Why Specificity Matters in Workouts

I love group fitness.

There’s nothing more motivating than an instructor in front of the class, telling you what to do, and a ton of other sweaty, awesome people all around you to keep you from quitting.

But I love running, and frankly, I love fitting into my jeans.

I love the feeling of hard work paying off.

Seven years ago, I hit my goals working out with a personal trainer, working out in a very specific system he’d designed that knew led to weight loss with his clients.

Three years ago, I did a partnership with Uplift, and I lost some weight — but more importantly, I got stronger and more confident from lifting and doing this consistently in conjunction with my running. It’s no coincidence that I got a big half marathon PR that spring, too. (To be fair, I was also unemployed and had all the time in the world to work out in between job searching.)


OK, yes, fine, I am sucking in some, but still.

So why doesn’t the ClassPass/on demand model work? Specificity. (Awesome article explaining it at length here.)

Want to run faster? You need to…wait for it…RUN.

Want to compete in a weight lifting competition? You need to train…for a weight lifting competition.

If you don’t have specific goals, planning your workout schedule by whatever class is open works. And don’t get me wrong — I’ve been a ClassPass member for years and I enjoy the service.

But today, I had a training session with Leanne at Uplift and she asked me what I was doing currently to work out. “I see your Instagram and I see you’re trying a million things…but what does your schedule look like week to week?”

Honestly, I told her, it was largely dictated by whatever cool press event I get invited to or whatever workout happened to be open or what direction the wind was swaying or who was available. (Or, if volunteers are needed to work out on our show at work. WHY YES I WILL ALWAYS BE TRIBUTE.)

But to lose a little weight/gain some strength like I’d like to, that’s not going to work. So I’m going to work with Leanne for a bit because, yes, I need some accountability, and I am the weirdo who LOVES being pushed really freaking hard by someone. (Leanne is also my friend and it was weird at first when we worked out a few years ago having her see me completely pushed to my max/a little angry at her, but I got over it.)

I’m going to work out with her for a while (disclaimer: we’ve done partnerships in the past, but this all on my own dime, though on their “happy hour” rate) and see what kind of results I get, along with some lifestyle changes like cooking more, wining less (oh, the usual…), etc.

Let’s see if there’s really something to this specificity. And you — are you training for something specific (weight loss goals, race, etc?) or working out just for fun? I’ve been in both camps — it’s just a matter of current goals.

11 comments on “Why Specificity Matters in Workouts

  1. Susan - Nurse on the Run

    Ah, this! I liked Classpass for the few months I did it, but I like the idea of a routine and being more of a regular. Classpass made regular class attendance much more affordable for me, which is why I kept it. But when I found classes I liked, I really wanted to go back more than three times per month! Plus, I liked seeing improvement at the class and doing things that would most benefit me/running/injury prevention, and I didn’t like jumping around for that.

    Currently just “training” to fix these hips – super specific!

  2. Nicole

    i was really thinking about this recently. i’ve never found a trainer i really liked though. but i know you have (from that very helpful email you wrote me a while ago!) Can’t wait to hear how this goes.

  3. Katie

    I’m doing my best not to drink on the week nights. Its the little things. I also try to run twice a week and go to core power yoga twice a week, but that isn’t perfect. I’m contemplating orange theory since it will give me run and strength in the same hour.

  4. Heather Montgomery

    I have been doing boot camp for a year and less running and for SHORT distances I have actually gotten faster b/c I am so much stronger now! But yes for distance races I actually need to run, which I dont…which is why I am slow haha

  5. Ashley

    After a year of ClassPass, I am continuing to use it but getting more targeted. Instead of doing 10 different types of classes I am basically testing out doing 3 workouts using it – Bar Method, tower pilates, and yoga. It will be interesting to see how I feel after this month but I agree, specificity is key!

  6. Kayla

    I’m totally guilty of hopping around too, sadly in part because I can’t afford a devoted membership to any one studio. Obviously last year when I was training for the marathon with Jess my workouts were super regimented. For now I try to at least stick to the same classes every week (Uplift, Body Space Fitness, Bar Method, Yoga Vida) and overall aim to hit up 2 strength classes, 1 barre, 1 yoga and trapeze thrown in there 🙂

  7. Wendy

    ugh I have this same problem. My big box gym is super cheap, and I don’t want to cancel, because, well Connecticut winters. The strength classes there aren’t great though. I tried a local crossfit place and loved it but am having a hard time committing to a membership. Sigh.


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