A CrossFit box is only as good as its coaches. You can push press a barbell or row all day long, but a good coach will make it fun (well, as fun as working your butt off can be), engaging and effective. CrossFit even has a set of guidelines for good coaches – mandating they have capacity in teaching, seeing, correcting, group management, presence and attitude, and demonstration. A coach won’t make it out of Level One certification without ‘em! And that’s just one (of many) things about CrossFit that make it so awesome.
Being an awesome coach comes in many different forms. There’s no one set formula for success when it comes to being a great coach, and different coaches emulate what CrossFit is all about in different ways. Chances are you’ve met coaches with all kinds of strengths, and maybe a few quirks that make their class the best part of your day. Chances are you’ve met a few of the ones below…
The Form Freak
A CrossFit injury? NOT ON THEIR WATCH. Want to know why? Because if your movement form is flawless, you’ll be strengthening your body and not running the risk of hurting it! And the Form Freak Coach is going to break down every movement down to its bare bones BEFORE turning you loose for the Strength portion of the workout, or before that WOD clock counts down from 10. Are you snatching today? You better believe you’re doing high pulls first, then 8 to 10 from Position One, then 8 to 10 from Position Two, then 8 to 10 from Position Three, then 8 to 10 Snatch Balances, and THEN, and ONLY THEN, can you start your working sets. Except…with that kind of warm-up, I already feel like I’ve worked out!
The Form Freak coach has a ready cell phone to record your movements so you can see and correct your form for yourself. They always have their lifting shoes and a PVC pipe nearby to demonstrate the movement pattern. They also aren’t afraid to make their athletes back off if they’re taking on too much. Are your knees caving in during air squats? Forget depth, forget air squats, you’re squatting to a box until you can push your knees out consistently. Is your back curving during deadlifts? The Form Freak coach is stripping weight off your barbell as soon as you set it down!
Stick with the Form Freak and one thing is for sure – your form will be stellar and your body will thank you for it for years to come.
The Morning Glory
I’m not sure what she has in her coffee, but may I have some? The Morning Glory coach obviously does not realize that it is 5:30 a.m. and ten minutes ago I was in bed debating my life choices. It is clear the Morning Glory coach wakes up every morning to the birds chirping and woodland animals on hand to assist with the morning routine.
The Morning Glory greets each day and each workout with a smile, and it’s contagious, even to the grumpiest athlete. She is the first to open the gym garage doors on a spring day so we can watch the sunrise as we take off for a 100m run warm-up. She plays the music loud and unapologetically, and her Spotify playlist is full of those feel-good tunes that we can’t help singing along to (if we can between sucking wind in our WOD).
Some mornings we love The Morning Glory coach. Other mornings we might hate her a little bit, at least until the coffee and endorphins kick in. But every morning – we gotta admire that attitude!
Often seen in physicians or chiropractors who coach CrossFit on the side, the educator is a wealth of knowledge about the CrossFit movement patterns, but also what specific muscle groups they work and what exactly makes them effective. The CrossFit box is his classroom, and the athletes are his students. Do you know the difference between a concentric and an eccentric exercise? How about the target heart rate for cardiovascular fitness? No? Oh, don’t worry, you will learn.
The Educator is fascinated by the compound nature of CrossFit movements. If your gym programs Karen, expect a university-esque lecture on the front squat explosion into a push press, riding it back into the front squat, all explained alongside a healthy dose of medical terminology. Yes, you will get started late. Yes, class will run long.
But you’ll have learned a lot!
Not to be confused with the Morning Glory, though the two are often one and the same. The Cheerleader brings the enthusiasm on the regular, but it’s not all about being pepped up for the sweat sesh. It’s about encouraging her athletes to bring their best every time they step into the gym, and to do the things they didn’t think they could.
When asked “Do you think I should stick to 55 lbs for these thrusters?” the Cheerleader will reply, “No! You can do 65!” Or when asked “Do you think I should drop to ring rows in these pull ups?” will emphatically answer, “Just try 3-5 strict pull ups! You’ve got it!”
The encouragement continues in the workout. She’s the type to walk around the room, clapping and shouting to each athlete by name. And following the workout, she’s the first high five.
What makes the Cheerleader a great coach is that she’s in tune with her athlete’s goals. She knows when they’re having a rough workout and knows what to say to help them keep their chin up and get back to the gym the next day. She’s also right there when one of her athletes hits a major milestone – a first muscle-up, a squat clean PR, or a new mile pace. And her loud cheer reminds her athlete that they’re accomplishments – whether big or small – are really big deals.
The Drill Sergeant
Well…he’s encouraging in his own way. He’s tough, and he’s big on tough love. His favorite phrases include “But did you die?” and “Quit crying, you’re fine.” His workouts border on ridiculous. 100 burpee box jumps? Really?!
Skip a workout, and yes, the Drill Sergeant will notice. And he will, in fact, ask you, “Where were you on <fill in day you were MIA>?” Complain about a workout? He’ll call you out – “If you want to get better at XXX, you need to start doing this…”
The Drill Sergeant won’t be one to sugar coat a workout. He’ll tell you exactly how grueling it will be, how long it will take. “This is your life now,” he will say with a shrug, “Forget about anything else outside of this. You live here now.” He’s also not afraid of pushing his athletes. He’ll load up their barbell himself with extra plates or swap out the dumbbells during warm-ups without saying a word. He doesn’t need to.
You’re probably a little scared of him. You’re not sure if you like him or not most days, basically because you’re not entirely sure what makes him tick. But darn it, do you respect him.
The Life Goals
Every time you look at this coach, you think – THAT. THAT is exactly what I would like to look like someday. THAT is a strong person, physically and mentally. They are Life Goals.
This is the coach that will do a legless rope climb at the end of a rope climb tutorial. This is the coach who decides to do a JJ Watt-style box jump while the 24/20 athletes watch with mouths dropped open. The male coaches are ripped every which way, and so are the females.
It might be easy to be intimidated by The Life Goals coach, but you don’t need to be. Even though they look like they should be on the cover of a bodybuilding magazine, they are equally passionate about meeting each athlete where they are and celebrating their progress and victories, no matter what they are.
The Social Influencer
This coach also has a side gig of being the box’s social media coordinator. He posts the workout every single day, along with perhaps a weekly video forecasting the upcoming week’s programming. She carries her cell phone to record TikToks, Instagrams and Facebook stories of the athletes getting in some great fitness (usually accompanied by the flame emoji!). And every time an athlete progresses in the Open – you better believe he is livestreaming the workout and inviting other athletes to come watch (and usually there’s pizza involved!).
Make sure this coach knows all of your social media handles for optimum exposure of you being a beast!
Which of these coaches have you worked with?
Kendra Whittle is a writer, novice CrossFitter, marathon runner and triathlete. She lives in St. Louis with her husband, three kids and two dogs.