I have ONE rule…

I have an odd rule that drives many people crazy. My assistants and interns always laugh because I get so frustrated with people when they break this rule. The problem is simple: I forget to tell people that I have this rule! It is fairly obvious:


Do NOT criticize, condemn or correct a training program that you are doing until you complete it.


Years ago, I followed a very strict and disciplined diet that involved only protein shakes and 28 days of hard living for everyone around me. Upon completion, Alywn Cosgrove told me: “Yeah, now that you have finished it, you can criticize it.” The insight was so simple and clear that now I use it as a tool. Finish it, then fix it.


During the past year, I have been asked to put together, among other things, a 10,000 Kettlebell Swing Challenge and two training programs for two very different tasks. I undertook the 10,000 swing challenge twice to figure out what rep schemes worked best for doing the entire twenty day program.


Upon publishing the article, that very day I began receiving emails and posts with “better ideas.”


“Wouldn’t it be better to do twenty sets of twenty-five reps to get 500 a day?” No, because you can never keep track of the sets as we tried it and you simply get lost after 12 sets or so.


“Wouldn’t this rep scheme be better (insert a bunch of random numbers)?” No, as doing…wait, I just realized something: you are asking questions without even trying what we came up with after 20,000 reps. On Day One of the article’s publication, the readers were already coming up with “better” ideas without doing a single swing.


It reminded me of something my brother-in-law, Craig Hemingway, told me: he works as an EMT and often gives presentations to schools. He has a rule just before the question and answer period. He simply explains two things: when you raise your hand, I want a question. A question finishes with a question mark. A story, on the other hand, is when you tell us about your grandpa or someone else who has been in an ambulance. We only want questions right now.


You see, most people want to tell their stories. They don’t really want to follow my programs or anybody else’s program;, they want to tell me about their programs. It’s funny: in our gym, we don’t often follow “our programs” because we are often experimenting with ideas that we find other people doing.


This week, Marc and Mike are looking at a very interesting six-week training program that involves circuits every day and timed intervals. Outside of an equipment issue or two, they are following the program exactly. I am following the program of another fitness professional, a 21-day program, so I can intelligently comment on it in a few weeks. If the program says: “do this,” I “do this.”


Oddly, if you know your history, I reflect on this quote by Amelia Earhart when people ask my why I so often train using other people’s training programs: “In soloing, as in other activities, it is far easier to start something than it is to finish it.” For nearly every single goal you have in mind, someone else has cleared that path before you. Why not just follow it?


Certainly, we take notes and discuss “better.” Certainly, we could sit around an ask questions that are really stories. But, when it comes to the program, do the program.


Quit tweaking (or twerking) things to “make it better.” When I did the Soviet Squat Program, I walked to the bar and squatted. I always make the joke that if my squat wouldn’t have improved doing all those squats (Six sets of six in the front squat with 80% of my max!), I would have flown to Russia and punched every Soviet I could find. I followed it exactly and my squats went through the roof.


Here is how you KNOW a program is actually doing its job, with only a hint of sarcasm: you find a dozen flaws in the program and you fix them by doing what you always do anyway.


Dive into a new program every so often. Immerse yourself in it or, as Mark Twight says, drink the Kool Aid. Keep a journal, take notes and monitor your progress, but stick to the plan. Any plan that is attempted with vigor is far better than doing the same thing with little intensity.


Then, after you finish it, critique it. “Mine the gems” from it and adapt and adopt into your normal training.


But, finish what you start.

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