Individualized Training: What is it???

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It seems like the term “Individualized Training” is getting thrown around a lot more often these days. It’s been a part of globo gyms for decades. It’s been in offseason programs for sports specific athletes. Of late, it’s starting to gain popularity in functional training, a.ka. CrossFit gyms. But exactly what is it about? What does it entail? How does it work? And perhaps most importantly, who is it for? Let’s touch up on some of these points and possibly debunk some of the myths around it.

As suggested by the term itself, Individualized Training is just that: a training program designed for the individual. This would be the complete opposite to a group training model. Individualized training takes into consideration each person’s goals, training history, current or past injuries, schedule, and current level of fitness. The program is designed to fit the person, rather than fitting the person into a class setting. We all know that no two people are truly the same, so why should we adopt a one size fits all approach to fitness? By now, we know that people react and adapt differently to training doses and volume. We also know that everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses. Furthermore, every individual is on their own path as far as fitness is concerned. Some do it for performance/ competition, some do it to train for a sport, some do it to meet the requirements of their job, some do it for weight loss, some do it to look good, and some do it for health. These are all factors that need to be considered, as they affect the evaluation process, exercise selection, training frequency, nutrition protocols, intensity… pretty much everything!

Often times, individualized training will get confused with PERSONAL TRAINING. It’s important that we are able to differentiate the two. Personal training includes direct supervision from the coach. In other words, the coach will be standing there as the client goes through the routine. This may or may not be individualized, as the coach could, in theory, be supervising a preset workout. In most cases, however, personal training is an added service to an individual design. Fact still remains, individualized training consists of a program tailor made for the individual, but executed on his/her own. Therefore, it is important that the design takes into consideration the person’s ability to interpret the prescription and perform every movement with adequate form. Another important distinction and a key element is that each individual is responsible for going through every item on the program, applying the correct effort, and recording results and feedback for every workout. This adds a sense of accountability. You’re not working out because the coach is telling you to, you’re doing it because you are invested in your fitness journey. REAL coaching isn't about taking someone to their goals, it’s about guidance and providing the right tools for people to achieve them. This leads us to one of the biggest questions people struggle with when considering individualized training: Is it right for me?

In my mind, the answer to this question is fairly simple. If exercise is something that you do without direction and no end game, then it really doesn't matter what you do, because results don't matter. On the other hand, if you have a goal, ANY goal, individual design is the correct and perhaps the only real alternative. Think about it, when you get in your car to go to the grocery store, what route do you take? It’s most likely the direct route. There’s no sense in zig zagging your way to it, or making stops just for the heck of it. You get in your car with a purpose, and head straight to where you intend to go. Fitness should be no different. If there’s something that you want to accomplish, everything that you do in the gym should keep you on a straight path to it. Everything should have a reason. All exercises are NOT created equal. Being a “rookie” in the gym shouldn't keep you from pursuing your goals. Like I mentioned above, program design will parallel the person’s ability to perform movements adequately. Plus nowadays, there’s a good number of resources that allow a coach to illustrate how something should look. In addition, the coach is always there for “backup”. Think of it this way: If you moved to a new city, and you got there for the first time, you’re most likely using a GPS to move around. As you spend more time in the new place, you start getting familiar and rely on it less every day. After a few months, you’re getting by without it. Well, it’s the same dynamic with individualized training. At first, you may have stick to simple exercises (main roads) and rely on your coach (the GPS) for daily direction. Eventually, you’ll require less of him, and the exercise toolbox will open up to provide ample variation. The important thing is that every turn you make gets you closer to your destination.

Another important thing to address about individualized training is that contrary to popular belief, it does not have to be training in solitary. Just because you have your own custom made workout, does not mean that you can’t talk to anybody in the gym. You can still set a time to hit the gym with your friends, you can still offer a spot, and you will most likely have someone cheer you on and celebrate your PR’s. The community aspect does not need to be sacrificed just because you’re in a clear cut path to achieve your goals. If anything, it opens up more possibilities to share the gym with folks of many different levels or on different endeavors that are also doing their own workouts.

As you can see, individualized training is not only for the highly experienced, but really for anyone who is serious about fitness. When we get asked “what do you recommend?” the answer will always be individualized training as it’s the only design that will truly cater to your particular needs. It doesn't mean that you will train in solitude and it doesn’t demand any prerequisites. The key factor will be finding a coach who can structure a plan in accordance to what YOU want out of fitness.

In the following weeks, we’ll be publishing a few more articles that will provide more information about the steps of this process at Aggressive, and will detail what can be expected from each one.

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