I have been an avid member of the CrossFit community for many years. Upon beginning this journey, I quickly became immersed in all things CrossFit. After two years, I obtained my Level 1 Certificate and was ready to share my knowledge. I’m a teacher. I have been all my life. I was extremely eager to translate my teaching to the subject of CrossFit. In the last few years I have been given this chance. I can describe this experience in two words: eye opening.
Being on the other side of the class has changed my perspective tremendously. I have always respected our trainers, and have always known they do the absolute best for each of the athletes in the gym, no matter their training ability. However, stepping into the trainer role changed how I approach my own training and taught me just how much goes in to a typical class on a typical day. There are three things your coach wants you to know.
Athletes need to worry about their own depth, their own count, their own training… and let the coach take care of the entire class. Previously, when I was participating in the classes as an athlete, I would look around the gym while resting (which was often) and observe. I would get frustrated at fellow athletes who just couldn’t seem to hit the bottom of a squat, or those who seemed to do fewer reps than the rest of us. I knew our coaches were working with them and speaking with them. I certainly didn’t think they were “getting away” with anything. I would just simply get frustrated that I seemed to be killing myself and others didn’t have that desire. What I have learned on the flip side of this is that there is a lot of private coaching that goes in to a class. Not everyone hears the suggestions or decisions made between a particular athlete and the coach. Sometimes you have an athlete who has very limited mobility in the hips, and the coach knows that, so she doesn’t stress (yet) over not hitting the bottom of a squat, but simply encourages the athlete to push a little deeper. Maybe the athlete who is “cutting reps” is new, and isn’t quite ready to tackle 50 kettlebell swings in the middle of a long WOD. Basically, what I have learned is that good coaches know the limitations and abilities of each of their athletes, and it’s not up to the participants to worry about it. Athletes need to worry about their own depth, their own count, their own training… and let the coach take care of the entire class.
Before I was a trainer, one of my coaches told me, “You’re not always going to get a PR.” I was a little taken aback. What? Isn’t that the point? I come in here every day hoping to be a little bit faster and a little bit stronger. I went home that night and really thought about what she meant. I understood it logically. I mean, you can’t always set a PR; there are certainly many factors involved. Maybe I was tired, sore, hungry. Maybe it’s a thousand degrees that day, or below zero and my cold hands couldn’t even wrap around the bar. There are definitely things that will get in the way of this. Nevertheless, I contemplated what she said and carried it with me. Now that I am a trainer, I get it. PRs are awesome. It’s proof that this crazy work we do day in and day out works. That we are not pushing ourselves for nothing. However, you are going to have days that you did the same amount of weight, with the same amount of reps, and you were slower. What you need to focus on is that maybe this time your form was perfect with each rep. Maybe this time you weren’t flying through the movements, but focusing on each aspect of the exercise and completing it with perfection. Your push-ups never got “snakey” and your power cleans weren’t actually muscle cleans. Your movements were flawless this time. THAT is a PR. That is what we should be happy about. So, yes, in CrossFit we chase the clock, but that is not our main concern. You can be faster without being better.
Safety needs to come first. Any coach who is worth their salt is first and foremost concerned with the safety of every single individual in their class. I have been a high school teacher for a very long time and was always worried about my students’ safety, but there is something really nerve wracking about standing in a class of athletes who are hanging from bar and throwing around weight, no matter how good they are or how long they have been doing it. When we come by and ask you to wrap your thumbs around the pull up bar, we are trying to keep you safe. I know it cuts down on your shoulder mobility a little bit, but it also helps keep you on the bar, rather than on the floor. If we ask you to move in the middle of your sit ups, it’s because there are weights dropping and it’s for your safety. If we take weight off your bar, even though you think you can push through it, it’s for your safety. We don’t change things up on you because we are trying to bother you, or mess you up, or slow you down. We are trying to keep every individual inside that gym safe. Just know we are trying to help.
Being on the other side of the gym, standing in the coach’s shoes can be a bit intimidating. It is important that each athlete knows that when you are surrounded by good coaches, you will become a better athlete.
By Amanda Stewart, CFL1, contributing writer