There has been a lot of buzz (and more than a few questions) about the addition of Dutch Lowy’s Performance Development seminar to our Trainer’s workshops. For those of you who don’t know Dutch, he’s a competitive Olympic lifter, CrossFit trainer and affiliate owner and experienced lecturer in the fitness and performance arena, and we are very lucky to have him as a partner in our upcoming events. We got him on the line last week, so he could answer some of your (and our) questions about his seminars, his coaching philosophy and his programming designs. The (important parts of the) conversation went like this:
[Melissa]:You used to travel for your Performance Development seminars often. Why did you stop, and why are you starting up again?
[Dutch]: The main reason why I stopped was the grueling travel schedule – you guys know something about that. This is my full-time job, and in order to make a living, I had to travel every week from Friday to Monday. It was awesome, but you end up with friends that aren’t where you live, and it’s hard to establish anything here at home, to have a personal life. So I made a lifestyle choice – I needed to be home more. Also, my own training was picking up quite a bit, and I really wanted to focus more on that.
Being out of the loop with traveling, it’s hard to jump back in. And from here in Fort Worth, how do I influence someone in, say, Oregon to come to one of my seminars? What kind of meaningful interaction can I have with them to get folks on board? And then the opportunity came up with you (Whole9). You’re taking the primary role in organizing the events, and you have the connections and an outstanding name within the community. Our personalities work well together, too, so we’re all pretty fired up about it. It’s good to be able to work more, but not be a slave to the road.
[Dallas]: Is your current material the same as the past seminars you’ve conducted, or have you modified or added to the topics?
[Dutch]: The biggest change recently in my presentation is that I’ve learned that you can’t just float around and do random things (or even specific things) and just expect to get better automatically. The longer I do this, the more understanding I have of how important the simple, basic things are. Do the simple things first and get good at those! The main addition now is my focus on goals and teaching how to accomplish them. I started the seminar at CrossFit Denton County with a new section on goals, since we first need to know what we’re trying to accomplish with our training. I spend time getting people to understand what a goal is, how to set them, and how to accomplish them. I also talk more about planning, and specific goal setting. It’s not a motivational speech, but we do talk about how to plan strength programs and address other special topics or interests.
[Melissa]: Is your material equally appropriate for CrossFit trainers, collegiate strength & conditioning coaches, and high-end Olympic lifting coaches?
[Dutch]: This discussion is relevant for all populations, though the flow of the conversation is different for each population. We’ve got an informal flow chart at our gym, with three common options. Clients generally come to us focused on performance (either CrossFit or competitive sport performance), aesthetics (weight loss or gain), or general health and longevity (have lots of energy and feel good). Each discussion flows differently, but they all end in the same place – with goal-setting and a specific plan to achieve those goals. We sit down and come up with a plan that will work for each person. The more specific your goals, the better our programming can be to help you meet those goals.
In my experience, that conversation is an evolution. People may come in with one kind of goal and leave with another – usually headed into the area of performance. A good trainer needs to know how to customize a plan without forcing things on people. It’s a progression, and it’s frustrating sometimes, but you as a trainer can learn to be better setting goals and plans for your clients. Establishing specific programs is a major piece of the seminar.
[Melissa]: So big picture, if you’re a new gym owner or trainer without a lot of programming experience, should you just follow CrossFit’s “Main Page” with your clients, or try your hand at your own custom programming?
[Dutch]: This may surprise you, but I suggest people get in and experiment on themselves and their clients. People will make mistakes, but the idea is that you learn better when you make the mistakes, versus being told what is right and never making mistakes yourself. Obviously starting with a better understanding of what you are trying to accomplish is ideal, so don’t disregard everything you have read – use it as a starting point. In summary, as long as you are learning from your mistakes and not hurting people, you’ll do just fine.
One thing that everyone should be doing, though… metrics. Programming for group classes can be tough because people tend to have different goals. Luckily, most of people’s goals can be covered by improving their performance. When trying to improve performance you have to have good metrics. Using these, you can structure your program and show people their improvements.
[Dallas]: But CrossFit says that main page CrossFit programming is a “one size fits all” program for those without a sport-specific performance goal. Agree?
[Dutch]: I don’t think “Main Page” is appropriate for 80-90% of the folks out there – including most of the people doing it. The huge volume, the excessive loading, the irresponsibility of folks taking on the exercises on their own… I don’t think there is a ”one size fits all”, but there are some principles that are valuable to everyone: strength, nutrition, mobility. And you don’t really see folks doing that on their own – instead they’re doing sexy met-cons because it makes them feel like they’re making progress, like they’re working hard. For many folks, a strength-biased program may be far more appropriate than more conditioning work, but they don’t usually want to hear that. For people I train to go the [CrossFit] Games, they don’t do 200 reps of any one exercise in a week, never mind a single workout. And they’re still getting stronger, they’re still experiencing a training effect.
[Dallas]: But harder equals better, right? Muscle-up handstand push-ups on Main Page, etc…
[Dutch]: (Laughing.) Harder isn’t better… better is better!
[Melissa]: Good call. So what is the goal of your events – what do you hope participants will get out of the workshop?
[Dutch]: I want everyone to know everything that I know. I want to open people’s eyes to a different way of thinking about CrossFit and fitness in general. I’ve been looking at sustainability a lot lately – is it possible to do “Main Page” for more than two years without killing yourself? We all know the answer to that already. But two, three years ago, I was on camera saying I thought I’d do it forever. You get so passionate about something, but you don’t realize that it perhaps isn’t the best thing for your health or fitness until you hit that wall, until you’re broken. You can do high-intensity exercise… but you don’t have to do a thousand reps to be stronger, healthier or fitter.
I also want trainers to take a second look at what they’re asking other people to do – their trainees. Put some actual thought into your clients’ programs. Ask yourself why 70% of people in your gym have shoulder problems a year after starting CrossFit… Why have most of the chiropractors I’ve talked to heard the word “CrossFit” and cringed? It’s frustrating, but it doesn’t have to be like that. At our gym, we do it a little bit different, and you can too.
[Melissa]: Are you going to talk about how to be a better CrossFit competitor? Do you talk about programming for that specific goal?
[Dutch]: If you look at folks who want to compete (at CrossFit), everyone will have a different weakness they need to address. We focus on the specific strengths and weaknesses of the competitor, versus a generalized program for CrossFit competitors. That’s why I hesitate to release any of my Games programming – because every single program I write is for a specific person, with their strengths and weaknesses. I’ve picked a lot of stuff up from OPT’s cert. People’s bodies are different, their energy systems work differently… Again, it’s not a one-size fits all, not even a little bit.
[Melissa]: You’ve added a small group coaching portion to our Trainer’s event. What’s that going to look like for participants?
[Dutch]: Among all the talk of weaknesses and strengths, skills, etc., the most prevalent deficit I’ve seen in my travels and with clients is in Olympic weightlifting. I’ve been lucky enough to have good coaches, and I want to pass that along to my clients too. Teaching basic positions, to have eyes on you from an experienced coach, and to get you to move a little bit better will change your entire lifting ability. I want to really lay the groundwork and teach the basics, and to address each person’s weakness and how to strengthen that area. Improving those movements have amazing carry-over potential to other movements, too. If you can snatch well, box jumps are cake.
[Dallas]: How do you see our nutrition material and your coaching material dovetailing for these Trainer’s events?
[Dutch]: You can’t just address the exercise piece of your health and ignore the nutrition. My specialty is secondary – your nutrition material is primary and far more important than what I’m trying to teach. Our goal as a coach is to give people the things they want – results! If their goals are performance or health related and we’re not giving them a full life changing experience – the whole package, including nutrition – then we’re doing them a disservice.
When we trained the A&M rugby team, the first thing we talked to them about was nutrition. The first thing I talk to clients about is… nutrition! It makes up what you are – structurally – you guys know that. If you’re eating Twinkies and Diet Coke and coming to your trainer “just for exercise”, I’m going to tell you we have to fix nutrition first before we make progress with training. The same concept applies to a 300# power clean goal. Fueling yourself with garbage (not real food), you’ll never be successful.
We are currently offering a Trainer’s event with Dutch Lowy at CrossFit West Houston, on Sunday, January 9th. Stay tuned for more Trainer’s events in the Spring of 2011 to be announced on our sidebar here, and on Whole9′s Facebook page.