The Games and the year to come


At last, the 2013 CrossFit Games have come and gone and life goes on. It was an exciting year for CrossFit’s best athletes and a true test of fitness and ability. If this year’s games had a theme I’d like to think it was called “I hope you can run and haul heavy shit!” The events definitely rewarded both the strong and the fast and punished specialists. There were relatively few Olympic Lifts outside of some lighter weight snatches and some extremely heavy Clean and Jerks. The heaviest lift of the weekend was a 405lb Deadlift and several athletes, Josh Bridges included; struggled without the sheer size and brute farmer strength of the front runners. I would have loved to done these workouts as I revel in drawn suffer fests where the goal is to simply keep moving.

This year might also be called the year of skills and endurance. There was a multitude of running and speed movements and a ton of gymnastics skills events. I feel like after last year many trainers and camps chose to focus on building and increasing Olympic Lifts while neglecting some simpler movements and old school exercises and it cost them. The heaviest objects this year were sleds, a Tire flipping device called the pig, wooden logs, and the aforementioned Deadlift. If anything it seems that this year turned into a strongman competition with some cardio thrown in to keep things balanced and maintain the appearance of fair play. In short I think Dave Castro caught everyone with their pants down by incorporating stupidly simple and deceptively hard workouts into this Year’s Games.

As the saying goes training for next year starts today and I have no doubt that we’ll see a shift towards crazier more varied workouts across the CrossFit community as everyone plays catch-up and hopes to out think and out plan Mr. Castro. Tires will get dusted off, logs brought out of storage at the back of the box, and legless rope climbs will become the new norm as we move into the rest of this year and the beginning of 2014. That’s fine with me. As it happens Gwen and I had pledged to make our run to the 2014 regionals and watching this year’s Games has only inspired and motivated us even more. We’re not sure if we’ll be training at home through our own program or at a box the whole time but for now we’ve decided to do our own thing and focus on our own goals and weaknesses instead of relying on someone else’s programming and ideas of what we need. We’ve decided to post our training schedule and nutrition plan in detail in here as we move forward.

This brings me to another point for the coming year. With the explosion of CrossFit’s popularity we see more and more boxes opening up, more people getting their training certification and more athletes taking on the mantle of trainer and coach, some just to cash in on the growing popularity and earning potential of this sport. All too often now I’m noticing a trend of those who are so focused on whether or not they can open a box and train others that they seem to gloss over the issue of asking their self whether or not they should. I’ll be the first to tell others how satisfying it is to be able to turn my passion and hobby of fitness into a successful career. That being said there are too many so-called trainers out there offering up coaching wisdom when they have none to give.

A weekend seminar does not qualify you to teach others. It does equip you to demonstrate a movement then tell others when they’re not achieving it, that much is clear. There is so much more to coaching though then the ability to do the exercises you’re teaching and if you as a trainer can’t get outside your own head and narrow vision and understand why an athlete is struggling and help them work through it; what good are you. Being able to recite facts and catchphrases from the Level-1 training manual isn’t coaching its regurgitating. It’s also a red flag to anyone with some experience in fitness that as a coach you have no idea what you’re doing and no experience and original ideas of your own to share and base your methods on.

Too many people in our CrossFit community think that before CF there was nothing and that nothing exists outside of CF’s rules and standards. They discovered their passion for fitness through CrossFit and unfortunately this has birthed a breed of fanatical devotees who preach the CrossFit brand like it was gospel but do little to spread its respect and admiration among those who were doing their thing long before CrossFit was even an idea in Glassman’s head. I love CrossFit but I also understand what it is and what it isn’t. I also know because I’ve met them; that the most successful CF coaches in this community started somewhere else. They’d spent years and even decades learning coaching, bio-mechanics, and anatomy from previous training careers, competing, and the military and other sports and simply brought that vast knowledge base into CF with them. They’ve learned how to guide athletes through feeling a movement not just to stand there and tell them what they’re doing is wrong. They are coaches, motivators, inspire-rs, and people to be immolated and admired.

My job as a coach is to understand everything about my client whether it’s one on one or groups of twenty. I have to be able to take a client through an assessment and instantly recognize and diagnose issues, limited range of motion, and weaknesses before I ever turn them loose into a workout. I can’t help them squat successfully if I don’t know why they can’t, can I? Likewise I owe it to my trainees and clients to know the in and outs of every move and every available alternate or varied way of doing it. I have to know that no two human bodies are quite the same and what may be easy for one may be excruciating for another. Good coaches know this and prepare for it because experience has taught them to look for the subtle signs and instantly step in. They don’t fiddle with the clock, the radio, a clip board, or their watch while a workout is going on. They don’t focus on the rockstars while the novice struggles. More than anything they push athletes to go further but never hesitate to rein them in to prevent injury.

Becoming a trainer, opening a gym, coaching athletes is not about being able to “do what you love” this is just about the most selfish and idiotic way of looking at a career totally dedicated to helping others achieve their dream and do what they love. When you agree to train another you assume total responsibility for their success and failure as well. It’s not about you anymore or a piece of paper or what someone told you that you now know. After 12 years the one thing I know for sure about my job is I can always stand to learn more to help my athletes grow. Heading into my own CF-L1 training next weekend I’m looking to add to my knowledge base and skill set. What I’m not looking for is a lesson on how to teach, because no one can show you that in a weekend. Anyone promising to is lying to you and you’re lying to yourself if you think it’s possible. I don’t care what “Certs” you have and from who, if you have not spent at least 5 years in a sport you’re trying to teach and at least 2 years shadowing a coach and assisting you have no business calling yourself a trainer. I know dozens of trainers with no certs and no paper hanging on the wall who have been at this for years and would trust them to lead my clients because they have demonstrated a gift for empathy, understanding, originality, true dedication, and a mastering of movement that no piece of paper can ever give.

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