Gyms are among the latest group of businesses that have reopened amidst the coronavirus lockdowns. With new guidelines for safe training, a big question looming over us coaches: What does it look like to coach while maintaining social distancing?
In the eight years that I’ve been a coach, I’ve gotten in a good groove of how a class should flow, how to cue athletes on movements, and how to bring the community together before, during, and after a session. But, with guidelines mandating 6 feet of distance between individuals, much of that changes. Prior to reopening, our staff at Invictus taped 8x8 squares on the floor to help members maintain distance during classes. The seemingly simple solution led to numerous logistical considerations: how to group for whiteboard briefs, how to gather equipment, how to perform tactile cueing, and so on.
Coaching in a time of social distancing, though different, doesn’t necessarily mean worse. Each modification to your gym’s routine presents an opportunity for innovation and positive improvement. Here are the pros and cons to socially distanced coaching.
Pro: More Space
Even in a 12,000-square-foot facility, your gym can still feel packed at certain times of the day. There’d be three people to every bar, stagger-starting workouts, fighting over the best spot, and so on. Logistically, spacing could be a nightmare. With each member allotted an 8x8 square, gone are the days of being packed like sardines. It’s, dare I say...luxurious.
Con: More Space
Wait, what? Inevitably, more space between members means less socializing and bonding. Having three people to a bar meant chitchat during rest periods, helping each other load and de-load plates, and lots of high fives and fist bumps in between. Now the opportunities for connection have to be a little more planned out than before. The Question of the Day is still my favorite part of class, but admittedly, it doesn’t pack quite the same punch from everyone’s individual square as it did when we could all huddle together.
Pro: Capped Classes
There’s a certain ratio of coaches to athletes that lends itself to a harmonious balance between energy and individualized attention. With a solid group of 10 to12 athletes per coach, you get the infectious energy of a small crowd working toward a shared goal, whilestill being able to provide plenty of personalized attention and touch bases throughout the class.
Con: Capped Classes
Sensing a trend? That being said, my favorite coaching experiences have been in 20-person classes with the music blaring and everyone banding together. There’s just nothing like watching your athletes crawl over to cheer on the last person finishing up the WOD.
Pro: Different Cueing
As a coach, we all have our go-to cues. We often ask at CrossFit Level 1 Seminars, “What’s a good cue?” The answer is the one that works. Often, we rely on verbal, visual, and tactile cues to prompt the change we want to see in our athletes. Say goodbye to tactile cueing (unless you stick a PVC pipe at someone). The change has forced us coaches to get creative with how we coach people, providing an opportunity for us to grow in our knowledge and skill set.
Con: Different Cueing
Not going to lie, tactile cues are very effective. Social distancing also means that verbal cues are more challenging to deliver based on proximity, especially with music blaring in the background. Add in the mask and I’m repeating a verbal cue upwards of three times before it lands. Sometimes there’s just no substitute for a tactile cue.
Despite the challenges that have come with socially distanced coaching, I’d take them over a closed gym any time. I still get to do what I love everyday which is help people become better versions of themselves through fitness. Now I just get to do it safely from 6 feet away.