Problem with… Learn to Programs

Today if you want to ‘learn to’ do any sport, the list of available retailers willing to offer you a course is long.

There are learn to programs for everything… 5k, 10k, the half and full marathon distances, triathlons, and even learn to walk programs.

Have you ever stopped and reviewed exactly what is taught in these programs? If you were to take a university or college course in a specific area of interest, you would likely review the course contents, perhaps review the required and recommended reading, and/or do a Google search on the professor to see their qualifications, their experiences, to ensure that the learning experience is what you want.

Does anyone do that type of research for sport ‘learn to’ programs? You would think that the instructor would be an actual coach, someone with actual experience in taking novices and introducing them to training and sport.  Rarely if ever is this the case.

Stop and think about it for a second… what do these ‘learn to’ programs actually teach you about the sport? Nothing or next to nothing. Instead they teach you, or tell you what to buy to look as if you know what you are doing in the sport. Take the typical learn to run program…

  • Session 1 – What shoes you need… to buy.
  • Session 2 – What clothing you need… to buy.
  • Session 3 – What nutrition you need… to buy.
  • Session 4 – What training technology you need… to buy.
  • Session 5 – What else you need… to buy, in case who haven’t already emptied your wallet.

The lesson is this… if you spend enough, then you will have learnt all that you need to learn about developing as an athlete in the sport.  The outcome of these learn to programs is an abundance of novice athletes who overtrain, get injured, get disappointed, and who in time switch to another sport or simply give up on sport altogether because beyond buying their way into the sport, they learnt nothing about the sport, and having no concept of how to improve, progress, or proceed (except by taking another learn to program) have no other option then to quit.

There are always stand out stories of accomplishment, achievement, especially weight loss, but everything has its exceptions. Its easy to point to the exception, problem is when exceptions are not identified as such, and are made out to be the typical outcome.  No different than mutual fund, stock market returns or weight loss results which require a disclaimer: results are not typical, history is no predictor of future results, etc… same should apply to these programs.

These are learn to shop programs not learn to train programs. These are boardroom designed programs designed to boost sales, not your appreciation of the sport, not your understanding of your individual needs of how to start training, of your starting health or fitness level. And for a society which is now on average unhealthy, overweight, obese, and sporting at least one lifestyle disease, stepping out the door and just running is not appropriate in all cases.

If that wasn’t bad enough, these programs have dumbed sport down to the point where DIY is accepted as all that any athlete needs in order to achieve their potential, and relegated coaching to some ancient art that’s been replaced with one size fits all plans from start to finish line. Funny isn’t it, none of these retailers would sell one size fits all training shoes or apparel, yet one size fits all training programs are acceptable. Everyone needs a specific fit in their shoes or clothing, yet everyone can follow the exact same step up program of mileage to complete an event? Really?

Done with ‘learn to’ programs yet?

Ready to take your health, your fitness, your performance and your potential seriously?

Ready to take all of the above back in your hands, and out of the hands of salespeople?

Find a coach who trains athletes, and not another salesperson. Sales people will have you hooked on sports nutrition products, compression clothing and weekly or monthly ‘health’ treatments like massages or adjustments, or items such as taping, orthotics, or braces.

Find a coach who appreciates movement, understands how human physiology and psychology intertwine and relate to sport, knows how to inspire and motivate athletes to want to develop, and depends on learning to achieve results, not self abusive “no pain no gain” training.

Take the leap from athlete look-alike, to authentic athlete.  You do not need to stand on a podium to be an athlete. An athlete is anyone at any level of ability who is seriously taking the time and making the effort to learn how their body works, how it moves, what it needs to function optimally; athletes do not depend on others to tell them what they need.

Become an athlete, stop selling yourself short and giving into those who only want to take advantage of you and your goals.