Tuesday, 28 August 2012

How To Find a Kick-Ass CrossFit Coach

How to find a kick-ass CrossFit Coach

Over the past few years (I talk like a veteran, but I've only really done about 2 years of CrossFit, but apparently that makes me an expert now.) I’ve had the chance to work with some pretty stellar coaches.

  You hear the top athletes say “I work with so and so.”  The top athletes have a good point here. They have a main go-to person, as well as a close cadre of coaches they have identified that bring out the best in them.  I don’t think this is exclusive to them.  You may not be able to afford the quantities of Progenex they consume, but you can have a GREAT coach. 

That brings me to today’s blog topic… picking a coach.  Now that we are in a time of CrossFit plenty, we have the luxury of checking out different boxes all over our cities, and working with different people. There are as many different coaches out there, as there are elements you can throw into a CrossFit WoD.  I thought I’d write a few of my favourite things about my favourite coaches.

I may be horribly biased.  It’s a little incestuous here… all my favourite coaches have become some of my favourite people on this planet and among my closest friends.  

You know you have a great coach when you trust them with anything.  I trust them with my brain because I cannot think clearly during or after a WoD.  They take over with cues so I do not destroy myself in the process. I also trust them with my body, I trust that they are not going to kill me during this work out (actually, I reassure myself with this during WoDs ALL the time), and I trust that they are going to help me get to where I need to be.  

I think that 100% unconditional trust, inspiration and motivation comes when you find a kick ass human being that also happens to be a CF Coach.  They pull the best out of you and accept you during your worst!  (though chances are high that a good coach will mock you and your "low" moment later) 

So what are important things that my favourite people have in addition to CF-L1? 

-Their background.  What, beyond the CF Certifications and picture of their amazing sweaty abs, does the coach bring?  (Yes, I know having a sexy coach is a bonus and happens a lot in the CF world, but beyond that…)  What is their education? Is it related to CF?  Super important if you are a complicated human being (psychologically and physically) and/or a newbie.  I am both.  And my coaches are patient.  If they don't have an educational background, do they put their own time into self-education?  Huge, too.  Some of the best coaches are self-taught and rival those with formal educations.

-Their motivation.  Are they athletes themselves? (big bonus in my books.)  Was their life transformed in some way?  I want to know that the person coaching me “gets” where I am at.  I see right through coaches whose motivation is a paycheque or gratification of their own ego.

-Their personality.  If you are really, truly going to jive with a coach and have a great relationship, you’ve got to gel personality-wise.  I don’t think you know what really works, until you’ve tried different styles of coaching.  Lucky for me, I like a bit of everything.  I like the “good job” and kind words of encouragement when I’m having a down day, but I also like a bit of the “pick up the fucking bar!” too.  Call me twisted.  I am extroverted, and I like extroverted coaches.  Everyone is different.  Personally, I like witty banter, obnoxiousness, loudness, and bad words.  I feel like I just wrote an online dating ad. 

-Their reputation.  If you hear nothing aside from how great they are from people in the community, awesome. And same with the other way around.  They don’t have the time to gossip or bad-mouth – they are a kick ass person who doesn’t get involved in politics.   I’m interested in people who build the community, not partition it into geographical zones.

-Their willingness to help you.  Clearly, you’ve drunk the koolaid when you take membership in CF.  Once you’ve paid that monthly fee, a pandora’s box of nutrition, rest, rehabilitation, lifestyle management, and goal setting questions arise. “What do you mean crackers aren’t healthy?” 
Is the coach someone who can bring this knowledge to the table and patiently answer questions like you are not a complete fucking idiot? I’m not expecting an oracle of knowledge in my coach, but it’s pretty damn amazing when it’s not just the bar you learn how to maneuver.  If you are lucky enough to have a mentor in a coach, keep ‘em!

-Their Lifestyle.  Do they live what they preach? Are they an inspiring human being?  This is actually a really big one for me. There’s telling me to lead a better life, and then there’s SHOWING me what it’s like through setting an example.  Show is more powerful than tell in my books.  Once of the greatest things about this sport is the lifestyle it opened up.   

-Their Honesty.  Warning:  You have to be in a place where you are comfortable with constructive criticism.  Anyone with any lack of confidence or self-esteem issues need not apply for this kind of coach.  Insecure people + honest coach = dramarama!  On the part of the client.
Personally, I like the ones that confront me.  If I walk in and absolutely suck wind in my workout, I am always impressed by a coach who corners me and says “what is going on, why did you walk in here with no energy today?  Why does your attitude suck balls today?” rather than a passive “better job next time.”

-Straight forward.  Some warm fuzzies are good, but not tooooo many.   Even if I discuss what's on my mind.  I like words of encouragement on the days where my face betrays the fact I feel like a bag of smashed assholes...But if you come near me for a random hug and talk about female empowerment,  or worse, girl power, and try to grab my hands like Oprah does, I will block you with a pullup rig.  Hugs are appropriate when you haven't seen someone in more than 3 weeks, or when someone's sad/crying/distressed.  Both situations I try to avoid.  Telling me to man the fuck up and get it together touches my soul. :) 

-Tolerance.  I am appreciative of coaches who tolerate sprinkles of client stupidity here and there.  Key word: SPRINKLES.  When I’m front squatting because my coach knows I need to work on it and I’m like, “Fuck, seriously front squats?” Then 30 seconds later when I’ve finished the round, and I’m back at them again, saying “FUCK, AGAIN?” “Fuck off!” – my coach just smiles and patiently cues me.  What a wonderfully patient, decent human being. 

-Lay the smack down.  Pull me off a bar because I’m doing a shitty ass job of lifting it up and keeping good form, and I will have endless respect for you.  Don’t be afraid to lay down the law.  I really respect coaches who have control and respect from an entire classes’ worth of captain intensities.

-Humour.  I like humour. I love witty banter.  I like it when my coach occasionally cackles when writing down a WoD.  I like people I can jive with and laugh with. It makes it more fun, and they are still friends with me at the end of the day, after I’ve unleashed profanity for 20 minutes, spat in the middle of my run or let out a destructive fart.    In fact, they laugh too. :)     

-Programming.  Do they have a philosophy?   I really like coaches who don’t destroy my shoulders with pullup WoDs every day for 2 weeks.  I’m not picky.  I just like to stay away from over use injuries. Smart programming is great. Is their knowledge level such that they could help you progress toward specific goals through programming? They don’t need to be a tortured genius years way ahead of their time (highly possible if they frequently quote Sun Tzu or Machiavelli or try to introduce you to NAVY SEALS philosophies during cool down.)

 -Committed to Improvement: What have they done in the last year?  Have they attended a seminar, done something to keep their skills fresh?  Have they introduced new cues, new warmups, new mobility stuff?  I hate love it when my coach brings new mobility torture devices all designed to improve my movement, because they sat up for an hour watching mobility WoD the night before when they should have been sleeping.

-Humble: Every now and then I like to see my coach get down ‘n dirty with the rest of us and become a heap on the floor after a wod.  Not only is it gratifying in a slightly evil, “you’re suffering too ;)” way…but it shows that they “get it.” Ok, sometimes I don’t love that they are finishing their 6th round while I am still on my first, but I LOVE that they are working out right beside me!  It is so motivational.

And that ladies and gentlemen, makes a pretty solid coach in my books. 

Ps.  I also think it is pretty great if they are nice to look at.  

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