You may not know the difference between a routine and program right now, but by the end of this blog you will. And, that knowledge could make the difference in whether your cross-training allows you to achieve your peak performance state...or not.
I’ve had several dancers ask for a workout routine they can just wake up and do every day. Something simple and consistent that doesn’t require a lot of thought or planning. Let’s face it, when you are in a professional dance school or company, you already have a ton on your plate and don’t have time or energy to waste figuring out your workout for the day. No, you want a routine that you are confident in, that you have memorized by heart, and that you know how much effort and time it will cost you. Well, that’s all fine and good for those reasons, but here’s the kicker…a routine like that is only going to get you so far. And, “so far” most likely isn’t going to give you the results you are craving.
As a dancer, you are used to routines. In fact, you’ve probably been doing the same routines over and over again for years if not decades. Technique class is a routine. Your warm-up rituals and stretches done before class are a routine. The Pilates mat and floor barre exercises that you’ve cobbled together as your personal exercise series are a routine. And, you probably have a cross-training routine or cardio circuit that you’ve incorporated into your daily mix, as well. Routines can be good because they are predictable and consistent. They can give you a sense of control and accomplishment. But, routines can cause you to get stuck at a certain level because they don’t leave room for progression.
In order to have progression, you need adaptability. In other words, you must apply a stimulus to your body that provides enough challenge to require your body to adapt to the increased demands on it. When working towards a particular goal, that stimulus has to constantly change…and, not just change randomly but in an organized, progressive manner. When you do the same routine over and over again, eventually your body will no longer be challenged by it, and so it will stop adapting...and you'll stop progressing. A program constantly adjusts the stimulus in order to create a specific result in your body, making progression opportunities almost infinite.
To make things a little clearer:
- A routine is something you do over and over again without much, if any, change. The goal in a routine is general - get stronger; lose weight; get fit; improve your dancing; etc. The dance and fitness worlds are both saturated with routines. A routine can be applied to anyone.
- A program is usually progressive and mapped out to have you peak at a specified time. It has a very specific set of goals that it is designed to fulfill with extremely specific criteria. Programs are rare in the dance and fitness worlds. A program is specifically designed to the individual's needs.
Here’s an example. You have 27 performances to get through in the span of 1 month. You have to be strong enough to make it through the performances (not too skinny or weak) but also maintain a certain level of leanness so that you are at your ideal size-to-performance ratio. A routine can get you in the general area, but if you really want to reach your peak performance state when it really counts, you need a program that accounts for your specific schedule, stressors, lifestyle, genetics, exact performance goals, etc.
Let’s look at another example. If you have a goal of achieving a certain aesthetic for an upcoming photo shoot, you can get some results by following a general routine. You piece together all the tricks you hear online or read in magazines about eating this magic herb for fat loss, avoiding carbs after a certain time at night, or loading up on smoothies. You follow this routine for a certain amount of time and sure, you’ll most likely see some results. But, when it comes down to losing that stubborn last few pounds or getting in peak condition where it sets you apart from the rest, you are going to need more than a general routine. You are going to need a program that is specific to your body, one that takes into account your unique situation, one that involves experimentation and observation, and one that involves a great deal of time and effort. A program can make the difference between, “You look lean in those photos,” to “Wow, you look like a freakin' superhero!”
When I cut for a photo shoot, I follow a VERY specific set of criteria. In everyday life, I’m much more lenient with myself. I follow certain guidelines that you could consider “routine” to keep me vibrant and within a healthy range of about 5-7 pounds off my leanest weight. But, in the 3 or 4-week period leading up to a shoot, I get super specific with both my workout and eating plans. I have a very calculated approach to what I eat as well as when I eat it. This photo shoot program is designed to allow me to peak on the day and even down to the hour of the photo shoot (Get my tips and tricks in my Photo Shoot Prep program coming soon…stay tuned!). This progressive program funnels all my efforts in those 3 or 4 weeks into a specific, timed approach to allow me to achieve a specific goal.
Another difference between a routine and a program is that a program varies from person to person even if the goal is the same. A 19-year-old dancer and a 39-year-old dancer who both want to improve their stamina are going to have very different programs. Whereas, if these two dancers were following a routine for improving stamina…it would look the same. Programs allow for specific adjustments to meet the needs of the individual and her unique situation. Programs are tailor-made for you.
Not many people recognize the difference between programs and routines. Nowadays especially with all the workout apps, YouTube videos, and Pinterest charts, it can be so easy to assume that you can just pick and choose from all the available sources out there and get the results you are looking for. If this Instagram video is titled, “Get A Ballet Body,” you’re gonna think you will get the body of your dreams if you follow the routine. But, because that routine is so general and doesn't take into account your specific body, you might see some results with it…or you might not see any at all and just end up wasting your time.
My point is this: if you want results that are more than ordinary, you need a program that is more than an ordinary routine to get there. Doing the same thing everyone else is doing or the same routine you’ve been doing for years will only get you so far. If you want to be extraordinary, if you want to push the limits of your body, if you want to see what you are capable of in your dancing, you will need a blueprint designed for your unique situation and goals...something that keeps you progressing long after you reach the limits of what your ordinary routines can do for you. Your peak performance state requires a program…not just your average fitness or fat loss routine.
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