Starting a new program can be exciting. When we get a professionally written program to reach a goal that’s on our radar, it’s common to think that we must complete it verbatim or else. And there’s a hint of truth to that, but no quality program is 100% set in stone.
Don’t be intimidated by a new program. Instead of thinking, “I can’t do this,” think, “How can I make this work for me?”
We all need to listen to our bodies each day. Our lives are all different and change day to day, month to month, affecting our workouts in many ways. Sleep quality, stress levels, energy levels, non-exercise activity, amount of sitting, and nutrition intake can all affect how our workouts go and how well we recover from them. It’s being cognizant of this that allows us to know when to back off and when to push our limits.
Ways to modify your program:
1. Exercise Selection
Every exercise has regressions and progressions, which decrease or increase the exercise’s difficulty. Sometimes I did a regression, such as the suspension trainer assisted pistols or step-downs. Sometimes, when even those regressions hurt, I did something completely different, like banded clamshells, glute bridges, or kickstand deadlifts.
You can modify the number of sets and reps, load/weight, rest, and frequency of training. If a program calls for three sets of each exercise, but you’re just getting started or haven’t worked out for a few weeks or more, you can drop that down to two sets each the first week or so. Once you’ve gotten past the point of feeling sore after every workout, you can bump up the sets on two or more of the exercises for a week or so and so on.
You can adapt the number of reps as well. Simply stop when your muscles are fatiguing and burning and you only have 1-2 good solid reps left in the tank. Avoid going to complete muscle failure (meaning you can’t lift the weight any more). Make a note of the number of reps and sets you completed, so that the next time you can see if you can do more.
Especially when it comes to purely strength-based programs, it’s imperative that you rest as much as you need. If the program lists a specific amount of rest between sets, you can use that as a guide, but feel free to take more if you truly need it. A program that is more circuit training/metcon-based using light to moderate load and higher reps, you’ll typically rest less, because you’re going more for a cardio effect and muscle burn than pure strength. But when you’re working on strength, you want to feel mostly recovered before each set to maintain proper technique and form.
If a program calls for 4 or 5 days a week of lifting, but your schedule only allows for 3, or your body needs more recovery time, by all means, do what you can and adjust from there. You likely won’t get the same results touted by not doing the program as written, but you’ll still get some results. As long as you adjust your expectations at the same time, it’s all good. You can always repeat the program and bump up your efforts once your schedule and fitness or strength level allow.
3. Program Structure
If you’re crunched for time or have low energy or are especially sore or tight, it’s perfectly fine to adjust the day’s workout. Maybe all you have time or energy for is the warm-up or some mobility moves. You could also just focus on one or two of the main exercises that you’re most interested in advancing or feel good that day.
When warranted, don’t be afraid to modify your training program, keeping in mind that changing the program will change the results. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, however. Sometimes, we just need more time to reach a goal, or working around an injury or limitation is required, or our current lifestyle and circumstances just don’t allow us to do everything we want to do and get the kind of results we really want. Adjusting our mindset and expectations, along with our program, is part of making progress.
Make it an amazing day… Sara