If you have been around CrossFit-land for a little while, you have likely heard of Doug Katona – you know, “that runner guy” who partnered with CrossFit Endurance founder Brian Mackenzie. And you would be right, but only partially. In his own words, Doug has spent his career as a coach and athlete “pushing the envelope” and “pushing the edge,” and his latest endeavor, Athlete Cell, continues to do exactly that.
Who Is Doug Katona?
Doug’s career as a coach and athlete started back in college at University of Southern California, where he studied – fittingly — physiology and biomechanics. From there he went on to own and operate a very successful globo gym system with 1500 members for 15 years, and he also worked for the NFL as a training consultant prepping athletes for the pre-season NFL combine. Currently, he continues to work with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
As an athlete, Doug has played all of the “major” sports as well: baseball (in Taiwan at one point, no less), basketball, and football, of course. Heck, he was even selected to carry the Olympic Torch! Eventually he tried endurance sports and discovered CrossFit, which provided a clearer vision around the structured intervals he was already using for his own training.
CrossFit Endurance was born when he and Brian – both originally strength and conditioning athletes – blended a thoughtful mix of skill, intensity, volume, and structure with the endurance aspect of sports in general. Why? Because in their close observation of athletes and from their personal experiences and years of competing, they knew that the breakdown happened with technical pieces like bad pull mechanics and poor strength and conditioning above all.
Forming Athlete Cell
Like seemingly everything else in Doug’s journey, Athlete Cell has been growing organically for over a year. We put much thought and planning into this, he says; it is not a “half-baked” project. Since he works with a variety of athletes – not just CrossFitters – neither he nor Brian originally intended to focus primarily on competitive Regionals and Games athletes… but these athletes were the ones who approached them first, and they took on the challenge willingly.
Doing so, however, did not mean launching into a whole-sale, one-size-fits-all model style of coaching. Doug is too meticulous and too attentive to “the totality of the athlete” for that to be the case at all. In essence, that is what sets Athlete Cell apart from any other personalized training: not only do he and Brian together bring a wealth of competing and coaching and programming experience to the table, but they also want to know every single one of their athletes down to the cellular level. That is, who is this person outside of training? What do they do for a living? Do they have a family and/or kids? What are their goals? How are they sounding in that most recent text or email? It is this kind of relationship building that matters most and lays the foundation for a strong coach-athlete partnership. In other words, we try to “understand the rhythm of their life,” Doug explains.
Knowing the details of each athlete allows for individualized and customized programming that fits with the athlete’s needs and also fits into their real life. While the intangibles always factor into programming, hard data points like resting heart rate, oxygen saturation, body weight, etc. are also measured regularly and tracked.
The good news? You don’t have to desire to be a Games-level athlete (actually, you don’t even have to be a CrossFit athlete) to benefit from Athlete Cell’s programming. At the Basic level, you receive customized training plans on a weekly basis. In the Intermediate, add in nutrition guidance and tracking along with video analysis. And if you are striving for elite levels of fitness (i.e. finishing at mid-Regionals and going beyond), you have more direct access to Doug and/or Brian. Yes, they talk to these athletes multiple times a day, just like family. Again, these packages are based on looking at the whole athlete, including the coaches’ evaluation of the athlete’s future potential.
At Athlete Cell, athletes are treated as individuals, but also as part of a larger Athlete Cell family and team. That includes getting to know fellow athletes, training together if possible, and competing virtually as well.
As Athlete Cell develops as a website, the goal is to make it content-based and educational, not just another site that posts a daily WOD. “I want to get the truth out there,” says Doug, not only for athletes, but also for fellow coaches. “We want this to be a collective.” As part of their athlete training camps, they will be encouraging other coaches to attend, with the intent to inspire them as well and bring a more focused approach to their respective programs and athletes.
With more than a handful of successful Regionals and Games athletes, Doug knows a thing or two about what it takes to reach the upper echelons of a sport. A huge part of that is mental training for the athletes. It doesn’t make sense for athletes to be stressed about their training; it should be fun, he says. “Good coaches are responsible for motivation and inspiration: know when to put the hammer down, but also know when to say, ‘It’s okay to take some time off.’”
Alongside his athletes, Doug builds out a training plan for the year, and within that framework he looks ahead three to four weeks at a time. “We know the path to success and we talk about it,” he explains. This keeps his athletes focused as well as accountable for the goals they have set for themselves.
Recovery also matters. What you are doing when you are not training is so crucial, Doug says. Are you eating and fueling as a response to and/or preparation for your training? Are you performing proper triage for your body? Are you listening to how your body feels? (This is another one of his passions and collaborations with Brian, as they have also created 3Fu3L, “another piece of the truth puzzle.”) Coaching athletes about recovery and tracking it properly is one of Doug’s many strengths.
Going forward with potential Games athletes, “movement efficiency will be the key,” says the man who studied biomechanics. Rich Froning, for example, is someone who maintains the integrity of every movement, regardless of the event. Those who will find success, according to Doug, will have to be as strong as possible but as light as possible for efficiency and speed. This means improving load progression knowledge — that is, avoiding going too heavy too soon without the proper mechanics. “People get to 100% at their 75%,” Doug explains. “We can help them reach a higher level.”
With a blend of expertise, experience, and a passion for leading a balanced life outside the gym, Doug Katona and Brian Mackenzie will be busy taking athletes higher with the Athlete Cell. Are you in?
Follow Doug Katona on Twitter at @DougKatona.