My Experience at the CrossFit Level 1 Certification

I’m paralyzed.

Just kidding! Well, sort of. I spent two long, long days at the CrossFit Level 1 Certification course, hosted by CrossFit Charlotte, most of which was spent learning essential components of movements, progressions into more difficult lifts, and how to scale exercises for less advanced athletes. We also did two workouts (hence my soreness), and had some theory lectures about why CrossFit is designed the way it is and how fitness can be objectively measured, as well as a surprisingly long lecture on nutrition.

The nutrition lecture was somewhat of a surprise. Granted, it had a lot of faults (such as a 100% focus on macronutrient ratios, and the suggestion to literally count almonds), but I was impressed that they did give a decent amount of credit to the Paleo diet, and particularly Robb Wolf’s work. They also mentioned Gary Taubes a significant amount. So while there were many holes in the nutrition lecture (that I was dying to raise my hand and fill), I was impressed that they incorporated many Paleo components into the session.

I really did have fun and I feel like I learned a lot about form, technique, and optimal workout structure.

My class! Of course I’m smack dab in the middle. (Typical)

I would say the most valuable information I learned this weekend was not only how to recognize proper technique in others (and how to correct that technique in a way the athlete will understand), but I got a TON of one-on-one training with the instructors, who were really knowledgable and gave tips in a way that was very positive and encouraging. I have a serious problem staying on my heels in most of my harder lifts (I blame 6 years of volleyball), and it was helpful to have such experienced coaches pointing out certain errors I was making and giving me easy-to-understand ways to fix them.

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For example, the head coach Russell spent what felt like at least 5 minutes coaching me directly about my medicine ball clean (which I had never done), in front of my group. I was a bit intimidated and embarrassed that I was singled out as having a bad clean technique, but it was really good to get one-on-one attention from a top CrossFit coach who gave me a lot of tips on how to improve my technique both physically and mentally. A lot of these complicated lifts aren’t hard because they’re so heavy, but because they involve a huge amount of coordination and agility and motor development. So even though I was slightly embarrassed to be pulled out in front of the group to do my ugly cleans, I was really glad to get such direct coaching on a skill that I am looking forward to developing.

And then there were the workouts.

Fran. 21-15-9 Thrusters and Pull Ups for Time

The workouts were pretty damn hard, and I even scaled mine pretty low in comparison to the prescribed workout. I was SO impressed by the number of women that did the prescribed workout though, including the pull-ups! I, for one, cannot do an unassisted pull up. Granted I’m tall and tend to have more lower body strength, but I was so impressed and inspired by all the women that were so physically fit. Perhaps I’ll never make it to a prescribed Fran workout, but I am definitely more motivated to keep training harder after seeing the abilities of my female peers, many of whom were much older than me.

Powering through Fran. INTENSE.

One last thing I feel that I learned from this weekend that I wasn’t expecting – humility.

I often take for granted the nutrition knowledge that I have, and sometimes get frustrated and/or even annoyed when people don’t understand what I’m saying or are completely oblivious to basic information that to me seems obvious. However, I definitely was “put in their shoes” this weekend, since I was one of the least CrossFit knowledgable student there, and was making a lot of mistakes and falling short of most others’ performance. I learned what it felt like to be a novice and to be surrounded by people more experienced than me. I learned what it’s like to feel embarrassed about your shortcomings in an atmosphere where most others are more advanced than you. However, I also learned what it feels like to have a highly experienced and compassionate coach that recognizes your weaknesses and helps you improve them, rather than getting annoyed or berating you for screwing up.

I feel that this experience can greatly apply to my nutrition education techniques. Not only do I need to understand that many of my future clients will be complete novices or wildly misinformed about nutrition, but they will likely feel embarrassed about their lack of knowledge or nervous about my possible critique of their diets. Instead of getting frustrated with their beginner status, I need to always make sure that I am compassionate about their situation and encouraging towards their decision to learn more about healthy eating habits.

No one is going to change overnight. Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t do a prescribed Fran workout tomorrow, despite the fact that I was taught proper technique from an experienced coach. I’m just not ready for it.

And some people are just not ready to change their diets overnight. And that’s ok. You don’t have to do a major 180 degree diet change in one day. Sure, it helps to take big steps like clearing out junk from the pantry, or making a 100% Paleo-approved grocery store visit. But we’re still going to make mistakes. Most people aren’t ready to take Paleo to the full-blown level. Heck, I’d say even I’m not ready for that. (and whether 100% Paleo for the rest of your life is even appropriate is another story.)

Long story short, it takes time, effort, and practice to make significant and permanent changes in your life. Whether that’s being able to do a body-weight pull up, or being able to permanently cut grains out of your diet, it all can’t happen overnight. So as a beginner, you need to give yourself time and allow yourself to make mistakes or get into this new diet slowly and progressively. As a teacher, you need to be patient with your clients and realize that taking the plunge into Paleo/Primal living is scary, intimidating, and challenging for most people.

I didn’t expect to learn this all from a CrossFit Certification course, but I’m glad I did. Maybe my quad muscles aren’t happy about it, but I sure am. :)

  • http://www.crossfitcharlotte.com andy hendel

    I would like to here more about your perspective on nutrition. I know that is a very broad question. Lets start how you would change one thing or one hole in Bobby’s nutrition lecture. Thanks, Andy Hendel.

    • http://ancestralizeme.com Laura

      Hey Andy! Thanks so much for a great weekend, I did really have a great time and learned a lot.

      As far as Bobbi’s nutrition lecture goes, I do think she did a good job at clearing up many of the misconceptions that most typical athletes have about nutrition. And I know she reminded us that she wasn’t a nutrition expert, so I was pretty pleased with the job she did on the whole.

      That said, I do think that a 100% focus on macronutrient ratios was probably the major pitfall of the talk. There are a lot of micronutrients that are hugely important for building lean muscle, such as vitamins A and D. There are a lot of micronutrients essential for post-workout recovery as well, such as magnesium, potassium, and vitamin C. B vitamins are essential for healthy metabolic function. Obviously it’s ideal to get these nutrients from food, so including a wide variety of vegetables and meats is important for more than just the amount of protein, carbs, and fat they provide.

      Also, I think relying primarily on nuts and fish oil for fat content in a diet is problematic. Nuts are very high in omega-6 fatty acids which are inflammatory, and taking a ton of fish oil supplements isn’t the best way to counteract that inflammation. Ideally, you should try to minimize omega-6 intake and get the majority of your dietary fat from healthy animal sources like wild fish and grass-fed animals. Grass-fed butter and cod liver oil have high amounts of essential fat soluble vitamins that are essential for hormone regulation and muscle growth.

      Chris Masterjohn has a great article about the importance of vitamin A for building muscle: http://www.westonaprice.org/mens-health/vitamin-a-forgotten-bodybuilding-nutrient

      Last thing is I think portioning out food down to the last almond can set up some serious eating disorders in athletes. CrossFit is a very demanding workout and I feel that if athletes are overly restrictive in their diets, they can actually stall their progress due to the stress response in the body such as high cortisol and general immune over-activation.

      Anyway, like I said I thought Bobbi did a good job covering the basics. I just don’t like being overly focused on macronutrient ratios and calorie counting. I think the important parts of the diet lie in the micronutrient quantities.

      Would be glad to talk to you more about it if you’d like!

      • http://www.crossfitcharlotte.com andy hendel

        Awesome comments! I am out in Utah at a competitors cert and we just talked about many things you just mentioned. Thank you for broadening my knowledge on nutrition. I grad. from NC State back in 83′ with an animal science degree, so most of my back round is with livestock. Again, thank you!

    • http://ancestralizeme.com Laura

      Also, I would like to point out the following link in regards to fish oil supplementation:

      http://chriskresser.com/when-it-comes-to-fish-oil-more-is-not-better

  • Julie

    Hi Laura – I am looking forward to going to the Level 1 Cert. this weekend and am a little more anxious about the test portion of the weekend. Do the lectures provide you with all the information you need to know?

    Thanks!

    • Laura

      The test wasn’t difficult, and they definitely provide all the information you need during the classes. It might be useful to review the packet of information, but I don’t think its essential. Also, be sure to attend the review session before the test! I’m sure you’ll be fine.

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  • http://alohamilitarylife.blogspot.com Kayla

    Hi Laura! I’m taking the level 1 cert this weekend and am nervous about the test. I’ve read mixed reviews on it. I’ve read through the handbook once and am doing it again taking notes … I just don’t really know what to expect!

    • Laura

      Don’t worry, you’ll be fine! Just pay attention to what they teach you during the weekend. No sweat. (Except there will be a lot of sweating…)

  • Kim

    I’ve always fantasized about being a CrossFit trainer. To be honest, it’s my ultimate goal. I have found that during workouts, I enjoy cheering people on and watching people hit PRs than when I hit my own PRs. I’ve been doing CF for about 15 months now, and I don’t think I am physically anywhere near where I need to be to coach others, though. I rarely do workouts Rx, and my form sucks on almost all lifts (though I know exactly what the problem is every time, it’s just making my muscles work the way my brain knows that they should). I don’t feel like I could coach someone when I, myself, still needs coaching.
    I was talking to one of the trainers at my gym and she said she had the same concerns and thought I should go ahead and get mine L1 if I was really serious about wanting to be a trainer.
    Thoughts? (Sorry for the word-vomit and question bombardment)

    • Laura

      the level 1 certification is super easy but only do it if you’ve got the thousand dollars handy and want to teach eventually!