"Iron sharpens iron." (Read Time 4:11 plus an optional 12:00 video)
How do we leverage our enthusiastic competitors to make each other better and create community chemistry that benefits the gym?
(Photo From Thrivestry Gym: Ascendence)
Great training partners can go a long way in people's progress and long term motivation. In many cases, having people to train beside and push you on a 'good' program will surpass a lonely individual on a 'great' program that was custom designed for them.
Another great quote to emphasize is: "Pain shared is pain divided. Happiness shared is happiness multiplied."
This is also true for training. Performance progress has its ups and downs. With the right culture we can celebrate our teammate's successes when we are in a slump or lacking motivation.
There is also an accountability piece; when training for your team (and not just yourself), you will always go farther and try harder. It is a theme I have read about many times in regards to BUDs and SEAL training. The guys who focused on helping others get through always did better than the guys who were inwardly focused. Check out Eric Greiten’s Book “The Heart and the Fist” for more info.
For the Thrivestry programming, I design the gym programming first. Programming 7 days a week for thousands of people of every level takes much more planning and integration than programming for the Sport of Fitness for a few hundred athletes at a more consistent level of experience.
For the competition part, I set up the lifting and skill progressions independent of the gym programming. Once I have those scheduled, I go back to the gym programming and see what makes sense to overlap so they can still train with the classes a few times per week (or at the very least do the same workouts to have a 'shared experience').
Generally, the metcons are scaled up or have additional pieces added on like a high skill buy in or a short rest and some extra stuff after.
The overlap of class workouts and competition training is important not just for the training effect of having others push you, it is also important for community and coaching.
No matter how humble the “competitors” are, people will see them training in the corner doing their own program and inevitably ask: “What makes them so special? Do they think they are better than us because they are doing their own thing?”
In my experience this is blatantly not true. Most competitors I have worked with have been terribly humble and don’t have contempt for people just coming in to work toward health and fitness. That said, those thoughts may still enter into the regular gym goer’s mind as they see the “Elite” training hard, getting special guidance, etc.
By having these people do some of the same workouts as the rest of the gym, they get to ‘suffer together’ and build the bonds that make a strong community, rather than create a wider gap that eventually causes drama. It is those strong community bonds that will be the fans that cheer on that competitor at the next competition or event. I have always found it kind of sad when a really talented athlete does well at a competition and no one from their community is there to cheer them on.
There is also the coaching piece. Athletes doing ‘open gym’ all of the time are not being coached, and no amount of video can make up for cues and corrections in the moment. By jumping in with the classes, they can avoid bad habits, make faster gains, avoid injuries, and get feedback on things they may not have even known they were doing.
One of the differences between great competitors and okay competitors is that the great ones always want more coaching and feedback. They almost never just want to be left alone to grind away in a dark corner.
Leveling Up ‘Regular’ Members
I’d also like to make a point about overlapping that is missed by many. That by having the competitors join into classes, it also opens the door for some of your ‘regular’ clients to think about competing. Most gyms I know have a few people that would surprise themselves if they did a bit of competition training and entered into a local competition or the CrossFit Open. If all they ever do is compete against the gym leaderboard, they may never realize that they have the potential to try the “Sport of Fitness” that is CrossFit Competitions.
Finally, I’ll leave you with a video from Simon Sinek (Author of “Leaders Eat Last”). Here is talking about how leaders make place where people feel safe. We need create a space where people feel safe to work hard, expose their weaknesses (and not feel foolish), and a place where mutual support is the standard.
Create this in your gyms and your community will thrive.