Why I follow the City Road programme
Greg Glassman, the founder of CrossFit, famously said:
“The needs of olympic athletes and our grandparents differ in degree, not kind”.
So why then do so many coaches at CrossFit boxes not follow their own class programming? I think we can agree that most coaches are not grandparents. But they are rarely olympic athletes either. They fall somewhere in the middle. So was Greg plain wrong: do the needs of coaches and clients differ in kind, not just degree? Or is something amiss.
Competitive CrossFit, or CrossFit as a sport, has a lot to do with it. Many coaches see competition as the next step and therefore turn to never-ending, multi-part, multi-session programmes. It’s not uncommon nowadays to see coaches spend 3-4 hours per day training in the pursuit of competitive goals. The argument is that class programming simply can’t prepare you for competition.
I think that’s wrong. Surely the class programming can form at least part of your preparation for competition? But, leaving that aside, I would counsel CrossFit coaches to examine their goals and priorities carefully. Unless you have genuine potential to compete at the highest level of CrossFit, I believe a coach’s priority should be their clients. If you want to pursue competition as a hobby, of course that’s totally ok, but a coach should spend more time and effort working on their craft and helping and guiding members than on their own training. It’s a coach’s job to coach, not to train. So ask yourself if you really need that 4-hour programme or if you are just following some vague, general imperative that a CrossFit coach should be a competitor.
I ain’t buying what I’m selling?
Competitive CrossFitter or not, is there any particular reason a coach should follow their box’s programming? I think there is. In fact, I don’t think a coach can lead at the highest level without following the class programming. So the whole City Road coaching team follows Vasos’ sadistic invention (barring of course a certain aforementioned man with a broken knee!). Why is it so important?
First of all, as a coach I expect our members to buy into the programme. I’m selling you guys the idea that our classes will get you fit and strong and help you lose weight; that you don’t need anything else; that if you commit to coming to class 4-5 times per week, you will make remarkable progress. But how can I expect our members to believe this if my choice of a different programme shows that I don’t? As a coach I need to be able to promise my members that the programme works. But how can I know that is the case if I’m not actually doing the programme with them?
Ben Bergeron: man-crush extraordinaire
As Ben Bergeron, City Road’s favourite man-crush, puts it in a Facebook post:
“Gym owners and head coaches are often frustrated when their members want to follow another program, but they don’t follow the class programming themselves. Know your business and see what your members see. Lead from the front and be a part of your own community.”
Oftentimes members get to the stage where they start asking: “What else should I be doing? Should I add this weightlifting programme or that endurance programme?” Since I follow the City Road programming I can say with absolute honesty: “Listen, I just follow the class programming. It’s enough. Trust me!”. If you don’t follow the programme, you have no counter and you deserve no counter.
Is it really enough though?
The truth is I believe a lot of coaches think that the class programming is NOT enough for them. And this belies an assumption: that even though it’s not enough for you, it’s surely enough for your members. It’s important to understand the message this sends. It implies that you really are different from your members. And that’s wrong. If you need more than the class programming then so will some of your members. So if the WODs are not enough for you, it’s time to start thinking about adding some additional classes.
For my part, I rest easy because I do the City Road programme and I can look at you straight and tell you: it’s enough. It’s more than enough and if you’re doing the whole programme and recovering properly, you’ll be fit as all hell before long.
Coaching = empathy + knowledge
There are two other reasons we do the City Road programme. First of all, I believe sharing the experience with your members is critical and rewarding too. Having done all the workouts, I know what my members are going through. I can empathise and therefore I’m in a much better position to teach the session. I can tell you what it’s going to feel like so your expectations are set. I can tell you where to push and where to hold back so that everyone gets the maximal stimulus from the workout. I’ll tell you another thing: it’s SO much fun coaching a session that you have done yourself. I see members’ faces and I think, “Yep, I remember exactly what that feels like!”.
Mistakes were made
The final reason is a simple empirical one. Now, no-one would dare deny Vasos’ genius for creating well balanced, challenging and effective programmes. HOWEVER, even he will sometimes get it wrong. By doing the programme a week in advance we give ourselves the chance to test the workouts and make adjustments where necessary. Because it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been in the game: the combinations are infinite and sometimes a WOD can surprise the hell out of you!
I am a City Roader
Ultimately, I’m proud of our programme. I think Vasos does an incredible job with it. He puts in a huge amount of time and effort creating something which is not only effective but also, in it’s own way, beautiful and poetic too (e.g. see variations on a theme of Nancy or DT). Why would I not want to be involved in this and share the experience with all our amazing members?
Get to class guys. It’s enough!