Just Do the Program
Today is going to be another hopefully short article/rant about another common mistake I make; in fact, it addresses one of my major pet peeves (folks run into this all the time on the support forum). In a certain sense it’s a followup to the piece on Information vs. Application that I posted on Tuesday.
Story Time: A Return to Salt Lake City
To introduce what I want to talk about I want to tell a little story. As detailed in the No Regrets series, in 2005 or thereabouts, I moved to Salt Lake City to pursue a long-held dream of getting involved ice speed skating (that developed back in college when I was involved in inline racing). Having had a bad early experience with the club coaches, I initially chose to pursue it alone. However, within about a month of being in Utah, I met a man who would become my coach and mentor in the sport.
Now, upon meeting him, my first task was to interview him. As you might imagine, based on my own nearly 2 decades in this field, I have some rather strongly held beliefs about training and coaching. In brief, he had spent nearly three decades dissecting speed skating in the way I dissect everything else about training, diet, etc. Two or so hours of interrogation later, I had hired him.
Now, due to that same nearly 2 decades experience, and having worked with athletes ranging from powerlifters and bodybuilders to endurance athletes, most days I happen to think that I sort of know what I’m talking about. And when my coach laid out his basic training program, there were places that I didn’t necessarily agree with him 100%. This was especially true in the weight room but there were other slight differences of opinion in terms of conditioning and such.
Despite this, for the first year of training with him, I did everything he said exactly as he told me to do it. He was the expert and regardless of what I thought I knew, I had hired him for a reason. In fact, I didn’t even know enough about ice speed skating at that point to have an opinion. As they put it in martial arts training, I shut the hell up and swept dojo.
Because no matter what I thought I did or didn’t know about training in general or skating in specific, he was the expert and it would be unbelievably arrogant of me to question his 30 years experience with my years of non-skate specific experience.
Certainly this changed over the years, he respected my knowledge and we worked as a team and as I learned the nuances of the sport from him, we modified my overall training. But that came later and only after I’d wrapped my head around the oddities of that particularly odd sport. Initially, I simply did his program exactly as he laid it out; anything else would have been absurd.
So now, you’re wondering, what in the hell is my point?
And my point is this: in the beginning stages, regardless of my preconceived notions, I simply didn’t know what I didn’t know. That is, I didn’t even have enough of a knowledge base in the specific sport to know what was right or wasn’t. He was the expert, I was hiring him, that meant doing his program exactly as laid out.
Which is a very long introduction to the point of today’s article.
Do What’s in the Book
On the support forum, there are often quite a few standard answers that I give including ‘Search the main site’, ‘Search the forum’ and ‘Do what’s in the book’. It’s that last one I want to address. Because constantly, and not just with my programs, I see posts along the lines of:
I want to do Rapid Fat Loss, but I want to change these 4 things about it.
I want to do Starting Strength, but I want to substitute out half the exercises.
I want to do The Ultimate Diet 2.0 but modify these 6 things.
And many many others.
I think you get the idea. And invariably the above is introduced by folks who comment “I’ve tried a bunch of other programs and never gotten any results. And I want to try [insert time tested program] but change these [insert some number between 1-6] things.” And they never seem to see the problem. Which is themselves; they are the problem.
And this usually about the time I start to get a bit annoyed and tell them that they need to just do what’s in the book. Because, invariably, when folks start messing with programs, especially those that are set up in a specific way for a specific reason, they end up doing far more harm than good. Also, invariably the ideas that they have in terms of the modifications that they want to make are the worst possible ones.
The primary one that comes to mind is this: in The Rapid Fat Loss Handbook, one of the counter-intuitive suggestions I make is not to do excessive cardio, for reasons I discussed in Why Big Caloric Deficits and Lots of Activity Can Hurt Fat Loss that combination tends to slow or stop fat loss, not help it. And invariably people want to think they know better, do a bunch of cardio, and then come complain when ‘my program’ didn’t work.
Basically the way I look at it is this: if the people who buy my books, or pick some other canned (but time tested) program out of the ether already knew what they were doing, they wouldn’t need my book. Rather, they should go write their own book. So, going from the assumption that they don’t know what they are doing, and haven’t gotten the results that they wanted, maybe it would be in their best interest to just do the program.
If nothing else, you need at least some experience with the plan as laid out before you start mucking around with it. Do it exactly as written for a few cycles and then, and only then, start messing with it. Because if you don’t know what it’s supposed to do as written, you can’t ever know what your changes are doing (good or bad).
That’s what I did when I hired my coach. I just did his program. Even though I didn’t agree with it, I shut up and did it. Folks would do themselves a lot more good doing that when they select a time tested program (whether one of mine or someone else’s) rather than thinking they know better. Just do the program, that’s my advice.
And to facilitate just doing the program, and to help everyone jump on that New Year’s bandwagon (yes, I know I’m a day early), I’m going to offer a discount on all of my products for the entire month of January. Any order placed between the time this article goes up and January 31st will receive 10% off their entire order by entering the code ‘NEWYEARS’. Please note that this can be combined with my standard discount of $10 off any two book order. So buy two books and use the code and you get both discounts applied to your order.
So pick one of my programs and then actually Just Do the Program.