Mix Up Your Warm-ups
The topic of this post is a very small, but a very important part of a fun and effective class: your warm up. The first ten to fifteen minutes of your class serves many purposes which include, but are not limited to: greeting members, figuring out the logistical requirements of that class (number of people, equipment, space, current injuries, etc) as well as ensuring your people are properly prepared for the task at hand. A proper warm up should address a few key areas including elevating the heart rate to increasing blood flow to skeletal muscles and joints, working through ranges and planes of motion necessary for the workout, practicing specific skills necessary for the workout, and finally, and in my opinion most importantly, keeping your members engaged so that they can perform the warm-up in the desired fashion.
Over the last 10 years I have taken hundreds of affiliate classes and its very easy to pick out the coaches who “mail-in” warm ups instead of taking the time to properly construct a warm up that not only prepares an athlete for class, but also keeps them engaged. Here are two different strategies to keep your athletes engaged and focused on the task of warming up.
Competition Based Warm-Ups
One phenomenon we have seen as coaches is that “people will die for points”. If you can find a way to make your warm ups a competitive challenge or incentivize your members with the opportunity to be done a few rounds early, they will push harder, thus warming up more effectively. One of our favorite versions of this style of warm up is what we call a “Loser Tournament”. In this style of warm up, your athletes are set up into teams that consist of 3 or more people and are given a task (for example: each person must sprint 15 calories on the rowing machine) and teams are told that the fastest group will be done with their warm up after this round. Thus, the team that “wins” the round has completed their warm up and the rest of the teams must perform another round until they are the “winning” team. The incentive of being done early, as well as the spirit of competition often leads to a fun and effective warm up.
Most of your members have multiple reasons for coming to your gym (look better naked, better health, socialization, stress relief, etc) and the hour they spend at your gym gets them away from the daily grind of their 9-5 job. As with anything else, keeping your warm-ups the same boring routine of “run 400m, then perform 25 squats before doing a few pass-throughs with a PVC” is very bland and unimaginative, and is unlikely to keep your members interested. An often overlooked part of CrossFit is something that is stated plainly in the 100 Words of Fitness “Regularly learn and play new sports”. That little nugget of information from Coach Glassman is an element not often seen in most gyms. Not only are games really fun, but they are effective, they keep your members engaged, and having fun at your gym. Games like Hoover ball, Pin Guard, Handball, Dodgeball, etc get your members laughing, having a good time, and in most cases working on almost all 10 of the general physical skills that an athlete, or any healthy person would like to develop. The ability to create and/or use a game as a means of warming up a class should be something that all coaches use from time to time.
These two methods for a warming up a class are just a couple of the many different ways a coach can properly prepare a group of athletes for the rest of their class. Again, as stated in the 100 Word of Fitness, “Routine is the enemy”. Keep things fun and fresh and your members will thank you for it.
Written by Matt Sherburne