Posts Tagged ‘Safety First’

There are thousands of people around the world who are “certified” to coach CrossFit. Does that mean they’re all good at it? Absolutely not!

Like any other profession in the world, you’re going to have some variation of a bell curve: A small few who are really good at what they do, some who are really bad at it, and the majority of others falling somewhere in between the two on that spectrum.

The difference with CrossFit coaching and other professions, however, is that a bad cue from a coach in the middle of class could potentially lead to an athletes injuring himself/herself, or others around them.

Let me be clear, this post is not about whether or not you like a cue a coach gives you. It’s intentionally about what you think should be done if a coach gives you BAD, and wrong, advice!

I’d love it if you’d watch my video below, and let me know what you think. Do you agree or disagree with me?

What would you do, or advise others, if they found themselves in the position of being given bad advice. Let’s chat!

In over 20 years of coaching individuals, I’ve used several motto’s or catch phrases to try and deliver a consistent message to my athletes. One of the early ones, that I still think about to this day, is reminding my athletes to move with purpose. Don’t flop your way through air squats just to get them done. Instead, realize that each rep, no matter how boring it may seem at the time, has the opportunity to make you stronger. Focus on your breathing when holding a mountain climber, and be aware that by driving through the heel of your front foot, you’ll get a deeper stretch. When you’re running, keep your chest up, shoulders relaxed, and find a rhythm that will help you control your breathing. You get the point. Moving with purpose is important, and I always want the people I work with to remember that!


Lately, my new favorite phrase to say is, “When in doubt, slow it down!” What does that mean? For one, in this crazy sport of ours, moving faster is usually associated with being better. Get through the workout in less time, complete more rounds in the same amount of time, go, go, go! Unfortunately, what that also means a lot of the time is that athletes will move faster at the expense of good form. Most people I work are going to the gym in order to be healthier. If the focus is rushing through movements in the interest of going faster, technique typically suffers, increasing the likelihood of someone getting hurt. If they get hurt, they’re not necessarily getting better, are they?


My advice, specifically on movements that are more technical, is to move a little bit slower than you think you should. Controlling the “down” portion of the squat and exploding up not only gives the athlete more time under tension (more gainz?), but also more time think about moving safely. I’d rather go 15 seconds slower on a workout and be safer and clearly complete full range of motion. Keep in mind that I’m not an elite-level competitor, I’m merely a recreational exercise racer. That said, for those who are training to compete, if they trained with full range of motion every day, and got to a competition with a “lenient” judge, they could maybe shorten each rep and get away with it. And what a treat that would be for them! On the other hand, if that same person always sprinted reps, and never fully locked out a single push-up during training…. and then they showed up to a competition with a strict judge who no-repped everything they did, it would be a lot more difficult for them to adjust. It’s a very similar concept to training heavier than you’ll need to compete (using a heavier wall ball for example) then going down to standard weight on game day and being able to move faster.

Practice typically doesn’t make perfect. But let me tell you, the people I know who practice with intention, move with purpose, and focus on slower and deliberate movement all the time almost always perform better when it matters most! Don’t base the value of your performance and training on the scores you produce or the times you get on workouts. Instead, focus more on moving with virtuosity, and the condition of your body. Most of us are in this thing for the long haul. If you want your body to serve you for years to come, treat it that way. If you’re ever wondering whether or not you’re doing something quite right, just remember… When it doubt, slow it down!

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!