things, what I didn’t get was He-Man. As much as I wanted one, what I needed, apparently, was some new underwear. Thanks Mom. Thanks a lot! **slams door**
Anyways, by now you’re probably wondering, “Tony, where are you going with this?” and “what in the hell does this have to do with getting jacked and stuff?”
#1. Don’t use that tone with me.
#2. If you’d hold your britches, you’ll soon learn that this was a great segue to explaining the difference between wants vs. needs as it pertains to program design.
As a strength coach, when designing individualized programs I’m always (read: all…..the……time) balancing the ying and yang between wants and needs. Using a great example, there are plenty of guys out there who would want nothing more than to bench press every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. In fact, that’s what many end up doing. Thing is, though, all that benching isn’t doing their Quasimodo posture any favors, and it isn’t necessarily what they need to be doing.
Similarly, lets take a female whose main goal is to lose fat. Left to her own vices, she’ll most likely end up doing what she’s good at and what’s easy. In other words, she’ll end up doing what she wants to do, which is typically spending her afternoon on the elliptical machine and taking a yoga class here and there. Or worse, listening to anything Tracy Anderson has to say.
In reality, what she NEEDS to be doing is making a more concerted effort to lift some appreciable weight (ah, ah, ah, pastel colored dumbbells don’t count), incorporating some more interval-based training into her repertoire, and stepping away from the post-workout Starbucks.
Again, there’s a huge discrepancy between wants and needs, and the coaches and trainers who are able to bridge that gap are generally the ones who will be the most successful with their clients.
At the end of the day, my job is to get people results in the quickest, most efficient (AND SAFEST) way possible. Sometimes that involves playing the meanie strength coach and making people do birddogs till their blue in the face –as one of my female clients, who hurt her back about a month ago, recently learned last week.
She walked into the facility on Thursday with a look on her face and asked, “do I HAVE to do birddogs, again????”
I replied with, “is your back feeling better?”
“Do your birddogs.”
Don’t get me wrong, I can appreciate the fact that she wants to work hard and start lifting heavy things again, but that’s just not what she needs at the moment. Instead, what we’ve been focusing on are Prowler pushes, single leg work, push-ups, Goblet squats, core stability (chops and lifts), and yes, TONS and tons of birddogs.
So, in the end, I guess all I’m really trying to say is that your job as a coach or personal trainer is to take the reigns and inform your clients that, despite their thoughts on the matter, your job is to get them results. Much like Christmas morning, sometimes, you have to forego what they want (Thunder Punch He-Man/bench press), and give them what they need (underwear/birddogs).