Coach Chase Brum on the Value of Lesson Planning
Having a plan is vital to success. This is true for many aspects of life, but it rings VERY true for health and fitness. In order to stay consistent and make progress, it rarely is effective to "just wing it". This is also true for coaches who seek to deliver health and fitness to others. You must have a detailed plan to empower and guide your actions.
This blog post will mainly address lesson planning from a coach perspective, but the principles and ideas could be used for writing your own workouts at home. It may also give you some insight into how classes run at COMPLETE, or your gym, and help you squeeze even more out of each class!
I recently took the CrossFit Lesson Planning course. Check out my main takeaways and reflections below!
There are two main benefits that became clear from taking the Lesson Planning online course; The first being the benefit to the members having a more focused class and receiving the maximum benefit from the day’s workout, and the second being the benefit to the coach having a strong execution of the class, leading to less stress on getting everything in and allowing more focus on each athlete’s movement and making this class the best hour of their day.
A lesson plan for a class should always be written AND practiced before a class to get the maximum benefit for yourself and your athletes. The elements below are the main points of the workout listed in the order of importance they should be planned.
The first thing and most important thing to understand when creating a lesson plan is knowing the stimulus of that day’s workout! Without knowing the stimulus of the workout, the class is just spinning their wheels and not progressing on anything! The stimulus drives the athlete to their fittest self.
How do you find the stimulus? Consider the elements of the workout: Time domain(short, moderate, long), Loading(Bodyweight, low, moderate, High), Volume(low, moderate, high reps/distance), Movement Elements(Modality and Function). Once you know the elements that appear in the workout, then you can then determine the desired stimulus for the athlete and you can begin developing your plan to communicate and prepare your athlete for this stimulus.
The next step to plan is the workout brief which is where you communicate your stimulus to the athlete. CrossFit workouts have the element of being constantly varied, meaning they vary in the number of movements, equipment, rep schemes, and set-up; All that information written on a board can be overwhelming to athletes, especially beginners; So, it is important to summarize all those things together without giving an entire lecture.
ALL workout briefs should be between 3-5mins. This may seem like a short amount of time, but this constraint can help force you to keep the information concise AND simple; which will create an effective brief easily conveyed to your athletes.
Things to include in your Workout Brief:
Approx. round times
Approx. Time to finish workout
Approx. Rounds/reps completed (for AMRAPs)
How heavy/challenging should the movements feel
How many reps completed Unbroken
Clarify expected range of motion for each movement
Layout of the workout and how to move through SAFELY
Strategies for limitations/injuries
Options for movement to maintain stimulus
Having all these elements in a brief may seem like a challenge to keep in 3-5min but with practice and experience you will get it!
The next step is thinking about your warm-up(s). Every class should start with a general warm-up; this is a time to get the heart rate up, prepare and take joints through the range of motion of the day’s workout, transition physically and mentally to higher intensity work, AND a chance for the coach to assess each athletes’ mood, enthusiasm, and movement quality. This is vital time to prepare every athlete and discern your best approach for coaching each athlete.
The general warm-up should: be led by the trainer, easy to explain/demo, take athletes through a full range of motion, be a low/moderate pace/intensity, and be less skill/impact than the workout
Most days should include specific warm-up (a few low skill, low load, long time domain workouts, may not need a specific warm-up). This is a time to refine the movement patterns for the workout, correct movement faults, and have athletes try out scaling options.
Overall time spent on the warm-up is determined by the stimulus of the workout.
The next step to plan is: what are you going to do during the workout to make sure each athlete gets the most out of the workout?
The best way to do this is BEFORE the class, plan the timing of the workout (which can vary with each class size and workout needs), logistics and safety of the layout, and plans steps to make your coaching and scaling more effective to your group so you can bring more people to greater fitness. Coach and scaling effectively comes through daily practice/experience and constant self assessment on elements of your coaching ability. CrossFit has listed out six criteria to use to self assess your coaching ability.
The six criteria to take note of during your class are:
Thorough knowledge of what is being taught and ability to convey that knowledge
Skilled in identifying gross and subtle movement faults in BOTH static and dynamic situations
Relies on: successful cues, know multiple corrections for each fault, triage faulty movement, and balance critique with praise
Manage time, equipment, and layout for optimal workout experience AND ensure ALL athletes receive attention during each session
Presence and Attitude
Show respect and empathy for all athletes while creating camaraderie and rapport
Ability to accurately create a visual example of a movement
Need to know your own movement mechanics (they don’t need to be performed perfectly)
Lead by example; follow your own advice and be an inspiration to clients
These skills, like all skills, come with time and practice. The fastest way to develop them is not to try to make all of them perfect at once, but to practice with each one by challenging yourself in a small way everyday and being ok to make mistakes and learn from them.
The isn’t always a factor for a class plan, because it doesn’t always need to be included, but it can be helpful to add in on occasion to allow athletes time to practice movements and develop their proficiency without the stress of a workout.
Skill work can be placed before or after workout. If placed before a workout, it can build confidence for an athlete to perform a movement during the workout, allow the coach to have focus points for an athlete during a workout, and give scaling options. If placed after a workout, the same benefits apply but for future movements in upcoming workouts whether later in the week or further down the line.
This part of the day should not be rushed or feel like another workout, because we don’t want to take away from the main stimulus(the workout). Skill work should be a time for the athlete to get feedback on their movement and develop their long term goals to better movement performance.
This is the final step to plan for the day. The cooldown is important for athletes to gradually reduce their core body temperature and lower their heart rate. This doesn’t have to be overly fancy, complex, or very long; generally the cooldown should be 5-10min. Something even as simple as a cooldown walk can be just fine. The importance of this is time for the athlete to reflect on the workout as well as build the community. This a great time to also mention educational pieces, community events, or any gym announcements as well!
As a coach it is always important to create a plan for your class each day. At CrossFit Complete we have this plan written out for us, BUT even though it is already written it doesn’t take away from the importance of practicing the execution of your plan before your class!
Written by Coach Chase Brum
CrossFit Level 3