What makes a CrossFit gym special? Is it a huge, graffiti logo painted on the wall? Is it fancy equipment? Is it a refrigerator full of fancy drinks? Or is it a bunch of WOD videos on YouTube?
The one thing that truly sets a gym apart is it’s coaching. Or should I say, the quality of the coaching. Everyone needs it regardless of your current fitness level or athletic abilities. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been training or whether or not you were the first member of a gym. You need coaching as much as you need to have an open mind. As a matter of fact, the more athletic and skilled you are, the more coaching you need.
Without using too broad of a brush, it’s my feeling that one can separate most fitness coaches into two categories: teachers and cheerleaders. Teaching correct mechanics, techniques, and sequences—and working to improve the mobility and flexibility of an athlete—are examples of being coached. Getting an athlete through the last rep of a tough workout is the role of a cheerleader. Yes, a coach should provide encouragement, motivation, and support. But the primary role of a performance-based coach should be the continual moderation of a client’s progress and health. It’s also my opinion that the divide between these two camps grows wider every weekend.
Achieving elite fitness is analogous to achieving a black belt in a martial art. It takes years to achieve elite status across the ten general physical characteristics of fitness as well as broad time/modal domains. Having an experienced coach is required to attain such levels and goals.
When you walk into an established CrossFit facility where knowledgeable and experienced coaches are on staff, it’s immediately apparent what you’re getting into. As a beginner, there should be some type of ongoing program designed for you to properly learn the movements. All of your previous history should be assessed and recorded. For example, if you have a previous injury, this should be something discussed and evaluated. It really comes down to coaching knowledge.
The importance of having someone who has the visual and verbal wisdom—a good reputable coach—is three-fold:
1) Safety: Will the coach minimize risk of injury?
2) Efficacy: Are the methods of coaching effective?
3) Efficiency: How long will it take to realize my goals through this coaching?
All three elements are crucial to CrossFit. Without one, you’re not realizing your true potential. Without an experienced and knowledgeable CrossFit trainer and coach, achieving elite fitness can be a drawn-out struggle.
Coaches, your first priority is to teach athletes how to live a healthy lifestyle – how to eat right, how to recover properly, how to warm up properly, and how to correctly perform the exercises used in their training program. On the heels of this is our responsibility to the next generation of coaches we influence and mentor. We must lead by example and not rest on our laurels.
A good coach believes in progressive steps and understands that technique trumps all. An experienced coach communicates with the athlete – expectations are clear, injuries are prevented, and trust is developed. An inquisitive coach never stops learning about the machine we call the human body.
Without experienced and thorough coaching, there can be no elite fitness. And without a humble, respectable, open mind, you will never grow as a person. So find a space that offers the opportunity for both and you’ll soon realize your true athletic potential.