After returning from my Costa Rica trip with the family, I was invited to officially begin coaching at CrossFit Citrine. I’m now coaching four to five classes per week which is a great start to begin my coaching career. Since I’m now coaching by myself, the lessons I’m picking up have increased significantly. WIthout someone to assist or cover any holes in my coaching, I’m learning the do’s and don’ts much faster than I was when interning. And just like if I was starting to ride a bike without training wheels, I’m definitely going to fall a few times.

Here are a few lessons I’ve already picked up from my first few official weeks of coaching:

It’s not just working out, it’s FUNctional fitness. Bring the energy, joy, and excitement. This is the best hour of their day, and it should feel like a place to relieve stress, not create more. For my first solo coaching class ever, I decided to check out the 5:30 am class hosted by Coach David. It was a struggle to wake up that early, but it was well worth it. It was his advice that it’s important to put the FUN in functional fitness.

Admit your mistakes, then adjust. I made the mistake of overestimating distances for a movement when we had to adapt for poor weather which skewed one of the class’ scores. And then I decided to maintain that decision for the following class, because I thought it was more important to keep the scores similar. In hindsight, I should’ve made the adjustment and reduced the distance for the following class. It’s not about the scores, it’s about the desired stimulus that we want for our athletes.

Always be learning. The athlete’s job is to work towards improving so much that they don’t need the coach anymore. The coach’s job is to continuously improve their own knowledge base and skill set so that never happens.

Keep cues simple. Give verbal cues as if you were talking to a 5 year old. The simplest formula is ‘body part + direction.’ Examples: ‘knees out’, ‘butt back’, ‘elbows up’, ‘eyes forward.’

Don’t skip warm-ups even if a member is late. Warm-ups are hugely important. Make sure all athletes go through some kind of warm-up, even if it means cutting out some teaching pieces or cut into their workout if they show up late. It’s on them to make it to class on time, so we need to set the right expectations.

During the whiteboard brief, remember to check in with athletes to see if there are any injuries or sore spots. In one of my classes, I learned a little too late that one of my athletes does additional morning workouts aside from CrossFit class. The workout included deadlifts, and he did deadlifts that morning — which I would have modified had I asked questions earlier and probed a bit more.