The CrossFit Open elicits all kinds of responses from members.
“You want me to pay twenty extra dollars to do workouts I’m going to do anyway?”
“I did this last year, it was too stressful, I don’t want to do that again”
“I can’t wait for the Open, I always seem to PR around this time of year”
“I hope we don’t see ring muscle-ups this year”
“Ugh, how are we going to run this workout in our gym?”
“I’ve never done a pull up before, and I got 10 in the Open workout!”
For every positive comment, there are at least 5 negative comments that follow, but after the Open is over the sentiment is usually the same: “wow, that was fun, I can’t wait until next year, and those (insert weakness here) won’t hold me back this time.” Say what now? Someone is excited for the return of next year’s Open? Perfect.
While the Open may not be perfect, it provides you with some useful information and the necessary momentum to talk to athletes excited about their goals and get a good idea of deficiencies in your program. Let’s now talk about how we can use the momentum the Open created and how you can use this momentum to your gym’s advantage.
Analyzing your program
While the ultimate aim of the CrossFit Games Open is to help select the fittest men and women on earth, your every-day members use the Open to see where they stack up. After five grueling weeks you can see what your athletes did well, what caused them to struggle, and can then use that information to guide your programming going forward. A perfect example of using the Open programming to determine where your gym’s weaknesses lie is 20.4. Athletes had to be jump/step quickly, move heavy barbells overhead, squat on one leg, and you had to do all of this with a very high heart rate over a long period of time. Did your athletes struggle with the heavy barbells? Great – let’s refine weightlifting technique and make sure we have adequate heavy days. Did your athletes burn out during box jumps? Let’s get that conditioning up. Were only a few able to do pistols? Let’s make sure coaches are attacking mobility and those high skill movements in and outside of conditioning pieces. Acknowledging areas of weakness and creating a plan to turn them into strengths should be at the core of what your gym does. We fail at the margins of our experience, so if you notice a trend with a particular movement, time domain, or style of workout, then do it more often.
Engaging with members and setting new goals
The overall fitness of the gym as a whole is a great place to start when you reflect upon the Open, but don’t miss the opportunity to engage with your athletes individually as well. We are in the people business, and the Open gives us a very easy “in” to having a conversation with our athletes about their training, goals, and how they can use those things to keep progressing in the gym. Your athletes not only want your expertise and guidance, but most are looking for individual connections and a little face-time with their coach. During your conversation, you can be open and honest about their struggles and give them a roadmap towards success. Since we are all CrossFitters ourselves, we know the power of the positive energy that is created in accomplishing a new skill or hitting a new PR, so never underestimate the value in a 10 minute conversation with an athlete and humanizing yourself to your members.
Put it all together
Up to this point, we’ve addressed the importance of reflecting on the gym’s programming and using the Open as a chance to engage with our clients, but there is even one more way to use the information you gained from the Open. The last thing you can do is ensure you have the resources available to your athletes to help them reach their goals. These resources can include things like specialty seminars, Olympic weightlifting classes, cardio classes, specific movement templates like we provide in the Movement Template section of our site, or simply more open gym time to allow athletes to figure it out on their own. Regardless of the specifics, the final step is providing the opportunity in and outside of class for your athletes to improve and achieve their goals.
Only a fool has experiences and learns nothing. Owners and coaches: I implore you, please use this opportunity to make your gym and community better. Not only will your athletes thank you, but so will your employees, because as your athletes find success, so will your business.
Written by Matt Sherburne