📷: Uri Gonzalez of CrossFit Sant Martí
Most CrossFit coaches and gym owners began their CrossFit “life” as a member at a gym, taking group classes while slowly learning and realizing their passion for fitness and helping people. As many coaches grow in experience, their understanding, ability to program for themselves, and fitness goals tend to grow as well. Often this can lead to a coach or owner stepping away from group class to work on their own goals, take advantage of the free reign they have at the gym, or to seek outside help from a group or individual who does custom programming.
Sadly, this very understandable desire can sometimes take away from the culture and connection at a coach or owner’s gym. With some exceptions (notable regional level+ athletes, recovering from injury, etc.), I’d advise coaches and definitely owners to try their hardest to take group classes at their affiliate- even if it’s just a few a week. Here’s why:
Know Your Members
Participating in class is a great opportunity to connect with your members on a peer level (as opposed to the normal student/teacher dynamic.) Sharing a bar during squats or racing to the finish during Helen can help draw you and your members closer. You will find yourself interacting and getting in conversations with members in a way you wouldn’t during a normal group class that you are running.
Prove You Believe
With this, I always think of the old Hair Club for Men commercial where the guys says “I’m not only the Hair Club President, but I’m also a client!” Taking group classes shows your members that you believe in your gym’s product. That separates you from a lot of trainers in the fitness world who might teach classes at one place but actually train in a different fashion- almost all CrossFit trainers actually train CrossFit. That’s a powerful “put your money where your mouth is” statement. Along the same lines, from an internal perspective, coaches taking group class proves that you believe your group programming is top notch and that it works for everyone. If members always see coaches doing their own thing it might make them wonder if the programming they are doing every day is “enough.”
Be a Role Model
Culture can be a hard thing to teach in the gym. In the early days, it was pretty easy since the CrossFit community was relatively small, but those days are behind us. Most gyms now have tons of new folks coming in with widely different levels of cultural understanding about CrossFit and it can be tricky to get people up to speed. An easy way to do this is by acting as a model member when you take classes. Having your equipment prepped, being a good barbell partner, cheering members on as they finish a workout- a lot of those things are not intrinsically understood by people. By taking class, you can model the behavior you want your members to exhibit.
Audit Your Coaches & Programming
Finally, taking group class is a great way to do a little extra auditing of your coaches and programming (whether you do it yourself or another coach handles it). Participating in a class gives you a ground level view of things and really lets you understand how a class or workout “feels” beyond how it just looks from afar or on paper. Plus, you get some fitness out of it!
In sum, while there are definitely reasons for you or your coaches to “follow your own path,” I’d encourage to set a goal for everyone to take at least one group class a week. Taking classes at your affiliate can connect you more deeply to your members, prove you “practice what you preach,” and give you a deeper understanding of how things are working at your gym.