In the third and final segment of our interview series with former Marine and CrossFit LA founder, Andy Petranek, we are going to explore his personal coaching philosophy and his thought process in writing workouts for his clientele.
Andy, himself a life-long athlete, experienced a variety of training methods before discovering CrossFit in 2004. Since that discovery CrossFit has been his personal training regimen as well as what he teaches in his group classes at CrossFit LA.
If you have been following Andy’s workouts for the last 3 weeks, you might be wondering what is behind his choice of exercises, weights, and time domains. One of Andy’s inspirations was Greg Glassman, the founder of CrossFit. “I read Coach Glassman’s article about programming and his ‘systematic’ method for incorporating gymnastics, metabolic conditioning and weightlifting. I really liked that,” said Andy.
While the workouts might seem random, there is actually a system to Andy’s method of training general physical preparedness. Andy does not write his workouts for a specialized athlete, but rather for a student looking to get better at a lot of things. Andy offered this insight:
I’ll sit down to write a three week cycle and I’ll try to make that be a complete balanced program in three weeks. I look at the whole picture and think, if this were a complete cycle someone was going through, do they hit as many of the ten fundamental skills and does it give balance in all the metabolic pathways? And then, is it fun, and are the lengths of the workouts variable? I look for balance in that three week cycle.
While there is an art to writing workouts, Andy’s true skill as a coach comes on the gym floor. A practiced and educated communicator, Andy is able to take those skills and combine them with his exercise knowledge to create a unique coaching and learning environment.
“The two areas that are most critical for a good coach are communication and knowledge,” said Andy. “If you’re super smart and you’re not a great communicator, you might be a great resource for people, but you’re not going to have great big classes.”
Part of teaching people is listening to them and understanding how they listen to you. By having a large body of knowledge in terms of movement and training, you can speak to your clients in different ways. Andy had this to share about ways of communicating:
Learn how people learn and be adept and versatile at adjusting your style of coaching to match the way someone learns. So if they’re not getting it, you don’t get stuck on saying the same thing five, six, seven, ten times and getting frustrated because they’re not doing it. You figure out another way to say it that gives them a tactile cue or a different type of cue or a different type of coaching that allows them to get it.
This versatility rises to another level if you decide to open a gym of your own and run a CrossFit affiliate. In Andy’s opinion, learning to become a great coach should come before the choice to operate your own business:
Opening your own CrossFit box is another whole area of running a business that almost has nothing to do with being a great trainer or a great communicator. What I tell people first and foremost is you have to be a great coach – unless you have a lot of money and you can afford to hire someone who is a great coach. You are really jumping the gun if you open an affiliate and you do not have your stuff together. If you are a Level 1 CrossFit coach, that is not enough in my opinion. You need to have taken requisite anatomy and physiology courses. You need to know something about what’s going on inside the body. You’re not going to be a credible source to your clients if all you know is what a squat is or how to do Fran.
For Andy, from an early age, life has been about constant improvement and that is no different now in his coaching career. He considers himself still to be a student of learning and encourages others to do the same in their professions.
When asked about his personal philosophy on life, Andy had this to share:
“I just kind of love life. I’m very optimistic. Even when things are hard I don’t have trouble getting out of bed. I just look at each day as an opportunity to seize the day. And constant improvement – I’m always looking at ways I can be better, function better, and make the world a better place.”
Andy Petranek Interview Series:
Strength & Conditioning Workouts from Andy Petranek