What is program design?
Essentially, it’s a buzz word. The fitness world’s take on “corporatese”. But that doesn’t mean it’s useless.
Program design is the architecture of physical progression. It takes into account all of the inputs that one can control and orders them according to priority—the least of which is exercise selection.
This is where most coaches stop, sending out the proverbial blueprints and moving on to the next client. But anyone that has “broken ground” on a creation knows how vastly different ideas must become once the foundation is laid on the earth and one can see the reaction of the materials. Adjusting to deviations given the reaction of an athlete in order to achieve the desired goal is what separates coaches from program writers.
Program design is important, it shows the ability to logically progress an idea with a starting and ending date—to put priority on paper. It also provides an athlete with the assurance of a plan—“faith”—which may be the most important ingredient of achievement.
The overarching program design that you will see played out over the next few months is based on the following:
The need to complete an ultra cycling event in July(6-7hours) and Sept. (5-6 hours). Complete, NOT compete, that doesn’t mean coast, it means protecting expectations for a pure experience.
The desire to qualify for some team or individual “fitnessing” competition between May and Sept.
To progress in BJJ, which includes potential tournaments.
My endurance base needs to be reconstructed, starting at 5 hours a weeks of aerobic “zone 2” style work. Luckily this supports all other endeavors until time doing it detracts from other needs (somewhere around the 10-hours/weeks mark).
Strength and strength endurance are at their lowest in years, especially in squatting movements, which means they need to be progressed in order to have any chance in competition. This is supportive as well, until it’s not. Body weight needs to stay relatively low (under 200) for both BJJ and to have any kind of enjoyable experience for cycling events, which means strength by way of volume (hypertrophy) needs to be watched.
To progress in BJJ, I need to stay injury free, which is impossible, so I’ll aim for “as healthy as possible” and work around any injuries, which usually means riding a bike (bonus for the first goal).
Strength will be written out and adjusted on the days where there is the most amount of time to recover, sets and reps can be decided on the day.
Endurance will be programmed “buffet” style, which means throw it in when I feel hungry and try not to choke.
I have dates, an idea of where I sit in all relative energy systems, and I’m not married to any one idea—this is program design. Now all I have to do is all the work, while avoiding the traps of psychological burn out, injury, and boredom... easy... kind of.
I am the architect, the builder, and I’ll even choose the color of the fucking drapes. It seems like a lot to take on until we remember that we are simply exercising, and whether we succeed or not depends heavily on how well we understand our shortcomings.
Warm 10min easy spin
3x10 dislocates + band pull apart + standing band cat stretch
2x30 sec “L-prone bridge”
-15cal Assault bike
-15x wall balls
-10x Strict C&P @ 2x35lb DB
1x high hang power + high hang squat + hang power + hang squat + power + squat clean
every 3 min Add weight each round, make it meaningful but not impossible
2 hours BJJ: drilling + free rolling (easy efforts, not quite zone 2 but also some hard digs that make it a blur to plot what it actually counts for)
The Threat of Pop
“You know of, you know nothing about”
This quote stays scribbled on our whiteboard. It was written in haste while stewing on our contempt for a popular “fitness” related periodical—misinforming the world of what we do. It’s a completely banal complaint, you know, about shit that doesn’t matter. But we aren’t the only ones that notice media exploits the general public’s desire to believe that they understand.
Pop, is what I call it. Pop-science, pop-news, and pop-fucking-music. It’s the digitalization, mass production, and annihilation of reality—it is a life lived on “auto-tune”. Almost every major industry is affected by it because people love to believe they understand, and if that is confirmed by what is POPular, even better.
Take any subject that you have special knowledge in—an activity or hobby—and place that activity in a major motion picture and writhe in agony as writers and directors misconstrue what any novice could point out (this includes movies that meta-conceptualize movie making).
Admittedly, half of what I think I know of the world is based on some sort of pop-information that I gathered and stored as a truth because I didn’t take the time to confirm it. And since “knowing of” something feels eerily similar to “knowing about” something—especially if one is ignorant—few of us will ever confront the very real difference until or unless we have to.
Pick up a barbell, a wrench or a gun and notice almost immediately that the actual use of any tool is much more technical than what we would ever fathom. I’m feeling this now as I clumsily strike a dead string in Em (E-minor, probably the simplest chord) on the guitar. Despite starting to learn two months ago and practicing everyday, it is hard to put together a single coherent riff. I have loved and listened to music my entire life. I know what good guitar playing sounds like. I have watched people play in-person, some of the best in the world, and I can even play the air guitar with the best of them, but when I actually try to play I realize that my ability was imagined and imaginary.
I can still see myself playing a full song because I have the hubris to do so but my current depiction (and the timeline to achieve it) is more accurate, having been tempered by actually trying to play it. When I hear the kind of musical complexity that I hope to some day understand I appreciate every second of it and know that every hour I practice gets me a little closer to “knowing about”. It seems the more I learn the harder it is to comprehend the details that make up expertise. “Knowing of” sheds little light on those points.
POPular culture is full of arrogance, a conceit regarding “knowledge”, which is often painted as truth, presented as a 42-minute program made to justify 18 minutes of sales pitches. Reality. on the other hand, is full of a grace and gratitude because understanding is difficult. Understanding takes humility. It takes presence, NOT presentation. Understanding cannot be bought.
We tend to make things more complex because complexity can appear as expert knowledge. Sometimes though, true understanding comes from being present, from exploring what you sought to know about, from being constantly curious, from recognizing that you simply don’t know but that one day you may.
10-20-30-40-50 Double Under
1-2-3-4-5 Ring Muscle Up
20min Alt. EMOM
-10x seated DB Strict Press
-50x double unders
Then VIA CrossFit La Parada in Lima, Peru
Front squat 95#
4 rounds for time
10x toes to bar
10x Box jump over
20x Clean and Jerk @ 145#
Why do I always feel like I’m starting over?
This is a common sentiment and also a bad habit. It’s consistent, glorification of our past abilities, and it’s one I fall victim to when I lack the attention necessary to progress correctly.
Whether I’m recovering from a cold, injury, or I’m excusing a lackluster performance, I often and begrudgingly vocalize the notion of “getting back into it”. It’s a poor attempt to excuse that my current state is my own fault.
It’s a strange trick that we play on ourselves, by trying to convince the external world that we are simply a bit off track, and that given the right circumstances we would be as good as new. We are simply blaming what is outside of our control—which is giving up our only control.
This idea hides that we actually lack direction because it is impossible to return to our former selves. Even if we can reassert an ability, we cannot return to the state or moment that we are memorializing. The past is intangible.
We need to move forward in the direction of unknown territory, towards the possible, not the past. And even though it can include past abilities it won’t be under the guise of recreating the “glory days”; it will be under the banner that at any given moment we want to know what we are capable of doing.
Serious injury puts this in perspective by usually giving us the motivation to rise above a doctors prognosis of “never being able to do X again”. It is a challenge so we respect it as such and work in a way to find what is possible. This attitude should be the one that is present despite setbacks and limitations—this mindset is what we should “get back into”.
I hear/feel a pop in my lower back during a sloppy clean at a “who gives a fuck” weight, and all I can think is how far from my former self I am. I haven’t even dared to test the actual injury and I’m already putting myself in the worst possible spot, one that clings to the past and is fearful of the future. It isn’t about who we are at our greatest power, it’s about the accumulation of who we are in our worst moments, those added up inform the world what is possible—not our excusal of it.
So even though I haven’t left the floor yet, I’m trying to imagine who I might become, which is a world different from who just became injured and who I want to be.
60min spin @ conversational pace
Warm 10min of
-Lunge + kick + SLDL
20min Alt. EMOM
Even: Clean + 2x Jerk @ Heavy
Odd: 3x Ring Muscle Up
5 rounds for time
rest 2 min between