Posts Tagged ‘coaching’

Happy Saturday, everyone! I’m hanging with some family in Tuscon, Arizona, and as I sit by the pool I’m going to hop on my soap box for a minute. Since workout 18.4 of the CrossFit Games Open was released this week, I’ve seen more freak outs than I did when the 16th seed UMBC upset #1 UVA in the March Madness tournament last night!

The commentary I’m referring to, specifically, is the reaction to Dave Castro programming such heavy deadlifts in an Open workout. I’ve read that it’s “not inclusive,” that it’s too much volume at those weights, and there are a lot of claims that it’s simply irresponsible programming. I’ll hop on the “Dave Castro Sucks” bandwagon just as fast as the next person, mostly because it’s fun to do. But what I think people seem to forget is that the CrossFit Games Open is the first step to trying to identify the fittest humans on Earth. Not in your gym, not in your state… on the planet. To suggest that the Open workouts should be all inclusive is absurd to me.

First, let’s go back a little bit and talk about what the “sport” of CrossFit has done for fitness. It introduced a training program, allowed anyone to practice it at their own ability levels, and then showed the world what the best of the best are capable of doing. When I watch the Super Bowl on TV, I can cheer and yell and scream all I want, but know that I’ve never put on a pair of football pads in my life. When I watch the CrossFit Games, I know that I’ve done almost every single movement those athletes are doing, just with a lot less weight, and a lot slower. That ability to identify with, and relate, to these “superheros” is pretty cool. In order to identify who the fittest people are, the tests of fitness need to be effective enough to separate the cream from the rest of the crop. If Castro programmed 135lb deadlifts, that wouldn’t be a test of who has the most capacity, and we all know it.

Now, picture a random workout programmed at your box. If it calls for 225lb squat cleans for men, most of us would look at that and think, “Ok, that’s too heavy for me. I’m just going to scale the weight down.” I don’t understand why it’s so hard for people to approach Open workouts the same way. CrossFit even provides scaled versions of every workout for the over 440,000 people registered. I don’t think it’s irresponsible to say, “Here are the workouts we wrote to identify the fittest humans on the planet. And for those of you who aren’t able to do those yet, here is a modified version that we hope you can do.”

If that same athlete who always tries to go Rx’d on workouts (when you know they shouldn’t) tries to on this workout, I feel it’s our job as coaches to stop them just like we would any other day. Yes, there is a worldwide leaderboard associated with this competition, but if I get hurt rounding my back during 18.4, or if it happens on a random Tuesday in November, I’m still going to be a hurt athlete. In my opinion, there are so few people who should ever intentionally put themselves in a position to get hurt in the gym. If the weight for the Rx is too heavy for you, work until you can’t anymore, take your tiebreak time, and get ready for next week. If you can’t do it Rx’d at all, complete the scaled version and keep yourself moving. It’d still be a 7+ minute workout for most athletes! If you’re bummed, embarrassed, or frustrated that you don’t have the strength or skill to do something yet, turn that energy around! Instead of being down on yourself, make a commitment to improve those skills so that you’ll have them next year!

I’m a coach, and what I love most is helping people make that shift in their mindset. Saying “I can’t do” something to me is completely justifiable… as long as you end that sentence with “yet.” Find people out there who can teach you the fundamental movements, prescribe appropriate progressions, and monitor your progress along the way. It’s amazing what 20 minutes of focused skill work per day, a few days per week, can help you accomplish in a matter of months!

To me, programming 315lb. deadlifts in a workout is not irresponsible. What’s irresponsible is trying them if you’re too tired to lift the bar properly, or attempting to pick it up if you’re simply not strong enough to do so safely. Know when it makes sense to just take your tie break time and walk away on your own terms.

Alright, it’s time to go get in the pool. Take care of yourselves out there. Remember, it’s only competitive exercising, please try not to get hurt. Have a great weekend, everyone!

Advertisements

Sometimes I get really uncomfortable at work.

It’s usually when I see two athletes in the class correcting one another’s form on a more technical movement. I know… all you’re trying to do is give your friend this one cue that really worked for you, but for me as a coach there is a huge difference between coaching and encouraging someone. The strong community aspect of CrossFit means that by and large, all we want to do is help one another succeed. I love that, and one of my top priorities in the gym is to encourage that type of behavior and allow us to support our peers whenever possible. But, there’s a catch!

GoodIntentions2

At the end of a 500 meter row for time, I’m all about screaming loud for your training partner to get in a few more strokes, or to push a little bit harder. In their set-up for a 1 rep max deadlift, though, I’d rather you leave the technical feedback to me. Is it because I think I’m smarter than you? Ha….. no, that is most certainly not it. It’s the fact that I’m paid to be in the gym. I’m literally “put in charge” of managing the group and trying to ensure that things are done properly. If someone gets hurt in my class, I should be able to take full responsibility for what happened.

Just imagine if you suggested someone to lift their hips a little bit higher on their first pull, and they strained a muscle in their back on the next rep. It’s just not worth the risk. Now, suggesting hands get moved out a bit wider on pull-ups is very different than trying to teach the concept of “triple extension,” but I’m hoping you can see that it’s a really fine line between determining what is and isn’t a good idea. Just call over a coach for the final word on what changes you think could make someone move better.

GoodIntentions1

Your intentions are great, and I really appreciate that. But for your own safety, and the safety of those around you… please let the coaches do the coaching.

Oh… and if you’re at a gym with coaching so bad that YOU don’t feel safe as an athlete… maybe it’s time to find a new gym!

GoodIntentions3

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.)

PreviousAthleticLife

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!

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!

JustATrainer1

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!

SwimBetterNowIntro

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!”

AccessoryWork1

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

AccessoryWork2

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!

AccessoryWork3

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!

MeanToSay1

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!)

MeanToSay2.jpg

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!

MeanToSay3.png

Today I received one of the best compliments ever!

A friend of mine, who I’ve coached in CrossFit for a long time, pulled me aside after class and said, “You know, I love coming to your classes, but I hate it, too!” Obviously I needed him to elaborate on this one a bit.

He went on to explain that when he works out on his own, he never warms up properly. It takes too much time, it’s not glamorous, and honestly sometimes he just doesn’t know what to do. When he comes to my classes, he said he always feels as though he is warmed up sufficiently, and ready to go!

Why share this compliment? It’s not to brag. In fact, quite the opposite! While I’m completely humbled and flattered by his words, it could have been me saying them aloud, myself! I ALSO don’t always spend enough time warming up when I work out. And it’s for those very same reasons. I’d rather “use the first round of the AMRAP to get warm” or “warm up as I go” to save time. Butttttt, I know that’s not the right thing to do!

As coaches, I feel it’s our job to prepare the athletes in class to be as safe as possible. That will typically involve some dynamic movement to get blood flowing, a bit of stretching and mobility to work through tension or soreness that may exist, and then some sort of skill work to prepare for the day’s training requirements.

At a previous job, I would write warm-ups for every single day, that would be completed by every class in the gym. To be completely honest, I dreaded doing this some weeks. Why? Because while I could have thrown something together in 20 minutes, that wasn’t my style. I wanted to keep things fun and varied. I wanted to introduce new movements to athletes and give them skills to learn. I wanted to make sure that regardless of ability level, the process I selected for that particular day would be effective for both national-level athletes and beginners alike.

It’s important to realize that as “CrossFit Coaches,” we’re tasked with far more than simply reading words on a white board to a group of people. The responsibility, and quite frankly the privilege, we’ve been given is to make our athletes better than they were when they walked through the door. This could mean helping them prevent or recover from injury, improving strength or range of motion, giving them a safe place to disconnect from the stress of life for sixty minutes, and any combination of the above plus countless other options.

The next time you find yourself preparing to lead a class or train a client, try to remember that. Yeah, my friend told me that he always feels warm when he takes my class, and that feels great to hear. But really, it served as a reminder to myself that by striving to never “phone it in,” I’m actively working to ensure that every athlete I work with has the greatest likelihood of success. I don’t take that responsibility lightly, and don’t think others should either.

Also, it reminded me that I need to warm up more effectively myself before I work out alone. 

Stay safe and have fun out there, friends!

In this segment of Ask Smashby, I answer a question from my friend Travis in Florida about how he should choose a CrossFit gym.

I then address a question I received from a local athlete about how to deal with scheduling conflicts in life that interfere with your ability to train at your gym.

DISCLAIMER!! – I want to make it very clear that, at one point in this video, in no way was I bad-mouthing another CrossFit gym. I want to assure all of you that I am only passing on input I have received from other athletes who specifically trained there. I would not say something bad about another local gym. My goal is to help in any way possible, and in this case I provided the only input I have ever heard from athletes’ first-hand experiences.

Ok. Enjoy.