Interview with EC Synkowski on the #800gChallenge®

Pat Barber Coaching, Nutrition

 

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.
  • Her courses on Nutrition Essentials, plus her package for gyms that gives them all the resources they need to run an #800gChallenge® with their members.

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. :)

Additional Resources

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.

EC’s Nutrition Essentials courses

EC’s Instagram

Her podcast, The Consistency Project

Making Positive Habits Stick

Taz Barber Coaching

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:

  1. A trigger or cue — Something that tells us it’s time for this behavior to happen now.
  2. Desire — We need to have a sense of “I really want this to happen.”
  3. Action
  4. 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.”

  1. 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.
  2. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

These are:

  1. Dopamine —
    • 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.
  2. Serotonin —
    • 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.
  3. Endorphins —
    • The exhilaration of physical success. When we push our bodies to our limits. When we top out.
  4. Oxytocin —
    • 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.

Additional Resources

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.

Also, our blog post When Things Fall Apart touches on some similar themes.

 

Meaningful Goals in the Middle of COVID-19

Taz Barber Coaching, Covid-19

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:

  1. Intrinsic Motivation: This comes through the inherent enjoyment of the activity itself. “I train because I like it and it’s fun!”
  2. 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.”
  3. 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.”
  4. 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.”
  5. 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.

Stop looking in the rearview mirror.

Additional Resources:

What Are They Buying Now? That thing you used to sell isn’t what people are buying online.

At-Home Workouts: Go Slower, Move Better

Pat Barber Coaching, Covid-19

It’s friggin awesome that so many programmers are providing communities with at-home workouts throughout Covid-19. Amidst uncertainty and fear, we’ve seen incredible generosity. And my gosh at the resiliency and adaptability — affiliates have changed their business models and systems in the span of one week.

As we move to at-home workouts, I want to point out the #1 problem with home gym training: Repetition of movement patterns.

We all know that a lack of variance ultimately leads to overuse.

I lay out some quick and easy solutions in this video.

To sum it up (for you skimmers): Move better, go slower, hit those end ranges.

 

Resources mentioned in the video

Kelly Starrett’s The Ready State

Active Life’s Bulletproof Programs

Additional Resources

How We’re Adjusting Our Session Plans During Covid-19

Take a Look at a Session Plan — With our Gym Program, you get 3 options for every workout + an at-home version (all you need are dumbbells and a jump rope). This 1-day preview shows you what our session plans look like. No info required.

Why We’re Moving to Choose a Fair Price — We’ve transitioned our Gym Program to a Pay What You Want-ish model indefinitely.

 

A Roadmap for Running a Gym During Covid-19

Pat Barber Coaching, Covid-19, Gym Management, WUWO

As cities, counties, states, and nations call for organizations to close temporarily and people to stay at home, we’d like to talk about how to keep your community healthy and strong during this outbreak.

This is by no means an exhaustive road map, but it’s one that we’ll continue to add to as developments occur and affiliates share what’s working for them.

PHASE 1

**SKIP TO PHASE 2** (This part is already out of date)

In this phase, your local community has not been as affected by the virus yet. Your doors are open, people are attending classes, and you’re concerned with best practices for how to keep your people healthy and happy.

Educate Yourself on Covid-19

Look to the CDC’s Youtube account and other resources to educate yourself on the virus, how it spreads, and what you need to do to keep your members safe.

For instance,

  • You can carry Covid-19 for 14 days after exposure without experiencing any symptoms. Which means if you have members who’ve been traveling, they could be carriers of the virus for 2 weeks before they realize they’re sick. Knowing this, you’d call these members and ask that they stay home for 2 weeks before returning to the gym. You can offer them at-home workouts and virtual coaching (more on this later) to keep them moving and resilient. At the end of that cycle, if they don’t have any symptoms, they’re welcome to return. By offering up a virtual coaching solution, you protect your entire community while also taking care of a member who may potentially become ill (more on what to do when that happens later).

From there, with knowledge of the virus, you can create your procedures.

Develop an SOP Document — Standard Operating Procedure

A Standard Operating Procedure is a document of step-by-step instructions on how to execute a task. It’s a detailed explanation of the process. The idea is to make the SOP so clear, so easy to understand, that anyone could walk-in and “get it.” Essentially, you make yourself redundant as a leader. They don’t need you around to know what to do and how to do it.

Develop a plan for what processes you want to put in place and how you want to communicate that to your staff.

  • What are the processes around social distancing?
    • Will you cap classes to a certain size?
    • How will you cap? Will people have to pre-register? What system will they use to do so?
  • What are the processes around cleanliness and sanitation?
    • Will you provide hand sanitizer, or require people to wash their hands upon arrival?
    • What supplies will be available for people to wipe down equipment before AND after their workout?
    • How often will the gym be cleaned?
  • How do you intend to keep your people safe? And who’s responsible for what?
  • Here’s an OSHA article that outlines training staff on sterilization, etc.
  • Alyssa Royse of Rocket CrossFit in Seattle wrote about how they created an advisory panel of doctors (who are also members of the gym) and what they did to keep members safe. Here’s the article: Running a Gym & Covid-19. She includes screenshots of Facebook post announcements where she’s explaining the new procedures to members so that everyone is clear on what the gym is doing to protect people from the virus.
Educate Your Staff

Train your staff on your new procedures — what you’re doing to keep them safe and members safe. Coaches will be cleaning body fluids (sweat, etc.) off the floor and equipment, so they need to be educated on how to do that properly so they don’t get sick.

You also need to educate them on Covid-19, what they can say to members, and who’s responsible for what.

Educate Your Members

Overcommunication is not a thing right now. It does not exist. You need to frequently (more frequently than you probably think) update your members on what you’re doing to keep them safe, how you’re responding to new developments, and what they’re required to do to protect themselves and others.

Alyssa Royse, of Rocket CrossFit in Seattle, shares some examples of this in her article Running a Gym & Covid-19.

Bottom line: Use your social media channels and email to clearly lay out your plan and what you expect from them. Nothing fear-based. This is our time to lead, to remain calm so we make better decisions, and to educate our members on health & wellness.

Be Really Obvious About Cleaning

When people walk into the gym, it should smell like sanitizer. Don’t hide the cleaning process. Be really open and obvious about it so that everyone understands you’re doing what you can to keep them healthy. They need to see it and smell it.

Going back to the SOP…

Members also need to know their role in cleaning. Are they washing their hands upon arrival? Are there cleaning supplies to use to wipe down the barbell before AND after they workout?

What are members expected to do? And what are coaches expected to do?

Make sure everyone is 100% clear on who’s responsible for what.

Again, this goes back to education.

  • Educate on Covid-19 and the risk of body fluids. Explain how often you’re cleaning equipment, how they’re supposed to clean the equipment, how often you’re cleaning the floors (sweat angels are a risk now), etc.
  • Give step-by-step instructions.
  • Remind people that you’re keeping class sizes small and cleaning frequently to minimize the risk of exposure. Explain what else you’re doing to keep them and their families healthy.
  • Everyone needs to know how to safely sanitize to decrease their risk of exposure while cleaning.

If cleaning isn’t your skill, hire someone.

Remember, people justifiably feel like their lives and the lives of their loved ones are on the line here, so be respectful and act accordingly. This is not a drill. This is real.

If people doubt your ability to keep them safe, they’ll cancel their membership.

In short: Overcommunicate and Overclean.

Remove High-Risk Carriers from the Space

If you have doctors, nurses, paramedics, etc., you need to call these members and move them to at-home workouts with 1:1 or virtual coaching. We don’t know any medical professionals who would put up a fight. They got into their fields to save lives. They understand preventative healthcare. They understand people are scared. They are also fully aware that they have the highest chance of exposure.

When you bring a solution to the table, like at-home workouts and virtual coaching, it lets them know that you care about them AND you’re willing to do what’s necessary to keep everyone else healthy too. (More on at-home workouts and virtual coaching later.) They’re going to be willing to work with you to come up with something that makes sense.

Side note: You might also consider opening up a group thread with nurses and doctors (who are members at your facility) so they can share developments with you that you can pass along to your whole community. They are a wonderful resource for your gym right now, and could really help you keep your folks more informed.

Remove Potential Problems

If you have Open Gym, shut that down for now. You have no control over who’s showing up, how many people are working out together, whether or not they’re cleaning their hands or the equipment, etc. It’s a risk you don’t need right now.

Also, now isn’t the time for drop-ins. You don’t know where they’ve been traveling to and from, whether or not they’ve passed through high-risk areas, what they do for a living, etc. Someone might tell you what they think you want to hear just so they can get in their workout for the day. It’s a liability issue and it’s not worth it.

Closing these down will show your members that you’re doing your absolute best to protect them, and that’s worth more than drop-ins.

If you’re a gym with a lot of drop-ins, find a way to connect with people via virtual coaching. Give passer-by’s an at-home or virtual coaching option. Get creative if you really need that revenue. There are platforms/apps you can use. But protect your community FIRST.

Talk with High-Risk Members About What to Do

If you have elderly members, children/teens, or people with compromised immune systems, you need to talk with them about the facts, their risks, what you’re doing to keep them safe, and then give them some options, like moving to at-home workouts.

Role Play Scenarios

Phase 1 is about figuring out your procedures. What you’re going to do and how you’re going to do it. If this, then that sorta scenarios.

If you don’t anticipate potential situations, you won’t plan or accommodate, which puts you in a defensive or reactionary position.

Chris Cooper of Two Brain Business recently hosted a Town Hall on Covid-19 where he talked about the importance of briefing your team on different situations, and then he listed a few of these scenarios.

Here are some potential scenarios you’ll need to role play with your staff:

  • A client has been exposed to the virus at your gym (because of an infected member)
  • A client is diagnosed with Covid-19 (but not because of your gym)
  • An ER nurse, who’s a member, wants to keep coming to normal classes
    • Our suggestion: At-home workouts
  • An ER nurse wants to join the gym as a new member
    • Our suggestion: At-home workouts
  • A couple has just returned from traveling to a place with confirmed Covid-19 cases
    • Our suggestion: At-home workouts for at least 2 weeks. If they don’t show any symptoms after 2 weeks, they can attend normal classes and follow safety/sanitization procedures.
  • A member wants to cancel because they’re afraid
    • Have some alternatives that you could offer, such as at-home workouts or virtual coaching. That way, they’re still a member and they get to work out in the safety of their own home.
    • Relax your rules on freezes or cancellations.
    • Keep in mind: People are genuinely terrified right now. And when the dust settles, they’re going to remember how you treated them when they were terrified. Not only will they remember, they’ll tell everyone they know too. Just do right by your people and figure the rest out later.

Regarding ill clients: We would not share names with other members, but we would alert our community to the fact that someone has been diagnosed with the virus. We would clearly state how we intend to offer support to this member, and what we’re doing in response (to keep everyone safe).

  • Personally, we’d freeze or cancel their membership (now is not the time to work out), but continue to offer them mobility/restorative movement that is low-key and beneficial.
  • We’d also have a PDF or list of things they could lean on. That might be simple recipes (check with licensed nutritionists), informative videos/articles, anything that will make them feel more empowered in such an uncertain situation. The objective is to offer is to serve and support these people as best we can, within legal limitations, and without exposing ourselves or our loved ones to risk.
  • We’d also offer to pick up some groceries and supplies and drop them off on the front porch. Or find some other way to offer them support.
  • We’d close the gym for a day and do a deep clean. Probably even hire professional cleaners and alert them to the situation.

You also need to know what sort of advice you can offer legally. For instance, what sort of nutrition advice does your state allow you to make? We find that during times like this, people will lean on you more and ask a lot of questions. You need to know what you can and can’t say, and maybe have a list of references you could pass along. These could be local professionals, like nutritionists, etc., or could be helpful blogs or social media accounts that provide a lot of education and are run by licensed professionals.

Nutrition Guidance

If ever there was a time to educate your members on nutrient-dense foods, it’s now.

This is one of the main tools in the kit for prevention. Education around food & the immune system could benefit a lot of people.

Create and share simple recipes that are nutrient-dense, affordable, accessible and doable for the masses. Grocery lists (with associated recipes) make it so much easier on folks. One grocery list that gives you X number of meals…now that’s showing up and serving your people!

Lead daily check-ins to see how everyone is eating and feeling.

Share resources by licensed professionals or trustworthy sources. Nothing fear-based or out of reach.

Here are a few places to check for nutrition resources:

Practices for Prevention and Stress Management

You could also share tips on tools for stress management. Videos on breathwork, lifestyle changes that people could make that might protect them from the virus… Just ask yourself: How can I help my people feel calmer? Get more rest? Have a better attitude or mindset? What’s going to help them get through this?

Even if they don’t get sick, their job might be affected, they might be house-bound and feel isolated, they might be experiencing more anxiety or stress than normal (which isn’t great for the immune system) because they’re worried about their grandparents, their friend who just had a baby, or their aunt with an autoimmune disease.

As coaches and mentors, our role and impact go far beyond the barbell. What we offer is not just access to equipment or a group fitness class. We are not an alternative for a 1990s workout video. We offer health, resiliency, longevity, community, and support for the whole human.

PHASE 2

In this phase, you’ve either opted to temporarily close your doors or been required to do so.

Programming: At-Home Workouts

We’ll be posting at-home workouts every week to this blog post. These are free and meant for everyone.

Here’s the programming so far:

We’ll add to this list as time goes on.

Each workout is bodyweight or low load. You can use gallons of water, laundry detergent jugs, or other objects you find around the house.

To make things super easy on you and your people, we’ve also included movement demonstration videos. That way, there’s no confusion over things like “Barbell Wipers” or “Hip Flows” or “Sumo Squats.”

(Members of WUWO: We’ll also send you a daily video that’ll go deeper into each workout.)

How to Deliver At-Home Workouts

You can run at-home workouts in a variety of ways.

You could host group Zoom/Skype calls and offer coach-led classes this way.

  • If you do this, be sure to educate your members on how to use the platform of your choice. Someone might skip the workout because they’re nervous that you’ll see them work out in their pj’s in their messy living room. Teach people how to log-in, blackout their screen, etc. The less friction people feel with the platform, the more likely they are to actually use it.

You could offer personal training type of sessions, very 1:1, via Skype/Zoom.

What we’re suggesting is to divide your members amongst your coaching staff and then text them the at-home workouts. Here’s how that would look:

  • Coach Jenny gets everyone whose last names begin with A – F, Coach Steve gets G – N, etc.
  • Every day, they INDIVIDUALLY text each person. This is not a mass text, group thread, or mass email. You send each member a personalized text message saying, “Here’s the workout. Here are the videos that will demonstrate the movements. Here are the scales/subs for you (individualize this). And here’s what YOUR goal should be for the day (again, this is personalized). (If you can work-in the “why” behind the workout, that’s specific to them, that’s awesome sauce.) Text me your results. If you’re not up for working out today, when would you like me to check-in? Tomorrow?”
  • You can share these results to your private Facebook group for members, etc.

We like this process because:

  • It’s simple and easy. Everyone knows how to text.
  • It gives coaches a daily touch-point with every member, which is an opportunity to see how people are feeling, get feedback on how you could serve your community more, send people more information and resources, and so on.
  • It makes people feel like you’re taking care of them. Which you are.

Remember: The service you provide, as a coach, isn’t tied to a specific space or a specific set of equipment.

People can download all sorts of workout apps or videos these days. If they wanted a fitness instructor at the front of the class, shouting at them through the screen, they could have that for free or for very cheap. That’s not what you’re providing them. You’re not a group fitness instructor. COACH them.

As the coach, you’re going to make or break this process.

It’s up to you to dig down deep and take even better care of your people than you already do.

How to Keep Coaches Working

Small businesses and economies are going to suffer because of this outbreak. That is a given.

However, it doesn’t have to be doom and gloom. At least, not yet.

Just because people aren’t showing up to your physical space, doesn’t mean that you’re barred or banned from providing them with tremendous value and service.

Send them at-home workouts.

Offer great nutrition resources and support.

Provide an online space where people can connect with one another during a time of social distancing.

Share positive videos and articles that will give your people tools they can use to take care of themselves and their loved ones in times of uncertainty and anxiety.

Be a leader.

Your coaches may not be showing up to the gym and coaching a full hour but they will be reaching out and coaching people with at-home or virtual workouts. You can also delegate tasks, like creating recipes or nutrition PDFs, researching content that could be helpful, etc.

Ask your coaches how they want to contribute.

Share your financial reality with them: Everyone needs to step up in ways they haven’t before so that we make it through this storm.

If you have part-time employees who you know will face extreme hardship without your paycheck, see if you can afford to give them an advance for classes they’ll coach in the future. Or find other ways they can contribute right now and pay them what you can for those services.

We’re reminded of stories from the 2007/2008 financial crisis when many businesses were on the brink of closure. Instead of laying off dozens or hundreds of employees, they asked all their employees to give up some of their benefits, take 2-3 weeks of unpaid time off, or to work less hours. The idea: It’s better that we should all suffer a little than any of us have to suffer a lot.

Honestly, this idea translates to members too. Some won’t be financially hit by the economic impact of Covid-19, and some will. Perhaps you could have open conversations, when the time comes, about reducing pricing for those who are hardest hit while asking those who can afford it, to pay the normal rate. If your messaging is village-minded and appeals to everyone’s humanity, people will rise to the occasion. These situations can yield beautiful, unanticipated results where people come together in ways you didn’t think possible.

Share Your Reality, Tactfully

A lot of affiliates are concerned about a mass exodus. Rightfully so. That would not be good for business.

Strategies to prevent this:

  • If people are concerned about their safety, offer at-home workouts or virtual coaching.
  • If people are concerned about their finances because they might lose their job, have some solutions to offer them.
    • Are you prepared to offer scaled/reduced pricing?
    • Do you have other products that you could sell them that would benefit them?
      • Something like a significantly reduced rate for 2 or 3 at-home workouts a week
      • Or even a PDF with at-home workouts where you take a template and customize it for them so it’s more personalized than a list of workouts.
      • Or a membership to an affordable nutrition program
      • Or even a PDF of recipes
  • If people freeze their memberships, schedule a goal review in 30 days. Say, okay, “I’d like to schedule a goal review with you about 30 days from now so we can check-in to see how you’re doing.” This gives you an opportunity to reach out at the end of 30 days, and it often leads to keeping that member around.

If you’re going to have public conversations about your finances, you need to really think about your language and messaging.

There’s integrity, and there’s damage control.

The truth is: You need memberships to stay alive. People understand this.

They also have their own troubles.

So, it’s going to be more complicated than you sharing your financial reality. They have theirs too.

Which is why instead of panicking and trying to protect your current business model, you need to adapt.

In Simon Sinek’s The Infinite Game, he talks about resiliency amidst cultural change: “Publishers saw themselves in the book business instead of the spreading-ideas business and thus missed the opportunity to capitalize on new technology to advance their cause. They could have invented Amazon or the digital e-reader. Had the music industry defined themselves as the sharers of music rather than the sellers or records, tapes and CDs they would have had an easier time in a world of digital streaming. By defining themselves by a cause greater than the products they sold, they could have invented services like iTunes or Spotify. But they didn’t…and now they are paying the price for it.”

Be the solution to your members’ problems.

Ask, listen.

Show up and serve.

If you can forget yesterday, set aside your perfect picture of how it’s supposed to look and how things are supposed to be right now, get curious, stay open, and serve your people, you’re going to be okay.

Expand Your Reality

If you have more free time, and you don’t want to give it all to Netflix and terrifying news reports, here are some mind-opening books:

Also, Sean Pastuch of Active Life RX is giving away his Online Coach Awareness Seminar, which normally goes for $499 – $999. He was supposed to launch the programs later this Spring but has released them to everyone for free because of Covid-19. Sean is being a leader in the industry right now, offering a free Zoom call every Wednesday at 4:30pm Eastern and sharing tons of resources to his Facebook group and Instagram followers.

Thank you to everyone out there doing right by your people. It is our intention to keep putting out free workouts throughout Covid-19. You don’t have to opt-in to an email list for us to market to you and try to sell you stuff. That would be super lame. You can find all the workouts in the list in this article (go up the page a bit) or just look at this page: At-Home Workouts & Covid-19.

We will do our best to share resources until this crisis is over.

Take care of yourself, your loved ones, and your community.

Now is the time for us to be our very best selves.

Additional Resources

How We’re Adjusting Our Session Plans During Covid-19

A Preview of an At-Home Workout Session Plan

BarBend Podcast: CrossFit’s Past, Present and Future

Pat Barber Coaching, Podcast Interviews

I recently spoke with David Tao of the BarBend Podcast about:

  • What I look for in great coaching
  • My experience with the L1, L2, L3 and L4
  • How word-of-mouth marketing is even more important now that CF has shut down some of their social media accounts
  • My thoughts on the 2019 Games
  • Why I think some people in the community dislike the competition side of things

One of the most interesting parts of the conversation, for me, happened right at the end when we talk about living “the good life.” I’m still learning, still growing, so don’t hold me to this forever, but something that’s been pretty transformational for me in the past several years is my mindset around the word “happy” and what it takes to live in that state. Here’s where I’m at now: It’s not about adding happiness to your life. It’s about removing things that make you unhappy. It’s a minimalist approach that is about creating more space, not packing life even more full. So, I’m trying not to add more stuff to make myself happy. I’m removing the people, things, processes and systems that make me unhappy (as best I can).

If you’re into giving it a listen, here’s the podcast episode. Oh, and if you’re more of a reader, they include transcripts below the audio player that makes it super easy to read the interview.

Ep. 23, Best Hour of Their Day

Pat Barber Coaching, Podcast Interviews

Had a fun chat with fellow Flowmaster Jason Ackerman, whose a CF-L4 and 3x affiliate owner, over at Best Hour of Their Day.

The name of the podcast sorta says it all — it’s for coaches who are committed to the craft and who want to bring that mindset to every interaction they have at the gym.

We believe that coaches are the backbone of a community and the creators of culture.

And, as coaches, it’s our job to try to make someone’s time with us the best hour of their day.

So, I was stoked to talk with others who care so much.

Here’s a general picture of some topics we hit on:

  • Circumcision 🤔
  • Building confidence as a coach, especially when you’re coaching people who are better athletes than you are.
  • How to develop the skills linked to emotional intelligence and connecting on a personal level. (Yes, these are skills where you can build capacity.)
  • How our vision and values set us apart from some other programs out there
  • Our unique experience as both coach developers and session planners
  • Why it’s so important to get your coaches to buy-in to whatever program you’re using

GPP and the 3x a Week Member

Pat Barber Coaching, GPP

Pop Quiz:⁣⠀
⁣⠀
You’re a coach at a GPP or fitness-biased gym.⁣

A member who comes in 2-3x a week approaches you after class.⁣

They’re upset because they don’t get to touch the barbell every time they come in.⁣

They feel like they’d get stronger and fitter, and get more bang for their buck, with a strength-biased program.⁣

What’s your response?⁣⠀

 

For some potential answers, look here.

Or cruise our blog post archives on GPP.

Are you focused on the competition or the contribution?

Pat Barber Coaching

Success is not about competition, it’s about contribution. — Adam Grant

We can be so focused on winning, on being the best, that we forget we’re in a career that’s about service.

As CrossFit coaches, we’re paid to show up and serve our community.

That’s how we contribute.

That’s where our attention and energy should be.

So, it’s worth it to wonder:

  • How could you contribute more?
  • How could you contribute more effectively?⁣
  • What behaviors, habits and mindsets keep you from contributing?⠀

Keep on pushing for growth.

Onward.

It’s Not the Program. It’s Your Behavior.

Pat Barber Coaching, Competitions, GPP

This one’s for the WOD addicts, the fitness junkies, the two-a-dayers who never stop.

You’re probably not going to like what I have to say, but I’m saying it anyway with as much kindness as I can muster. Because someone needs to hold you accountable and to remind you to take responsibility for your own life.

If you’re burnt out, don’t jump to blaming CrossFit or your program before you self-reflect on your behavior.

Was a coach or program what truly led to burn out?

Or was it a series of choices and actions that you made?

Why do you feel like you need so much volume? What void are you trying to fill with fitness?

Just something to think about as we head into competition season.