Posts Tagged ‘Coach’

Unfortunately, I’m not close friends with any Professional Athletes. I say unfortunately because I think it would be sweet if one of my best friends was a Major League Baseball player who’d fly his crew all around the country to hang out and be obnoxious fans at his games. (Ok, I just wish I was in an entourage.) ANYWAYS, I bring that up because while most of us were never pro stars, a lot of us played sports throughout most of our childhood. Some of us were pretty good, too!

Now I’m not saying that it’s cool to act like Uncle Rico and be stuck back in your glory days, but I do think that a lot of us have some really fun stories to share about our athletic accomplishments growing up. In fact, it’d probably be fun to share some of those stories with your friends over a beer (or a Kill Cliff…..) to give a bit more insight as to what your past was like. In a sport like CrossFit, I’ve also found that experience in certain sports can sometimes shed light onto a person’s ability to be more successful at exercise racing. For example, wrestlers, swimmers, and hockey players have a strange ability to almost “black out” during a workout and push harder than a lot of other people. Football and rugby players often times have residual freak strength from when they back squatted over 500lbs and cleaned well over 300lbs, even though it may have been over 10-15 years ago. Soccer and baseball players are frequently still fairly explosive and handle body-weight movements really well. Runners… well runners still only run well. (Just kidding, runners! You’re good at other things, too.)

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I bring this up because as a coach I come in contact with people who join a CrossFit gym, and after a lifetime of being good at whatever sport they played, they’re humbled every single day. This usually leads to one of a few different paths for the athlete to take.

Some people are discouraged and don’t want to go back to the gym because they’re “embarrassed at how badly” they feel they did. They didn’t use a lot of weight, had to stop and rest a lot, felt like they were the worst athlete in the class, or woke up unbelievably sore. First of all, those people need to know that CrossFit is really hard. For everyone. Every day. That’s one of the first things I ever heard about the program. “It doesn’t ever get easier. You just get stronger or move faster.” Yet we all come back time and time again. The way to get better at this stuff is to keep showing up! Throw those athletic shoes in your bag and head back to the gym tomorrow. You’ve got this!

Others refuse to “accept” their current level of athletic ability and push too hard, too soon. Ok Frank, I understand you used to hit .400 and throw a 96 mile-per-hour fast-ball. News flash, sport… that was 25 years ago, you were 30 pounds lighter, and didn’t sit behind a desk for 10 hours every day. No matter how many times a coach tries to work with them, they always “have to go Rx,” even if it means finishing last in the workout every single day, or failing to meet full range of motion on barbell lifts. If this is you, take it easy. Go light on the barbell one day, reduce the number of reps to finish the workout a little faster, slow down your reps to make sure you’re doing them right. Your body, and your coach, will thank you.

Another group is overtly aware of their athletic past, yet realizes that while they may be more athletic than most, the brakes still need to be pumped a little bit to stay safe. Being able to lift something with bad technique and potentially getting hurt doesn’t outweigh the benefits of hitting a “CrossFit PR” for a given movement. They remember that in college they ran a 4:53 mile, but are plenty satisfied with the 6:04 they just ran last week. These individuals understand that most of use are working out to eat more of what we want, and to look better naked. Thanks for being smart!

Why would sharing your information about your athletic past (and history of injuries while you’re at it) benefit you in CrossFit? It’s not to brag about what you used to do or get upset that you’re no longer at the level you may have once been. It’s to equip your coaches with tools they can use to best help you. In a class of 20 people, I usually will have a different way of coaching each person. If one athlete has never played a sport in their life and the other is a former National Champion, the cues and encouragement given to each of them might be a little bit different. I certainly don’t think it’ll negatively impact your performance in the gym at all. So speak up, share your story, and be proud. Not even of where you’ve been, but of where you are right now. In the gym, trying to make yourself better. I know I’m proud of you!

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Something pretty funny happened last week during a personal training session with one of my clients. They were in the middle of a workout, and like a lot of us do when we’re tired, they miscounted reps of one movement before moving onto the next. Conveniently, it was the movement they enjoy performing the least. “Whoa, nice try. Three more,” I said with a smile on my face. “No way, that was 10!” they replied back to me, obviously unimpressed with my challenge. “We’re in a gym with no one else around. I’m literally watching you work out and counting your reps for you. I’m pretty sure I know how to count to 10,” is the only thing I could think to say. Just waiting for the witty response I knew was coming next, they hit me with, “I guess you’re right. Do trainers even know how to count past 15? I feel like you’re all just glorified counters!” We both laughed, they finished the three reps, and we continued the session.

I’ve been a full-time personal trainer, athletic coach, health and fitness professional (or whatever you want to call what I do) for over half of a decade, and I have been doing some combination of all of those things part time for most of my life. Yet when I’m asked what I do for a living, I still don’t really know how to respond. When I say personal trainer the image of a person texting and sipping on a Big Gulp while standing next to their client who is “warming up” on a treadmill with a 20 minute jog for the first third of their hour-long session is the what pops into my brain, so I don’t love saying that. But, it IS what I am, right?

I remember sitting in my high school Psychology class with Mr. Will, and thinking to myself, “People are awesome!” Every single person we come in contact with in the world is a completely unique individual. With their own beliefs, past, goals, and quirks. And in my line of work, I get to come into contact with people from so many walks of life. I liked the subject so much that I ended up majoring and getting a Psych degree in college. It’s also one of the best parts of my job today! In one class there’ll be a high school sophomore tripping over their own legs as their body goes through some major changes, a stay-at-home dad coming to terms with not having a 9-5 because his wife is the primary bread winner and their kids love having him home, a retired couple that chose to improve their health and reconnect through fitness, and the CEO who has to block out an hour on their calendar in order to find time to work out.

While it may sometimes seem like being a personal trainer is just reading words on a white board and barking orders at paying customers, I’ve always viewed it as much more than that. It’s being given the privilege to help shape the moods and lives of the people I work with. Have a stressful day at work? Want to celebrate fitting into that dress for the first time in years? Need to let off some steam after a fight with a significant other? Earning the beers you’re going to have after work tomorrow? I’m tasked with navigating the “right now” of every person I train, every single time I see them, and understanding that tomorrow that person could be in a completely different head space. The best part is that I absolutely cherish the responsibility. So yeah, I’m “just a personal trainer,” but it’s so much more than that to me, and I wouldn’t change it for the world!

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Here’s last week’s recap and my goals for the upcoming week. Not a particularly successful week by “bullet point” standards, but it happens.

Last week:

  • Fitness
    • It wasn’t a particularly great week of training for me as I was “forced” to take an extra rest day because of an insane work schedule, but it’s alright. I moved when I could, and sometimes that needs to be good enough!
    • If I had to pick one thing, it’d be not missing a snatch up to 200lbs on Wednesday, but that’s really it.
    • The first workout of the 2018 CrossFit Games Open is in the books! I don’t think I could have done much better, and the energy around the internets will be crazy for the next four weeks. Good luck to everyone competing!
  • Sleep was alright, but certainly not great. I need to be more consistent.
  • My busy weekend of training clients didn’t allow me to get to the drywall in the garage. But due to a really successful Saturday of coaching, I added a class to train junior athletes to my weekly schedule, so that’s really positive!

This week:

  • I plan to record my strategy video for the second workout of the 2018 CrossFit Games Open. I got some really positive feedback from people on the one last week, and that always makes me happy!
  • I reflected on the goals that I set for February earlier today, and believe I hit NONE of them! It’s so crazy to realize how quickly time flies. Since this is the last week of the month, I plan to spend some time thinking about how to set more realistic short term goals for myself. Long term goals are important, but in the few days and weeks in front of my face, I think it’s possible to set mini milestones to help keep encouraging progress.

Alright, your turn. What’s going on with all of you?

The pic of the week comes from a concert we saw at the Fox Theater in Boulder, CO. The DJ’s name is Defunk, and if you’ve never heard him before, you should check out his Defunk Presents “The Funk Trunk Mixes” on Soundcloud. They’re great!

“YOU DID IT!!” I yelled, as she took the goggles off of her head, revealing the largest smile I had seen on someone’s face in a while. I was excited, too!

Rachael had just swam the entire length of the pool for the first time in her life without help. She is also 39 years old and up until a month ago, couldn’t even get close to the side of the pool without her heart rate going through the roof and her body tensing up. However, her 6 year old daughter has been taking swim lessons and “wanted mommy to play” in the pool with her on the weekends. Knowing that her little girl would soon be jumping off of the diving board in the deep end, she decided that the time had come to face her own fears and learn how to swim so they could swim together.

Stories like this are not at all uncommon. In fact, in my twenty-plus years of teaching individuals how to swim, I hear more and more adults say they share perspectives like this all the time. “I avoid beach vacations with my family because I’m scared to go in the ocean.” “My partner never wants to go tubing at the lake because she’s scared of not being able to touch the bottom.” “I had a really bad experience as a kid and almost drowned, haven’t recovered since.”

On top of being an incredibly effective full body workout and a great low impact form of exercise, swimming is also a survival skill. The ability to safely keep oneself afloat in water should be critical for all adults.

Motivated by wanting to help others learn and improve this critical ability, a few years ago I hosted my first “Swim Better Now” series, and it was a huge success. Since then, I’ve taken on dozens of new athletes in the pool; some were triathletes looking to improve their efficiency for long distance swims, but most were adults simply looking to gain confidence in the water.

Since so many people have been asking me to do them again, I’m bringing them back!

Each week of the “Smashby Training’s: Swim Better Now” Clinic will include practice sessions of up to three varying ability levels: Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced. A more detailed description of these three courses can be found below.

The criteria for the Intermediate Course is as follows:

  • Swimmer should be able to complete 100 yards (or 4 lengths) comfortably without stopping
  • A basic understanding of proper breathing technique (either to one side or both) should be established
  • Athlete can efficiently tread water or float safely in the deep end of the pool when tired without touching the wall or lane ropes
  • For athletes who do not yet meet these criteria listed, the Beginner Course option should be selected. Athletes who easily meet or exceed the requirements for the Intermediate Course should register for the Advanced Course option.

Course objectives include:

Beginner Course

  • Basic Water Safety (how to keep oneself afloat safely in deep water)
  • Introduction of proper stroke timing of arms, legs, and breathing (for freestyle stroke)
  • Proper functional use of swimming equipment such as Kick Board and Pull Buoy

Intermediate Course

  • Increased efficiency of stroke technique and timing of breathing for freestyle stroke
  • Skills and drills using swimming equipment (Kick Board and Pull Buoy)
  • As requested, introduction to flip turn technique and additional strokes (backstroke, breast stroke, butterfly)

Advanced Course

  • Fine-tuning of freestyle stroke mechanics
  • Advanced speed, flip turn and technique drills
  • Technique work on additional strokes (backstroke, breast stroke, butterfly)
    Athletes in this group may also be looking to compete in an aquatic event (triathlon, swim meet, etc.)

Are you interested in attending one of these clinics? Here’s what you need to know:

Who should attend? Anyone who wants to improve their swimming

What are you signing up for exactly? One hour swimming clinic, programming and athletes grouped by ability level

Where will clinics be held? The Golden Community Center

When will these happen? Sunday mornings, date(s) to be determined based on interest (hoping for Mid-March)

PLEASE comment on this post, or email tomashbytraining@gmail.com if you’re interested in attending, along with which course level is best for you.

Pass along the word to anyone you know who might benefit from these sessions as well, please.

I hope to see you all soon!

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First of all, I’m not sure if I’ve ever written the word don’ts before, but it looks weird!

Ok, back to the focus of the post: Accessory Work

If you are an athlete that steps foot into a CrossFit gym on a regular basis, odds are that there are three to four-hundred things you’d like to improve to become a better athlete. Identifying some, or all, of those things typically leads athletes down one of three paths.

Path Number One

“That’s way too many things to try and improve… therefore, I shall choose to improve none of them!”

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Path Number Two

“I want to get better at Handstand Push-Ups. My legs need to get stronger. If I can improve my engine, I’ll get more rounds in workouts. With more flexible ankles, my rowing will get better. I want to get a PR on Murph next year. But I’d also like to beat my Fran time. ROM WOD 8 days per week will help me. I think I want to go that Double-Under clinic next weekend.” ~ The consecutive thoughts of one person

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Yes, there is a laundry list of things we can all improve upon, but trying to attack too much at once is unrealistic and really not smart. Why, you ask? Because some people (yes, I’m talking to you) will spend 30 minutes after class every day working on Muscle-Ups. Thirty minutes. Hanging and swinging from rings or a bar. After they’re tired from a workout. Not only will that likely lead to tearing hands, but trying to be explosive and technically precise after 60 minutes of torture (excuse me, I mean intense physical exertion) isn’t usually the best plan.

Path Number Three

Be a planner. Pick a few things you’d like to start improving. Find a person, or people, who can help you create an intelligent training plan or progression. If applicable, have someone who can watch you practice, or if you video your attempts, those who can give you constructive feedback. Too often “we don’t know what we don’t know,” and having a more experienced person in your corner can help foster huge breakthroughs. After a few weeks, note your progress on those items in your training log (yay, progress!) and create a new list!

Now, I’ve got Good News and Bad News:

The Good News is that in our sport of CrossFit, you LITERALLY have an ENDLESS list of things you can choose to improve at any given moment.

The Bad News, is that you’ll never be good at ALL of it. So don’t even try.

But, really, that’s also still the Good News! I’m telling you that (for most people in nearly every circumstance) you can work on a single skill foreverrrr, and still be able to keep improving over time! That is so awesome. Most things that are worth keeping don’t happen overnight, either.

If there’s anything I can do to help you on your journey, let me know. Set realistic goals. Have a plan. And actually try your best to enjoy the journey. If all goes well, we’ll be on it for a long time!

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This morning I had the opportunity to attend an all-women’s CrossFit competition; the 6th Annual Women’s WOD Jam, at CrossFit Profectus. It was made up of teams of two, completing 4 workouts each over the course of the day. Every time I walk away from one of these competitions, I’m always so fired up! People push through pain in ways they never thought possible, accomplish things they never imagined, and cheer on their friends (new and old) through the same suffering they just experienced themselves. There aren’t many sports where most competing athletes legitimately care about and support one another. CrossFit is one of those sports.

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While I’ve been to dozens of events like this (as spectator, judge, coach, and athlete), yesterday I realized something pretty sweet about them. The 360 degree perspective and range of emotions for people in the room is incredible:

The Spectator: (Critical to the energy at the event)

  • They’re typically friends and family of the competing athletes, and are there to cheer them on
  • Quickly, they become supporters of all athletes out on the floor, even ones they don’t know
  • Almost always experience moments that leave them in awe
  • They leave inspired, ready to get back into the gym to better themselves

The Judge: (Critical to the integrity and organization of the event)

  • They’re typically coaches and members at the gym who want to help the event run smoothly
  • Upholding the standard of competition and encouraging others makes me feel good
  • Almost always experience moments that leave them in awe
  • They leave inspired, ready to get back into the gym to better themselves

The Coach: (Critical to ensure athletes don’t lose their minds at the event)

  • They’re typically folks who have at least some experience competing themselves, and love helping others reach their full potential
  • Learn more about their athletes, how they perform under pressure, and identify new cues and ways of communicating with them
  • Almost always experience moments that leave them in awe
  • They leave inspired, ready to get back into the gym to better themselves and their athletes

The Athlete: (Critical in order to throw a fun event)

  • There is no typical athlete, which is my favorite part! Depending on the event, there are first-timers just looking to have fun, those who treat CrossFit as a part time job and train HARD all the time, and everyone in between.
  • Immediately bond with those around them to push and encourage one another
  • Almost always experience moments that leave them in awe
  • They leave inspired, ready to get back into the gym to better themselves

Do you see a pattern there? Those are all POSITIVE outcomes! Knowing that, if you’ve always wanted to go spectate but didn’t have the courage, go to an event near you. If you have wanted to try being a judge, do it. If you’re a coach who has wanted to prepare an athlete for an event, they’re out there looking for coaches, I promise. And if you’ve always been too nervous to sign up for an event but wanted to, let me know. I’ll get you fired up enough to do it. There are rookie/first-timer competitions all over the place! In my optimistic brain, if approached properly, there is literally nothing negative associated with being in any of those groups at a CrossFit competition. Well… except for the soreness afterwards for the athletes. That always sucks!

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Ladies of the Women’s WOD Jam: Thank you for the incredible display of strength and power yesterday. The energy in the room was incredible, and I’m so proud of all of you!

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Before I coach a class, I usually ask a question of the day to the people in attendance. In the past, I thought that was kind of a cheesy thing to do (which maybe it is), but as I get to work with the same athletes more over time, it really helps to paint a more complete picture of who they are as people. For example, if someone is always working on the weekends, maybe they’re in a field like medicine or law enforcement. That’s a fun detail for me to know about them. If they’re proud of a particular PR they had, or are interested in improving a certain movement, I can congratulate them or offer to help them get better. If I ask if anyone has seen a good movie lately, there might be four of five great suggestions tossed out. Plus, in a world where a CrossFit gym can feel more like an assembly line at times (get in, warm up, work out, … NEXT!), it’s nice to take 3-4 minutes to interact on a more human level with each other!

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There are fun things that can be learned by asking silly questions before a class, but it also opens the door to something potentially more meaningful. Last week I asked the class to share something that they are grateful for with one another. Some answers were fairly simple, such as being “thankful for not needing to set an alarm on the weekend.” Others got a bit more personal with people being thankful for “the health of my family and close friends.” Everywhere we look, “experts,” psychologists, and gurus are telling us that showing gratitude is one of the most important things you can do in order to move towards living your best life. And while there are a lot of “advice fads” out there, when time passes and the same strategies keep proving to be effective, maybe they’re not a fad after all… maybe they just work. (Sound familiar? What up, CrossFit!)

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The answers I heard last week made me think that the gratitude question may become a staple in my Friday classes. Here’s part of the reason why. It’s so easy to get caught up in how busy life is these days. When someone asks how you are, the standard “Fine, and you?” is the path of least resistance for most of us! If for 20 seconds on one day, I can have people stop and think about A SINGLE THING that they’re grateful for… that moment has the potential to reshape the course of their day… maybe their week! If I’m having a pity party for myself and stop to think about how lucky I am to have a roof over my head and food on the table, maybe missing a stupid lift in a workout won’t seem so bad. If I remember that I was able to help someone do their first rope climb, maybe I’ll stop being such a baby about the fact that I forgot to pack a breakfast burrito with me that morning. Yes, I can be petty and dramatic over stupid things, but stopping to smell the roses every once in a while can be powerful. If you’re reading this blog, odds are your life is SO good compared to (literally) millions of people in the world. My hope, is that by offering a few seconds to reflect on something that we’re appreciative to have, we can all be just a little bit happier.
Today, I’m thankful that I got to see so many faces light up in the gym when people exceeded their own expectations! That’s definitely one of the best parts of my job! So, I appreciate all of you!

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I’m not sure why, but for some reason I’ve always had a really strong opinion as to whether or not people should have programming written specifically for them. For the purposes of this post, let me be clear and explain my definition of Personalized Programming. I am not defining it as “How-To” progressions for certain advanced movements. If someone wants to learn how do their first pull-up, muscle up, handstand push-up, double-under, etc, there are a plethora of guides out there to help. Those are helpful and appropriate for anyone who wants to get better! Personalized Programming means exactly that. It could include warm-ups, strength cycles, extra workouts, multiple sets of accessory work, etc. A full suite of activities to do in order to help you attain and surpass whatever goals you’ve set for yourself.

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A lot of people who pay for this service still belong at a CrossFit gym. These athletes follow their gym’s programming when they take class, and then add in their Personalized work before or after class, or on their rest days. The reason I feel so strongly about not mixing and matching, is because a very common way of getting hurt is by overdoing it. If you train at a good gym, there should be a progression found in your training. Micro and Macro cycles, a gymnastics-focused wave versus a strength block. If an athlete comes in and throws in 3 extra days of heavy back squats when their gym is on a rest week before re-testing a 1 rep max, can you see how mixing and matching could lead to injury?

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In order to define fitness, CrossFit categorized human performance into 10 Physical Skills. They are:

  1. Cardiovascular/respiratory endurance – The ability of body systems to gather, process, and deliver oxygen.
  2. Stamina – The ability of body systems to process, deliver, store, and utilize energy.
  3. Strength – The ability of a muscular unit, or combination of muscular units, to apply force.
  4. Flexibility – the ability to maximize the range of motion at a given joint.
  5. Power – The ability of a muscular unit, or combination of muscular units, to apply maximum force in minimum time.
  6. Speed – The ability to minimize the time cycle of a repeated movement.
  7. Coordination – The ability to combine several distinct movement patterns into a singular distinct movement.
  8. Agility – The ability to minimize transition time from one movement pattern to another.
  9. Balance – The ability to control the placement of the bodies center of gravity in relation to its support base.
  10. Accuracy – The ability to control movement in a given direction or at a given intensity.

The entire CrossFit methodology is founded upon a concept that an athlete is only as strong as their weakest link out of those 10 movements. Therefore, if you’re really strong but not great with balance, you’ve got a glaring error in your fitness. The example I always remember hearing included two male athletes; one who could deadlift 500lbs but couldn’t jog a mile without stopping, and the other could run a sub-5 minute mile, but couldn’t deadlift twice his body weight. The purpose of the comparison was to say that just because someone may have been incredible at one thing, their deficiency in another thing could severely impact their overall effectiveness as an athlete. In CrossFit, the goal is to be more of a jack of all trades and a master of none. That way, no matter what is thrown at you (the unknown and the unknowable), you’d be more adequately prepared to handle it successfully. (Click here to read the incredible “What is Fitness” article that essentially serves as the Manifesto of the entire program)

Why bring in all of this CrossFit history if I’m writing a post about personalized programming? It’s simple, really. If people are trying to get better at CrossFit, and CrossFit says, “Do everything, all the time, and keep trying new things,” but people spend hours and hours focusing on one specific thing instead, doesn’t that seem kind of counter-intuitive? As I’ve said many times before, most people who are at the gym are there simply to get in better shape. That demographic will benefit just fine from belonging to a gym that has a decent idea of how to make people more fit. In my opinion, they do not require personalized programming.

So which groups of people should devote the extra time and money towards having something written specifically for them? I’ve created a partial list below:

  1. Competitors– CrossFit claims to be the physical fitness program that “specializes in not specializing.” That means you don’t really need to focus your efforts on any one thing in particular because at a good gym, over time you’ll do almost everything on a rotating basis. If you’re training specifically to compete in something, however, you’ll need to hone in on certain areas that you’ll likely see in competition. If you can’t perform the Olympic Lifts without some degree of efficiency, you’re not going to do well. Be clear of the distinction here: Competitive CrossFit athletes ARE specializing in a certain type of fitness, so they will benefit from personalized programming. Training for an Olympic Weightlifting or Strongman event? I completely support getting programming made just for you! In those cases, you’ll need it!
  2. Looking for Subject Matter Expert– You might love your gym’s regular class programming, but you’ve always wanted to improve your running technique or learn how to swim. If there isn’t someone around who can teach you those skills, of course it makes sense to find a professional somewhere else who can.
  3. Trust in a coach– Maybe someone who used to coach at your gym left but they know you really well. Perhaps a famous athlete you’ve always loved and followed posted online about offering customized plans just for you. There is nothing wrong with turning to people you know and trust to help make you better. That’s why we live in such a great time. We can be connected with people all over the world! 
  4. People training on their own– If you are paying for a program made just for you, and that’s the only thing you follow on a regular basis, that now becomes your only training. In this scenario, you’re less likely to overdo it. This option is great.
  5. Just for fun– I’ve written an 8 week rowing plan for someone who just liked rowing and wanted to get better. I’ve worked 1:1 with an athlete for 4 weeks who just wanted to learn how to do a muscle-up. You don’t need a reason to explain why you want to get better at something. I just don’t ever want it to lead to injury. If you’ve got time and money to follow a plan, more power to you!

Who do I think should NOT invest in Personalized Programming?

  1. Beginner athletes– A lot of gyms have a specific “On Ramp” program where they run new members through a basic overview of things they could experience in a given class. Once that’s done, give yourself a few months (years?) of following the daily workouts provided by your gym. Your average “Weekend Warrior” won’t need to work out for more than 4-5 hours per week at a good gym to get in better shape. Most people don’t need much more than  that! When the time comes that you decide your goals are more specific, and your gym isn’t providing resources to help you grow, then you can look for custom programs.
  2. Athletes who are going to overdo it– I understand you want to get better. That’s what’s crazy about this sport of ours. There are SO MANY THINGS we want to improve on, all the time. The good news in all of this, is that with good coaching, you can create a list of goals, and then set aside a reasonable action plan to attack them one at a time. Just don’t go to your home gym four times per week, try to do every workout you see Ben Smith do with your friends, follow Jason Khalipa’s EMOM of the day, attend every skills seminar your gym hosts, and compete every other weekend. It’s too much!

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When it comes to Personalized Programming, there’s also a big difference between in-person versus remote coaching. Thousands of “online coaches” offer training plans that are a one-size fits all offering. The reason I don’t like those as much is that it implies a few things. First, that the coach writing the programming understands the needs of the athlete following it. If I send the same plan to 10 people looking to get better at 10 different skills, there are going to be some things help you, and others that might not. Make sure that if you don’t have a set of eyes on you during your training, that you’ve got another way to ensure you’re moving properly and not establishing bad habits.

Most of my personal training clients who I don’t see every day either send me videos of their more technical movements so I can review them and provide feedback, or schedule in-person training once per week, or a few times per month to cover some more advanced movements with a coach present. That’s the way I prefer to do it, at least! If they are 100% remote clients, where I never see them, I just make sure the programming is safer for them to do on their own. If careful attention is paid to results, and the lines of communication are open between coach and athlete, everyone is likely to be ok.

To conclude the longest post in the world, let’s recap:

Personalized Programming is great and can help athletes everywhere. It can certainly help take performance to a new level if done properly. I am also NOT bashing companies and coaches who offer Personalized Programming to others. I am specifically referring to athletes who belong at one gym, and feel the need to do more and more and more to try and improve. More is not always better. Especially if there’s not specific reason for doing more, such as an upcoming competition.

Too many people think they need something special, when all they need is time to get better at things. It takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to become a “master” at something, remember that. If there was a magic pill or a proven short cut, I promise you more women would snatch 250lbs and more men would have sub-1:30 Fran times!

In the event that someone thinks they need more volume, the first thing I’ll typically suggest to them is to do slower volume. Moving slower and with more of a focus on technique and full range of motion can help speed up progress a lot more than rushing through more. (Read more about my philosophy on that here, if you’re interested.)

Be patient. This CrossFit thing is a marathon, not a sprint. Find coaches and training partners who can help you, but also keep your ambition in check. If you’re injured you can’t train, and nobody has time for that!

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“Do as I say, not as I do” is a saying that is often associated with negative scenarios. A kid gets yelled at by their parents for saying a bad word, that they learned from hearing their parents say in the first place. A prosecutor being arrested for some heinous crime that he fought against for years. *Insert the story of any current politician resigning due to reason x, y, or z* You get the point.

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In personal training and coaching, however, I feel it’s much more common to encounter this situation. Some clients are elite-level athletes that are able to do things that their trainer could have never dreamed of doing themselves. Other coaches are past their own athletic prime, but have an incredible understanding of human performance. And then there’s the coaches who were never amazing athletes by their own right, but are simply incredible educators and motivators.

My old friend, Kevin Ogar (Owner of CrossFit Watchtower), always said that the best coaches were the second-tier athletes. Top tier athletes were typically so good, and so genetically gifted, that it would be hard for them to explain what comes so natural for them to others. Second tier athletes became good at their sport or craft because of years of hard work. Since they got to where they were through trial and error over time, they would often be more effective in helping others with progressions, and offering support through their trials and tribulations.

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I had a conversation with a personal trainer last night who explained that he would never ask his clients to perform something he couldn’t do himself. Now, I understand the concept of what he was trying to say. Be responsible, don’t create absurd movements or circuits for your athletes that could get them hurt (which happens a lot in our industry), and so on. But I fundamentally disagree with him. In my opinion, being an effective coach means training and empowering others to perform to THEIR full potential safely. Not your own.

For example, in CrossFit the Strict Ring Muscle-Up is considered a fairly advanced movement.  I know dozens of trainers who aren’t able to this movement themselves. Does that mean that they should never teach others to do them, as long the movement and progressions are taught safely? To me, the answer is obvious.

This also brings the up to question of the physical appearance of the trainers, themselves. Some people love looking at trainers who are specimens of human perfection! Six pack abs, a booty strong enough to bounce a quarter ten feet in the air, arms or legs the size of tree trunks. But does the body of a trainer have anything to do with their ability to help others? I don’t think it does. Of course, there’s a distinction between a coach who is 80lbs overweight and eats fast food every day and someone who works out regularly and is still “normal person” healthy. I’m not suggesting that anyone wants to be coached by someone who has “really let themselves go,” merely saying that there isn’t necessarily a correlation between physique and effectiveness.

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I know there’s no Right or Wrong answer to this topic, but I think it’s a really interesting one to discuss! Do you feel it’s important that trainers are able to do all of the things they ask of their clients? Do coaches need to look a certain way in order to be effective or credible? Let me know!

I’ve been a full-time personal trainer and coach for over half of a decade. My reason for remaining in this profession all this time is that working with someone and having them improve is the most rewarding feeling in the world to me. When I lead a class, I convince myself that every single person in that group is putting their trust in me to help them get better. Sounds dramatic when I see it written down, but it’s true.

At gyms like the ones where I work, all around the world most athletes show up, do what’s on the board, then leave. Fitness isn’t much more than that to them. But on either end of the spectrum from those athletes lie two groups that I lose sleep over sometimes! These three groups have led me to create “Smashby’s Athlete Bell Curve“:

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Middle of the Bell Curve: MOST”

Most people live here. These athletes are in the gym for fitness and fun. They try their best to make it in 3-5 days per week, love seeing friends, blowing off some steam, and hope to see incremental improvements (see also: Gainz) over time.

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Right side of the Bell Curve: HELP

Typically these are newer members at the gym, or just shy people in general. They want to get better, want coaching, and would love for you to check out their technique and give them feedback. They just don’t feel comfortable asking! Asking “which one is a hang power clean again” for the 10th time embarrasses them, but maybe it was never explained to them in terms they were able to understand in the first place. Making breakthroughs with this group is my favorite. As athletes become more confident asking for help, they usually start to improve faster, and quickly join their friends in the middle of the curve.

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Left side of the Bell Curve: NOPE”

Thankfully, this is the group work with least of all, but it can still be frustrating to think about. These athletes just don’t like you.  Maybe you made them feel stupid one time a few months ago, maybe you have an annoying laugh, or maybe they don’t like going to your classes because you have horrible taste in music. Maybe your coaching style doesn’t work for them, or maybe they just don’t like who you are as a human being. They are simply not impressed. Sometimes, you’ll never be able to create a meaningful relationship with these individuals. I still try, though!

When all three types of athletes are shown together, “Smashby’s Athlete Bell Curve” is the result!

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There’s nothing wrong with being in any of these groups. While I wish I was able to connect with and help 100% of the athletes I come in contact with, that’s not how the world works. Just know that my goal is to live in that middle space where:

  • People enjoy working with me
  • Athletes feel like I’m there to help them
  • No one ever feels attacked, picked on, or criticized
  • I’m equipped with tools to actually add value in a meaningful way

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As a coach, it’s important to know your audience and to tailor your approach to each person individually. In a class of twenty athletes, you may need to exercise twenty different coaching styles. Effective communication should be the primary goal in order to strive for success; both in the gym, and everywhere else.

Don’t spend years coaching the same way. Learn new cues, try new approaches, and check to see if what you’re saying actually registers with people. Saying the same thing in a slightly different way can create a major breakthrough for someone. Keeping the lines of communication open and regularly checking in with your athletes not only gives you a current update of who you’re working with, it can also show people that you actually care. While we’re personal trainers, we’re also a special kind of therapist! Sometimes, just showing someone that you care about them is enough to make their day.

Our most important job is keeping our athletes as safe as possible. If we’re able to create meaningful relationships and help foster positive change in their lives, that’s icing on the cake!

(HUGE shout-out to Heather for helping making Photoshop magic out of my silly idea!)