Your Program is (Still) Smarter than You

As I write this in a small cafe in Madrid, Spain, I am reminded of the power of following a program. What is a program, after all? It’s nothing more than a plan of action. These plans tell us what to do in the gym. It answers all the questions we might have about what movements, how many, how heavy, how far we ought to go. Most importantly, it doesn’t leave us to our own devices. While I am a fitness professional and part of my job, in fact, is to write programs for myself and others, the importance of having a program is just as relevant for me as it is my students.

Here I am, nonetheless, a world away from my routine and it was a program that, in my opinion, saved my training today. You see, I met some friends at a local gym here in Madrid and I started coming up with a couple of things to do here and there. I could have continued to put together a half-assed, extremely biased training day, but I didn’t. My biases, of course, are that I’m a jet lagged, dehydrated athlete who is mostly thinking about a book I’m writing rather than my training and the path of least resistance would look like an unchallenging preferential training day. I was moments away from starting and finishing a baseless training session when I forced myself to wait for my friend to arrive, so we both could do his program.

The program, as flimsy of an element of accountability as it is, was enough to keep me on the rails. We squatted heavy, did some unilateral work, and even some detailed accessory work. I’m very aware that without the program, I wouldn’t have forced myself to squat heavy or do the quality work we did, especially at the intensity we did.

This reminds me of the important lesson in settling in to a program. Athletes are often so quick to “outsmart” the training. We cherry pick, cut corners, and bask in the shortcomings of human nature. Our friend John Wellborn calls this Squirrel Programming, where athletes become distracted by elements of different programs. Thinking they are going to outsmart the system, they create a hybrid of several different programs rendering their creation useless. At least, it becomes something much less useless than committing to one program (even as imperfect as it may be).

Find a program and stick to it. That’s what it’s for. Plus, you can’t outsmart the real work.


Logan Gelbrich


3/31/17 WOD

Spend 20 minutes on tumbling..

Then, complete the following for time of:

800m Run

30 Burpees-to-Plate

30 Toes to Bar