This Week In Running A Gym - Zones

I don't have much to say about running a gym this week, but Leon did write a really good response to someone who had complained about the Zone idea, so I want to share that instead. I've edited it to remove personal references.

The biggest challenge we face in programming and coaching is trying to find a way to get group of people with varying ability levels, injuries, goals, and preconceived notions of what CrossFit is or what it's supposed to “feel” like and give them a safe, rewarding program that maybe even actually works. The best way would really be to write a program for each individual that addresses their specific needs/issues. But, ain't nobody got time for that, so here are some possible approaches:

Different Class Levels

Basically same idea as zones except you no longer get to come to whatever class time you like. Everyone in the class does the same thing, but you are severely limited in your choice of times.


This is what got CrossFit started, but as the community grows more sophisticated, you see this approach used less frequently. The main reason is that it's not very effective. Sure, it gets people through a workout that they couldn't otherwise do, but does it actually progress people toward being able to do the real workout? And, what does “real workout” even mean? People often feel that because they "scaled", their effort was less noteworthy.

For example, let's say lift for the day is Overhead Squats. Let's say you suck at Overhead Squats. The suckiness is most likely caused by poor shoulder mobility/stability, poor core stability, poor hip / ankle mobility, or all of the above. So, the CrossFit method of scaling would say you should do lighter weights or a pvc pipe until you can do it better. The problem is that better never comes. You just end up doing shitty overhead squats with no weight for the rest of your weak, pathetic life. You probably won't get hurt, because you're not loaded, but you do nothing to correct the problem and you don't get the benefits of doing a loaded squat, which was really the whole point to begin with.


Rather than scaling, we are trying to let people get the full benefit and intent of the exercise while preserving quality of movement and therefore safety and effectiveness. It's like scaling in that it keeps people from doing things they aren't ready for, but it also keeps most of the good parts about the movement. From a coaching perspective, I find it easier to coach with the Zones, because people are moving in a range that is appropriate for them. Good form is more likely to happen. There are fewer train wrecks to deal with. Also, I think rather than making people feel like they can't do the real workout, we are just giving them the appropriate workout. It's more predictable, measurable and easier to manage, in my opinion. Plus, it's only part of each class where we “segregate” people. For a more in depth discussion on this, you'll need to buy me a beer.

By Morgan on Sunday, October, 12, 2014