Become a coach
The most obvious reason to get certified. The majority of the athletes (myself included) at my L1 were getting certified in order to begin coaching at an affiliate. But let’s be real—the idea that you can walk in on Saturday with no experience and walk out on Sunday qualified to coach CrossFit is absurd.
And yet it happens all the time. CrossFit Inc. pumps out 400-500 new CrossFit L1 certified trainers every weekend, many whom go on to coach at an affiliate with varying levels of effectiveness. Nearly every gym has at least one—the coach that that has a 2:30 Fran but couldn’t teach a kipping pull-up progression if his life depended on it (“Uh, kip harder”—thanks brah).
Above all else, the L1 teaches an important lesson to us would-be coaches: being good at CrossFit and teaching CrossFit to others are two totally different skill sets. One of the biggest takeaways from interacting with the extraordinarily talented CrossFit seminar staff is an appreciation for what good coaching really means and how very, very far you have to go to get there.
But we all have to start somewhere, and the L1 exposes you to the wide world of things that you’ll need to become a good coach—exercise physiology, energy systems, programming, technical aspects of lifts, kinesiology, nutrition. There’s a lot to learn, and the L1 is just the beginning (more on this later).
Get back to basics
The L1 is structured 50/50 between classroom-style lectures and hands-on practice in small breakout groups. During the breakout sessions, everyone stands in a circle around the instructor, which allows for visual learning. It also allows you to notice how prodigiously bad everyone is at very basic movements. As you watch veteran CrossFitters fail at squat therapy, you’ll start to appreciate what Greg Glassman meant when he wrote that, “virtuosity is elusive, supremely elusive.”
For those of us with coaching aspirations, the L1 is a humbling reminder about the importance of virtuosity. It’s also a good lesson in empathy—if a group of seasoned CrossFit athletes is struggling with these movements, how does a brand new, out of shape client feel?
Walking into my L1 on Saturday morning to find Matt Chan passing out nametags was like attending a political science class taught by Barack Obama. As legitimacy goes, the L1 cert has no equal.
Obviously, Matt Chan won’t be at every L1 (sorry), but the CrossFit HQ seminar staff includes some of the biggest names in CrossFit—Chis Spealler, Neal Maddox, Katie Hogan, Austin Malleolo, Christmas Abbott. Though we know them as Games athletes, these individuals are first and foremost brilliant coaches; most own their own affiliates and have thousands of hours of coaching experience. For those of us who got pulled into the breakout circle (I got picked during push jerk for not hitting full hip extension) the L1 was an incredible opportunity to receive one-on-one coaching from the best in the world (I redeemed myself during the Olympic lifting breakout when Matt Chan complimented my snatch.)
Learn how to program (and other essentials)
The L1 includes a series of lectures covering everything from metabolic pathways to nutrition to rhabdomyolysis. While less visibly exciting than snatching with Matt Chan, the L1 lectures—more than any other aspect of the curriculum—represent the kind of advanced CrossFit knowledge necessary to move toward the next level of fitness, competition, and/or coaching. As a new coach that is also helping manage a new affiliate, the programming lecture alone was worth the price of admission.
The sum of all the L1 parts is a gateway for CrossFitters looking to integrate more deeply with our community. Yes, you walk away with a piece of paper that says you can coach (just kidding, it gets mailed to you in 4-6 weeks, assuming you pass the test), but chances are you’ll realize this is just the beginning. L1 grads that are serious about continuing their CrossFit education can choose from a growing number of specialty certifications, such as Coaches Prep, CrossFit Endurance and CrossFit Kids.
Having your L1 will also open doors within your own CrossFit community. As a L1 certified trainer, you can volunteer as a judge at competitions (though not all, many competitions require judges to be L1 certified) and participate in other local events. In Washington, DC where I live, for example, Reebok holds regular seminars for L1 trainers ranging from mobility to nutrition. Lululemon also gives discounts to L1 certified coaches. Just sayin’.