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March 8, 2022

145 | To Program For Yourself Or Hire A Coach

to program for yourself or hire a coach with Annie Miller

So this episode comes about because for most of my years of training, I wrote my program for myself, or pulled from templated programs as a base for my own programming. I’ve never had a 1:1 coach, outside of interning with other performance coaches in person. That mainly comes from the fact that I enjoy being my own guinea pig and have always loved the process of training. Even in seasons where I probably wasn’t as consistent as I would’ve been if I did have a 1:1 coach.

So we moved into our rental in June 2021. And we had pretty much our full home gym set up at that point. But since essentially January 2020 I was wildly inconsistent with training. And that was coming off only training for six months from June 2019 through December 2019 after we were done with our first year of full-time travel. Basically, since April 2018, I have not been consistent with training. And that brought up a lot of past injuries, and just general weaknesses and loss of range of motion that I got as a result of inconsistent training largely while traveling.

Back to June 2021 when we moved into the rental and had our garage him, I trained myself not at the intensity that I was training in 2018, but with the same style of training. And after prepping for shooting over 400 videos for YouTube with Paige Major, my friend and videographer, I just saw that I had some nagging issues that quite frankly I didn’t want to coach myself through. But I did feel that I had the answers or the knowledge needed in order to pick an appropriate program.

That, it’s what brings us to today’s episode. I’m currently following a very well-known coaches templated program, that has everything I need in addition to what my sports masseuse has kind of told me to work on in my own time.

I will likely do another episode on my experience with a local sports masseuse so far and why I sought her out in the first place. So look forward to that.

To program for yourself or hire a coach?

When it comes to being a trainer, I really do believe that you should always to some extent be your own guinea pig. I think there is a power and different level of coaching that comes from you having experienced some of the things that you are going to program for your clients. No that doesn’t mean that you need to move as much weight as them or be in as good of shape as them or even have the same goals or background as them, but having done German volume training or some kind of super high volume training gives you an idea of what that feels like and you can better prepare your clients for that if you happen to program some kind of high volume program or even super set.

I guess really that is just the experiential piece of being a coach. Because you can have those experiences even if you’re not programming for yourself.

There are pros and cons to programming for yourself, and hiring a coach, or following someone’s templated program. I personally find that templated programs are a bit of a sweet spot, because again, it gives you that base but also allows for you to modify as needed, or according to your own preference.

I find a lot of times that coaches have this guilty complex because they know how to program in a way that would get them a good work out, and they know they could be consistent, but they aren’t because they simply don’t have the time or brain space to program for themselves. And even the time and energy it would take to just whip up a single work out four days a week, can be too much. And then that coach is left not working out at all. Not feeling good about themselves from maybe an integrity standpoint, or an outward expectation standpoint. I think that is a fabulous scenario where a coach would benefit from following a template a program in or hiring a 1:1 coach.

Essentially if you aren’t being as consistent as you would like to, or you are bored with the style of programming that you use for yourself, or if you are generally just curious about someone else’s style of programming whether template it or 1:1, I think those are great times to hire out your programming.

As far as choosing to do someone’s templated program or actually invest in a 1:1 coach, I think there are some differentiating factors here. And honestly this conversation is the exact conversation a lot of you probably have with prospects who are interested in your training. There’s a bit more nuance when you’re a coach I think, but the general premise is the same. We hire or purchase a program to make our life easier, to increase adherence, to make progress that we otherwise would not be making by ourselves.

When to hire a 1:1 coach…

Times where I think it’s really important to hire an actual 1:1 coach is either when there’s something in your training that you’re trying to address, that you can’t seem to get around by yourself. That could be a pain, that could be an improvement with a certain movement pattern that could be an area of training that you just don’t have as much experience in. To say you are weightlifter but you’re wanting to improve your conditioning. So you hire a coach that specializes in that, because you want to expedite that process.

And the obvious reason to hire a 1:1 coach is largely if you are an Obliger personality type. Meaning you require external accountability in order to complete a task. That comes from Gretchen Rubin‘s Four Tendencies. It’s a personality test it is known worldwide, and it’s one of the personality test that I have my 1:1 fitness clients take as well as my Fitspro Foundations Clients. 

I am an Upholder, meaning that I am more intrinsically motivated. I also lean towards being a Questioner. Meaning that I really need to and seek to understand the process or the why behind someone telling me or asking me to do something. Which is also why I personally lean towards using different templated programs. Because having the program itself is enough for me to adhere to it as long as there is some justification provided for the training that we’re doing.

So if you are an Obliger, and you know that you 100% perform better when you have outward accountability, then you are someone who is likely going to benefit from consistently having a coach. I think the goal is always to increase accountability to self, but there’s obviously a lot of benefits outside of accountability and having a 1:1 coach. Some of the reasons I discussed earlier, especially around getting out of pain or working on a very specific piece of your training. Specialty work essentially.

That could very much so apply to someone who maybe wants to get into Olympic lifting and they have a weightlifting background as in barbell resistance training but not Olympic lifting, which is also referred to as weightlifting. And they want to get into Olympic lifting or add some of that into their current training. It would be a great idea for that person or coach to hire someone to help them with those movement patterns.

When is a templated program a good choice?

So now that we’ve discussed reasons a coach might hire a 1:1 coach, let’s look at kind of the hybrid option of templated programs. Obviously I am biased to this approach because it’s what I’ve done many times in the last decade. And it was largely what I did from 2011 to 2013 or 2014. That was when I was in college and interning at University of Portland.

And I always come back to that period of time when I talk about programming because that was my intro moment with programming. And what templated programs do for you is they shut out all the noise and get you to focus on a certain structure within weight training. Which is really nice especially when you’re starting out as a coach. But also really nice when you’re 5 to 10 years in as a coach. It’s super nice to take a tried and proven program that thousands of people have used and apply it to your own training.

If you don’t particularly enjoy programming, then templated programs are amazing. As would having a 1:1 coach. They’re also great if you do enjoy programming, because you’ll learn a lot by doing other people‘s programming. And as mentioned earlier, it allows you space to modify the program to your liking.

A massive reason for following someone else’s templated program or hiring a 1:1 coach is so that you do the work that you otherwise would not program for yourself. That’s often when I find myself looking for a template in program, at least for a base of my programming. And that’s where I was in January 2022. I just knew that I needed some thing outside of myself and my own knowledge to tell me what to do for a while. At least for a portion of my own training. And that really leads to another hybrid topic.

It’s not all or nothing with doing somebody else’s programming especially for those of you that enjoy programming in do you want to practice it. You can absolutely look for someone who maybe specializes in mobility for loaded mobility, or a certain area of programming like kettle bell training and use their program to simply implement that into your own program.

That doesn’t save you time, or necessarily make you be more consistent. So that would apply to someone who is currently programming for themselves and enjoys that process. And also has the time for it.

How to decide?

That last part really is the ticket for me. If you do not have the time or the energy to write a program for yourself and remain consistent, it is so worth finding a templated program or a coach who can provide a program that you are going to both enjoy and adhere to. It’s the same message that we send our prospects.

And I don’t know about you, but I gave it 6 to 8 months of doing my own programming in 2021 in the start of 2022, training consistently. And then decided I’m clearly not getting what I want out of this, not fully anyway, so it’s time to look for someone or something that can help. 

So ask yourself what is currently working or not working, and would hiring a coach or following a template program help mitigate that issue, whatever it may be.

And then there’s always the byproduct that you are going to learn and take some thing away from whatever program or coach you follow. To me that is one of the best things about doing other people’s programming. Is that you’re going to take these little nuggets, whether it is a superset, or a certain exercise, or certain warm-up movement, there are so many things in the endless toolbox that is programming, that someone is 100% going to do some thing that you never would’ve thought of or that you haven’t been exposed to. And I don’t think that we should rob ourselves of that experience as coaches.

While you’re always going to have and probably come back to your style, and philosophy of training, it’s inevitable that that is going to evolve with time and experience. And ideally some of that experience comes through learning from other peoples programming.

I also realize I may actually be the anomaly here because I think most coaches do follow someone else’s programming for the most part. And because I enjoy programming and being my own guinea pig, I have by and large programmed for myself for the past over a decade. But also heavily pulled from tried and true programs like different versions of German volume training, Paula Quinn‘s wave loading, Jim Wendle is 531, isometric pin training, dynamic loading, and things of these sorts. Nearly all programming is borrowed and re-purposed.

If you are currently being consistent with your training and you are enjoying programming for yourself, more power to you. If you feel like you’re in a bit of a slump, you’re bored with your own training, you have recurring pain, or seem to be plateauing, maybe look at spicing it up and at least pulling from someone else’s templated programming if not hiring a 1:1 coach.

You’re going to have seasons in waves of really enjoying training yourself, and seasons where it really just is the best option to lean on someone else for your programming.

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I'm an adventurous introvert from Vancouver, Washington who lives on sleep + "me time." I'm a lover of lifting weights, dinosaurs, real talk and traveling with my husband. I am here to help you move better, lift more, bust the myths of the fitness industry, and inspire you to love the process.

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