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Your CrossFit Gym Is Only as Scalable as It Feels

The importance of creating value for all your students.


OK, fine. Maybe the CrossFit experience you offer is scalable no matter what, but presenting workouts for advanced athletes without considering newer, less experienced athletes is generally less enjoyable for those beginners than if you were more inclusive. I’m not notoriously big on feelings, but people have them. Plus, at the end of the day, vibes at the gym are everything, especially when something as simple as a coach’s language can create an atmosphere for the most advanced athletes to enjoy, as well as the most limited beginner.

Plain and simple, if your gym feels like all the things most people hate about gyms, then most people won’t train at your gym. Think about that. This point I’m trying to make is bigger than being willing to scale load, volume and even intensity. The general feeling of being in your gym has a massive impact on what we’ll call “customer satisfaction.”

Though, much of this can be intangible, I’d argue that any great coach can cultivate the atmosphere that will result in the most amount of people having the most amount of success.

Let me give you an example. For the average citizen, the idea of a handstand push-up is a ridiculous prospect. We can get desensitized to this in CrossFit when folks can give you 21 of those bad boys on a moment’s notice. As a coach, I believe I can use my language to create a space that not only allows for less experienced athletes to scale the handstand push-up, but I think my language also can take things a step further. How I speak to the class can change how this whole thing feels for everyone, as well.

In a workout that includes several rounds of handstand push-ups, the instruction might go like this:

“Today, we have an opportunity to train an advanced pushing movement, specifically a bodyweight expression of this. What we’re looking for here are all the elements of our push-up, only in the handstand push-up, we’re challenging you all by changing your orientation in space. (Upside down is harder than horizontal.) Unlike barbell movements, for example, we’d just make it heavier.

“All these pushing movements sit somewhere on this spectrum from push-ups at an angle against the wall to free-standing depth handstand push-ups. I’d like to take you all one step further on this spectrum today.”

Sometimes I’ll draw a line on the board with various points from scaled push-up options to the handstand push-up against the wall and beyond. In fact, building the context bigger in both directions is helpful rather than limiting the Rx option as the pinnacle because it isn’t.

This removes some potential for elite attitudes. With this context, then, everyone in class has a responsibility to advance their bodyweight pushing capacity, even the guy with a million handstand push-ups against the wall.

While it may be difficult to read this and think that this guy is just overly sensitive to people’s feelings, I think the biggest take-away here isn’t the idea of avoiding hurting feelings but rather creating the most value for your students. Opening up to the idea that movement progresses forever keeps advanced athletes from becoming masters that have nothing left to learn, too.

At the end of the day, 100 percent of coaches and gym owners can’t wait to tell people that CrossFit is for everyone. When men and women take your word for it, I think it’s our duty to make it feel that way.