Blog 21/50. “Diet-hipster” Coaching.


I have a confession. I am sort of a hipster. A diet-hipster, if you will. I’m not about to throw on my suspenders and fedora and ride my unicycle to the local coffee shop so I can sip a single origin espresso while I twirl my mustache and write poems about my vegan dog named Benedict Cumberbatch. But I do go out of my way to be different on occasion. I’m different than most coaches out there. I’m a diet-hipster coach and so are the other coaches at Uncommon.

There are lots of good gyms out there. Gyms that are doing a lot of good for a lot of people. However, and this is going to sound mean, I just don’t think most people know what they’re looking at. I mean that in the truest sense of being ignorant, as in “lacking knowledge or information”. You can’t know about all the things you don’t know. There are too many things. People who are concerned with other things in their lives, like jobs and kids and finances and aging parents and social issues and Tiger King and learning Tik Tok dances don’t have the bandwidth to take a deep dive into what’s going on at their CrossFit gym and how it compares to others. So I’ll tell you why, in my experience, Uncommon is truly extraordinary.

First of all, there is nothing BAD about how most gyms handle their coaches and classes. Imagine a gym where they run classes that are too full with not enough equipment and coaches who are either not paying attention or even giving bad cues. Those people are still probably doing way more than they would be without that gym. So even a coach who is on his or her phone most of class is still helping people by literally just being there to open the door, turn the lights on, and start the clock. I’m sure this imaginary person is a rare occurrence. But I can confidently say that it is common for coaches to do little more than this example of the minimum. Every coach I’ve taken a class from outside of Uncommon (even the ones who do it for a living and have been around a while) will follow a pretty basic template. They will lead a warm-up that might address things specific to that day’s workout, they will repeat what is written on the whiteboard verbatim without giving any extra context or input, they will describe the points of performance for each movement right out of the L1 handbook, then 3-2-1-go and you’re off. They’ll probably be nice, welcoming, enthusiastic, and even throw in a few general positive cheers during the class.

Again, this person is still helping people who desperately need it. But, hopefully as you guys at Uncommon have seen, there is sooooooooo much more value that could be given in a one hour class. Most coaches try to fill the parts of class where they aren’t actively explaining something with positive cheering and encouragement. The problem is that they usually do it in a way that doesn’t feel meaningful. Trust me, I did this too. I thought I should be filling the silence constantly. It made me uncomfortable. Now I’m comfortable enough in my coaching abilities that I am cool with staying quiet. Because I know that when I do say something it will have real meaning behind it and it will actually cause a change in somebody who I want to help in that moment. That’s why I rarely yell anything at the whole class during an actual workout. If you have a class of 10 people and you tell everybody “Great job! Keep it up! Come on keep pushing!”, what did you actually accomplish? I would much rather say something directly to one person and see how they respond. It’s like capitalizing all of your words in an email. If you yell everything then nothing seems important.

At Uncommon I’ve been taught to take every opportunity to add value to a class. The warmup is a place where a lot of coaches just phone it in. I know we do the occasional basic dynamic warmup but even then we give you things to think about while you’re doing it or it is for a specific purpose. Not because it’s easy. Quite a while ago we realized we were missing out on a good 15 minutes of coaching opportunity every class by not actually coaching the warmup. So now you see us teaching things in the warmup and helping you guys teach yourselves. I can’t even count how many times I was able to permanently correct an error on someone just because I paid close attention in the warmup.

Probably the biggest way we are different is our willingness to change directions if we think it will serve the members better. This comes from Pete and Crystal always looking for ways to make things better. We love the principles that CrossFit has given us but, as I said in my last post, we have been frustrated by their lack of evolution when it comes to figuring out what is best for the whole human being. That’s why every gym out there who has only bothered to follow CrossFit methodologies and nothing else will shout to the mountaintops about how great their programming is. Or they will tell you about all their special classes, nutrition consulting, competition teams, certifications their coaches have, their special recovery area, the new partnership they have with a local chiropractor, and on and on. They feel compelled to show that they are special. And the only way they know how to do that is to add more stuff. And please understand that I’m not saying any of these things are bad. They are great! All of these things add value to the experience of a member. The problem is that when it comes down to it, you still have to coach people. And if you spend all your time adding new shiny things to your gym without actually becoming a great coach, you are going to be limited. That member might love all the amenities but what happens when snatching hurts their shoulder? Do you have an answer other than “take a break from snatching for a while”? Better yet, can you spot the faulty movement pattern before it hurts them?

At Uncommon, we can and do offer some pretty great extras that go with being a member. But we have also gone above and beyond to not only adjust the way we introduce people to CrossFit, the way we lead people through classes, and the way we teach movement, but we have also gone to great lengths to SEEK OUT what principles and methods will actually help people the most. We have not been satisfied with resting on the reputation of being a CrossFit gym. We are truly exceptional because we have never stopped looking for the best way to help the people we see every day. That’s why so many of our members who don’t even know how to coach a CrossFit class or what goes into running a gym can drop in at other gyms and they can just tell that it’s not the same as Uncommon.

We love you guys, we appreciate you guys, and we will continue to do everything we can to make the best place for you.


author: Jacob Watts


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