It’s Not About You

You can consider this an open letter to all gym owners and/or coaches out there and a guideline for a potential CrossFit client to follow in evaluating a gym. Yes, this is “another one of Crazy Ivan’s rants”, but it bears some food for thought (By no means does this mean I or my gym are perfect, it’s just an observation due to current circumstances and some thought into the matter, so don’t go getting all uppity and start sending me hate mail… ) Simply put, it’s not about you!

If you are a owner/trainer/coach at a strength and conditioning facility, you have been entrusted and tasked with changing people’s lives. Some complete stranger has walked into your gym, plunked down a good sum of money and has expected you to help them transform their lives. Sure, they need to bring their own motivation and effort to the party, but you are the one expected to program for them, teach them correct movement patterns, coach them through the movement patterns/loading/scaling, etc., as well as be a motivator when the time comes. Pay attention to those four points of good coaching – program, teach, coach and motivate. That is your job in a nutshell and it then transitions into holding your client’s successes up for everyone else to see.

What your job does NOT entail, is telling everyone how great you are, what PR’s you broke, what great gigs you are involved in and bragging about, or how you smoked everyone in your gym in a workout or competition. Sure, the occasional word or video clip about a new PR or “happy, happy, joy, joy” moment for you is fine, it should not be a constant topic of conversation or blogging. We should all celebrate our successes, I agree and do it as well, but not at the expense of those who we teach.

You social media should be a news outlet for upcoming events in/around your gym, rules and etiquette statements, and highlighting the actions of your members. It doesn’t have to be a 400 word essay on a person, but a picture, a few kind words, and some shout out’s go a very long way for creating the best training atmosphere possible in your gym as well as loyalty and trust to you and your other coaches. Go ahead and throw a picture of yourself or coaches up there, but 90% of your postings should be of everyone else.

I bring this up due in part to the fact that with social media being what it is and things on the ‘net getting around the world in nanoseconds, I tend to see more and more “look at me” postings and moments and some pretty funky videos and pics of form and movements. Posting stuff about your clients and their accomplishments is just the starting point, but it goes deeper than that. Keep in mind that the internet and proliferation of CrossFit affiliates means you can find a gym almost anywhere these days. A quick email, a drop-in fee and midway through the workout, you might learn a thing or two from your visitor, some good, some bad.

What bothers me so much is that lately I’ve gotten to see firsthand the correlation between self indulgence and coaching when clients drop in from other gyms to work out at CFC. Some have been local and some have been from out of the area. I will admit, I don’t often like what I see.

There are more than a few drop-in’s or visitors from other gyms that have told us they don’t get the kind of coaching at their box that we gave them for one day at CFC, they don’t get the same feedback, and their numbers/times are nowhere near the averages found amongst our clients. There are a lot of tweaks and fixes going on with many people who visit us – we just can’t help it. We want to see things done safely and effectively. We get a ton of return drop-in’s and people wishing we were closer to their home. That’s a great feather in our cap and makes me proud of our coaches upholding our mission statement, but all things supposedly being equal, this should not be happening.

We don’t like being the coaches to tell a visitor to strip a bar and go lighter or substitute a movements before they herniate something, but we do it. Then we take them aside and start teaching them the movement from the ground up and send them on their way happy as hell for having finally nailed down a particular movement while on their business trip. That shouldn’t be the case….

All too often we see other gyms with absolutely no rhyme or reason to their programming. There is no “goal”, it’s just a mish-mash of random, hard workouts with no understanding of principles of adaptation and/or no path to the underlying goal (I’ll give you a hint – it’s to develop strength and conditioning via a predetermined path of execution taking into consideration the needs of the clients and the understanding of sports science). When visitors walk in and see our template or semi-annual testing process and wish their box did that, I can tell something’s not right at home. Basically, those people are being done a disservice and not getting what they are paying for. That shouldn’t be the case…..

In the perfect, properly quality controlled world in CrossFit, everyone walking in our doors from an outside gym should be able to execute the basic fundamental movements relatively flawlessly, have proficiency in more technical movements and have no overloaded ego leading to crappy form and movements. I get giddy as school girl when I get a drop in who is smooth like chicken lips and moves beautifully. Some owner and coaches somewhere are doing it right!

We use a specifically designed S&C template at CFC and it works very well. Yes, it’s a template **gasp** and yes, it’s actually got a end goal in mind including specified daily barbell work, Oly lifts, and skill work, coupled with mixed modality MetCon designed in a particular pattern to elicit a stress/adaptation response. It was designed around our clients. It was not designed around my likes/dislikes or what I wanted to do to get better, but around our clients who are paying a good bit of their hard earned money to get fitter, faster, stronger and healthier. Them, not me.

Hey wait a minute, here I am tooting my horn and in contradiction to what I said not to do!! Yes, but here’s the point.

If you are a owner or coach of a true strength and conditioning facility or CrossFit affiliate, you need to focus on your clients, give up some of your glory and sacrifice your time and effort to their cause. That being the established point of this article, what can we do to facilitate that?

We as a community can do that by not only highlighting our members more whenever possible on the internet and having a form of interactive, changing website or social media, and talking less about how phenomenally great we personally are.  More importantly, we can spend a helluva lot more time developing a pathway for our business and client to be successful, learning about human movement, coaching techniques and delivery, proper execution and programming.

Develop a mission statement, make sure each one of your coaches knows it and executes it. Develop a coaches manual highlighting your path to completion of the mission statement through the best damn coaching and mentoring you can give your clients. Learn how to program properly – not copy another site’s or the CrossFit mainsite. Test your programming and when it fails, suck up your mistakes and change it. Learn, learn, and then learn some more from whatever or whomever. Sift through the BS and use what applies to you and the established goal for your clientele via your mission statement and plan of execution.

I don’t care if all of our clients, or even none of them, is competition material. We are not a “competition gym” – we are concerned with each client getting their money’s worth and achieving their expectations, scaled or RX’d.  All I care is that they move well, are functional, a good representation of CFC, and better in all aspects of their life as when they started (don’t get me wrong, some people are just plain uncoachable and inconsistent and will be culled from the herd eventually -we’ve all got a couple of those…)

Get your names out of the spotlight. Our leaderboard at CFC is devoid of our coaches names. Our coaches workout with or around our clients regularly while other coaches are teaching, and they all have a reputation for killing it and silently act as role models. I don’t need to put their names on the board in the place of a client’s to exemplify this. They do it on their own through their actions in the athletic arena and on the coaching floor. It is the same reason I will never personally take a team competition spot from a client. If we don’t have enough competitors to fill the slots, then I will throw my hat in the ring. Otherwise, I make sure the opportunity to showcase CFC and the athletes therein is given directly to them.

On the flip side of all this, we also have regular visitors from other gyms, locally and out of the area, who are flawless and when we dig deeper into their gyms background, we see the path the ownership follows in that they are well trained and put the clients first. They do this in not only talking and hyping their members accomplishments, but by furthering their coaching educations for the betterment of their clients. The client comes first and it’s our job as coaches and owners, to stay out of the limelight and make sure that happens.

There are a lot of CrossFit boxes out there these days in the Sacramento area as well as abroad. That being the case, there are a lot I don’t know about, quite a few I wouldn’t recommend and only a fine few I would refer people to. It’s those “fine few” that are carrying the brand through their commitment to their clients and the achievements of those they coach. They put their clients first and it shows. This exemplary coaching, sacrifice and community is what will make a gym. Failure to do so will cause a gym to falter and fail and subsequently, the CrossFit brand to suffer. I can’t tell you how many people I hear about who hate CrossFit from a bad experience with an affiliate through crappy coaching or those ridiculous bargain coupon deals. Someone somewhere put their own interests ahead of the client and now it bit us all in the ass….

As owners and coaches, we wield a sharp sword in what changes we can make to help people lead better lives. Our clients are an extension of our coaching, our gyms and the CrossFit brand as a whole. In order for ourselves to silently share in the success, we have to make sure the clients are priority number one.

I don’t care what you did. I want to see what your client athletes can do. Show the world!