Programming in Large Group Settings
by Sarah Rippel , Author of Build N’ Burn
During the years where I worked with larger groups outdoors, I learned numerous valuable lessons. Looking back, I made things a lot harder than necessary because I didn’t have a system of programming. I always planned things out ahead of time, but there was no real structure.
As I type this, there is a stack of papers sitting to my left that I dug out of a box. I still have all of the group training workouts from November 2009-September 2012. I fully committed to making the switch from paper files to keeping track of my clients and programming electronically sometime in 2014. Keeping track of workouts by hand has always worked well for me because I love taking notes and it is easy to jot things down in the moment. Today I keep everything in Evernote (as well as Fitbot for online programming), and I make notes as much as possible. In addition, I use the whiteboards in my gym during group training, which allows me to keep that ease of jotting things down in the moment alive. Notes are so important!
When I think about the fact that there are fitness professionals out there who do not track their clients’ workouts, it makes my head spin. I just don’t understand how someone could be that lazy. It’s a huge disservice to the client who is paying their hard-earned mone for a service. In addition, how in the hell would anyone be able to justify all the training hours a person has spent under their tutelage with zero documentation?
Sitting here flipping through this stack of old boot camp workouts, one interesting element is you can see where I tried to create a weekly format. I would deviate from my handwritten workouts and had created templates here and there with the plan for the week. I also made notes where I pulled workouts from Sure Results or other resources, as well as when I used BJ Gaddour’s Bootcamp Automator programming.
During these years, my outdoor boot camp clients loved what I was doing. They liked the “we don’t know what Sarah’s gonna make us do next” element. We were working with limited equipment, so workouts typically involved a lot of bodyweight and “cardio” intervals. The focus was fat loss through total-body training, and I feel I became quite proficient at utilizing that outdoor space to give people a great training experience.
BUT…not having a system in place began to stress me out. I felt pressured to always have to create workouts. I felt I wasn’t able to have consistency. I felt I wasn’t giving my best, even though again, people loved it and I was outside with limited equipment. The training I did with my outdoor groups was a lot different than the training I did with my one-on-one clients. It was never meant to be the same, but a huge lightbulb moment happened when I started trying to apply some of the programming strategies I used with my one-on-one clients to the group setting. This is where the value of having a system of programming became obvious.
One huge reason why you should have a programming system in place:
It’s easy to make one change to the overall system and then see if that improves things, as opposed to making a change but having no real way to measure its effects. Not having a system in place is like driving without a road map. You don’t know where you’ve been or where you’re going.
In other words, having a system creates stability. A collection of randomized workouts is not a stable situation. If you are wanting to have the group focus on one specific element, let’s say improving their 1-mile run time, then you must have a consistent means of training for that specific goal. In addition, there needs to be a means of tracking progress.
You cannot simply do a pre-test mile run and then four weeks later do a retest and assume you are going to see positive changes if there has been little focus on improving conditioning, right? A better idea would be to log the pre-test results, then incorporate some run-specific training throughout the four weeks which provides consistency and progression. When retest time comes along, the results would give legit feedback with regard to how the previous training had improved that one specific outcome.
I don’t know about you, but I would much rather know that something is working than make an assumption. Back when I was working with big groups, I had no true structure to the programming. It was random. When you are working with random programming, you cannot truly tell what is working. You cannot truly tell what may be a waste of your clients’ time.
As in the 1-mile run example above, my groups did this as part of the program, and people consistently saw improvements in their run times. This did not happen as a result of a structured focus on running, however, but because the workouts included a lot of circuits. Yes, this was a good thing because it gave people a measurable means of tracking progress, but had I implemented a more structured protocol to help them improve their 1-mile times within that four week time frame, I guarantee the results would have been even better. More importantly, there would be a way to look back and reflect on what worked and what didn’t, as opposed to looking back on a stack of randomized workouts.
To bring this to a close, when you have structure to your group training programming, it makes everything run better. Client progress is measurable, time and energy are freed up so the coach can focus on the clients themselves, and there is an ongoing means of adjusting the program based on preceding workouts. I honestly cannot think of a reason why anyone wouldn’t want to create some organization and “flow” for their training system!
Check Out Sarah Ripple’s Build N’ Burn – Done For YOU 16-week Metabolic Group Training System for Fit Pros
Other articles by Sarah Rippel:
The Evolution of the 14 Station Mega-Circuit http://thefitnessbootcampclub.com/the-evolution-of-the-14-station-mega-circuit/
2 MetCon Group Training Workouts That Get Results! http://thefitnessbootcampclub.com/2-metcon-group-training-workouts-that-get-results/
Maximizing the Efficiency & Effectiveness of Your Small Group Training Programming Part I & Part II