How I Make Crossfit Work for My Gym

Bethany Wadsworth

Bethany Wadsworth is the owner and head trainer of Crossfit Geneseo and hosted our last seminar.

I have an unusual gym;  a perfect storm of convenience, coolness and grunge. My gym is 75 ft. from my house and it’s in a barn. There are dogs, cats, and the occasional child roaming among my regular clients sweating through their workouts.  I can literally walk downstairs, grab a cup of coffee, and go to work in the clothes I slept in if I so choose and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Professionally I am a nurse. I did mostly homecare and spent the last 5 years of my nursing career as an administrator. My eventual arrival at becoming a personal fitness trainer came in increments starting in my childhood.  My father is a fitness enthusiast so I spent my childhood cross-country skiing when my friends were on snowmobiles, riding horses while my friends were riding dirt bikes. My father ran marathons and my brother and sister and I helped him train. I was never athletic. I was the last one picked for dodge ball in gym class, and I never played any sports, but we were always active.

I remained active with walking and running through college and early adulthood and that was about it until my children decided they wanted to train in martial arts. I signed them up at the local Mcdojo and after simply watching them for a a while, I decided if I was going to be there, I might as well participate. As I got better at sparring I realized that I needed to be stronger and started lifting.  I realized quickly I did not know what I was doing, but was lucky enough to run across Krista Scott-Dixon’s website, Stumptuous and got a lot of very good information there.  I got stronger, I got leaner, and I was kicking ass all over the dojo! I was excited by this new found knowledge and realized that I could help some of my friends and family.  I got certified as a personal trainer through the American College of Sports Medicine and started my personal training career. The ACSM test was tough for me, mostly because of the responsibility drift between nursing and personal trainer. I knew a bit too much about some things, and not enough about others.

Unfortunately, I was not meant to be a martial artist for the long haul.  I experienced a serious rotator cuff injury while sparring that required surgery and then my dojo closed before I was entirely rehabbed.  I never went back to that particular discipline, but continued to teach cardio kickboxing classes on my own.

In 2007, I found Crossfit on the internet. I did the workouts and it was a lot of fun for me.  They were the closest in intensity to MMA sparring that I had ever experienced. I went to a local affiliate and took the fundamentals course and by 2008, had affiliated my personal training business with Crossfit.  Over the years, I’ve used some of the things that I’ve liked about Crossfit, but also included some of the things I’ve learned from other disciplines and resources as well.

I feel that Crossfit has done some amazing things in regards to bringing power lifting, Olympic weight lifting and actual strength training to the masses. Crossfit has also brought a sense of community to the gym experience that I’ve only experienced in dojos and boxing gyms. However, I have my reservations about it as well.  I don’t feel that Crossfit is effective in focusing on the individual trainee. The one workout fits all, even if scaled, doesn’t really work in my opinion. Many classic Crossfit workouts include exercises and movements that can lead to injury in a lot of people. The constantly varied, high intensity workouts are fun and interesting and encourage people to continue to exercise, but if not programmed with a goal in mind can fail to produce adaptions in as little as six months to a year.

In my gym, the workouts are programmed for the individual and the emphasis is always on strength and safety.  After an appropriate warm-up, I have my general fitness clients perform one strength lift a day.  This is followed by accessory work, typically for the back, and then 5-20 minute “Crossfit” style finisher.  I change the lifting program about every 2-3 months switching between high volume, low intensity and low volume high intensity programs.  Finishers do not include oly lifts or heavy power lifts, unless at very low weights. We do not usually do any high skill or heavy movements in the finisher, and I vary the finishers between high intensity short workouts and longer endurance workouts.  I may assign different finishers depending on the needs of the client.  The athletes I train are on a lifting program designed specifically for the needs of their sport:  rugby, swimming, baseball,etc.

When training people, you need to look at their goals, assets and challenges.  You also need to enjoy your job.  This is about relationships with people and caring about the outcome of what they are doing.  I am in a fortunate place. I don’t need to make a lot of money. I have a small gym and limit my membership to 30 people. I have the luxury of being able to focus on individual training needs and goals.  I have heard a lot of criticism about Crossfit over the years and unfortunately, a lot of it is warranted.  High injury rates, bad attitudes, and a lack of programming are just some of those.  However, I also know that all Crossfit gyms are not created equal and the conscientious gym owners are doing far more good for their clients than a lot of folks give them credit for.  The majority of folks I’ve met from Crossfit gyms in my area are happy, healthy, and enthusiastic about their fitness.  I enjoy working with them and hope to do so in the years to come.

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