Which means we’re going to receive emails filled with love and hate for the next several weeks. :)
Nothing too out of the ordinary.
Typically in our Gym Program session plans, we include articles and videos that go deeper into a specific movement. We call this section “For Further Study” because it gives you the deep dives, the nitty-gritty, so that you can build confidence, skill-up, and hone your craft as a coach.
This month, for instance, we have a fair bit of For Further Study material on Running.
Still, our members have asked for more.
We love that about our community — the desire to continuously improve — so we’ve created this list of content specific to running technique, mobility, injury, breathing, and so on, with the hope that something here will help you better serve your clients.
If you’re into the sort of material listed above, there is a section in EVERY session plan titled ‘For Further Study,’ where we include articles and videos that are relevant to the session. So, if the session includes running (like we discussed in this post), you’ll have additional material on breathing while running, running mobility, or something similar. The idea is to give coaches the resources they need if they want to go deeper.
The For Further Study section also includes material on things like communication, emotional intelligence, and topics that go beyond just fitness. By building competencies in these things, coaches can be your allies in creating more positive cultures and communities that everyone wants to be a part of.
You can see what else is included in our Gym Program, or take a look at the box below to explore a free session plan (no email or obligation required).
With a lot of kids at home because of COVID-19, we thought it’d be fun to give you some warmups and games you can do at home or in small CrossFit kids classes. You can do these as a family or as a coach/trainer with kids ages 7 -12.
We’ll start by listing some fun warmups then move into games you can play with a minimum of 1 – 4 people.
(Can be drawn on the sidewalk with chalk)
Jump forward 2, then back 1
Right foot only
Left foot only
High knees (two feet per square)
Lateral steps (two feet per square) right, then left.
“Fancy Feet” — Both feet start on the left side of the ladder. Move right foot into the first box on the right followed by the left foot, move the right foot to the outside right of the ladder followed by the left. Then move the left foot in the next box up and repeat the in-in-out-out-in-in pattern moving up through the ladder.
10m Bear Crawl — crawl with only hands and feet touching the ground
10m Bunny Hops — hop with feet and knees together in small “bunny hops”
10m Kangaroo Broad Jumps — jump for distance, like a kangaroo, land in a quarter squat
10m Crab Walk — crawl with only hands and feet touching the ground, belly up
Then 30-second cone to cone race — kids try to see how many times they can run from cone to cone in 30 seconds
Set up four cones around the room to serve as the “bases.”
Kids perform 1 burpee to get a “hit” and then run to first base, second, third, and back home to score a run.
At each base, kids must perform 3-5 reps of whichever movement you designate to be there.
As an example, first base could be squats, second could be push-ups, and third could be mountain climbers.
Once a child has cleared first base, the next in line may begin. Their goal is to get as high a score as possible! (5 minutes is usually plenty of time)
Follow the Leader Run
Take the kids on a short run in which they must “follow the leader,” and copy whatever the leader (you) does. You can skip, run, run backwards, crawl, shuffle, etc. You should also stop randomly and perform basic movements like squats.
Kids play tag, but the trainer may yell “freeze and ____________” (fill in with any basic movement) at any moment, and to un-freeze the kids must perform 3 reps of the given movement.
Jump Rope Challenge
How many can you get without missing?
How many can you get right leg only?
Left leg only?
Set up a series of obstacles for the kids to climb over and under (chairs with broomsticks across works great for the “under” obstacles), a ladder to run through, and something to jump on.
Kids have to do one burpee before entering the obstacle course and then circle around to complete the obstacle course as many times as they can in the 5 minutes.
Feel free to add/modify obstacles based on what you have available!
Fill 2 buckets with small balls or bean bags and place them on one side of the room.
Place two buckets opposite of them on the other side of the room.
Divide the kids into two teams and have the teams do a sprint relay, trying to fill up their empty bucket on the other side of the room.
Sit-up Circle Catch
Kids sit around the trainer in a half-circle, with an ab-mat behind them.
When the trainer throws the dodgeball to them they must perform a sit up and throw it back.
Add in an additional ball once the kids start to get the hang of it to make it more challenging. If it is more of an advanced group, you can have them all sit in a circle and throw the ball to each other (reminding them that they have to say the name of the next person and make eye contact with them before throwing it). Add in another ball for greater difficulty and challenge.
“Walk the plank”
This is a balance drill. Set out planks (pieces of 2×4 boards work well) of varying widths to have kids attempt to walk across without falling.
To begin, kids must perform 3 squats to attempt to walk across, and there is a 3 burpee penalty (touch their chest to the ground, jump up and clap their hands overhead) if they fall off. Each child should get multiple attempts.
To increase the challenge and difficulty, have them attempt to walk backward or with their eyes closed.
Minimum people needed: 1
Throw a balloon into the air and tell the kids that they have to work together to keep it off the ground.
Add more balloons as time passes to increase the difficulty.
If a balloon touches the ground, kids have to do 5 reps of a movement called out by you (burpees are great for this), then the game resumes.
Bean Bag Toss
Minimum people needed: 1
Have kids stand on a line and set up 6 Hula Hoops (or draw 6 circles with sidewalk chalk) about 5-10m away.
Hula Hoops that are closer are worth more points than Hula Hoops that are further away.
Each kid gets 2 throws and whoever accumulates the most points gets to choose a movement (squats, push-ups, superman to hollow, burpees, etc.) and everyone else has to do reps of that movement equal to how many points that person achieved.
Make sure kids get multiple chances to throw bean bags to make it fun! You can also increase the number of throws that each child has depending on the number of kids in the class and the amount of bean bags that you have.
Duck, Duck, Goose!
Minimum people needed: 4
Arrange kids sitting cross-legged in a circle, and start as the first tagger.
Circle around the kids, tapping each one on the head and say, “duck.” When you tap on a head and say, “goose” that child must jump up and chase you around the circle, trying to tag you before you can sit in their spot.
If you make it into their spot, they must go to the center of the circle and perform 3 squats, then become the tagger.
If you get tagged, you must perform the 3 squats, and then sit in the open spot, as the child becomes the new tagger.
Try to ensure every child gets a turn as the tagger!
Farmers and Lumberjacks
Minimum people needed: 4
Divide kids into 2 teams. One team is the “farmers” and the others are “Lumberjacks.”
Set up the room so there are cones randomly distributed throughout, all upright.
The lumberjacks’ goal is to knock over/turn over as many cones (trees) as possible, and the farmers have to stand them back up.
The lumberjacks begin with a 5-second head start, and the round concludes at 30 seconds.
Count the score for each team (cones knocked over vs. cones upright) and repeat for at least 3 rounds of 30 seconds, switching the kids’ roles.
Minimum people needed: 2
Have all the kids stand in a circle and give them an object to be the “hot potato” (a more advanced/older class of kids can use a small 4lb. med ball, younger classes of kids should use a bean bag or dodgeball).
Start the music and the kids pass the “hot potato” around the circle clockwise. The player who is holding the “hot potato” when the music stops is out and has to do 3 reps of a movement of your choice (burpees, squats, etc.).
Play continues until only one player is left. We recommend keeping the game fast-paced (starting and stopping the music frequently) so the games end quickly and those who got out get back in quickly.
Minimum people needed: 1
Hold a PVC pipe that kids take turns trying to “Limbo” underneath without touching.
Each child has to perform 3 reps of the trainer’s movement of choice (burpees are great) before they can attempt to pass under the PVC pipe.
After each round, trainers lower the PVC pipe slightly to make it more challenging.
If a kid fails on an attempt (any part of their body touches the PVC pipe or the ground), then they get to sit in the bottom of a squat until there is a winner and everyone gets back in to try again!
Note — If you don’t have two trainers then you can always have some of the older kids switch out to help hold the other side of the PVC or ask a parent to help too.
Minimum people needed: 2
Kids form a circle facing each other in the top of the plank position.
The goal of the game is to stay in the plank the longest.
There are two ways to get “out.” Dropping from the plank (any body part other than hands and feet touch the ground) or getting scored on.
Trainer introduces a ball to the circle and kids start rolling it back and forth between each other in the circle. If the med ball touches the chest, then that athlete has been scored on and is out.
After a couple of kids get “out,” have them form their own circle and begin another round of the game. To make it more difficult, add more balls to the circle.
Red Light, Green Light
Minimum people needed: 3
For the first round, the trainer stands on one side of the room and kids line up 10m away. The trainer designates a movement (ex: bear crawl, kangaroo jumps, etc.) and then turns the other way and says “green light.”
Kids begin moving toward the trainer. After a couple of seconds, the trainer announces “red light” and turns around quickly. Any kids who are not “frozen” and still moving, have to go back to the start line.
Trainer then turns around again and announces “green light” and so on until one child reaches them. That child becomes the new “leader” until another kid reaches them.
Make sure to remind kids that YOU are the only judge of who has to go back to the start line.
Stuck in the Mud
Minimum people needed: 4
This is a basic tag game. When a kid is tagged, they stand with their legs apart (stuck in the mud) and are freed when someone does an “army crawl” underneath them (remind them all that they have to crawl through without touching that person though).
Minimum people needed: 2
Set up 9 hula-hoops in a 3×3 square (or draw the circles in a grid with sidewalk chalk) with a line of cones 10m away.
Split the kids into two teams and give them each 3 bean bags of a designated color.
Both teams line up behind the cones and one kid at a time sprints up, places their bean bag in a hula hoop, then runs back and tags the next teammate.
The next teammate also grabs a beanbag and places it. Once all 3 bean bags are out, teammates can sprint down and move 1 beanbag from one hula hoop to another in an effort to get 3 in a row.
Once a team places 3 bean bags in a row in any direction they win!
Rules — only 1 bean bag per hula hoop, no tossing — they must place the beanbag down, and the next partner cannot pass the cones until they are tagged by their teammate.
Minimum people needed: 2
Shuffle a deck of cards and deal each player 10 cards.
This is a typical game of war where players flip cards over and high card wins (takes other cards for themself).
However, prior to the flip, name a movement and everyone but the winning player has to do that movement.
The number of reps is determined by the high card’s value. Numerical value is represented on the card (i.e. 2 is 2 reps, 8 is 8 reps), all face cards are worth 10, and Ace is worth 11.
Play until one player has all the cards, or out of time.
Our Kids Program: These session plans give you everything you need to succeed with a kids program (age 7 -12). 30-min classes, each with a fun game to keep kids wanting more.
Our Teens Program: Session plans that make life easier on coaches while building capacity, confidence and resilience in teens.
* To make sure you’re getting the most from these programs during COVID-19, you’ll have a 1:1 call with me (Matt Lodin) so I can make recommendations based on your specific context. The goal is to give you effective advice on how to adjust the programs to meet your needs.
Back then, we had no roadmap for exploring why we do what we do and what our members/clients get from that why. We couldn’t answer the question, “What do our session plans give our members?” in a way that wasn’t super obvious. We could only see features — “You get 7 session plans a week, and they each include…” — which was preventing us from seeing how what we do benefits our members on a deeper level.
But things recently clicked for us in an entirely new way because we’re taking a course on needs-based relating, The Compassion Course.
The foundation of the course is that everything we do as humans, we do to meet a need.
Going for a walk.
Buying a house.
Getting a job.
These are strategies to meet needs.
Going for a walk = movement, space, beauty…
Buying a house = freedom, acceptance, belonging…
Getting a job = security, meaning, purpose, connection…
The strategies and needs depend on the person and their context.
Sometimes our strategy for meeting a need succeeds and sometimes it’s a total fail.
The course lists these universal needs — shared by all humans, across cultures and ancestral heritage — as follows:
to know and be known
to see and be seen
According to this way of seeing the world, when we judge ourselves or others, or when we’re in conflict with someone, we can trace it back to unmet needs.
As someone who owns or operates a gym, you might be asking yourself how this applies to your current situation — running a gym during COVID-19.
We asked ourselves that too. As people whose livelihoods depend on gyms surviving and thriving, we’re trying to look at this situation from as many angles as possible so we might see strategies we couldn’t before.
With an open mind, we sat down with the list of needs, and then asked ourselves, “How do we help gyms meet these needs? How is our product a strategy for meeting their needs, or the needs of their people?”
As people who like a lot of examples when we’re learning new things, we’re sharing the results of our inquiry in the hopes that it might help you see your product or service differently.
We’ll go through the list alphabetically. At the end of this post, there are some resources to help you do this exercise too if you’re up for it.
Okay, from our perspective, here’s how we help gym communities meet their needs:
Choice Our Choose a Fair Price payment structure gives gym owners the freedom to decide what they pay every month. We do not want price to be a barrier of entry for gyms who want to be a part of what we’re doing. We’re also unlearning the scarcity or lack mindset that says more for you is less for me, and that tells us to believe that people are not inherently generous or fair-minded, which we know to be untrue from many personal experiences. If we want to live in a world full of abundance and giving, we have to change our inner world first.
Our very detailed session plans (videos, scales, subs, intention, coach notes, etc.) save gym owners and coaches time, which means they have the freedom to give more of their life to their loved ones and the activities that make them feel energetic, upbeat and rested.
Belonging and Community
With our private Facebook group, we give gym owners and coaches a space to connect with likeminded people from all over the globe. If you’re into GPP and variance and building resilient cultures that ask people to leave their egos at the door and chase difficulty, we’re your people. We share in the struggles and celebrate the good stuff together.
Care and Support
We provide direct access to us, Pat and Taz. We are not just the faces of the company — we are the people you call when you need to talk about something, we’re the ones directly answering help tickets or responding to Facebook group posts. You’ll also have the support of gyms in the Facebook group who often ask and respond to questions and share resources (like hiring manuals, SOPs, etc.). We’ve got your back.
We walk and talk fitness-biased, GPP, gen-you-whine CrossFit. After running gyms and writing session plans for 10 years, we know it’s the most effective way to keep people fit for decades. We’ve seen how members continue to experience growth and progress, while not being overworked and too exhausted to show up several times a week. Which is rarely true with daily strength + metcon programs. If that’s your opinion too, you can breathe easy and stay in alignment with your values and authenticity with WUWO, because we focus on fitness. You can read more about why we’re believers in GPP here.
Every month, we like to challenge members to work on skills that are difficult for the majority. We call this practice our “Monthly Projects.” You can expect to see things like Project Inversion, Project Squat, Project Midline Madness, Fitness Testing, etc. We find this keeps things exciting and surprising and builds confidence in a variety of skills and movements.
The Monthly Projects and a commitment to variance help us build competence in your members, but we don’t wanna stop there. We want to help you improve your product, the service you’re selling — coaching. We’re obsessed with expanding your coaches’ capabilities and skills. As former Coach Developers of over 60+ coaches, we love us some coach dev. We write our session plans to push coaches beyond their comfort zones and to invite them to step into the fullness of their gifts. You can read more about that here.
We’re integrated with SugarWOD, btwb, and Wodify, so you don’t have to enter the workouts into those platforms manually. This more efficient workflow makes life easier and calmer.
The tracking platforms help you monitor an athlete’s performance over time, but we also Fitness Test twice a year to make sure people are getting the results they want with our program. On a monthly basis, we usually aim for 3 – 5 benchmarks. We’ve found that number keeps people involved and excited without feeling like overkill.
Growth and Learning
In every session plan, you’ll see a section called “For Further Study.” This is where we push for growth beyond technical or mechanical knowledge because, for us, coaching isn’t just about fitness. In this section, you’ll find articles and videos on conflict resolution, communication, empathy, emotional intelligence, etc. It’s where we ask coaches to expand or challenge their reality, their way of thinking and seeing, so they may contribute to their clients’ lives in a meaningful way outside of movement. The skills that can be gained from this sort of growth make coaches your allies in creating the culture your dream clients want to be a part of.
We’ve designed the plans to make life easier on gym owners and coaches. You have everything you need — Pat’s daily coach video, a custom warmup, workout scales, subs, the “why” or intention of the session, things to look out for, goals for different levels of fitness, etc. The idea is to give you everything you need so that you can focus on the delivery.
We’re a 2 in 1 solution: You get programming and a coach development tool. Which means more time for you to do the things that make you feel nourished and restored.
Practices for You to Do
Okay, to give this a try, here are some resources:
Needs List — Google doc — A list of all the universal human needs on one sheet of paper.
How Your Gym Meets Clients’ Needs — Spreadsheet — An exercise to help you connect with how you serve your community so that you can more effectively communicate these things on your website or social media accounts. Which could draw more of “your people” to you and help everyone better understand what exactly it is that you’re offering them. You’re essentially painting a picture of your culture, what’s meaningful or important to you, and the specifics of how you intend to follow-through so it’s not just pretty words.
Client Needs Check-in — Spreadsheet — You can use this with your clients or members as a tool to help them get clear on their needs and what’s missing in their life. As their coach, you can then help them develop creative strategies for meeting these needs and provide the accountability they need to put the strategies into their calendar and actually DO them. As coaches, we know the value of what we do goes beyond movement or fitness. We help people step outside of their comfort zones so they can build the lifestyles they truly want. Maybe that’s a breathwork practice or meditation or dancing or surfing or hiking…the list goes on and on. It’s our privilege to be trusted with this role and to give the guidance people have asked for so they follow-through on the life they’ve envisioned and longed for.
You can also read our Vision and Values page to see how we’ve articulated our beliefs and why we know our service can improve the lives of gym owners and coaches.
EC Synkowski runs OptimizeMe Nutrition, a company dedicated to providing solutions for anyone to improve their weight, health, and overall wellbeing through sustainable diet methods. Thousands have used her #800gChallenge®, a diet free of restrictive rules, to eat healthily and have reported weight loss, increased energy, improved performance.
EC has a BS in biochemical engineering, a first MS in environmental sciences (with a focus in genetics), and second MS in Nutrition & Functional Medicine. She has also trained others since 2000 and holds the Certified CrossFit Level 4 Coach (CF-L4) credential. Her professional experience includes working as a Program Manager for CrossFit Inc (2011-2017) authoring their training course materials and serving as a subject matter expert for their certifications.
We’ve known her for a long time and have a lot of respect for her work.
In this conversation, we get into:
What we appreciate most about her #800gChallenge® is that it’s not about removing things from your diet — it’s about finding delicious ways to add colorful, flavorful yumminess to your plate.
The question that inspired her quest: How do we measure “clean” or “healthy” eating?
Her biggest pet peeve with some nutrition advice
Her answer to How do you get someone to want to eat better, or to care about nutrition?
How she starts by asking, What did you eat for breakfast this morning? and then meets people where they’re at with small, sustainable changes.
The biggest pushback she receives on the #800gChallenge®, like weight gain, eating “too much” fruit or binging on one thing (potatoes, avocados, etc.), and issues with gastrointestinal disorders (IBS, etc.)
When coaches can shine
One solid strategy that’s so simple most of us ignore it — “Don’t buy it, don’t have it around the house.” Boring. :)
How we sometimes need to heal our relationships with food before starting a nutrition program — Eating more fruits and veggies isn’t going to help you love yourself, and if that’s the reason you struggle with food, changing your diet isn’t an effective strategy.
Loved this down-to-earth conversation on food and nutrition. I’m feeling super grateful that EC allowed me to selfishly ask her for the answers to my biggest questions and challenges with food. It was like a free, recorded consult. :)
EC’s Plug-n-Play #800gChallenge® package for gyms that includes email and social media templates as well as everything else you need to lead your members through the challenge. You can read more about the specifics of what you get with this package by reading how it’s delivered on platforms like Wodify and SugarWOD. You don’t have to use either of those platforms to take part in the plug-n-play, but those pages will give you a better understanding of exactly what’s included.
Why do we so often fail at making positive changes?
Why is it so hard to establish good habits? Even when we really, really want to.
That’s what’s been on our minds lately.
COVID-19 has brought many, many changes to our lives.
These past few months have been filled with much learning and unlearning.
It’s our experience that when things go wrong and get weird, amazing stuff can happen.
We’re forced to pick up the pieces of a shattered creation, feel the pain of it, and then channel our energy into making something new. Also, everything can shift. What was once a “nice to have” is now a must-have. What was unimportant is now the top priority.
It’s an opportunity to sharpen what was dull.
Before COVID and the uprisings, we weren’t thinking too much about communication skills. We’d thought about it a little — as something we might work on in the distant future when life is less hectic and there’s a quiet cabin near a stream we could stay in… or in a future when speaking about anything remotely political or debatable didn’t end friendships — but it wasn’t on the calendar. Now, we’re taking the Compassion Course, a 52-week course to change how we communicate and navigate conflict.
There are weekly practices and homework that are challenging and confronting. And we’re expected to do these in addition to everything else we have to do to keep our lives going.
Like a lot of people out there right now, we’re working harder to make less money. While also learning how to homeschool kiddos. And put the garden beds to use.
We know from years of coaching, that making too much change, too fast, often means it’s doomed to fail.
What is easy is sustainable.
We’re revisiting some strategies for how to make good habits stick so that we stay on track with our homework, and we’re sharing what we’ve learned so far in case it might help others out there too.
These are tidbits from one school of thought. Certainly not the only way of seeing things.
Habit loop of Cue-Routine-Reward
Habits Are Loops
A habit is a sequence of actions that has a clear beginning, middle and end. In behavioral science, these are called loops — a beginning, an action/routine, and an end.
The beginning and end provide the container around the action.
Getting very clear on each step of a loop, and then making the loop as small as possible, will help us build enjoyable, longlasting habits.
For a habit to stick, it needs to have minimal friction. That is, it needs to be easy, obvious, attainable, measurable, desirable and rewarding.
Just keep thinking easy and fun, easy and fun, easy and fun…
A fully formed habit, or loop, has 4 distinct parts:
A trigger or cue — Something that tells us it’s time for this behavior to happen now.
Desire — We need to have a sense of “I really want this to happen.”
Reward — Often another set of behaviors, like making a cup of tea, eating chocolate, or going for a swim.
If we’re trying to create longlasting habits, we want to slice them up into the smallest loops we can — because long sequence chains don’t work — and we want to make the reward mouthwateringly enticing.
So, small and simple + delicious.
Let’s say it’s January, and you’ve made your New Year’s resolutions, and you’ve decided you’re going to meditate every day for 30 minutes because that would be good for you (according to all the experts and smart people). By the third week of January, you’ve stopped. Why? Because thinking you should do something “good for you” is not reinforcing or rewarding enough. Also, you’ve created a long chain loop. It’s too much for too little.
(Side note: Goals or habits with “I should…” as the foundation are asking us to pause and reflect so that when we step forward, we do it with authenticity. Do we actually want this? Or do we think we’re supposed to want it?)
Here’s how a meditation process could look if we made it easy, obvious and attainable: “I’m going to listen to a 5-min meditation that begins and ends with a chime bell. Then I’m going to drink my favorite tea and eat my favorite chocolate.”
Trigger → Behavior: I’m going to sit on my bed, pick up my phone and earbuds from the bedside table, put in my earbuds, and press play. The meditation begins and ends with a chime bell. When the meditation is over, I will put my earbuds away and then reinforce the behavior with a reward.
Reinforcement: After the meditation, I will fix myself a cup of my favorite tea and eat a piece of chocolate.
With our communication course, it might look something like this:
Every day, after lunch, I’m going to sit down at my desk, pull out my notebook where I’ve written down this week’s lesson and homework, set my phone timer for 10 minutes, and I’m going to choose one practice to do. When my timer goes off, I’m going to put my notebook away.
Then, I’m going to make myself a cup of coffee and eat a square of chocolate.
These steps are simple, specific and follow a repeating pattern or sequence. There is a ritual, a routine, a recipe that is easy to remember and follow.
As parents who cook with our kids, we’re thinking of it like we’re creating a recipe for someone who’s not experienced with baking or cooking. We would never hand them a recipe with a mile-long list of ingredients if we want them to succeed. Likewise, our habit loop (or recipe) needs to be simple and fun.
What Gets Rewarded Is Repeated
Whether it’s a dog, a person, or a parrot, positive reinforcement just works.
We like our treats.
In the language of behavioral science, rewards are called reinforcements because they incentivize (or reinforce) certain behaviors.
To make habits stick, we need to ask ourselves: What can I give myself at the end of the behavior that’s reinforcing?
One way of looking at it is to consider the feel-good neurochemicals.
Motto: “I got it!”
It can be anything from chocolate, a cup of tea, a Facebook like, 5 minutes surfing on TikTok, 10 minutes of a game on my phone, or my preferred tribal unit (like my favorite team or political party) winning over the other tribe. That last one deserves some caution…and contemplation.
Motto: “I’m the best!” or “I’m good enough that I’m getting respect from a group for which I have respect!” or “We did it!”
I have achieved something in the eyes of my peers that we all think is good.
The exhilaration of physical success. When we push our bodies to our limits. When we top out.
Motto: “I am loved.”
Parent-child, partnership, caregiver-pet, friendships. Love, care, nurturing relationships.
For fitness, the benefits of endorphins (and maybe even serotonin) are built into the loop naturally. We can increase that reinforcement by thinking about how we could bring more dopamine into the loop. Maybe, a favorite snack or treat we can eat in the car on the way home from the gym.
For other personal growth work like courses, mind-training, etc., we’re thinking our strategies are going to be pretty dopamine-heavy:
a slice of homemade sourdough with fancy butter (a much-loved treat of ours),
diving into the pool (because we love the water),
fruit snack (cuz we cannot get enough fruit lately).
If our new habit still isn’t working, it means we’ve chosen a reward that isn’t rewarding enough, so we’ll up our reinforcement to create a better incentive.
Maybe two slices of sourdough… :) Just thinking out loud here…
For us, coaching isn’t just about fitness or movement medicine. It’s also about helping people build lifestyles that are more authentic and meaningful to them.
Before we can coach others into different ways of being, we have to test-drive our strategies first.
We’re still learning.
We mentioned The Compassion Course. It’s too late to join the course, but The Compassion Course Book: Lessons from the Compassion Course is available on Amazon and (probably) your favorite indie book store.
As you might already know, we’re taking The Compassion Course, a communication methodology rooted in something called “needs-based relating,” which, simply put, is this:
Everything we do, we do to meet a need, consciously or subconsciously, successfully or not.
The long list of needs is sorted into these categories: Autonomy, Connection, Meaning, Peace, Physical Well-Being, and Play.
It’s not that this way of thinking is necessarily true — it’s just one way of seeing the world.
For us, we’re less concerned about what’s “right” or “fact” than we’re interested in answering, How can I think in a way that helps me create the world I want to live in?
What interests us most right now is learning how to communicate in a way that leads to more understanding and connection, and less shame and blame.
Four weeks into the course, we’ve explored Needs, Feelings, Judgments, and Strategies to meet Needs.
And that’s what we’d like to think about right now — strategies to satisfy needs.
Actually, what we’re really interested in thinking about right now is what happens when things fall apart, when your strategies for meeting needs fail.
That is, what happens when you’ve envisioned a future, tended to the fire of its creation with long hours of hard work, and then everything goes sideways.
Or, what do you do when you’ve done everything you can to prepare for every eventuality, when you’ve done your due diligence to make sure this scary, awful thing doesn’t happen, and then that scary, awful thing walks right into your life.
In CrossFit, we train for the unexpected. We prepare for “surprises.” When things get weird, we say it builds resiliency.
But what about when uncertainty creeps into every bit of our lives.
Simon Sinek defines a “finite game” as one with a clear beginning and end, fixed rules everyone agrees on, a clear objective, and identifiable players. “Football, for example, is a finite game. The players all wear uniforms and are easily identifiable. There is a set of rules, and referees are there to enforce those rules. All the players have agreed to play by those rules and they accept penalties when they break the rules. Everyone agrees that whichever team has scored more points by the end of the set time period will be declared the winner, the game will end and everyone will go home. In finite games, there is always a beginning, a middle and an end.
Infinite games, in contrast, are played by known and unknown players. There are no exact or agreed-upon rules. Though there may be conventions or laws that govern how the players conduct themselves, within those broad boundaries, the players can operate however they want. And if they choose to break with convention, they can. The manner in which each player chooses to play is entirely up to them. And they can change how they play the game at any time, for any reason. Infinite games have infinite time horizons. And because there is no finish line, no practical end to the game, there is no such thing as “winning” an infinite game. In an infinite game, the primary objective is to keep playing, to perpetuate the game… there are no finish lines and no winners. There’s no such thing as coming first in marriage or friendship. No one is ever crowned the winner of careers.”
The tricky part is cultivating that awareness, identifying what game we’re playing (finite or infinite) when we’re standing in the heat of the moment, and then developing more appropriate strategies before we shout “onward!”
Speaking of strategies…
According to this needs-based way of thinking and relating, all human acts can be seen as attempts to meet needs.
These are the specific needs you’re asked to refer back to:
to know and be known
to see and be seen
Physical Well Being
*Notice how long the “Connection” list is in comparison to others. Interesting…
Strategies to Meet Needs
Sometimes it seems like there’s conflict between our needs, like say, the need for progress with a project but also the need for rest and relaxation. These needs seem to oppose each other — progress and productivity vs. rest and relaxation.
But the conflict isn’t between the needs. It’s between the strategies we come up with for fulfilling those needs.
Thom Bond, the course creator, writes, “When I focus on needs, instead of the strategies I might engage in to fulfill them, I can see things that I simply couldn’t see before. You could say that when we are in “strategy mode”, we only have two choices, do the strategy or not. When we are in “need mode”, we have ten thousand strategies available to us to meet any need (metaphorically speaking, of course).”
With this way of seeing the world, a lack of strategies is a lack of imagination.
Okay, but how do you tell the difference between a need and a strategy?
If you look at the Needs list above, you won’t find “job” listed there. But you will find needs that are met by having a job.
Coaching or running a gym is a strategy to meet needs. It’s not THE strategy, it’s A strategy.
Just like joining a CrossFit facility or a gym is A strategy to meet needs.
There is no ONE way to meet needs.
This is hard to keep in mind when things fall apart.
Like when we lose our job. When half our community loses their jobs. When we shift from coaching in-person to coaching mostly online. When we don’t know if our business will be open in 3 months. When we’re not sure how to show up and serve our communities anymore.
Life can get very sad very quickly when we’re stuck on making one strategy work.
Part of this week’s course homework is to do this practice:
“Needs Liberation — Think of someone that you think is preventing you from getting a need met. Write down the need from the Needs List. Then, think of 3 ways you could get this need met without that person. It helps to use your imagination a bit here too.”
Blaming and shaming is part of our overarching culture. In a lot of ways, it’s what we were trained to do, to become. We’re taught to judge ourselves and others as doing and being “good” or “bad/evil,” and to create a world of heroes and villains.
We’re learning to unlearn those habits.
It’s interesting to contemplate all the people or things we see as “in the way” of our needs getting met.
To explore your needs and strategies, and the so-called obstacles in your way, try sitting down with the needs list and ask yourself what needs you’re fulfilling with a career in fitness. Be as specific as you can and stick to the words on this list.
You might also ask new clients what needs they’re trying to meet by joining your gym or hiring you as a coach. Helping people learn about and connect with these needs makes it possible for you to show up and serve your community more effectively — by providing solutions to problems people may not know how to put words to themselves. For us, coaching and mentoring is not just about fitness or movement. The relationship is about lifestyle, unlearning unhelpful beliefs or mindsets, and letting go of validation to make more room for what’s meaningful. Basically, it’s about living a truer, richer life.
If one strategy falls apart, it’s time to create a new one.
We are only limited by our imagination.
Resources are limited, true. Time, energy, money, and so on. But this has always been a fact of life.
Again, we are only limited by our imagination.
We’re struggling with this work right now. Analyzing our needs, then coming up with multiple strategies on how to meet those needs without requiring someone else to show up and contribute to our needs is not easy stuff.
It feels like important work, though.
Especially with so much uncertainty in the world right now.
When plans and futures are falling apart or fading away, slipping through the fingers like smoke.
We cannot give everyone peace, safety and security. We wish we could.
At the very least, maybe this needs-strategies way of seeing things will help you see your situation differently so that you dream up more creative solutions to your biggest problems.
As Viktor Frankl, said, “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”
It’s too late to join the course, but The Compassion Course Book: Lessons from the Compassion Course is available on Amazon and (probably) your favorite indie book store.
I am lucky to know many highly-skilled, hardworking people who’ve been incredibly successful in changing lives through fitness and movement. These folks also tend to be generous with their knowledge, paying it forward so others can share in the abundance.
With so many changes in the fitness industry due to COVID-19, and with so many of us considering hybrid gym models (running online and in-person memberships), I wanted to talk with people who knew how to offer that personal touch in an online space.
Mike and Adee Cazayoux lead the Working Against Gravity (WAG) community, which offers 1:1 personal nutrition coaching. They build a custom program around your needs to meet you where you’re at AND get you the results you want.
They’ve been offering their services through WAG since 2014.
What makes WAG so interesting to me is that Mike and Adee have chosen to run a premium-priced model, which goes against the typical volume-based membership service that relies on a constant turn-and-burn to keep afloat, like something that’s $20 a month.
In this webisode, the duo shares some of the mistakes and wins they’ve experienced while working with over 20,000 people and 35 coaches online. They offer up some great information on how they’ve built better systems for their program delivery, coach check-ins, and member tracking.
Some of the highlights:
All their coaches have to respond to messages within 24-hours.
All their coaches are former WAG members.
They have every member of their team take the Kolbe test to learn their strengths and weaknesses.
They believe online coaches need to be more patient because they don’t get that immediate feedback that happens naturally with in-person, face-to-face interactions.
They teach their coaches to build relationships with the FORD model.
Why they decided on a premium-priced model, and why they believe their product is worth what they charge.
How to determine what to pay a coach, how many hours it takes to coach x amount of people, and how many clients each coach can handle.
Why online services can be so valuable and deliver such great results.
What to do when a client isn’t responding to accountability check-ins.
This is a great conversation to listen to if you’re considering online memberships or a hybrid model at your facility.
If you’d like to learn more about WAG, here are some places to visit:
And, if you’d like to see how we’re using a hybrid model here at WUWO, here’s what our session plans look like. The link takes you to a 1-day preview, no email or info required. The “Partially Loaded” track is for people who work out at home. All they need are a pair of dumbbells (or objects from around the house) and a jump rope. We’ve found that providing at-home clients with similar or the same programming keeps them feeling connected to and a part of the larger community.
That’s why we give a lot of our time to talking about empathy, emotional intelligence, othering, the power of human connection, and stuff that has nothing to do with functional movements executed at high intensity.
Yes, we want your people to be fit, and to eat and have access to nutrient-dense foods.
But, also, to have the skills needed for navigating conflict or difficult conversations.
To have the tools necessary for nurturing themselves and their relationships.
To have the courage to be the change they want to see.
We want people to live lives that are meaningful and joyful to them. And for the world to be better because they lived.
Fitness is one tool in the kit for this kind of impact. It teaches you about resiliency, makes your body more capable and powerful, and can change your outlook on so many things.
To stop there, as a gym or coach, would mean ignoring all the other ways you could positively impact someone’s life. Coaches are agents of change, and that change shouldn’t only be about pounds or PRs. (Though for us, fitness isn’t about those metrics anyway — it’s about being healthy enough to live fully and do the things you want to do.)
If we want to help our members be more loving partners, parents and people, if we want our friends to witness our pain instead of trying to solve or diminish it, if we want to be in a community where people can live in peace even though they look, think and feel differently, then we have to get serious about the skills that make all that possible.
And for us, that’s communication — how we speak, how we relate, how we connect.
We all need training and practice to strengthen these muscles.
You get 50 lessons in total, one lesson every week of the course.
These lessons will cover topics like:
What to do when judgment and blame show up in conversations
Power-with vs. power-over dynamics
How to be more aware of your needs and desires
How to have less painful, more effective conflicts
The difference between requesting and demanding
How to stay connected and empathetic in an anger-fueled conversation
Plus a whole lotta other stuff.
As people intentionally place themselves in echo chambers so they don’t have to interact with people who don’t believe as they believe, as people become more and more obsessed with labeling themselves “right” and others “wrong,” as we feel more threatened by those who are different than us — be it they look differently, worship differently, love differently, parent differently, believe or think differently — we grow more isolated, more alone, more afraid.
If a gym wants to call itself a community, then it needs to function as a community, which means more village-mindedness and less “difference is dangerous, sameness is safe.”
The fact is, people are labeling differences of opinion or belief as a threat to their existence.
We don’t know how to respect someone whose values are not in alignment with ours, so to other them, to put them beneath us, we diminish their humanity.
We take the few breadcrumbs of a story we know, and we fill all that negative space with “facts” and stories that confirm our own biases and prejudices. Because they’re Poor. Middle-Class. Rich. Christian. Muslim. Atheist. Californian. Southern. A mother not breastfeeding her newborn. A mother breastfeeding too long. White. BIPOC. Hetero, cis-gendered. LGBTQ. A Democrat. A Republican. The assumptions never end. And you know what they say about assuming…To assume makes an ass out of u and me.
That’s granny wisdom.
We believe that if we’re responsible for the energy we bring into a room, then we should also be responsible for all the judgments and baggage we bring to conversations.
So, we’re committing the next 50+ weeks of our lives to learning and unlearning.
These lessons build on each other, and there will be video conference calls offered by the course leaders. (We’re not affiliated in any way.)
We’re also going to host a discussion group for WUWO members so that we can explore the material together.
If you’re interested, the course starts June 24, 2020. Regular enrollment closes on June 23rd, extended enrollment closes on July 1st. Pricing is scaled at $36 and $72 for the full year, but they also offer a free option. (Read more about that in their FAQs.)
PS — This isn’t the ONE and only thing you can do right now, as growth comes in many forms. That said, this communication methodology could be a stepping stone we could use as we create a new path through the woods.
Before COVID-19, when we talked with coaches about helping their people set meaningful goals, the conversations were around intrinsic motivation and digging down to the root of why people wanted more fitness in their lives.
Our first concern was the “motivation problem.” That is, Why are so many people so unmotivated to do something that would improve their lives? When people lack motivation, does that mean their goals lack significance or meaning to them?
So we started looking into motivation. Turns out, there are some sinister shadows at play here.
Here’s what we dug up:
Intrinsic Motivation: This comes through the inherent enjoyment of the activity itself. “I train because I like it and it’s fun!”
Integrated Motivation: Acts that are in alignment with personal goals and values. (Notice how “Integrated” and “Integrity” share the same root.) “I train to inspire others.”
Identified Motivation: Based on the value people see in the doing of the thing or the results. “I train because I find the benefits of physical activities important.”
Injected Motivation: Self-imposed pressure in the form of contingent self-esteem, guilt, shame and the urge to external valuation. This is wrapped up in how you want to be perceived. It’s the pressure you put on yourself in order to keep up appearances or maintain labels. “If I don’t exercise, I feel guilty” based on the belief that “Good people workout, bad/lazy/worthless people don’t.”
External Motivation: Compliance of external pressure or rewards. “I train because my husband/wife/father/mother thinks I need to lose weight” or “because I’ll get more likes on Instagram.”
There are many other motivational models. This is just one. But it got us thinking…
If a goal is rooted in Ego, does that make it a “bad” goal? Do ego-driven goals lead to ego-driven training?
If a goal is dependent on external validation, does that make it an inappropriate goal? Does the goal need to carry personal significance, or can it be for someone else and still keep you motivated?
The answers to those questions are nuanced and situational and worth exploring.
We started asking ourselves those kinds of questions because our objective with WUWO is resiliency. And to make humans more resilient, we need to first shift mindsets around working on weaknesses and create an environment where people can drop external validation and ego-driven goals at the door.
For us, some simple solutions to the goal-setting problem were:
CrossFit/GPP/Fitness-biased programming to continually push up against those thresholds
Encouraging members to get clear on what they want from fitness
Building culture around more meaningful goals
Tracking and testing
But to build a mission-driven or why-focused culture, we had to set some boundaries too.
We had to think deeply about how our behaviors and systems:⠀⠀
Discourage members from cherry-picking workouts so they only train their strengths
Help members set meaningful goals and track progress
Give coaches tools for providing education around GPP
To be completely honest, we started speaking about intrinsic motivation because we noticed a trend in the fitness industry that bothered us: Some gyms were trying to build a weakness-positive or weakness-focused culture with certificates or cheap little trinkets as rewards.
That’s not our jam. Our belief is that if people are more interested in a badge or treat than achieving the goal, it wasn’t a meaningful goal to them. Progress is the reward. If that’s not enough, then we need to dig deeper.
What we need is to disrupt a particular way of thinking, of moving through the day (and through life).
These are the questions that kept running through our minds:
How can we help people set meaningful goals?
How can we create the conditions within which members motivate themselves?
How can we help members drop external validation at the door so they can connect back to what they want from fitness? How is fitness going to help them live their best life?⠀
What became clear to us is that external validation was a much bigger player than we realized.
Fitnessing for Them
Goal setting is tricky business. Shame and identity can muddy the waters when trying to get clear on what it is you want and why you want it — is it something you actually want, or something the world told you to want?!?
Ohhhhh that’s some mind-bending goodness right there. Just keeping it light and fuzzy around here. 😬
In our experiences with goal-setting, issues of identity can surface. This is where you get into interesting territory: Setting goals that are more about external validation and pleasing other people than truly satisfying a real want or need.
There’s a lot of data out there that says the more autonomous people feel in their goal setting, the better.
If we’re going to create a culture of self-aware adults who take responsibility for themselves and are comfortable getting uncomfortable (qualities that mesh real well with a GPP or CrossFit program, btw), then we have to walk the talk.
We have to consider how our goals might be rooted in fears of being voted off the island because we’re not attractive enough, funny enough, cool enough, blahbidy, blibbidy, bloobidy.
Here’s what we recommended people do before COVID-19:
Scribble down or noodle on these statements:
I want to be perceived as…
I don’t want to be perceived as…
How did you come by these beliefs about who you should and shouldn’t be? (Or couldn’t be.)
Now think about why you workout, what you hope to get from fitness, how you expect fitness to improve your life.
Ask yourself: How is fitness going to help me live my best life?
Give some awareness to how these underlying beliefs about how you want to be perceived could heavily influence your goals and your why for fitnessing.
Are your goals even your goals?
Or are they echoes of other people’s words and expectations? (Are you being haunted?!?)
Are your answers based on beliefs dumped onto you by the external world? All the “you should…” messages.
Or are they tapped into the good stuff? The stuff that makes you feel turned up, more alive, and ready to keep rockin on.
Be real with yourself.
Have Goals Changed Because of COVID-19?
Things are different now.
The weird, strange beauty of it all might be that people get more real than ever about who they are and what they want.
External validation might not be a problem at all today.
Regardless, every single member came to your gym because you offered a solution to a problem.
With the world all topsy turvy, they have new problems.
Which means they need a new why, new meaningful goals.
We don’t know when this is going to be over. So don’t wait to check-in with your people to find out why they’re still working out. At home. Amidst the kids and the dogs and their jobs and the chaos of now.
We’re living in a different reality, a new normal.
What was a priority before COVID-19 might not be a priority now.
It’s time for a goal check-in.
It’s time for you to ask your people how they need you to show up and serve today, right now.