When I travel I love visiting local CF gyms. I love meeting new people and working out in new spaces. As an athlete (6+ years) and a coach (2+ years), I’m always curious about how other coaches manage a class. I’m always looking for new tricks, tools or techniques that I can adapt into my coaching to make my classes better. Yesterday, I ran into the absolute worst coached class I have ever experienced.

For those who know me, I’m a pretty positive person. Definitely a glass half full type and generally very slow to criticize. With that in mind, after sleeping on the experience and reviewing it in my head repeatedly, I can say this: “The coach got exactly one thing right. The class started on time. We completed all the assigned work and the class ended on time.” So check the block for successful time management. Everything else that went on in that class was broke. It was like living one of the satirical videos on ‘how NOT to run a Crossfit class.’ It was kind of surreal.

If you go to a gym as an athlete, there are some core common sense things you expect a coach to do to run an effective safe class. Here’s a basic check list:

Introductions – you would expect a coach to want to know the names of everyone in their class, right? Didn’t happen. The coach came by, shook my hand and told me their name with about 10 minutes remaining in the class!

Workout Review – you would expect a conversation about the work out of the day, the movements involved, injuries/pre-existing conditions among athletes, scaling options….none of this happened. It was “5:15 class – give me 20 cal on the rower, then line up for across the floor.”

Consider that a moment. This coach ran a class with a completely unknown athlete with a WOD that involved power cleans ranging from 135#-185# with absolutely no understanding of my ability/competency. No guidance on scaling options for those weights. That’s a huge failure and safety concern.

During the across the floor, the coach got distracted by some prospective new clients. I get it. That happens to every coach. But while the coach was caught up in that a couple of the locals athletes called out words to the effect of: “OK, gang. Grab your bars. Take 5 minutes and finish doing what you need to do to prep for the WOD.” Remember, we hadn’t actually talked over the work out. So unless you had taken the initiative and reviwed the digital whiteboard yourself, you wouldn’t even know WHY you needed a barbell. I inferred from the tone that this was not an uncommon thing.

During the METCON the coach DID work the room stopping by each athlete shouting some thing to each one. I say ‘some thing’ because both times the coach came by me, I can’t tell you whether the coach offered encouragement or cues on form. The music was cranked so loud I was unable to hear the words the coach was saying from roughly 8ft away. For all I know they were telling me my shorts were falling off. No clue.

Like I said, I’m a pretty positive guy. So I choose to extend the coach the benefit of the doubt and I choose to presume that they were a) very inexperienced and b) having a particularly off day. I would tell you the experience was comical, but it really disturbed me. This was one of those experiences where you can understand why some folks think Crossfit is dangerous and scary. If I was new to the Crossfit experience I’d never go back to that box again.

I will say that the athletes were very welcoming and pleasant. Many of them came by, shook my hand, introduced themselves, helped me find gear, etc. Very cool.

In the end, I guess I can take away a few things. As a coach, the experience was a stark reminder to not take my own coaching experience for granted. I don’t ever want to fall into bad habits. Take every class seriously, give it some thought. Have a plan in place on how to approach it and don’t ever lose sight of the basics! As an athlete, it was a great reminder to appreciate the coaches under whom I train. They are professionals who care about the athletes they train and it shows in every class they conduct.

As for the remainder of the week, I’ll be calling up the CFD travel WOD PDF later today and picking out a few WODs to get me by until I get back to Durham.

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