It’s a quiet afternoon in the gym, probably because it’s hot. There’s only one other person working out right now. You say hi to each other, but you’ve never seen one another before. You’re in that awkward phase where you’ve been training here for a while, but you’re not sure if that person is brand new or a wiley old Arkitect vet, so you’re unsure of who is supposed to make the introduction. After a few minutes, you start to realize that you’re basically following them around the gym from exercise to exercise. You catch each other’s eyes, and suddenly break the quiet with laughter. “I think we have the same program,” you say to each other.
Pruning the Tree
At Arkitect, our biggest selling point is that we offer individual fitness programs. That means instead of going into a group atmosphere and following the same program everyone else is, or grabbing a cookie-cutter workout off of the internet to do at your local globo gym, we take you through an assessment process collecting information about you and then design a program based on that. So why would two (or more) of our members have the same program? The answer is surprisingly simple: Because they’re in the same stage of training, and have similar goals. There are actually many more reasons than that, but this is the primary catalyst. There are some general principals that make a fitness program “good” or “bad,” so we always start with a framework that we’ve created, and trim it back from there based on a client. For example if you have a shoulder injury we may remove push-ups or bench press. If you have a back injury we may remove deadlifts. But if you are a healthy individual (in other words, no movement restrictions) you’ll get the full, robust program as it was originally written.
Melting Snow Flakes
The idiom “everyone is different” is basically a stubborn teenager’s “whatever” applied to the fitness industry. You aren’t exactly a special snowflake. The laws of science apply to us all. Everyone’s training should go through phases where several of the variables change over time. I prefer to start all of my clients with a very broad and general program. Think of this as laying a foundation, and double checking for any cracks. Previously in my career I’ve hastily skipped this step in an attempt to appease impatient clients, and I’ve regretted it every time. Like most things in life, being very fit is about being good at the fundamentals.
For the dedicated that transform from well intentioned couch potatoes to long term fitness enthusiasts, they find that each program they get is more and more individually tailored to them. It’s part of what makes coaching fun and challenging. With new clients, the programming aspect is very simple, and can probably be written in ten minutes. The time is consumed in the gym, teaching each exercise, monitoring, and modifying as needed. An advanced trainee has good body mechanics, they understand most of the movements, and the challenge to elicit change becomes much more detailed, which surfaces in the program, which can take over an hour to produce.
Another big reason I try to make programs similar or even the same, is because it builds camaraderie. Fitness can be a struggle, and sharing in that struggle with other people builds a special bond. When two people face the same adversity together, they understand what the other person has been through on a deeper level. This is, essentially, the difference between sympathy and empathy. If you watch someone grind day in and day out in the gym, you can acknowledge that they are working hard, but when you’ve done it yourself, you know exactly what that person is made of. It gives you a new found appreciation for that person. Being on the same program also helps to spark up conversation and relationships in a gym that stands out due to its autonomy. Working at your own pace rather than being shuffled along in a class is a huge part of why our programs work so well, but you’re often not always seeing the same faces every day. Getting people training together by putting them on similar programs is one way around that problem.
The Perfect Program
There is no such thing as the perfect program. For those who are first time exercisers, or are just starting their fitness journey after years of neglect, it’s important not to get caught up in the small details. Your focus should be on following the program to the best of your ability, and being consistent. That’s the only way to know if it is working. If you’re constantly changing things, or only training intermittently, even the best program in the world will fail you.