You Are Not A Slave To Your Program

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You are not a slave to your program.

Countless times I’ve overheard conversations that say otherwise. How many people are following programs individually tailored for you? With a coach watching and observing you, either in-person or by video? Good. You are less at fault, but still not a slave to your program. (We’ll get to you later.)

For the majority of people, particularly in CrossFit, there’s this paranoia that if you don’t do exactly what’s written on the whiteboard or prescribed remotely for hundreds —or sometimes, thousands— of others that you won’t get better.  That’s just not true.

What this line of thinking fails to take into consideration is you are a smart, capable athlete and your body is great at giving you feedback: if only most of us would listen.

The heavy snatches for your still-nagging shoulder issue? Not a good idea. Trying to RX a workout meant to be light and speedy when its only 10-lb off your max clean? Again, worthy of an adjustment.

“But I have to do these 3×12 glute-ham raises because they were programmed for today,” says the athlete on a program with 500-plus others. No matter that this athlete has exceptional posterior strength already and a terrible front squat that would greatly benefit from more quad and upper back work.  It was programmed and so it HAS to be done.

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Scroll through Instagram and find some of your favorite athletes. I don’t care if they’re CrossFit Games athletes, powerlifters or Olympic weightlifters. You know what they all have in common? They’re working their weaknesses.  Maybe they’re on an individual program, but the ones who aren’t, the smart ones,  are changing things. Katrin Davidsdottir isn’t on the general CF New England competitor programming. The bulk of it is the same, but her coach Ben Bergeron, tweaks things based on what she needs.  Christen Wagner, who we profiled here, is constantly subbing out things she’s good out to focus on her weaknesses.

Top athletes know the importance of accessory work and efficient movement. Their work ethic is superior, but they also know there’s a fine line between tough days and living to train for another.

You are not a slave to your program.

Former Olympian Cara Heads Slaughter (owner of CHFP) is adamant about adjusting her athletes workouts daily based on how they feel and how they look. If 70 percent isn’t right, those Olympic lifts aren’t going any higher that day.  It’s simple: your daily program is secondary to overall development. A few ugly makes isn’t worth the poor motor patterns. This is true for all but the most advanced weightlifters.


Are you going to have days you’re sore or tired? Sure. I’m not talking about not squatting 5×5 because you don’t “feel like it.” I’m talking about the guy whose had knee pain for months that’s working up to a 90 percent back squat because his program told him to and his two buddies just did the same.

Injuries used to almost be a source of pride in CrossFit, back when it was less mainstream and more of an underground fitness trend. Guys would wear it like badges of honor.

Today, most athletes know better. Most athletes want to get out of pain, not create it. They want to development better movement patterns because you can’t out-lift bad technique and nagging injuries. The next wave of fitness is filled with great knowledgable sources like ActiveLifeRx, Prehab To Perform and Clinical Athlete.

So, be smart. Know when to push and when to back off. Use your program, whatever program it is, to work for you. Listen to your body and it will thank you in the long run.