Okay, here it goes. I’m going to try to explain my experience at the CrossFit level 1 certification course (held in Seoul, Korea) – in 500 words or less. Let’s see how I do.
Overview: The 2-day cert consisted of lectures, movement demos, breakout stations, group workouts, and the final exam.
The lectures, although well-delivered, were disappointing at best. I read the CrossFit Training Guide twice before coming to the cert, and almost all the material was re-hashed from that (even the jokes.) Questions were encouraged. If you are an audio, rather than visual learner, the lectures might be helpful for you. (Note: in my case, there was a time delay so that the lectures could be translated for Korean participants. This may have been a confounding factor.)
Demos took place after lectures, and were useful for modeling good-movement. (Our demonstrator, Taz, was especially excellent.) While it was nice to see it in person, it wasn’t necessarily any better than the free videos provided by CrossFit.com and The CrossFit Journal. I believe this speaks volumes about the quality of those resources.
After workout demos we broke out into small groups each with a trainer to go through movement progressions. The trainers not only instructed and corrected each person’s movement, but modeled how to teach movements in small groups and encouraged us to take part in Seeing & Correcting the movements. Although this section was also covered in the manual, words cannot teach movement as effectively as a good coach. The trainers were excellent and I left these sessions with lots of ideas on how to improve cuing and communication with my own clients. For me, this was the most valuable part of the course.
There were two group workouts over the weekend, which tested combinations of movements we had learned under high-intensity in a competitive (read: CrossFit) environment. As expected, the sense of camaraderie and level of intensity were unmatched by any other workout program I have tried. However, I was uncomfortable with the lack of “patterning” [def: learning and ingraining a movement correctly] of the new movements that took place. (i.e. None.) Technique and confidence in the movements were sacrificed for intensity. The emphasis was placed on completing the full ROM, not on whether it was being done correctly or safely. Several people sustained injuries (including one person with severe DOMS*).
While I understand that intensity is at the heart of the CrossFit prescription, I wish that the focus had been on camaraderie, technique, and proper mechanics rather than just blasting heavy metal and ramping up the intensity – especially since the trainers had no prior experience working with us.
The test was straightforward, and for lack of a better term, pretty easy. I recommend reading through the manual a couple of months before the cert, and then again a couple of days before. Highlighting major concepts and taking notes helped a great deal.
In summary, the CrossFit cert was a mixed bag. The positives included hands-on coaching from excellent trainers, the opportunity to practice seeing & cuing the movements, and the availability of trainers post-session for Q&A. Becoming certified and able to coach at a CrossFit gym was also a major plus. The drawbacks involved repetitive material, and what I perceived as a focus on intensity and full ROM rather than form in the workouts.
Overall, my experience was a positive one. Even concepts I have conflicting opinions about (nutrition and intensity lectures in particular) only served to drive my own thought processes on the subject.
As an aspiring personal trainer, I feel that the CrossFit cert is an excellent one. However, I wouldn’t recommend it over other specialty certs unless you want to work in a CrossFit gym or start an Affiliate.
If you are currently a CrossFitter and are considering taking the course, I encourage you to consider your motivations. Do you want to be a coach, or just a better CrossFitter? It it’s the latter, my recommendation is to first subscribe to the CrossFit Journal and join a local box. The $1000 certification fee will cover 9 months of a gym membership and 1-year of the CFJ, which equals hundreds of hours of hands on instruction and reading/viewing material. It will be far more useful to you in the long-run.
*Full disclosure: The person who suffered severe DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) was me. I was contacted by Dave Castro following the cert. about the injury, and felt that it was well-handled. I have tried my best to write an impartial review of the course.
**For more thoughts on the good/bad of CrossFit, check out Andy Deas excellent and continuing series “My Love/Hate Relationship with CrossFit” over at his Chasing Capacity blog.
To my CrossFitting peeps out there: thoughts?