So, thus begins my series of observations and lamentations on coaching, teaching and learning.
For the summer, I have a new student: a temporary client, on loan to me from another affiliate where this student normally lives most of the year (her college town). If I recall correctly, she has been Crossfitting for approximately one year.
First off, she seems like a great client/trainee: she has a positive attitude, she shows up ready to work. At first glance, she is young (still college aged), cute and not out of shape. Please understand that this HELPS the atmosphere around the gym to have people of all shapes and sizes, but it's human nature that most people would rather be around people like her, than angry old fat men.
Here's the rub; she's already been tainted by another system. Let me explain.
Today is Thursday, and Monday and Wednesday were her first nights. So I am writing this the following morning, and these are simply my first impressions, but to be fair, there is nothing unique about this particular client or this situation. Because she's new to our gym and we haven't had time to have her 'test out' I placed her in the lower of our two levels of classes (for now, as was explained when she enrolled). The workout on Monday was Power to the People deadlifts, then 2 sets of presses, and then some midline stabilization conditioning. Last night was 5x5 in the front squat. I was not her coach during Monday night, but I was for Wednesday night. It was a full class, and due to some recent classes the other five students who are ALL rank amateurs, had 1, 3 or 5 reps maxes for their front squat. I asked if our new girl did too (she's been training for a year). She said she didn't know exactly off the top of her head, so I asked for a ball park. Unwilling to estimate, she volunteered to go to her car and get her training log (SWEET!). When she returned, the most recent record she could locate for doing 'strength work' on the front squat was a workout from several months back where she performed 20, 15, and 10 repetitions with a 45lb barbell. That was it. That was what she had: a 10 rep max, performed presumably 2-5 minutes after a 20 reps max.
Not to be discouraged, I offered, "You can lift with X, and just start really low weight and go up as fast as you feel comfortable/can maintain technique". Which is what she did. I believe she started somewhere around 42lbs (10kg bar+training wheels). It was ok, but could be better. Elbows were low, thoracic curve was very flexed, depth was basically parallel (we encourage a lot more on the front and overhead), knees tracked a little medially, but nothing as egregious as most first timers, and still essentially safe. Keep in mind however, this is a 20ish year old college girl with Crossfit experience; 125lbs BW. She worked her way up to about 67lbs I think, before really losing form and doing one final set a little lighter.
I have high standards for both technical prowess and relative strength; I think both are key to great Crossfitting and great health and movement generally. Needless to say I was a little disappointed in the skill set and base level that was being brought in, but excited by the challenge of helping this client improve the basics, and return to her home affiliate a better athlete.
She approached me after all the other students had left. She was concerned. Not about her lack of strength or technique (she was outlifted by every single one of my students, who again are all mostly beginners) but rather that she was (in my words here) bored. At her gym, they often do some strength work first (like 3 sets of 10-20 apparently) and THEN do a real WOD. She was worried that she would fall out of shape over the summer should she continue to train like this.
Do any of you (those reading this blog) teach anything? I know some of you do, whether it's elementary school, weightlifting or BJJ. So, I pose to you this question: How would you feel, and what would you do to help the student understand, if they came to you and told you that you're training was going to make them worse? Particularly if they were coming in with orthapaedic injuries and low performance (possibly related to their previous training regime)?
The truth is, she's wearing a knee brace due to a very old ACL surgery that has started to 'act up again'. She's kyphotic and hasn't kept to prescribed treatment plan to help her correct it. And she struggles to move 50%BW in the front squat for five reps (as a 'healthy' young woman). Meanwhile she doesn't want to negatively impact her fitness by spending 1-2 workouts a week working on quality of movement and strength.
When I told her how important I felt relative strength was, and how I believed it would help any athlete do more work in less time in a met con type work out, she seemed skeptical, or maybe even disappointed. I felt as though she was trying to tell me that without ending up on the floor in a pile of sweat, sexy metcon style, she wasn't really training. And as I stated earlier, her sentiments are not unique.
Sometimes I feel like Crossfit is ruining Crossfit. I also think that americans are unique snow-flakes, and hence they cannot mold themselves to 'the program'. They cannot subvert their individuality in submission to a complete program that will change their lives, because they know better, have other ideas, or just don't want to do the work.
Especially the 'boring' work.
After ten years of experimenting, after 140 credit hours, a bachelors degree (and well on my way to a masters), many of the most prestigious certifications in my field, and hundreds of hours of mentorship under other great coaches... I HAVE A SYSTEM. Presumably that's why you showed up, and presumably that's why you're paying me. Follow the system, do the work. Get what you NEED.
Maybe that's my problem; I deliver what people need, not what they want.