Attending the CrossFit Level 1 Trainer (CF-L1) Course

I attended the CrossFit Level 1 Trainer Course (CF-L1) this past weekend and wanted to share my experience. I won’t know whether I passed the test when I post this [edit 8/27/2018–I passed]. I feel like I did, but regardless, I got so much out of this weekend. It was a weekend in Omaha, NB. (Warning: Hawkeye in Husker Nation…my God, it’s full of RED*…) The course trained me on performing and coaching Olympic lifts and functional movements and understanding CrossFit philosophy and programming.

I love CrossFit even more.

personal trainer coralville iowa All three trainers were fantastic – Joe, Becky, and Spencer. I believe all were certified Level 4 coaches and have been doing CrossFit for more than a decade each. Through humor, rapport among themselves and with the attendees, and clear instruction, they made the weekend enjoyable. Through lecture, demonstrations, physical experience, and personalized coaching, I learned a lot! And I already knew a lot.

Since my personal journey from obese to fit, I’ve been a personal trainer with my own studio who has been coaching clients for seven years. I’ve worked with a great variety of clients, from athletes to deconditioned, teens to elderly, one-on-one, buddy, and small groups. Primarily, I work with middle-aged adults seeking strength, weight loss, and longevity. My own preferred exercise is CrossFit (I attend Exodus Coralville Crossfit), but moving clients into high intensity exercise has been a challenge. As the CrossFit philosophy says, high intensity is the way to maximize adaptations, but most adults have difficulty sustaining high intensity training over time. They come to me for accountability and enjoy getting their sweat on in a private setting, and I’m happy to move them at their pace as long as I see progression and consistency. That usually means moderate strength training with occasional metcons.

The CF-L1 weekend had:

  • lectures with note-taking on philosophy, definitions, nutrition, exercise programming, movement techniques, and coaching
  • breakout sessions to practice and coach basic movements (variations of squat, press, deadlift, plus kipping pull-up and strict muscle-up)
  • a few short metcons

They scaled the metcons and movements as needed, so never let concerns about your ability keep you from attending. For different partner activities, I was paired with a pregnant woman, with a powerlifter who had never done Olympic lifts, and with a 17-year-old who was especially bendy.  I was the oldest attendee, but not by much. The age range was from 17-53. There were buff, ripped, fat, and tiny people. In some activities I shone and others I needed plenty o’ help. That’s just CrossFit, man. The hands-on movement sessions included progressions, points of performance, faults, and fault fixes. Needless-to-say, my movements got a good facelift. Being pulled out to demonstrate forward lean on overhead squat was good for me, though I’ve been training that so hard! Watching others coach was helpful, as well, despite the years of practice I’ve already had.

personal trainer coralville iowa I have four pages of notes in my tiny handwriting. The beauty of the weekend was the layering of teaching techniques: you have your book, lecture covering much for the same material, modeling by the trainers, and the kinesthetic experience of trying much of it yourself. Add on to that plenty of patience and clear answers to (my) many questions (it was always me), and it would be hard to come away not understanding what was taught.

As for the test…well, I can’t tell you content, due to the confidentiality agreement, but the format is straight-forward. It was 55 multiple-choice questions with an hour time limit. A number of questions are tricky because they are of the “what is the BEST” answer type and you know you see several “right” answers, but most questions are straight-up asking for stuff you need to memorize. I’ll get a pass or fail in the mail by the end of the week. The course cost $1000, plus two nights in a hotel, meals, and the 4 hour drive to and from Coralville. The expense was a lot, but wasn’t the hardest thing. I can’t express enough how much I hate traveling for trainings — staying in hotels, eating food others cook, doing performance-based activities with dozens of strangers, and worst of all being away from my kids. I’ve done this repeatedly over the years, a necessary part of my progress as a fitness professional.

My primary reason for attending was for my own knowledge. I wanted to get a deeper understanding of CrossFit’s philosophy and reasoning behind it. I wanted to understand the movements from a coaching perspective, not only an athlete’s perspective. I wanted to hit up experts with questions and watch their processes. I consider this only the beginning of my CF journey. I have no plans now to coach at an affiliate but may in the future. This has always been my process: I pursue what excites me, not what fits a plan.

I’m so happy to be home, and now I have a number of new research interests, progression activities, and n=1 experiments to pursue.


* If you don’t get this, you’re too young or not nerd enough. Go learn your memes.

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