I think one of the most important things we can do as coaches is know how to regress workouts / exercises and how to deliver the news. I'm around incredibly intense people all day long. They go hard in the gym, they work hard, and have that lightbulb moment when the clock beeps: it's as if they become unstoppable until they're laying in a puddle of sweat on the floor.
It's quite impressive, really. That level of intensity is rare.
Of course, as a coach and student of strength, my main concern is always form which is oftentimes pushed aside in the midst of an AMRAP. So I realize I have two options: I can either tell the athlete that they must slow down to work on form, or I can find an exercise in the beginning of the workout that I know they will be able to compete with high intensity and also safely. I almost always choose the ladder. The former invokes a pretty vivid picture of a stampede.
It's my favorite because this is the moment that I get to show you how much I care
Now that I've decided to regress, or "scale" the exercises, I have to pick an appropriate exercise for them to do. Is there a specific movement that needs work? Is their hinge actually a squat? Are their muscles strong enough right now to handle that weight? Are their triceps just not ready to handle the load of a muscle up?
Once I've identified the movement and/or muscles that need a little TLC, here comes delivering the news. This is one of my favorite parts as a coach. "Favorite", not because I enjoy telling people "You will do this instead today". It's my favorite because this is the moment that I get to show you how much I care.
I'm not in the business of holding anyone back, and oftentimes, when someone is told to scale, they may see it in that light. "What? You want me to just use the bar? I can't even grab a couple 10s?" This may be revealing my self conscious tendencies, but as a 5'1" petite woman, telling a 6'2" man that, "No, adding weight to the bar is not appropriate today" can be a little intimidating.
However, this is my moment to show you how much I care. I'm not interested in you putting 85# over your head for this workout if it means you're going to be in agony at your desk chair for the next 3 months. I'm not interested in you doing kettlebell snatches if it means your shoulder is in a compromised position.
As coaches, we have made the bold decision to act as a health and fitness authority in peoples' lives. Let us not lose sight of the greatness of this responsibility. We must consider the individuals, their strengths, areas for gains and the way they view themselves.
I cannot stress this last part enough. If you are working with an athlete who is new to the gym and threw themselves into a high intensity class, you will not make them feel less than. This is not a suggestion. You will be excited about their decision to move. You will know their goals and you will work with them closely to make sure they are continuing on the path with strength and joy. The beginning stages of fitness are far too precious for a coach to belittle anyone.
If a newbie is in a class with advanced athletes, you will let them know directly and positively what they are doing instead. You will say, "The workout today includes muscle ups, and the best way to get there is ring dips, so we'll be working on those together." This is a very different statement than, "The rest of the class is doing muscle ups, but since you're new, you have to do ring dips."
We put so much thought into making sure our athletes are squatting to depth and no repping their wall balls if they don't touch the line. Perhaps they wouldn't be interested in cheating the exercise or exercising with a false level of intensity if we had put the work in during the beginning stages.
Let's treat people with care. Let's scale appropriately and with grace.