A friend of mine, who I introduced to the sport, has been doing Crossfit for over 6 months now. When I asked him how he liked climbing ropes it turned out that they hadn’t done that yet. Or never tried muscle-ups. And the weightlifting program had been iffy. The more I was digging the more I realized that picking the wrong affiliate could provide a fundamentally inferior experience of CrossFit for the athlete and may not have much improvement over their globo gym.
One advantage of being a CrossFit Nomad and dropping in boxes around the world is seeing what the best coaches do. I found that transformational for my own training. Here are a couple of best practices I found from various boxes:
1.Standardize parts of the workout
Great boxes develop standard routines for warmup, mobility or endurance training while keeping the main WOD varied. This allows athletes to develop good foundation skills in warmup and flexibility especially. Once stretching and self-maintenance becomes second nature, overall sports performance skyrockets as we know from professional sports.
2. Make programming personal
Each athlete has different capabilities which brought scaling to the WODs. It is equally important to make sure that athletes goals are well known by the coaches and get reviewed regularly. If they are here to build strength, don’t just sell them the special Oly clinic, but make sure they are not skipping the lifting WODs and progress on the key lifting benchmarks and PR. The corrective action is a joint responsibility between coach and athlete. There is a general illusion that overall GP will make you a better Olympic Weightlifter or Gymnast. Not if you only practice your C&J once a month in a random WOD.
3. Let them be black belts
Many great boxes that produce exceptional athletes adopt a level test for their members. You have blue bands and black bands, gladiators and firebreathers. It can be both challenging and motivating, but to borrow from the business world, Jack Welch always said the leader’s role is to make sure their people understand where they stand. We need to make sure members know it and then can step up accordingly. Social support which is core part of the CrossFit culture can be comfortably combined with social pressure to help everyone grow.
4. Never put the box’s interest ahead of the client
The majority of CF gyms succeed because they are built on the passion of their coaches to bring out the best in members. There are several boxes I visited where there was little personal attention paid to the athletes performing in bad form, ahead of their capabilities, me included. And some of these classes were massive. I respect gyms that put up the ‘Sold Out’ sign or waitlist and focus less on membership growth and more on the personal growth of the athletes.
5. Have a well balanced program
CrossFit certifications teach a rigorous programming discipline for the trainers at L1, CFE and L2 prep. Yet, when analyzing some boxes, their programming seems nothing like the guidance from HQ. Granted, it is hard. Gyms focus on filling available training schedule and seem to optimize less for balanced training needs of someone who drops in M/W/F like clockwork vs. others who vary schedules from 2 on 1 off to working out every day some weeks. I have seen some coaches make the athletes show them their training journals and make adjustments (substitutions) to the day’s WOD based on what the athlete has been doing the days before. It takes time and it makes a world of difference.
I believe that as the number of affiliates rapidly expands, the best boxes will easily rise to the top based on these and other best practices. As the switching cost from club to club is minimal, coaches that care more about the athlete, deliver more results and hold members accountable will win and attract more participants.