On a recent trip to New York, I attended the highly acclaimed Leaders in Performance Conference. A particular highlight was when twelve of us were invited to a private lunch to discuss all things Strength & Conditioning.
Our backgrounds and sports were diverse: Philadelphia Eagles (NFL); New York Rangers (AHL); Brooklyn Nets & Boston Celtics (NBA); German Football Association; Cycling Australia; USA Eagles, Natal Sharks & Leinster (Rugby Union) to name a few.
Yet, despite the fact that we had an assortment of nationalities, sports and cultures represented, the attitude to CrossFit was remarkably standard! And it wasn’t positive.
Now I poke fun at the CrossFit community as much as any S&C Coach educated in periodisation, weightlifting technique and high performance sport might; but I often wonder if we’re not missing some crucial lessons that could make our athletes improve even more.
Just before the NYC trip, I was invited to watch a CrossFit event held on the Gold Coast. It was with a learning (and not judging) mindset that I approached this invitation.
Bearing in mind that this wasn’t an ESPN-filmed, Rich Froning-competing event, but a low, almost entry-level competition.
Below are 5 things that stood out:
1) Foam Rolling, Stretching & Trigger Pointing How many of us would love our athletes to do more of the aforementioned? We tell them to do it while in front of the TV, or just find '15 minutes during your day'... These competitors were doing it by themselves, without instruction (or begging:)
2) Healthy Eating Regardless of what you think of the paleo-type diets, eating more natural foods and less processed foods is better than what most of the population are eating, and probably better than what some of your athletes are eating. At dinner that night almost every order was very specific ('extra salad', 'no sauce', 'put that on the side', etc). I bet you can think of a few athletes you'd want to adopt those behaviours!
3) Acupuncture for Flexibility Chatting to one of the competitors, he informed me he was seeing an acupuncturist to improve his shoulder ROM so he could overhead squat deeper. At the same time I know of elite, professional athletes who do absolutely nothing outside of what is provided for them by their Club or Academy.
4) Lifting Shoes Just a personal bias but I loved the fact that almost every competitor had lifting shoes! Granted, not all the shoes were 'Olympic grade' but that attention to detail and willingness maximise their performance was still inspiring.
5) Weightlifting Level 1 Although I didn't see this at the comp, I know that the Australian Weightlifting Federation's courses are inundated with CrossFitters learning to improve their techniques and understanding of weightlifting. How many of your athletes do courses, coaching or otherwise, to understand their sport better?
Think about this: CrossFit built this culture of pushing boundaries, a thirst for knowledge, competitiveness and taking care of their bodies without fines, punishments, 'extras', or 'naming and shaming'.
In fact, they actually charge a fee for people to join this culture. I don't know, but it seems like there is a lot we can learn from it.
So regardless of your thoughts on CrossFit, make sure you're not throwing the proverbial baby out with the bath water and see what you can learn from this ever entrenching trend.
Grant Jenkins is a maturing Physical Performance Coach who is learning to swallow his ego in an attempt to continue his education. Follow him on Twitter @Grant_Jenkins
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