Thursday, November 13, 2008

When we first opened the doors of CrossFit North Santa Cruz (CFNSC) back in November of 2007, one of the “problems” with the “old-way-of-doing-things” that we needed to address was how best to run the group-class format at our facility in that there are different trainers running different classes at different times on any given day. We had over a dozen CrossFit Trainers at CrossFit HeadQuarters, some with many classes, some with as few as one, yet all the classes were different as far as their programming as it was left to the trainer to develop their own workouts for that specific class. This had its good points as well as its downsides. We all pull from the same volumes of efficacious functional movements but we all have different personal perspectives we bring into play within our program design. Coach Glassman said it himself; “Programming is as much an art as it is a science.” On a positive side, it allowed for creative and unique programming from each of the individual trainers as we were each able to design our own workouts, sometimes developing combinations that other trainers may have overlooked or constructing certain workouts that became “personal favorites” amongst the clientele. Also, certain classes became somewhat known for having a “certain flavor” to them. My Wednesday night 6:00 p.m. class (“Team-6, Baby!”) became known for “heavy at high heart rate”, and would often have all out sprints in it because the client base wasn’t getting exposure to sprints anywhere else. Yet other trainers were known for very metabolic circuit-type classes and yet others for more gymnastics based classes. All proved very efficacious in the design and programming of the workouts, pulling from all the disciplines and movements that CrossFit’ers have become familiar with thus far, as well as quality movements that many may not have been exposed to before. There were several problems to this structure however. A small yet notable downside was that clients would sometimes come to “expect” a certain “flavor” within a certain class at a certain time, so if the Coach would adhere to their own programming “habits” too much, overall the client isn’t getting the breadth of exposure that is inherent to the message behind CrossFit.

A rather significant problem that this format for running group classes posed however was that the clients would often be exposed to rather extensive overlapping in their workouts because they simply chose to take 3 different trainers classes 3-days in a row. A client would really want to take my Wednesday night “Team-6” class where we might be doing, for time; 21-Thrusters @ 155#, Run-400 meters, 15-Thrusters @ 155#, Run-400 meters, 9-Thrusters @ 155#, Run-400 meters, and the next day in Greg Amundson’s class they are doing a 1-Rep Max on Thrusters, or the day before my class with Annie Sakamoto in the morning they are doing “Karen” (150 wall-ball for time) or “Fran-On-Crack” (21, 18, 15, 12, 9, 6, 3, of 95# Thruster/Pull-Up). This was a significant problem when it came to the overall quality of service to our clients, and this was one of the many “problems” that we, a new affiliate, needed to address in the effort to ensure the highest quality product/service possible to our clients. Developing and implementing a better formula for the basis of our group-class program was a necessity, yet had proven a challenge. ...How best to format consistent programming within the classes so as a client doesn't end up doing heavy back-squats two days in a row because they took a class with a different trainer on the following day? ...This was a problem that occurred regularly with the group classes back at CrossFit HQ.

When we first opened the doors of our CFNSC facility, through Brendan Gilliam’s suggestion, we initially were following the workouts of the day (WOD) from the main CrossFit website. This seemed a great approach at first as the programming on the main site is always solid and is that for which most of the CrossFit community adheres to. This only lasted about a month, however. While seeming a safe approach at first, this path not only took from our unique quality of programming that we Coaches at CFNSC develop, but we also found that some clients would simply refer to the main website and decide whether or not they were going to come to class that day because the workout may or may not play into their strengths or desires. Yet again we were faced with a problem as far as the very foundation of our group class program.

By the first of the year we had remedied all of the aforementioned group-class programming problems with a simple yet brilliant idea. It was our own Ronnie Boose, one of the owners here at CFNSC, that came up with the very well thought out idea of having each of us CFNSC Coaches do the full programming for a complete weeks worth of classes at our facility, mapping out a full week in advance in the office for only the trainers to see. The Coaches’ programming for that week is carried out in every group class by every trainer for that week and so not only is each of us as Coaches able to implement our unique programming ideas and perspectives, or “flavor” if you will, but our client base has a much higher quality and consistency in the service they receive as there is no more significant “doubling up” of workouts because they took a class with a different Coach on the following day. This format also requires each of us as Coaches to implement another Trainers ideas, ultimately expanding our own breadth of Coaching exposure and improving our capacities as Coaches. Mapping it out a week in advance also allows the other Coaches to know what every group class client has done and been exposed to over the past weeks, and based on that data, we can better program the following weeks worth of workouts for our clients. There is also no longer the problem of clients simply looking at what the workout is ahead of time and deciding whether or not they are gonna show up based on whether they like the workout or not. There have also been many other “positives” from implementing and adhering-to this foundation for our group-class program. Much like we see amongst the CrossFit community on the main site, we have noticed a rather significant sense of both competitiveness and camaraderie amongst our clientele. Do to scheduling, work, school, life, etc, many of our clients who train together on certain days have to take other classes on other days, etc. Yet most all of our clientele has come to know, or know-of, each other, either through our group-classes or through the many large BBQ’s that we frequently host for all of our clients and their family/friends. Clients will often take our 5:00 am class, and then swing by at lunch, and/or after work, to see if anyone has beaten their time/score/weight/etc. Some of our evening clients will often check to see what a few certain athletes that they like to go against or compare themselves to have achieved earlier in the day. At the BBQ’s and other functions we host or engage in with our clients, (who we all consider dear friends now), our clients will often discuss certain workouts earlier in the week or month that they all did. Again, all examples of the beautiful combination of both competitiveness and camaraderie that is forged through the profound sense of “community” inherent in the CrossFit program. I believe Army Captain Michael Perry said it best with; “Through the combination of agony and laughter, powerful camaraderie is forged.” ...If you ask Greg “Coach” Glassman himself, he will tell you that what he is most proud of in his life-long endeavor and development of the CrossFit program is the exceptional CrossFit Community.

...Ronnie Boose’s idea has proven an outstanding “fix” to a significant and important problem that really needed to be addressed. Having such a solid and consistent foundation for the programming of all the classes for all the clients yields not only a much higher consistency and quality of programming and service for our clientele, but yields a profound sense of community amongst all of us, Clients and Coaches, alike.

Btw, ...the photo is of a T-Shirt worn by one of our clients, Michael Finelli, a local high-school athlete and up-&-coming CrossFit "Fire-Breather". The message on the t-shirt pretty much captures the sentiment of all of our clientele. :)