We teach “Benefits-based programming” instead of “Features-based programming.” In other words, we consider the intended results from a particular workout before we think about exercise selection.
What do we want?
How can we stimulate that response?
What are our specific options?
Assignment: Looking over your programming for the last two months, what patterns are obvious or apparent? Can you forecast your NEXT week’s workouts based on that pattern?
Early in 2015, I was in Orlando at a “Fuel Your Passion” seminar. One attendee bragged up his box, his coaching and his programming:
“I have everything,” he said. “All the toys. We can do anything that pops up at Regionals or the Games. I reinvest every dollar of profit into equipment. We’re the only box in Florida with The Pig, I think.”
His programming went like this:
“I wrote down a list of every exercise in the L1 handbook, and I make sure we do every one at least once per month. That way I’m following the true ‘constantly-varied’ model.”
Many gym owners believe the same.
But that’s not true. A real training model focuses on benefits, not features. Here’s the difference:
Benefits-based programming for a cop, ski racer and world-class BJJ competitor:
“Our goal today is to spend 4-7 minutes in an anaerobic state. This will benefit you, Greg, because after you chase down the bad guy you’ll need enough energy to fight him. It will help you, Eva, by preparing you for all-out effort on a Super-G. And it will help you, Mike, by keeping you in a high-lactate state for the same duration as your typical match. We’ll put you into this anaerobic state with burpee box jumps: you’ll hold your breath for a half-second on each jump, spiking your heart rate and requiring a complex motor tasks while in severe oxygen debt.”
Features-based programming for the same trio:
“We’re going to use the new monkey bars today, and then pull the sleds. We haven’t done that in awhile! And then it’s time for a Fran retest!”
The latter sounds like a LOT of fun. And it’s an exaggeration: I could make the case for including monkey bars, sleds and Fran for cops, ski racers and BJJ athletes. But the former programming model addresses the needs of the client before considering the equipment to be used. This gives newer coaches more flexibility, but MOST importantly, it lets the client know you’re writing your programming to best address their goals.
When presented this way, equipment is secondary.
On the business side, many affiliates overspend before they open. They buy OLY platforms, The Worm and curved treadmills for the novelty factor. They believe they have a competitive advantage because they have different toys. But NONE of these are necessary for improved fitness. Worse, their selection probably caters more to the coach’s boredom than consideration for their clients. The coach has always wanted an Eleiko bar, so they buy ten for the gym.
This is also true with space: a year ago, many gyms were pursuing the biggest space they could find. This meant industrial space: big warehouses with high ceilings and no neighbors. The goal was to run huge classes without people bumping into one another. But in some cases, this is at odds with what clients wanted: a convenient place to work out (close to their home or workplace) that would provide the results they sought (fat loss or strength) in minimal time. They weren’t seeking a 20-minute drive each way to a warehouse where they could get better at CrossFit. When a smaller gym with more personal attention opened a block from their workplace, of COURSE they cancelled their membership at Big Box. They didn’t care that the Big Box coach had a Level Four designation, because the Level One trainer at New Box is a lot nicer. And they didn’t worry about “the community” at Big Box because they have other friends. And families. And Facebook. All else being equal in the mind of the client, they’re going to choose convenience. And they’re not wrong to do so.
But if Big Box coaches had explained how each workout was going to help their clients with their 5k instead of their Fran time…
Benefits-based programming also solves the equipment-sharing problem. For example, if a gym’s programming mandates “Grace” (30 cleans and jerks for time) as the WOD, some coaches struggle with equipment. If the gym is 1500 square feet, and twelve people show up, half will be waiting their “turn” to exercise. Movement standards and rep counting will suffer.
If the gym is larger and 30 people show up, risks increase as the coach’s attention is split.
What if 30 people show up for “Grace” in the 1500-square-foot gym?
However, if the goal of the day’s programming is to spend 4 to 7 minutes in an uninterrupted anaerobic state, the actual workout prescription is secondary. A high level of lactate can be achieved through cleans and jerks—or with burpee box jumps. Or with burpee pull-ups. Or with shuttle runs.
If the clients understand that your programming is chosen with benefits in mind, they won’t mind the change. After all, it’s done with their best interests in mind. But if they “train to the test”—if they’re doing “Grace” for the sake of “Grace”—they’ll be annoyed at the large class size, the wait, and the lack of coaching.