There are three important things to address when trying to find the right training program for you. Why, what, and how.
1) Why it's important to follow a training plan
There are tons of exercise videos online nowadays, which is amazing! Finding a workout to follow online is super easy, accessible, and very often free. This helps to break many economic barriers for many people attempting to access "fitness".
For beginners getting into working out, following these random and fun workouts is a perfect way to start. It helps you learn a lot of new movements, it helps to keep you interested, it helps to keep you motivated. It’s also great for intermediate and advanced lifters to follow a random workout here and there and change things up, even when on a program.
So why follow a program?
No matter your fitness level, it's incredibly beneficial to be following a strength training program.
Strength training has many incredible benefits that are both immediate and long-term. Some of the more immediate effects are surges in hormones that make you feel happier, feel more clarity, sleep deeper, and help to boost self-esteem.
On top of all the physiological benefits, strength training can do wonders for anxiety, depression, and individual’s mental health. I could write a whole blog post alone on how strength training creates confidence and boosts self-esteem and self-efficacy, but that's for another time.
According to The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the majority of individuals start to lose muscle mass around the age of 30 and continue at an approximate 3 to 5 percent reduction every following decade due to natural reductions in estrogen and testosterone, which aid in the muscle-building process. *1*
This is why it's so important to build and maintain muscle mass and strength. It’s never too early or late to be getting and staying strong. I’m sure you want to be that grandparent who's still keeping up with their grandkids!
A training plan helps to build and maintain that strength that we're talking about. If you aren't staying somewhat consistent with your movements and progressively overloading those movements over-time, then it becomes very difficult to gauge whether you're building strength or not.
It also helps to keep you consistent when going into the gym with a plan. There’s nothing worse than going to the gym and not being sure of what to do. It’s best to go in with a plan. It also nips any excuses about uncertainty - you have a plan, you go in and you get it done.
2) What are your needs and whether a program fits those needs
So, now that I’ve convinced you that being on a strength training plan is beneficial, it’s important to know what it is that you're looking for in a program.
Many programs online cater to young people wanting to change the way that their bodies look. If wanting to shed a couple pounds of fat is a goal, that's great, especially if you want to start going about it in a healthy manner. However, there should be more motivating your “why” - because external motivation and validation is fleeting, internal motivation and drive is what will make it that you continue these habits that you are trying to build.
That being said, you want to make sure that the program that you are choosing is something that you can see yourself maintaining over a longer period of time, or that builds habits that you can adopt for a long time after the program is done.
It’s also important to address any other needs such as past or current injuries that need special attention, and/or if there are certain barriers or restrictions that limit your ability to properly follow the program at hand.
Another thing to consider whether you have any specific goals such as running a certain distance, improving overall strength, improving a specific move (i.e. deadlifts or pull-ups), etc. It’s important that you make sure to take these things into account when looking into programming, or else, it may simply not be the right plan for you.
Overall, try to find a plan that is realistic with your schedule, timelines, and that you can maintain and that will be the most beneficial to you and your goals.
3) How to find that program
The best program that you can choose is one that you can follow, rain or shine. The most important thing is that you can be consistent with it. If you try for one or two weeks and it's too difficult to maintain, and you start to fall off, it’ll often only be a matter of time before you find yourself looking for another program to try and not finish.
The plan that you choose should touch on all or most of the points that you addressed previously such as goals, limitations, barriers, etc.
The best way to ensure that a plan is right for you is to invest in a coach who can create a specialized and personalized plan specifically for you and your goals.
A good coach will also make sure to take the time to ask you what it is that you are looking for in a program, what your goals are, what your schedule is like, what is realistic for you, and what barriers you need to overcome in order to be your most successful. A good coach cares about you and doesn’t just give you the program and walk away with your money.
Invest in someone who is qualified, who has experience, and who you feel would be able to help you with the areas that you are looking to improve on. If you’re looking to potentially do a powerlifting meet, then maybe the marathon-running and programming coach isn’t the coach that you’re looking for.
Be ready to do your research.
There are a wide range of trainers with a lot of passion, different areas of expertise, great client retention and results, etc. Find out which coaches check all your boxes, and that you feel that you can connect with and trust.
You may need to invest a little more money if dealing with a personalized plan versus if you were to purchase a fitness coaches’ 8 week challenge, however, the result of learning and appreciating the process, and creating long-lasting habits are more important and more beneficial to you in the long run.
Remember that the process of health is lifelong. A challenge is exactly that, a challenge. A program is something that you can continually work towards and continue to see lifelong habits, health, and strength improvements in your everyday life. Best of luck with this journey - the journey to health is the most gratifying journey you’ll ever embark on.
If you need a place to start improving your health and creating life-changing habits check out the Zenboks app where you can find experienced coaches guiding you through many different forms of health and wellness practices.
If you’re looking for specialized and personalized online or in-person training, you can check out my website (melissamonkhousefitness.com), or check out my Instagram @mellymonkfit.