larger-life-sliderEpisode #37: “Integrating Exclusive Coaching within an existing group fitness gym model”

In this episode of OPT-In James takes on a great question from a member of the OPEX community around introducing ad integrating an Exclusive Coaching program offering into an existing group fitness business model.  With that discussion, James reflects back on his impetus in creating and evolving the Big Dawg Blog over the last 6+ years, and how there are parallels to be drawn in both journeys. You can watch Episode 37 here!

Here is a link to the original Big Dawg Blog for reference:

Attention! OPEX is hiring! Are you motivated, creative and passionate about Sales and Marketing? If so we want you to get in touch with us! Review the employment opportunity here and contact either Jim or Meghan!

April 26, 2015

opex, opex fitness, formerly opt, exclusive coaching, remote coaching, coaching education, individualized program design, james fitzgerald

What are you really trying to accomplish with your business and are you setup to give your clients the best product possible?

Seems like simple questions most any business owner or entrepreneur should know off the bat.

However, the more I talk to coaches, and the more I observe the fitness industry’s evolution at large, the more I find that the answers don’t come easily.

In fact, if anything, it’s quite the opposite: It is a question very few coaches actually take the time to ask when it comes to running their gym or fitness business.

In a world where ‘Likes’ on Facebook and Instagram can be seen as “quality,” and coaches are allowing what is pop culture at that moment to define what ‘works’ or what is ‘best practice’, it is all too easy to get lost in the mentality of ‘keeping up with the Joneses.’ You fall into the trap of wanting your coaching and your gym to be well-liked, popular, so you find yourself trying to appeal to the hot product or offering.

But, in doing so, often times you also completely lose sight of your own values, your roots, and your core principles (i.e. the reason you got into doing what you do, your personal strengths and passions)

For instance: You are a coach with a big desire to help people move better and become more “functional.”  But, you see many gyms running “hot” nutrition challenges.  So what do you, the business owner, do when clients start demanding these challenges?  Do you just give in and run a challenge?  While I am all for great nutrition education I would immediately ask a few questions.

#1: Why aren’t your clients eating well already?
#2: Are you giving your clients any food education as it is?
#3: Are you the person who is best suited to present your gym with these challenges?
#4: Is this challenge in alignment with what the core mission of your business is?  (make sure not to overlook this question)

Let’s look at a combination of #3 and #4.  If a challenge is not aligned with what you stand for and what you believe in then you already have the answer.  If you have built trust with your clients all that you need to do is explain to them why it isn’t a good fit for them or for the gym.  End of story.  But, what if a challenge is the best fit for your gym or perhaps a challenge is a good way to lead into a new era of education within your gym.  But, perhaps you are not the best coach for that job.  There is no need to push negative judgment on yourself.  Many owners are not the best for the job.  You need to know if you aren’t the best option so that, in this case, you can go get a coach who loves building the nutritional core of a gym.  Find that coach who also aligns with your own vision and then you can host a quality challenge, or, better yet, you can teach quality nutrition principles and help people get on a long term path of success without needing challenges all of the time.  I am not saying that challenges are bad.  I am saying that it’s important to build your facility with quality from day one so that you are helping people get results every day and not just 6 weeks at a time

Another example: Health. Your clients genuinely value and aspire for good health. You coach the ‘moms and pops’ of the community. The soccer moms. The business dads. The ‘family’ men and women. Given your personal affinity for the sport of fitness, however, your style of training reflects a more intense focus—as opposed to the health and wellness focus your clients really need.  We ask questions again:

#1: Are you using your own biases in training your clients (note that I said clients and not athletes) when you really should be helping them enjoy their top priorities?  Don’t assume you know what they want to do or how stressed they are without really conversing with them early and often.

#2: Are your client’s best interests aligned with yours?  This is similar to #2 except this is a conscious choice.  Many coaches want to help the masses but they are programming for the best athletes and that programming simply isn’t appropriate for the masses.

#3 (Again) Are you the person who is best suited to present/program for your gym?

Notice the theme here.

It is so important that you remain authentic to who you are.  If you want to program the best athletes then setup a situation where you can do that but not at the expense of the masses in your gym getting the best product for them.  Remember that your athletes will very likely make up less than 10% of your population (we define athletes as people who are doing this as a sport and as a higher priority than work, than relationships, or than “fun.”  Go find somebody who LOVES working with the masses and empower them to help build the program.  You will feel great about coaching your athletes and you will feel truthful to your clients as a whole.  When your clients trust what and WHY you are doing what you are doing you will retain people for the long haul.  When people stop trusting what you are doing you are in for some challenges.

You don’t have to host a Paleo challenge, or have all of your clients sign up for the Open, or perform benchmark workouts every month, or start a yoga class, or have an endurance class or weightlifting class added to the schedule. You don’t have to use MindBody or Wodify or any other popular technology ‘everyone is using.’ Now, all of these things can certainly be good if they fit in line with what you are about…but when, and if, your business is not aligned with who you are and the answer to that one question (What are you really trying to accomplish with your business?), eventually, you will not survive in the red sea of plenty of other cookie cutters.

So how do you get to know that answer?

Reflect on these points:

  1. Look at where your actions take you consistently. What is it you find yourself naturally gravitating towards? Talking about? Reading and learning about? Whatever it is…come to the center on your ‘one’ (maybe two) things. Your niche.
  1. Focus on your strengths.Is it nutrition? If not, you don’t need to ‘do’ nutrition for the masses (of course to be a total coach you need to be able to do it and do it well but you shouldn’t sell yourself as a nutrition guru if you don’t love it). Is it performance-based training? Then you need to build a business or programs with a performance-focus in place. Is it technique and skill work? Perhaps workshops are a regular part of your business that you host and offer to the community. Is it helping people make lifestyle changes—education may play a big piece in your business and programs. If you have business partners, you could potentially have several ‘strengths’—allow each individual to contribute, but at the foundation, build your business based around what it is you do uniquely or bring to the marketplace.
  1. Build a solid foundation. Surround yourself with coaches, employees and others who believe in what you are doing. These people may represent different ages and strengths themselves, but at the end of the day, you all are a unified at your cores about that for which you stand and the vision of the business. OPEX if a unique example of this. Our coaching team has varying passions, strengths and skill sets (from working with competitive athletes to those in their older age, who just want to be able to play with their grand kids and walk up and down the stairs). However, at our core, we stand by one platform: Individualized program design, based on measurable and ‘true’ (scientific) data.
  1. Be authentic. Simply put: be authentic for what works for you and who you are. You don’t have to be something you are not—nor should you try to be.

Coach Jim Crowell

April 25, 2015

opex, opex fitness, formerly opt, coaching education, remote coaching, coaching education, litmus testing, 15.2 , crossfit  open

Litmus Test – Upper Body Pulling

A litmus test is a gauge of progress in program design. If your prescription has been targeting a specific quality in fitness, a litmus test communicates honesty in the development of that quality.

Litmus tests are in principle:
1) Repeatable, data driven
2) Complimentary to training

Following the conclusion of 15.2, I decided to take a closer look at an OPEX litmus test, which appeared in last December’s annual online competition:

For time
UB CTB chinups
Must break btwn each set

This litmus shows capacity in upper body pulling, specifically proficiency and pacing with chest-to-bar chinups.

I compared all eligible male and female scores from the 2014 OPEX Winter Classic to their results in 15.2. I then created five groups of scores based on the highest achieved round in 15.2. The results are as follows and show average time to complete 1-to-10 UB CTB chinups with standard deviation:

                                                                        Males                                        Females
2:12 +/- 0:32                         20s: NA
2:30 +/- 1:02                          18s: 2:57 +/- 0:55
4:05 +/- 1:53                          16s: 6:41 +/- 2:54
7:05 +/- 2:40                          14s: 7:58 +/- 2:30
9:25 +/- 1:29                          12s: NA

What immediately strikes me is the clear distribution of scores in this litmus relative to the round achieved in 15.2. Individuals who performed well on one generally performed well on the other. This makes complete sense. Not to be matter-of-fact, but that’s why it is such a good litmus – it tests the necessary qualities of the sport.

The benefit to performing 1-to-10 UB CTB chinups, as opposed to simply repeating something like 15.2, is that the volume is not impeding on training or recovery in subsequent days.

And as a general rule, Regional-level males and females ought to shoot for times faster than 1:34 and 1:47, respectively. This indicates a 98th percentile score, which is generally the minimal threshold for qualification to Regionals from the Open. Top scores for both genders can fall between 1:10-1:20.

Coach Matt Springer

OPEX ONE April 24, 2015

Don’t miss out on our Facebook Q&A session , April 24, 2015 9AM MST/ 12PM EST  .  We will be answering your questions on training, programming and anything else you may have!

opex, opex fitness, formerly opt, remote coaching, exclusive coaching, individualized program design

April 24, 2015
Remote Coaching Client- Brian Harris
Coach James Taylor

The Workout That Wasn’t

This past year, I had the privilege of coaching Brian Harris, an American soldier who is the strongest willed and most resilient individual I have had the opportunity to coach. He definitely has the best overall capacity for mixed work of anyone for whom I have designed a program to this date. Considering his goals and his attitude towards his experience, Brian had a great Open this year. I feel the Open this year had an especially large focus on strength endurance for those who did well competitively, which was really not unexpected. If you believe that as a coach you need to train your athletes to excel in strength endurance based on their goals, then that creates the question of how to improve strength endurance.

Strength endurance has not been exhaustively researched to the point of having simple answers to questions about how to improve it. In fact, I believe that the question of how to optimally improve strength endurance is realistically beyond the capabilities of scientific research due to its individuality. That makes empirical data and human experience paramount to understanding it, in my opinion. What I’ve experienced as a coach is that strength endurance as a quality of an athlete is necessarily specific to any and all movements in consideration. However, no movement exists in complete isolation; for any movement, there seems to be other synergistic movements which can further improve strength endurance in that movement. If one’s goal is to do more work in less time over a period of time that’s unknown, I suspect we should look to all energy systems to be capable of doing their part in creating the ATP required for the desired muscle contractions. Therefore, in addition to the rather simplistic view of focusing on a movement, we should train for strength endurance by also training relevant synergistic movements and all energy systems to some degree.

In order to create a framework for prioritizing training in a design with the goal of improving strength endurance, you must first compare an athlete’s results in tests to normative data for their current ability level as an assessment. This enables analysis of which movements and energy systems need to be improved and how they should be improved to get the best response possible, as based on the experience of the coach in observing sets of athletes’ testing results and in observing the progression of testing results over time in a specifically designed individualized program.

An individualized program is necessary in order to focus training efforts in specific areas deemed lacking by the empirical analysis that is the assessment. I believe that you may need to focus training energy on one of the following three areas of fitness training more than the others to optimally improve strength endurance in a movement for an individual: (1) doing as aggregately powerful muscle contractions as possible for a given duration with the least amount of fatigue as possible, (2) doing as aggregately powerful muscle contractions as possible for a given duration with as much fatigue as can be handled (very subjective for the coach based on other training priorities, and plays into the resiliency of the athlete), or (3) as many muscle contractions as possible with the least amount of fatigue as possible (range of motion for the movement is at least as relevant here as in the other scenarios). I believe these three scenarios generally fit well as a framework for considering how each energy system plays into strength endurance capacity in a movement, though practically, none of the scenarios are specific to only one energy system. As for the fourth iteration of these characteristics, I’m not convinced that doing as many muscle contractions as possible with the most amount of fatigue as possible is optimal in eliciting training adaptations (rapid muscle contractions under fatigue in the context of higher power output I believe falls within the second category outlined of doing aggregately powerful contractions over a duration while fatigued) for strength endurance.

There was a specific instance last fall when Brian tested one of OPEX’s worldwide tests after which I decided a bit of a shift in design was necessary. The 10 minutes of BJSD test scored as reps times the height of the box (m) times body mass (kg), when compared with others’ scores, helped me realize that strength endurance in the movement of box jumps needed to play a critical role in the program’s design going forward. Over a number of weeks, as outlined in the charts, we focused on accumulating reps of box jumps, mostly in non-fatigued settings, which addressed training in the third scenario listed above. During the same time frame, we also created a big focus in the design on training AB sprints of various lengths, as I assessed that Brian’s energy system capacities warranted significantly improving balance here. I believe that building capacity in concentric AB cycling over the time period was a key factor in developing Brian’s energy systems appropriately with a synergistic movement for increasing strength endurance in box jumps. I feel the AB work simultaneously addressed both the first and second previously mentioned scenarios of training strength endurance. In 10 weeks, from week 5 to week 15 in the charts, Brian improved his score by almost 2500 (45 reps) on the 10 minute BJSD test. In the total period of time outlined in the charts, Brian tested Open workout 12.3 three times, and improved on his score from 329 reps at the beginning, to 375 reps in week 10, and finally to 409 reps in week 19. The first chart  (Chart A) shows the accumulation of box jumps that Brian did over the period of time in total inches jumped per week. The volume of AB sprinting is displayed per session vertically and sessions per week by concentration of bubbles, with a ratio of rest time between sets to AB sprint time as an indirect indication of intensity for the sessions which is displayed by the size of the bubbles in the chart. The color of the bubbles are simply categorized by intended dose-response. During this time, it should be noted that Brian competed a few times, which made the progression of these specific training metrics somewhat less than idealized. The chart (Chart B) clearly shows our plan of increasing the volume of AB sprint sessions after the 10 minute BJSD test in week 5. This change coincided with an overall increasing trend of box jump volume. I believe both of these directions of training simultaneously led to improvement in box jump strength endurance.

I would hardly consider this period of training and analysis to be consistent with the scientific method. To naysayers of individualized training programs who argue that this situation has a sample size of one and too many confounding factors to prove anything scientifically, I can only say that they are technically correct but practically ignorant of the art of coaching. I see OPEX’s continued success in designing individualized training programs as a function of the strength of our collaboration as a coaching team and look forward to OPEX continuing to be the leader in creating designs to optimize overall fitness for individuals including strength endurance training in fitness. As it turned out, there were no box jumps in the Open this year, but I believe Brian would have been well prepared for them. Brian is continuing his journey in fitness with new challenges to meet for now. Due to his military obligations, he will not be competing in the Regionals for which he qualified this year. I know that he will be successful in his new endeavors based on his strong character and work ethic.

Coach James Taylor


Chart A

jt box jump vol

Chart B

jt chart ab testing

April 23, 2015

opex, opex fitness, formerly opt, exclusive coaching, remote coaching, coaching education, individualized program design

Athlete Spotlight; Daniel Sulatycky 

There comes a time in many athletes’ training lives that they realize they are tired of going it alone.

Daniel Sulatycky reached this point approximately a year and a half into his own fitness journey.

“I had been doing CrossFit on my own ever since I started it back in 2013. I had seen some results but when I set a goal to qualify for Regionals, (I knew I needed some guidance),” Daniel said.

The soldier in the Canadian Armed Forces first heard about OPEX through his friend, who currently is training under OPEX Coach and 2015 South West Regional (Team) qualifier Meghan Sweet.

“I always did my own programming before and was self-taught, never had worked with a coach, but since I wanted to get more serious, I decided (it was time),” Daniel said.

Daniel was partnered with Coach James Taylor, and he began a new journey in his fitness that he had never experienced.

“Lots of PRs have been made, including: a 295 lb thruster, 310lb power clean and jerk, 230 lb power snatch, 6:47 2km row, as well as improved overhead stability, aerobic output, muscular endurance, and more,” Daniel said.

The key to his success: “James reminds me to be consistent regularly, which I think is quite important in this sport,” Daniel said.

Dedicated to his goal and his personal improvements, Daniel completes his programming daily, keeps a log of how each session goes and communicates back and forth with James frequently.

Daniel said some of the most important things he’s learned from James include:

“Just more about myself, like which foods are best for me and my performance, how much sleep I need, my recovery, and that ‘more’ is not necessarily better for me. I’ve learned a lot about pre/post WOD regimens and how to approach competitions and WODs. Lastly, just being around the sport itself (longer) has given me more experience—the type that comes with years of training,” Daniel said.

His advice for those considering if a coach is really worth it?

“I think OPEX is for everyone because coming from someone who was self taught, the learning curve is too steep to include everything and you always tend to bias training. To have an outside opinion that monitors your progress and get you to your goal faster is just smarter and much more efficient,” he said.

April 22, 2015


It’s All in the Process

The following is an excerpt taken from Epigenetics: The Death of the Genetic Theory of Disease Transmission;

“We talk about DNA as if it’s a template (or a blue print), like a mold for a car part in a factory. In the factory, molten metal or plastic gets poured into the mold thousands of times and, unless something goes wrong in the process, out pop thousands of identical car parts.


April 21, 2015

opex, opex fitness, formerly opt, coaching certificate program, ccp, coaching education, james fitzgerald, c5, become a coach

Building Your Brand

You’re a coach. And, you genuinely love what you do.

But, you want more.

You don’t want to just be a coach.

You want to be more than a coach.

You, yourself, represent your own business and your own brand.


April 20, 2015

opex, opex fitness, formerly opt, paleo fx, james fitzgerald, coaching education, c5,

April 24-26 Paleo f(x) and C5 in Austin 

Paleo f(x) is coming this weekend—are you going?

Held in Austin, Texas at the Palmer Events Center, April 24-26, the three-day conference will bring together some of the leading minds and voices in the health and fitness world for a mix of panel discussions, lectures and seminars, workshops and showcases.