June 19, 2013

Get With the Program!


So this post started off being about the fact that I signed up for a new training program.

Yep, I'm currently I'm up to my eyeballs in oligosaccharides and polypeptides and phospholipids, trying not to freak out about making my way towards the ACE Health Coach Certification. Which I'm psyched about! It seems to offer a solid foundation for exercise/nutrition assessment, planning, and programming, for any life and wellness coaching clients who should want that.

But for clients who like to do their own thing, they still can. I promise it won't make me all bossy all of a sudden.   I'm still a wishy-washy psychotherapist at heart and am much more likely to ask annoying questions than provide concrete advice.

So will you be hearing more about this shiny new program at some point?  You betcha! Lucky readers! All the details and implications of my educational endeavors will no doubt make for fascinating reading. Blame Malevolent Andrea who alerted me to this thing.
  
However, my signing up for an official, structured program does bring up a more general question that comes up all the time in a health and fitness context:

Do you get the best results by picking a good program and following it by the book?  Or is it better to navigate your own best path through a field of intriguing but possibly conflicting alternatives?

How to Decide?

Join weight watchers? Buy a copy of a diet book and following it to the letter?  Track your calories or journal about your feelings, find your own recipes?  Should you sign up for a personal trainer and follow their program to get in shape? Join Crossfit? Check blogs and YouTube videos for ideas? Or just go outside and play and see what happens?

Some people combine a structured plan with your their own particular adaptations. This way you can be one of the Paleo people who still patronizes Ben and Jerry's.  Lots of possibilities!

 (Swiped from here if you wanna buy the shirt)

But Which Is Really the Best?

Predictably, I think that ...

(This clever IT person came up with the image).

Here are some of the questions you might want to ask yourself:

What kind of personality do you have?  Are you an enthusiastic, team-spirited joiner? (Or less flatteringly, an easily subjugated drone who doesn't mind being told what to do?)

Or are you a critical-thinking individualist? (AKA a hippie/anarchist/nitpicky contrarian?)

Where you are in the process?  If you are just beginning to strength train and are hoping to go to the Olympics yet have no idea how that might be accomplished, you could wander into a gym and start randomly flinging barbells, but a more structured approach might be smarter.

What are you trying to achieve? I.e.: sometimes you need special expertise or want to end up with credentials.  If you want to become a neurosurgeon, you're probably gonna have to sign up for something official. Google U will probably not get you hospital admitting privileges.

(Image credit: Resurge International)


Are you are self-motivated or do you prefer outside inspiration?  Picture a scenario with concrete benchmarks, an expectant instructor, tests or challenges, and a communicative interactive peer group. Does this make you think: "Wow, finally a great reason to follow through with my commitment to myself!" Or is it more like "Who are you people and how do I get the f--k out of here?"

And finally..

How awesome or hideous are the various options? Sometimes DIY'ers just don't have access to the necessary resources to tackle something new without kidnapping or bribing or someone.  And sometimes "program" people need to figure out their own options if the available program offerings are bat-shit crazy or insanely expensive.

The benefits of each approach are obvious, and this is Cranky Fitness after all-- so instead lets look at the downsides, shall we?

What Can Suck About Structured Programs:

  • They are designed for people in general, not you personally, so they may fail to accommodate your possibly weird individual preferences and abilities and life situation.
  • Programs often cost a lot more money than doing stuff on your own.
  • They frequently have an all or nothing flavor, so if the whole thing doesn't work out you may have to start over from scratch.
  • Sometimes an instructor or author will say something that is obviously horseshit, and then you have to figure out how to keep your head from exploding.
What Can Suck About Figuring it Out for Yourself:
  • Lack of companionship and feedback and personal acknowledgement of your awesomeness.
  • Chronic uncertainty due to conflicting information, which means whatever you choose to do, it's wrong.
  • Lack of peer or instructor accountability to get your ass off the couch or your hands out of the cookie jar or your nose back to that grindstone, should you have a nose that needs grinding.

Choosing Your Approach

This is actually not generally a tough call. People seem to know intuitively which style suits them best.  I suspect most people are combo types, who strike a balance between structured and unstructured approaches depending on the particular endeavor.  But there are definitely folks out there who are strongly in one camp or the other.

I'm a classic hippie/anarchist/whiner contrarian, in case that wasn't obvious.

But sometimes people don't actually know themselves very well. Or they're too eager to ignore the disadvantages of an approach because it's the one that feels most comfortable.  Consequently they end up feeling discouraged and inept because they're always flailing or quitting. So don't be stubborn and clueless like that. You deserve success!

My bottom line advice: if what you're doing ain't working, consider switching it up or combining approaches. 

So if you keep trying to do things on your own but get too confused or don't apply yourself enough to get results, find a way to tweak your routine to add support and accountability. Or just suck it up and experiment with joining a program or going "by the book" for once. It probably won't kill you.

Alternatively, if you keep buying books or signing up for programs or classes but feeling crappy because they don't seem to work for you very well, see if there are any ways to add or subtract or modify.  You will probably not be shunned or ridiculed or pelted with rotting fruit. Or, be even braver: next time instead of signing up for a new thing, consider trusting yourself enough to research and design your own program with your schedule, preferences, etc in mind.  Don't be a sheep all the time.

What about you guys, are you Program People, DIY'ers, or a bit of Both?



42 comments:

  1. I prefer to do my own thing, but sometimes one simply has to be told what to do. The little voice inside that directs me is more often than not directing me to be lazy.

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    1. My inner voice is similar Leah, plus it's always telling me: Secure More Chocolate Immediately!

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  2. Hmmmmm ... I like to know what I'm doing, ideally by having been told by One Who Knows, but since there are precious few Ones Who Know in general and even fewer who Know about my body and associated life, there's still the need to tweak and adjust and such-forth. And, as you wisely mention, sometimes if you want to follow authority but can't do it 100%, it's tempting to say "that's it, can't do."

    Because occasionally the blogoverse likes to send me messages ... this ZenHabits post on worry and uncertainty surfaced today. It's actually more about choosing between competing requests for time at any one moment, but the below paragraph also seems relevant in terms of choosing exercise direction.

    i Set an intention to stick with the task: Before you actually start the task, make an agreement with your friend worry. You’re going to stick with this task, at least for 5 minutes, without switching or following the urge to check other things. For these glorious 5 minutes, you will be sure of one thing: you will do this task, no matter if it’s the perfect task or not. Because actually, my friends, the perfect task doesn’t exist, and the search for it is but a grailquest. Instead, focus on this one task, and be sure you’re going to stick with it.

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    1. (Hmmm ... okay, the "little i for italics" trick doesn't seem to work here. Well, that's what that little i is for. And I'm not sure my link worked to the ZenHabits post. But that last paragraph is a quote from it, so it's googleable. Sorry!)

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    2. First off, so sorry about blogger's ineptness at html in comments. To get italics, it's a "<" followed by "i" followed by ">" to open, and to close it's "<" followed by "/" followed by "i" followed by ">"

      I won't even go into the link html.

      But LOVE the Zen habits quote! I think I need to sign up for those. It's only possible to do one thing at a time, yet we tend to beat ourselves up for whatever we're not doing at any given moment. Yet the "perfect" task is really whatever one we're working on!

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  3. I work a combination of picking a good program and...navigating my own best path through it. I've noticed when I try to do it 'by the book' I end up resisting it and pushing back. I know that this health and fitness journey I'm on would have all gone MUCH quicker if I had 'toed the line' and really been strict with my nutrition.

    Instead, I made a commitment to work out 3 times a week (Strength training). I got in the habit of getting my butt to the gym (and now – who am I?!? – LOVE this work out time!!). I then started working cardio into the mix on my ‘off’ days. For the last year I’ve been putting more energy and effort in to my nutrition. But I LOVE my Ben & Jerry’s and wine…so that stays and the pounds and inches come off little by little.

    This is my lifestyle and if it’s not sustainable…it’s not for me. :)I’m still learning to trust myself as I make changes in my routines or when I ‘skip’ a work out. Sometimes tuning into what I need vs. what I want and learning to trust myself is the lesson. It’s all part of the process. Oh and sometimes I have call 'bullshit' on myself and get to the gym and work out even if I don't feel like it. HA!!

    Crabby!! I’m super excited to hear more about your program. It sounds super cool and a great addition to your services and well-rounded approach to life and helping people! YAY!!!

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    1. Awesome Theresa that you took it step by step and now love your workout time! And such an excellent point about building a sustainable lifestyle and tuning into our own sense of what's important. Trying to be too by-the-book all the time can just lead to discouragement. (As a fan of wine and Ben and Jerry's myself I a SO not a by the book person!)

      Thanks for the encouragement on the ACE program, fingers crossed... there's a crapload of stuff to memorize!



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  4. Hooray for your new program endeavor!!! You will do great with it!!!

    I think I fall into both categories sort-of (maybe) - I don't know. When I do workout programs like the awful Insanity Asylum (thankfully only 2 more days!!!) - I do the program exactly as given because I'm sort of anal and compulsive/obsessive. Even when I HATE it!!!

    In other ways, I'm all about doing my own thing.

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    1. Thanks Kim, I hope so!

      And if someone as hardcore in-shape as you are finds insanity asylum to be a tough workout, I'm giving it a hella wide berth. Another lifetime maybe!

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  5. Kinda a program person - I do best with a set schedule (thinking specifically of exercise, here); but I'm not above making a slight adjustment when things start to hurt.

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    1. Sounds very sensible Shelley, and I envy your ability to not be a cranky pain in the ass whenever confronting an organized program with a structure!

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  6. I've never been a huge "joiner"-- partly because, as a physical therapist I usually have the attitude that I already KNOW what to do & I'm too cheap to pay someone else to make me do what I already know I should do but am too lazy, errr busy, to do. :) But I have to say, I like the team support on the forum from the Up & Running course. And seriously, my evening is so busy tonight I would normally just scrap any running for the evening, but there's no way I want to admit that, in writing, to the whole world. So I guess the group thing is working for me this time around!

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    1. Yay LGGR! I share a similar, um, "thrifty" nature. So glad the up and running program is working out well!

      The Lobster was down on the treadmill again this morning, so far so good..

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  7. I'm an "information junkie". Give me advice if you want, but you better have data to support it!!! And I'll want to read it all myself!

    "To ask annoying questions rather than provide concrete advice": that is what good "psys" do. :-) It's been shown that people retain information or "the truth" better when they've discovered it themselves. The "psy" should merely be a - competent and compassionate - guide.

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    1. I'm with you on the data, HSH, and yeah, bossy shrinks I don't think are quite as effective! Coaching is a bit more action-oriented than therapy, but it's still about supplying the encouragement, and letting the choices all be up to the client. So don't think I'll ever be one with all the answers!

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  8. Congratulations on working towards a new certification. I love the idea of a health and fitness coach. The hospital I work for has the most amazing Metabolic Nutrition doctor on staff. He offers a 12 week class I attended and really learned so much about the importance of foods/exercise/lifestyle for ME specificcaly. What impressed me most is he totally walks the walk and lives by example, sharing his own everyday journey to eat right, exercise and live healthy. I bet you will be fantastic in this additional roll. Good luck.

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    1. Interesting Mrs Mars about the metabolic nutrition dr's class, sounds fantastic! And it also sounds like you really took it seriously where as so many people just nod and smile and blow that stuff off.

      And I really appreciate the encouragement on the certification, I'm really hoping to learn a lot and open up new coaching opportunities. Thanks!

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  9. I work out mostly on my own the last six months due to being back in the working world...but if I hadn't had some great trainers and coaches guiding me from 2008-2012 I would NEVER have even come close to what I've accomplished. They pushed me harder than I ever would have pushed myself. They answered questions I didn't even know enough to ask. They believed in me and taught me to do things I'd never heard of or ever dreamed of. I competed for the first time in sports EVER at age 30 because my coach told me I could do it. The guidance of professionals who see your potential and get you to do the work is invaluable. What I have learned from them has no price tag or time component. They made me a better person.

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    1. *completed at age thirty NINE, that should have said (my lighting-fast typing is both a blessing and a curse; sometimes accuracy suffers for the sake of speed when I'm really amped up about something the way I get about my coaches). Never played a sport as a kid. Never was on a team or even did dance lessons or anything like that. Discovered mixed martial arts at age 39 and six months later, competed in my first jiu-jitsu tournament, because Kru Patrick Schulz told me I could do it. Had I stayed on my own after losing weight, I would have probably limited myself to daily jogs and very light strength training. I had no idea the stuff I was capable of until experienced pros showed me the light!

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    2. Wow, this is inspiring stuff! Good on ya!

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    3. Oops somehow I missed this, must have needed more coffee!

      Dang it Norma, you have this annoying tendency to inspire me to rethink things, and sometimes even contemplate looking outside my comfort zone. And my comfort zone does not currently have any trainers in it.

      Must ponder.

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    4. Norma! I love it!! I'm right there with you. I get super excited about my trainers for the same reasons. :)

      I never played sports as a kid. I started working out when I was 40 and it has opened up so much for me and in me. I'm more confident and I'm doing things that I never thought I could do. I still can't jump...but I'm working on it. ;) I love being stronger - physically and mentally!

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  10. Nit-picky contrarian for sure. And yes, indeed, HSH, show me the data! Of course, sometimes the question "How can I find out about this?" is answered with "Grad school" which certainly requires going by the book.

    Mary Anne in Kentucky

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    1. Mary Anne, you're a contrarian? I'm shocked! :)

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  11. Being weird, i tend to pick and choose until i find what fits me -- and it's usually an odd size.

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  12. I've definitely gone my own way, but after trying structured programs for years. I tried weight watchers, slim-fast, nutri-system, Jenni Craig, gym classes, boot camp, etc. I honestly believe that no one program is going to be right for everyone, and unfortunately, when people fail they blame themselves, not realizing that they've just not found what works for them yet.I don't even think doctors have all the answers. A doctor once told me, "You're just going to have to get used to being hungry." Clearly, he wasn't for me :)

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    1. "You're just going to have to get used to being hungry." Seriously, Kaki? Yeah, that's such a great recipe for a long term sustainable plan, just be hungry! Sheesh.

      Sounds like you've figured out how to take the sensible stuff you've learned from programs and tailor it to yourself, which is a great solution, even if nothing's going to guarantee miracles.

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  13. Death Ride GrandmaJune 19, 2013 at 11:00 PM

    Good for you, Crabby!

    Me, I'm a little of each. I am pretty argumentative, don't take the books to heart very easily (doesn't it make you crazy how they all contradict one another with such conviction?) & generally don't take advice kindly...But then, I am totally uncoordinated - had no idea, for example, that bending as if I was trying to touch my toes was cheating at triangle time in yoga until someone gently showed me what we were trying to do - so I really have needed quite a bit of expert advice.

    And then, there's the schedule thing. If I have a class, or an appointment with a trainer, or even a meeting time with a cyclist friend, I know I'll get the workout done. Oh, by now, I know it anyway, but that sure did help me get a good start.

    On the food front - no way will I pay the slightest attention to anyone. I'm pretty clear on that. I mean, I know how to eat, and I pretty much know what I should and shouldn't eat, and I absolutely know that if I tell myself not to eat something, it'll be the only thing I want. It was dumb luck that allowed me to stumble on a system I could live with that has taught me how to control weight. Definitely the anarchist on that front.

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    1. Ah DRG, I'm so with you on not liking to be told what to do, either on the food or exercise front, though yeah, information is fine! Funny about the yoga but I could totally see myself doing that too... if I could ever get my butt to a yoga class, that is.

      Great you've found a system that works so well for you, though I'd bet your "stumbling" process was more sensible and less random than most people's methods. And nothing is going to work without a bit of thoughtfulness, self-knowledge and self control!

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  14. I guess I would have to say that I like exercising on my own (what little there is of it in my life). I sometimes like to join groups, but I never place myself at center stage. I remain on the fringes, because I'm most comfortable there and I have an escape route, if I need one.

    I'm kind of an independent type of person, and that can sometimes be a bit lonely, but it also has its benefits.

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    1. Great to see you here E. Jane! We fringe-dwelling independent types gotta stick together.

      So I saw from your blog that you're doing really well on a new eating plan, that's great! So maybe upping activity levels will be next. There are always logistical and motivational issues, but you sound determined to get to a healthy weight to I suspect you'll be tackling that aspect too! And baby steps can add up. Good luck!

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  15. I agree with Norma on the value of a good trainer. I am as contrarian as they come, but I found a trainer that guides and encourages rather than just telling me what to do (which always brings out a "Yeah, make me!" attitude in me) She has utterly changed my outlook about fitness and my own abilities.

    For diet stuff, I did South Beach faithfully and it worked great for about 8 months until I "fell off the wagon", which is definitely the problem with set programs. I think Nerd Fitness helped me see the light here. Not the Paleo the siteowner prefers specifically, but the way he lays out well-researched options and things you might want to think about in making decisions. Like what you did above.

    Good for you on the certification, Crabby! Excelsior!

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    1. Hmm, Trabb's Boy, you and Norma make a good team in making me rethink my reluctance to let a professional in on my (often inconsistent and half-assed) training efforts. Sounds like you found a great one!

      And I'd forgotten about Nerd Fitness, thanks for the reminder!

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  16. Good luck on getting your certification! For me, the "navigate your own best path through a field of intriguing but possibly conflicting alternatives?" is what works!

    I like to do what I want, when I want, how I want, where I want...I think you get the idea. I am not afraid to throw in the towel if whatever "it" is is not working out.

    I can start fresh at least one million times...there is no shame in my game!

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  17. I like the pilot model. Beginners need basic training from those in the know. Then we are cut loose to learn on that foundation. Yet there are rules in place where experts check us out on a regular basis just to make sure we are still on track for our goals.

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  18. I am so do my own thing! :) I may look at books & other places for advice but I like to structure for me & that has worked out best for now.. :)

    BTW, I may need those Depends soon at this stage in life! ;)

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  19. I am a bit of both. My moods change with the times. I think I get bored with one program for very long, so it's important for me to keep changing it up a bit. Interesting post!!

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  20. Im all intuitive which WORKS REALLY WELL FOR ME---until it doesnt :-)

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  21. I totally agree with you that if what you are doing isnt working then a change is in order. I always say if you tax advice, you see an accountant. If you need legal advice, you see a lawyer. For exercise, people should see a personal trainer and for nutritional advice see a nutritionist or dietitian. You have to be educated before you make any decision. Every program will need some modification. There is always trial and error.

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  22. Dear Crabby McSlackstress: I'm totally a DIY'er. And me thinks you're gonna ACE that certification. O_O

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  23. I tend to follow structured programs but I am also prone to making adjustments that is more comfortable. I do push myself on my own but I tend to push myself harder when I am competing with friends. I like the camaraderie and company better.

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