Recently I’ve been neck deep in the vast world of becoming a CrossFit coach. It’s a completely different life from my current profession of software engineer. This venture has been in the works for quite some time even though I didn’t know it at the time. Ever since I initially lost 75 pounds in 2015, I’ve had friends and family always asking for advice or help on the subject. Of course I could only share my experiences and talk about my process. Then I let them do their own research and make their own decisions on what best fit them.
From just pointing people in the right direction to different reference guides, coaches, and books, I’ve seen so many of my friends transform their lifestyle and healthy habits. For some, it was just enough to show people that something was possible gave them all the motivation and inspiration they needed to make a decision to change their habits.
In the past, I’ve always been in the space of teaching and mentoring, even as a kid. Once I had my black belt in Tae Kwon Do at around 8 years old, I was helping the instructor lead the class. When I was in 5th grade, I was a safety cadet assigned to assist the teacher in the kindergarten classes. In high school, I mentored the underclassmen in computer science classes, and I was captain of the chess team. In college, I was a student assistant where I helped lead the discussion section of calculus classes, and I was president of a student organization. After college, I had to help manage interns on projects for work, build and lead a team in my nutrigenomics business, and had speaking engagements in rooms of over three hundred attendees.
Having grown up with two parents who both are high school teachers, leaders in their communities, and business owners, I often found myself in a position of teaching and mentorship. But why did I decide to specifically become a coach in the fitness space?
In one of my recent trips this year, I found myself in a globo gym to workout while I was on the road. Like most globo gyms, it’s filled with machines where it’s pretty self guided with nice little instructional stickers attached to them. However, equipment like the squat rack requires some prior knowledge. As I was doing my squats, a nice elderly couple approached me, and the gentleman asked if he could try, pointing at the barbell. I took a quick look at him and then my barbell which had about 155ish pounds on the bar. I could tell he was a deconditioned person (someone who hasn’t physical exerted themself in awhile) and so I took off a pair of plates off the bar. And then I looked at the way he walked and his posture, and so I chose to remove the rest of the plates and empty the bar. But then as soon as he positioned himself under the bar, I knew right away, that maybe we should just try an air squat, and so I moved him towards a wall where I could teach him basic squat mechanics.
Here was a man who was maybe in his mid 50s, but moved like he was in his 70s. We’re in an environment where most people have their heads down, headphones on, and judgement written all over the faces. The personal trainers there aren’t actively going around assisting people either — they’re only going to be training others when they’re on the clock with a client. It bothers me that the standard commercial gym is the first choice that comes to mind when people want to start becoming physically active, yet is not set up for the average person to succeed. Just imagine how intimidating the globo gym is with this massive sea of machines and equipment. Then you look towards the dumbbell and free weights section where you’ll have the young and lean bodybuilders doing their sets in front of the mirror.
Even the people who regularly show up to the gym may see very little progress. They’re the ones who rotate from machine to machine to do a few reps, and then maybe hop on the treadmill or elliptical to get their “cardio” in while taking breaks so they can snap pics to prove to people that they made it to the gym. I commend them for at least trying to get healthier. They’re trying to make a positive change in their life. They’re trying to develop new and better habits. They’re trying the best way they know how.
These are the two populations that I so desperately want to help: the deconditioned person who hasn’t physically exerted themself in 20+ years, and the athlete who is trying to develop a healthy lifestyle, but just doesn’t have all the pieces to the puzzle. The reason that these two populations are the ones that stand out to me the most is because they are my parents and many of my friends who “have tried everything” but just can’t seem to find progress. I’ve lost count how many times I’ve seen my parents “commit” to going to the gym only to stop going after the second session — and I definitely know for a fact that they have no idea what to do when they get there.
This is another reason why I love CrossFit so much. It’s funny to think that when most people hear CrossFit, they picture what they see at the CrossFit Games. People throwing around 300 lbs on the barbell and doing high skill movements like ring muscle ups. Or they think “injuries”. First of all, in CrossFit, we believe it is important to teach mechanics first, followed by consistency, then and only then intensity; injuries occur when ego gets in the way. What’s more dangerous than getting injured from being physically active? Sitting on your butt and watching Netflix will lead you to your death much faster than working out ever will.
Walk into a CrossFit box and what you’ll actually see is people of all skill levels and ages, working at an intensity relative to their physical and psychological tolerances, modifying their movements to best fit their capabilities, an engaged coach that can provide attention and corrections to help the athletes move better, and most importantly, having fun in a supportive and welcoming community. This isn’t even exclusive to CrossFit; I’d recommend going to any group class based fitness regimen (unless you’re allergic to people or thrive in a one on one environment).
After that experience with the elderly couple in the globo gym, I knew that I not only wanted but needed to become a CrossFit trainer so I can do my part in helping people “kick ass in their 90s” as Ben Bergeron would say.
During my time solo training and self teaching stint, one of the resources I used was the CrossFit Level 1 Training Guide. Usually that guide would only be read if you had plans on getting your CrossFit Level One Certificate (CF-L1), but I found it very enlightening and useful to correcting my movement mechanics and technique. It “pulled back the curtain” for me on what fitness really means and why the CrossFit methodology was created. After learning that, I officially joined the cult.
I also had started listening to different CrossFit related podcasts; one of them is Chasing Excellence with Ben Bergeron, coach to many games championships and creator of CompTrain. On the podcast, he talked about how he had transitioned from working a typical corporate job to now thriving not only as a CrossFit coach, but business owner, father, and husband. In one of his episodes, he mentioned how he would transition into coaching in this day and age. Instead of just getting your L1, and then applying to different coaching positions and random gyms — he said his recommendation would be to explore and actually become a member at a gym to find the coaching culture that fits you.
Not only do the coaches and owners of that gym get a chance to get to know you, but you also get to know them. It’s important to find a place where your core values are in line with theirs — otherwise coaching will become more of a job or meaningless task than a passion. When I got injured and was looking for a box to train, I was also looking for a place to grow as a person. I don’t know if it’s the universe or the power of law of attraction, but when I looking at different CrossFit gyms near me, I saw that CrossFit Citrine was having their grand opening soon. I remember seeing the hashtags on one of their Instagram posts: #BuiltByBergeron and #HappyHumbleHungry (Ben’s mantra/mission statement for his gym). I immediately got the chills and said “no way”.
It didn’t take me long to realize that CrossFit Citrine was the place of growth that I was looking for. While I was “just a member” at the gym, I intentionally observed what and how they taught the class, how they interacted with each athlete, and how the modified certain movements for each athlete. I kept taking mental notes on coaching long before I even started studying for the L1. It helped me tremendously when I was restudying the training guide, because I could see how I could apply what I was reading in the class setting.
I went to the seminar on June 1-2nd, cancelling my trip to the Granite Games where I was supposed to volunteer for the event, and I received my email saying that I passed the exam the Friday afterwards. Now I’m in the process of shadowing & co-coaching where I’m learning TONS from my experience in all the classes. Getting the L1 was the bare minimum, now is where the real growth and learning begins. I’m so grateful and appreciative to all of my past experiences that have led me to this new path. And immense gratitude to Ashlynn and Billie Buss of CrossFit Citrine for leading the way.