We’re all here to do one thing: get better. That applies as much for the CFDM coaching staff as it does for each athlete we work with. If I stop progressing as a coach that can directly stunt your development/improvement as an athlete. If you stop developing as an athlete that stunts my development as a coach. I will not be faced with new scenarios that I must help you improve upon. The pursuit of improvement can lead to one negative side effect: Over-coaching.
Coach initiated over-coaching:
This is when a coach feels the need to correct every movement in-efficiency they see right at the moment they see it, every time they see it. I did this a lot when I was just beginning to coach CrossFit. I was so over the top about every minute detail that most of the times the corrections I made weren’t sustainable and the athlete couldn’t feel them. You have to understand and feel what you were doing wrong to understand and feel what you are doing right once you have been corrected. A coach that is all over you every other part of the lift isn’t allowing you to feel your way through the lifts. If they are doing this, when adjustments are made they won’t be impactful and actually produce a change in movement pattern.
Diane Fu, a well-known weightlifting coach within the CrossFit community, won’t coach an athlete (beyond the fundamental basics) for the first month they train in her gym. This isn’t because she doesn’t care about them, she is letting them develop an understanding of the movement. They have to engrain and understand the fundamentals before higher level concepts are available to supplement their movement habits.
Athlete initiated over-coaching:
“Will you come watch this lift and tell me what I am doing wrong?”
It happens every day. It is promising that our athletes are so eager to improve but many times that questions is asked multiple times and the chances are if I haven’t come over to you before you asking me that I have assessed what you are doing without you knowing it. If I didn’t come say something to you, there is a reason for it. An example would be: I need you to build your feeling bank. I need you to continue to do what you are doing so that when I come over and make the change, the cue is meaningful and impactful. This happens more than you think. A lot of coaching can be compared to being a life guard. If I assess your movement and it is a train wreck that will get you hurt, then I will be there in a second to correct asap! It you show an understanding of the particular movement we are working on and there is a minor adjustment that could be made, we should seek to make the adjustment at the most opportune time. This is the moment when you are most likely to immediately understand and apply the adjustment. I spend the majority of my time coaching chasing those culminating moments. Those break-throughs are the ones of real value and what you should seek as an athlete.
As coaches we should seek to offer the highest of quality in our instruction not just relentless quantity.
As an athlete you should seek the cues/adjustments that are highly impactful. Look for the cues that are going to alter your entire way of thinking about and performing a movement. Don’t over concern yourself with insignificant things that are easily discarded and don’t lead to improvement.
Quality/Quantity is the goal. Working together to make it happen is what makes us both stronger.
My article released Friday discussed learning how to handle situations you will be faced with in CrossFit appropriately. Let’s continue down this path of enlightenment with the issue of injuries. I want to start this conversation with two points:
1. Injuries will happen. They can happen outside the gym, and they can happen inside the gym. That is right, I said it, THERE IS THE POTENTIAL TO GET HURT IN THE GYM. However, the health benefits way out way the risk in any gym injury scenario.
Think about it like this:
The health benefits of swimming and running are well known. You can drown in a pool and you can tear your achilles tendon/fracture your ankle on a nice summer jog. I don’t see people keeping themselves out of the pool/off the road because there is the POTENTIAL for injury.
2. When you are injured, ceasing all physical activity is not the answer. Your fitness doesn’t have to suffer because you are limited. It is at this time you NEED to come to the gym. I AM BEGGING YOU, I WANT YOU TO COME TO THE GYM. Any coach worth their salt is going to assess the injury and get excited because it is our opportunity to get creative.
As you can see, Kristen has a boot on her right foot. She got injured outside the gym. Kristen has kept coming to class and every time I see her we modify the workout to fit what she is able to do right now. Tonight’s workout was as follows:
As many reps as possible in 12 minutes of,
150 Double Unders
90 Wall Ball Shots
30 Power Snatches
Kristen’s workout looked like this:
As many reps as possible in 12 minutes of,
50 Wall Ball Sit-ups Shots
30 Supine Ring Rows/Ring Rows
There are many other ways I could have gone with this as a coach. If I wanted to keep the workout as true to form as possible I would have had her muscle snatch off the blocks. However, due to the massive press volume I put Kristen through last week I thought it best to balance the scale with some pulling. The point is, Kristen is not halted from continuing to work on her fitness.
Good job Kristen! You are an athlete that gets it. I truly appreciate your hard work.
I can think of other examples as well:
I remember my boy Josh Boyle out at CrossFit Waukee showing up bright and early every morning while his wrist was out of function so we could work together to come up with a workout that was equal parts challenging and do-able. I remember thinking the whole time how cool it was that he was continuing to push himself when others think their life must halt.
Another shout out to a CFDM Original Gangsta Ryan Burr. He has had an injured shoulder for some time now, and he continues to press. OH MY GOODNESS HE CONTINUES TO PRESS?!?!?!?! That’s right he does. He can’t go overhead, so we find ways to have him press parallel to the ground (push-ups, bench press, etc…)
The point is, these people very much fit the theme of this week. Sometimes, crap is going to happen and you might get injured. You do not have to quit challenging your fitness because of it.
I leave you with this quote from Travis Mash on a Barbell Shurgged podcast (world class power lifter and weight lifter & now coaches weightlifting professional athletes):
“Man, get out of here with your hurt wrist. Don’t come to me with your (expletive) hurt wrist and tell me you can’t do anything. If you come to me with a hurt wrist, your training just got fun cuz now we can get creative.”
(Not sure how accurate that is but I vividly remember the statement and thinking, “right on Travis, right on.”)
If you are doing this thing right, then you are learning lessons in the gym that you can apply to your life outside the gym. In the gym as well as in the outside world people like to say things like “you control your own destiny.” While that is true, it is true in this respect: most of time you don’t control the situation you’re thrust into but you do control how you respond to the situation.
CrossFit should be preparing you for the unknown and unknowable. It is notorious for thrusting skills/rep schemes/time domains/movements at you that you may not like. That doesn’t mean you shy away from these things. It means you step up, give it your best, and then at least the result will guarantee no regrets. Heck, if you do this, you might even find yourself doing things you never thought you could do.
That will be the best reward.
Here are some things that as an athlete you need to learn to react positively to:
Not being able to do something does not make it stupid.
Ring and bar muscle-ups. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard someone say “normal people can’t do those” or “I’ll never be able to do that, it’s stupid” I’d be rich. In reality, if you have been doing CrossFit for 1-2 years and are in proper shape it is your fault. Chris Spealler was asked at my CrossFit Competitor’s Course seminar what he thought of muscle-ups being the first movement in one of The Open workouts. Without hesitation he said, “If you have been doing CrossFit for 1-2 years and can’t do one it’s your fault. I have 8 and 9 year olds at my gym that can do them.” He wasn’t trying to be a prick, he was merely pointing out, that if you have been shown progressions/been told how to get there, then you just haven’t put in the time.
I have a high school athlete that trains here during the winter to stay in shape for his sports which are spring/summer sports. He and I have different personalities so we crash heads a lot. However, he works his tail off. Out of that hard work came respect. He respects my knowledge and I respect his work ethic. His goal was to do ring muscle-ups. He showed up every day, EVERY DAY, 30 minutes before class and worked on muscle-ups the whole time. The first thing he would do is hop on the rings and go for it, and every day I would give him a little different piece of information. He does them with ease now. It wasn’t a fancy progression that carried him into dip control and finally into lock out. It was hard work. He would not be denied therefore he wasn’t.
The things you can’t do aren’t stupid. Talk to a coach and have them set you on the right path. Once you have that, you just need to work harder.
The order a workout is performed in only matters if you let it.
In CrossFit, you will have to do movements that aren’t easy for you. If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you. The order of the movements is insignificant unless you make them significant. Think of life in baseball terms: 99 percent of the time you’re trying to hit, it’s a 100 mile per hour fastball coming at you. The ball is never set on a tee for you to smack it however you want. However, you still need to try to hit to the best of your abilities. If you refuse to step to the plate because the situation is not perfect, then you have let the situation control you, not the other way around.
For the love of all that is awesome don’t shy away from the things you struggle with.
Here is a novel idea: work on them with a tenacity that exceeds the tenacity with which you do the things you are good at. You might just find yourself turning weaknesses into strength.
I will be posting videos throughout the next week with more scenarios like this and discussing how to better react to the things that are thrust your way.
1. How did you first get involved in CrossFit Des Moines and how long have you been working out here?
I work with Andy Dobbins who told me about CrossFit Des Moines but never pushed it on me. I was looking for somewhere to work out and Andy told me to try it for a week. When I first showed up the staff and other members made me very comfortable. The positive atmosphere and constant encouragement make CFDSM the best gym around. I have been here for 7 months.
My biggest accomplishments would be losing 35 pounds. More important than the weight loss is that I am starting to become healthy.
My goals have always been to become healthy. I had not worked out for so long that I had to change my lifestyle. I want to continue to improve my fitness, work towards the prescribed workouts, and continue to improve my health.
4. What are your favorite and least favorite movements?
I don’t know that I have a favorite movement but my favorite aspect of CFDSM is the constant variety. If I have to pick a least favorite it would be running. Running has never been one of my favorite things to do.
5. What would you tell someone thinking about giving CFDM a try?
I always tell people that this is the friendliest and most positive place you could ever come to for a workout. The coaching staff will always help you with whatever you need and it is always in a positive way. The people you get to work out with are friendly and helpful also.
6. Explain what your time at CrossFit Des Moines has meant to you.
CrossFit Des Moines has changed my life. I am slowly becoming healthier, my family loves the changes in look and attitude, and I have so much more energy. I am also able to deal with the stresses in my life much better now.
Thank you for this honor. I have a great deal of respect for CrossFit Des Moines, the owners and coaching staff.