It's always an honor to be contacted for comment in the CrossFit Journal, and even more so when it's concerning a course I helped to write.
At CrossFit SAC we put a lot of care into the time our athletes spend with us and I talk to folks at every seminar I'm involved with to help them run better classes themselves.
BY EMILY BEERS
June 23rd, 2018
Just because you understand good squat mechanics doesn’t mean you’re a good coach.
“There are a lot of coaches out there who have a lot of knowledge,” said CrossFit Level 1 Seminar Staff member Denise Thomas. “The issue is taking that knowledge and communicating it simply and effectively to a group.”
CrossFit Founder Greg Glassman called it virtuosity: performing the common uncommonly well.
“Do the basics better,” Thomas said. “If people understood the simplicity, they would be able to coach the class more effectively, decrease (their athletes’) risk of injury and improve their performance.”
This is the premise of the new CrossFit Online Lesson Planning Course, which is designed to help trainers effectively plan and execute training sessions.
The course—which costs US$60 and provides two continuing education units toward maintaining the CF-L3 credential—emphasizes the importance of having a meticulous plan for each training session. Participants will learn how to allocate time for each component of the session as well as how to customize lesson plans.
“The course does a really good job (of) showing you how to bring more purpose and effectiveness to each training session,” Thomas said.
Denise Thomas has a clear plan for this lecture. Do you have a concise plan when you step in front of the whiteboard? (Nero Dusevicius/CrossFit Journal)
Who Should Take the Course?
While the CrossFit Online Lesson Planning Course is certainly helpful for new trainers, Thomas said it’s equally beneficial for experienced trainers.
“The more we know, the more we tend to want to say in a class, and when push comes to shove, sometimes we end up not saying anything at all,” she said.
Confident, experienced trainers sometimes show up without a clear plan for how they will lead the training session.
“We tend to rely on experience and we start shooting from the hip when we coach,” she said. “Everyone will still get fit, yes, but we still need to take the time to plan the hour effectively.”
Adrian Bozman, CrossFit Games Head Judge and one of the course designers, echoed Thomas’ sentiment. The biggest mistake he sees experienced trainers make is being overconfident and “winging it,” he said.
“This is especially true of those with enough experience to know better. While the trainer may still be able to pull off a great session without hours of agonizing over every last detail, it's likely that those who only plan minimally are not leveraging their full potential.”
He added: “Getting back to basics around lesson planning will let the more advanced trainer reach more people more effectively.”
Adrian Bozman: Not managing class time is a definite no rep. (Alica Anthony/CrossFit Journal)
Do Less, Get More
“What will inevitably doom a physical training program and dilute a coach’s efficacy is a lack of commitment to fundamentals,” Glassman wrote in his 2005 CrossFit Journal article Fundamentals, Virtuosity, and Mastery.
“There is plenty of time within an hour session to warm up, practice a basic movement or skill or pursue a new PR or max lift, discuss and critique the athletes’ efforts, and then pound out a tight little couplet or triplet utilizing these skills or just play,” he continued.
Too often, Thomas said, trainers confuse quality with quantity, and even a meticulously planned session becomes ineffective if the hour is packed with too many pieces.
It's a beautiful thing when a plan comes together. (Ruby Wolff/CrossFit Journal)
“There often just isn’t enough time for what many trainers are trying to do, and it becomes chaos, and then people aren’t scaled the way they should be and the athlete doesn’t know the difference,” she said. “People always ask, ‘What about the strength? Or what’s the met-con today?’ But often you’re better off just doing one thing each day. Cramming too much into a class is a big mistake.”
The CrossFit Online Lesson Planning Course breaks the hour down minute by minute to show how much time should be devoted to different elements in the hour, such as workout briefing, general and specific warm-up, strength and skill work, the workout itself, and cool-down.
Thomas illustrated how just one workout is usually sufficient to fill the hour and make people fitter.
“You can spend 10 to 15 minutes on a general warm-up, and then let’s say there’s a workout that’s a 15-minute AMRAP of toes-to-bars, double-unders and muscle-ups. Those are movements that require tons of warming up and teaching,” she said.
By the time you give the briefing, get through the general warm-up, the specific warm-up, hit the workout and do a 5-minute cool-down, “there’s your hour accounted for,” she continued.
She added: “The course really gives you a good perspective on how much time should be allotted to each component of the class. Every second of the hour should have a purpose.”
Communicate Workout Intention
The CrossFit Online Lesson Planning Course isn’t just about time management. It also emphasizes the importance of teaching athletes to recognize the purpose of the workout and how to modify it to that end.
When athletes understand that each workout is designed with a specific time domain, intensity and volume in mind, they become more adept at scaling effectively—and will get fitter for it. Trainers should reinforce this concept before every workout, Thomas said.
“When you don’t communicate this, you get some people going too hard and others not going hard enough, rather than understanding that if you’re doing it right, the average person is probably going to scale 90 percent of the workouts and is going to get damn fit doing this,” she said. “If you’re doing it properly, you’re not going to want to do anything else at the end of the class because you’re going to feel like you got your dose for the day.”
Athletes, like coaches, often want to cram more stuff into their sessions than is necessary, Thomas said.
“If they feel like they need to do more, it’s usually because they didn’t scale the workout properly because they didn’t understand its intended stimulus. … It’s the trainer’s job to get that point across.”
Be Consistent Across Classes
Consistency between coaches is a sign of a great gym. Athletes should be able to show up to any coach’s class and receive a similar experience. Ensuring all your coaches understand how to lead a training session effectively will go a long way in developing this consistency, explained Dave Eubanks, another of the course’s designers.
“I would hope that trainers of all skills see how helpful a well-designed lesson plan is in creating a consistent experience for all of the athletes in a gym, regardless of the personality of the trainer or their own personal biases,” Eubanks said.
He added: “This course should help coaches see that with proper planning and experience, you'll find where you should spend your time to maximize the effectiveness of your classes and help your athletes progress more quickly.”
About the Author: Emily Beers is a CrossFit Journal contributor and coach at CrossFit Vancouver. She finished 37th at the 2014 Reebok CrossFit Games.