Recently I had the opportunity to attend the CrossFit Aerobic Capacity Specialty Course led by Chris Hinshaw. Hinshaw has quietly been behind the amazing leaps forward in the development of athletic capacity in such CrossFit Games athletes as Rich Froning, Katrin Davidsdottir, Mat Fraser, and BTWB’s own Julie Foucher. I’ve been to a bunch of certs, and this was one of the very best. Here’s my take:
The first thing that comes across when you meet Chris Hinshaw is his overwhelming love for the community and the sport of CrossFit. I’ve met him a handful of times, and he can’t seem to get through a few sentences without talking about how much CrossFit has benefited him personally, how important he thinks it is for the general population, or simply without geeking out about working with a top athlete. Despite becoming a big name in the sport and the go-to on how to build the aerobic system, it’s obvious that Chris is as much a fan and a believer as he is a coach and voice of authority.
Chris describes his role as twofold- first, he assesses an athlete’s relative strengths in monostructural movements. He has an athlete test their 400 m and 1 mile run, then uses a formula initially built for endurance athletes that determines their balance of sprint and endurance capacity. For a more CrossFit-relevant data pool, Chris used tens of thousands of results from BTWB and his own data. Most CrossFit athletes tend to be stronger sprinters, and some of Chris’ biggest successes have been with powerful athletes like Froning, Khalipa, and Fraser. Chris has successfully built their aerobic base without harming their heralded strength and speed. Some athletes have the opposite problem- they need to sharpen their capacity to get to max speed and hold it for relatively short time periods.
Chris also talks a lot about how hard he works to build confidence in his athletes. Through a deep and comprehensive understand of what he programs, never playing mind games with his athletes, and keeping things simple and straightforward, Chris removes doubt and allows his athletes to simply perform to the level of their training and practice. Chris humbly says he works to find “areas of opportunity, then maximize that adaptation.”
The cert runs swiftly, and Chris peppers it with stories of his work with some of the big names in the sport. Rather than seeming “name-droppy,” he uses these examples to show how even the big names can misinterpret their own performance and sometimes gloss over their weaknesses. The takeaway is simple- building the aerobic engine (which the body uses for any effort longer than about a minute) can create huge impacts, even for athletes who are already wildly good at the sport of fitness.
There are two workouts during the cert, and they serve to both illustrate the principles Chris is preaching and to break the lecture into roughly 90 minute blocks. My favorite was a pacing test- we ran ten 1-minute there-and-back intervals with ten seconds of rest between. Our goal was to find a consistent pace and return to exactly the same spot we had started from. It was hard, but over time every participant seemed to dial into their sustainable pace and get tighter and tighter to their target. Learning proper pacing is critical for CrossFit athletes, who often tend to go out hard, blow up, and then stumble through the finish line. Chris finds that insane- he offers the example that you would never see a runner in a 5 or 10k sprint for a minute, then stand around with his hands on his hips before starting to run again- a common sight during a WOD.
I highly recommend the cert- for the information covered, the insight of Chris’ years of performing at a high level and working with elite athletes, and for Chris’ kindness and generosity of spirit. It will undoubtedly make you a better athlete and/or coach and is worth every penny.