A week rarely passes without someone asking if I create customized online training programs. In the past two weeks alone, I’ve received six requests for a customized program. Since starting my website in 2001, I’ve probably had over a thousand requests. Yet despite the interest and demand, I’ve declined each and every request for an online program.
Now before you write me off as crazy, I believe it is worth discussing my reasons for declining such requests. Yes, I could have earned plenty of cash, but doing so would have gone against many of my fundamental beliefs. When I started training athletes many years ago, I didn’t do so with hopes of making it rich and famous. The opposite was actually true. If anything, I didn’t know if I would be able to support myself. I knew that the road ahead would be difficult, but it was worth the risk based on how passionate I was to help fellow athletes.
Why I Don’t Offer Online Programming
As I begin this section, it is worth stating the obvious. My reasons for not training people online are based solely on my own circumstances, experiences, and beliefs. I am not here to knock everyone who accepts online clients. Perhaps there are trainers who provide a high level service without physical interaction. I honestly don’t know. Whether they exist or not however, there is no denying that several companies sell overpriced programs with little or no attention to the individual. Some are even computer generated. It is these bogus companies and services that I will direct this entry towards.
I will now discuss my reasons for not offering online programming.
Time is perhaps the most valuable commodity of all. There are only so many hours each day. Time management therefore becomes a critical skill. Yet even those who have mastered the art of time management are still limited to a 24 hour day.
As a result, there is no way that I could invest enough time to create customized online training programs for clients. I am already busy in the gym training real athletes. The only way I’d be able to train people online with the necessary attention would be to drop some of the athletes I train in person. When I have a boxer preparing for a fight, I may be in the gym with him for several hours a day. When multiple fighters are preparing for bouts, an entire day can fly by without me even finding time to check my email.
I’ve had many situations where we had to travel for sparring as high level sparring partners weren’t available in the local area. I’d find myself driving 90 minutes to Providence, then spending 2+ hours in the gym, and then driving another 90 minutes home. Just like that, five hours of daylight were burned to fulfill the sparring needs of a single boxer. I’d then head back to our gym as another fighter would be waiting for me.
There are many nights when I don’t get home until both of my kids are already asleep. When I walk through the doors late at night, I’m already thinking about what everyone will do the next day. There are also are nights when I’m up late watching film of a fighter that one of my guys will be boxing (or writing blog entries like this at 1AM). It’s not a 9 to 5 profession. The job always comes home with me.
The take home lesson therefore is simple. Most trainers who are busy training real athletes have limited time. If you find a trainer offering online services, you may wish to question who they actually train. Good trainers and coaches are busy in the gym. If they are offering online services, it could mean that they don’t actually train anyone or that they aren’t investing a lot of time into your (so-called) customized routine.
II. Daily Changes
Another reason that I’m against online programming is the simple fact that crystal balls don’t exist. It is impossible to know what the next day will bring. Why would I create a monthly plan in advance for an online client when I don’t do anything close to that with my own athletes? There are many times when I don’t know what the next day will bring.
Yes, I have ideas for each day, but there is much more to coaching than creating a daily routine and posting it to a chalk board. With my athletes, I’ll have a general plan in mind, but I almost always make daily changes based on what I see in front of me. For example, if a fighter looks fatigued from a sparring session the day before, I may back off what I originally planned. This type of daily interaction is vital to the success of any athlete and coach.
One of my favorite quotes on this subject comes from Dave Tate’s book Under the Bar.
In his words,
A program alone will not yield results. It’s the modifications that are made along the way that lead to the success of the program…
Now there are many coaches and trainers out there who will proclaim they have this ability and that their programs will work for anyone. I am here to tell you they are dead wrong! It is just not possible for one to see into the future. Training is a process that has to be taken day to day. Yes, you need to have a basic plan to work from, but there are so many variables that can change at different rates that you must be willing to adapt your plan accordingly… A prescribed training plan is a good idea, but is only that – an idea. The rest has to be pieced together as the session and workouts progress… You will make many changes to your plan along the way.
Be sure to reread the last sentence from the paragraph above. Truer words have not been spoken. As mentioned previously, there are times when I plan too much in my head. Once I’m in the gym with the athlete, I may need to cut some of the work that I scheduled. At other times, I may notice that the athlete is feeling particularly strong. If so, I may add more work to the original schedule.
Once again, these are real time modifications that must be made during the session.
Another reason that I’m against online training is the way in which I communicate with my athletes. Whether I’m holding the mitts inside the ring, running alongside an athlete in the morning, or pushing them through a series of exercises, you can be sure that my mouth is running at regular intervals. I don’t sit quietly on the sidelines. I say what needs to be said to get the athlete to do more than he otherwise would.
As for pushing the buttons that need to be pushed, I feed off the temperament and mentality of the athlete. I’m not training a group of strangers. I work with these athletes almost every day of the year. I’m not dealing with someone that I’ve only communicated with via email. These are real people who I know in and out of the gym. I know their families. I have been inside their homes. I know their life story, where they’ve been, who they are, what they wish to accomplish, and what may be standing in their way. I use this background information to more effectively communicate with them.
The communication that I have with my athletes could never be replicated through an online program. Human interaction is entirely different than typing an email to a client that lives on the other side of the globe. All of the technology in the world couldn’t deliver a message as effectively as a few well timed words that are spoken to the athlete as he’s struggling to push through fatigue.
With an online program, the athlete is largely on his own. He reads what is written and is left to his own interpretations and modifications. He’s essentially training himself with an expensive paper guideline.
Yet another reason that I’m not a fan of online programming is the fact that no two athletes are the same. Training is an individualized process. We all come with our own strengths, weaknesses, past experiences, schedules, and abilities. Successful training is not an automated process. Even athletes from the same sport will often require entirely different programs. Just because I train boxers does not mean that each fighter performs the same work. The work is catered to the specific needs of the athlete. For example, a tall, slick boxer who moves on the outside will have different needs than a short, powerful inside fighter who likes to bang against the ropes.
It is impossible to know exactly what an athlete needs without working with him in person. In addition, many athletes need improvement in areas that they may not be aware of. If a trainer is limited to online communication, he is limited to what the athlete has told him.
I couldn’t tell you how many emails I receive from athletes who describe themselves as Mike Tyson clones. These individuals actually believe they are replicas of Tyson and want to train exactly like him. I once had a teenage fighter asking for training advice to help him bulk up to the heavyweight division. He described himself as an aspiring prospect with a Tyson-like style. His only problem (in his mind) was that he wasn’t yet a heavyweight. I later found out that he was only 5’7″ and 135 pounds. He also had never even fought as an amateur. This individual was ready to pay for a program to bulk up over 80 pounds, despite the fact that he had never actually boxed. It would have been criminal to accept money from someone who was so misinformed about how to proceed as a boxer. Rather than creating an online program, I directed him to an amateur boxing club in his area. He has since begun competing and has forgotten all about bulking to heavyweight.
He didn’t need a customized program. He needed a coach who could help him in person.
It’s safe to say that I could rant all day about why I am against online programming. Rather than beating a dead horse however, I’ll wrap up the discussion with one last warning to those who are interested in paying for a customized online program. If that is the path you wish to travel, I simply advise you to put in your due diligence before purchasing a program. Find out about the person creating the plan. How much customization is actually included? How many online clients are they willing to accept? Find out how much interaction will be available. For example, do you have a direct line to ask questions as you would with an offline trainer?
Furthermore, do you actually need a customized program? Rather than paying for a program, perhaps your time would be better spent learning the how and why to program creation. Doing so will leave you self-sufficient, as opposed to always being dependent on others to think for you.
As a coach, I’ll be the first to say that training isn’t as complicated as many would like you to believe. The primary reason that I’m busy during the day is because I’m not just getting athletes in shape, but I also teach a sport. When people inquire to train with me, I usually talk them out of paying for my time if they aren’t competitive fighters. That either makes me a terrible business man, or perhaps just someone who is honest. No, you can’t teach yourself how to box, but it is entirely possible to get yourself in excellent physical condition without a fancy routine. Those who suggest otherwise are either misinformed or only interested in fattening their wallets.
When something sounds too good to be true, it probably is…
“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”