Posts Tagged ‘personal training’

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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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!)

Push Press into a 5-Round WOD with Heavy Thrusters and Chest-to-Bar Pull-Ups. Not a bad little Tuesday!

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Coach Megan leading the troops

So get this…. Heather has been working with Megan for a few weeks on trying to learn the KIP for pull-up. Before the workout tonight she decided that she would do her first CrossFit workout with no bands on the pull-ups, and just do them as “strict pull-ups”, and one at a time. Well, cue the workout, and she’s off. ALL OF A SUDDEN, THIS HAPPENS!

(by the way… my phone ran out of memory while filming this. just know that she was linking 4-6 of these in a row, and it looked like a piece of cake. SO COOL, HEATHER!)

After the workout, I talked to everyone and asked a very serious question:

How many of you tonight did SOMETHING for the first time?

This meant either pull-ups with no band, chest-to-bar for the first time, a thruster with more weight than in any other workout… it didn’t matter.

EVERY SINGLE HAND WENT UP!!! You guys are so awesome 🙂

Workout of the Day

Strength:
Push-Press 3×3 warm-up, 10×1 @ 85%

WOD:
5 Rounds for Time
5 Thrusters (135#,95#) / 10 Chest to Bar Pull-ups / 150m Run

The strength portion of tonight’s session featured the movement Sumo Deadlift. Not only did I see some people pull weight off of the ground safely and hit some PR’s, I also go to see CC do his thing. Look at this man pull 465lbs off of the ground and make it look easy!

After that we got right into the workout, which include jumping for the first time in a while. I’m really hoping that the weather stays nice, because being able to run outside regularly again is such a nice change of pace! I love summertime.

Workout of the Day:
Strength
Sumo Deadlift – 85% of 1RM – 1 Rep every minute for 15 minutes

WOD
4 Rounds for Time
400m Run / 20 Broad Jumps / 15 Pull-Ups

Athlete Results:
Sumo Deadlift
Jamie- 235lbs? (was it more?)
Alon- 175lbs (was WAYYY too easy, but form looked perfect)

WOD
Jamie (1-Banded Pull-Ups)-
Alon (4-Banded Pull-Ups)-

Sunday Funday’s workout this week was a little different. Usually during our workouts the movements are completely varied in terms of how they go, let’s say with one “pushing” movement and one “pulling” movement. Today I wanted to change that up.

We performed both Wall Ball Tosses AND Thrusters. On paper, these movements are very similar (start at the shoulders, stand up aggressively and throw your arms into the sky), but in practice, I wanted the athletes to feel how different it was to throw a round/irregular-shaped object in the air and then need to catch it, versus keeping an evenly balanced barbell safely in your hands. The crew did a great job today!

Workout of the Day:
4 Rounds for Time
20 Wall Balls / 20 Thrusters / 20 Double-Unders (or 40 Single Jumps) / 200m Sprint Run

Athlete Results:
Bad Boy Mike (20# / 65#)- 15:46
Alon (14# / 45#)- 24:13
Annie (6# / 15#)- 18:26
Casey (14# / 45#)- 21:48
Andy (14# / 15#)- 16:42

Today was the third day of FREE CROSSFIT at CrossFit Lakewood. For the third day in a row, we had about 25 people come to class! It was AWESOME! (Nope, it’s not getting old at all. The more the merrier if you ask me.) People have been spreading the word this week, bringing friends, and then THEIR friends have been bringing even more people. It’s been so cool to watch, and I’m so thankful for everyone who’s made an effort to check us out and see what we’re all about!

The last day of Free CrossFit is tonight at 6pm. Bring your friends for one more jam-packed workout this week! I’ve already heard of a few people who will be making it for the first time. I can’t wait!

Tonight’s workout we decided to introduce our guests to a good friend of the CrossFit Community: Tabata Intervals!

There were a total of 5 stations that we put people through, and since most of them were new to CrossFit, we didn’t even have them worry about keeping score. That made it easier to focus on form and technique.

Workout of the Day:
Tabata Intervals of 5 Stations – 1 Minute Rest between Station
Row / Stick Jumps / Dips / Squat Jumps / Ab-Mat Sit-Ups

For another day with many first-time CrossFitters, I continue to be amazed at how efficient people are moving. We make adjustments based on previous injuries, ability levels and range of motion limitations… and BOOM, off they went!

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Great job to everyone for another incredible day at the gym, and I’m REALLY looking forward to our fourth and final night of FREE CROSSFIT at CrossFit Lakewood!

New questions from Megan, UN-suggestions from Casey and great advice from Molly King.

A pretty productive little Drive Time! 🙂

Well Alec, I’m not sure if this counts, but I had a pretty embarrassing moment happen during this morning’s Drive Time with Smashby. I listened to Toto’s “Africa” last night, and when Men At Work’s “Land Down Under” came on, I said it was by Toto. Le sigh.

So I’ve had more people talk to me about Drive Times, I had Jen Silva suggests some names for the show and I’m just about out of topics to discuss. Keep ’em coming, folks.

Today, I decided to devote a little bit of time to talk about WOD #3 of the 2011 CrossFit Games Open, strategy, thoughts, etc. Enjoy!

Well, today was day 2 of FREE CROSSFIT WEEK at CrossFit Lakewood, and it went even better than yesterday!! This evening there were 25 people in class… EIGHTEEN of which were non-members! Eighteen Newbies!!!

What does that look like? Well, throw in a beautiful day in terms of weather, a few warm-up exercises, and a lot of smiles… and it looks like this!

And then Ben S. leading 25 people through some Jumping Squats. I’d say he’s a natural leader!

The workout for today was a good one. It included quite a few shorter runs, kettlebell swings and either regular or handstand push-ups (depending on the athlete’s ability level). Here’s the crew all taking off at once for the first run lap! (thanks for not trampling me, Lion King style!…… too soon?)

Workout of the Day:
5 Rounds for Time
200m Run / 20 Kettlebell Swings / 200m Run / 20 Push-Ups (or 10 Handstand Push-Ups)

It was so cool to look around and see so many people swinging KB’s and doing push-ups. The sense of community and support you guys showed, and around people you had just met, was awesome!

For so many of you being “First-Time CrossFitters”, the form and technique work was AWESOME! Look at all of those full lock-outs at the top of the push-up!

Also, I’m proud to report that no one was hit with a rogue or flying kettlebell! That means the crew was organizing and respectful of the space around them. I mean, does it get ANY better than this? I’m not sure how, but I’m hoping to see if it does.

Now, to end the post with an feat of awesomeness, our very own Greg Walker (who has been featured on this blog quite a bit for just being cool) shows the world what it’s like to be good at Handstand Push-Ups. At the end of an almost 20-minute workout, the guy ends it with 10 unbroken HSPU’s! Pretty epic stuff… Well done, GW!