Ronny Varghese, Part II: Keeping It Simple

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  • What advice do you have around creating your own programming?
  • How do you address the needs of firebreathers and newbies?

In Part II of our interview with Ronny Varghese, co-owner of CrossFit Paradigm, shares his insights on programming for his own box and the secrets to success for any affiliate owner. With an eye on his clients and previous personal training experience, he has the tools to build a successful program.

If you missed it, read Part I of Ronny’s interview to understand how he builds relationships with his clients and find out how his co-owner and wife Melody Miser-Varghese manages her role in their partnership as well.

What advice do you have for new affiliate owners who are trying to create their own programming?
Keep it simple:

If you just focus on the basics and fundamental movements and coach your clients, you will be successful.

Ronny: It would be don’t get ahead of themselves. Don’t try to wow your clients with what you know, and stick to the basics instead. Don’t try to teach them new and fancy things if they don’t have the baseline things done yet. For example, don’t have them overhead squat or snatch if they can’t squat correctly. Don’t have them snatch if they can’t perform an overhead squat.

As an affiliate owner, if you just focus on your relationship with your clients, their development, and their programming, then you should be successful. Programming shouldn’t be too over-the-top with craziness. Keep your community demographic in mind and what movements you have exposed to them. Having some kind of a way to log or track your programming is critical to being able to provide your clients with variety. And it is absolutely critical that if they have not read Greg Glassman’s article on Virtuosity, that they do so. New affiliate owners should mainly focus on the fundamentals first, and once they get their feet wet with some programming, can start doing periodization cycles and such. We typically will start with a dynamic warm up which will address the movements within the WOD that day, then do some skill or strength work, followed by some kind of a met con.

Did you program mainsite WODs when you first started the gym?
Find good models:

It helps to have some favorite blog sites from other gyms which you like to see what other people are doing.

Ronny: It was a little different for me because Melody and I first ran a personal training business [before opening a box], so we already had experience coaching and programming for athletes. We also did some competition programming for Brethren CrossFit, so when it came time to start Paradigm, we already had enough knowledge to program for our general membership.  Also, it helps to have some favorite blog sites from other gyms which you like to see what other people are doing. Remember, too, to take your space and equipment into consideration when programming for your athletes.

What are general athletic weaknesses which exist amongst your community?
Give a little TLC… New clients “just need more encouragement and someone to believe in them.”
Ronny: I feel that the gymnastic side of life is where typically where MOST average CrossFitter’s goats lay. Our gym is no exception, and as a way to combat that, we program a lot more in ways of midline stability work and flexibility. We offer a CrossFit Prehab (mobility) class on Saturdays between classes where I teach mobilization and self soft tissue therapies, like foam rolling and trigger point work with the lacrosse ball. There are basic motor control movements like pull-ups and handstands that many members do not have, and it’s something that we are slowly but surely developing. It might just be me, but the way I see it, most movement deviations and postural issues stem from gymnastic capacity, which basically is midline stability, proper joint range of motion/positioning, and power-to-weight ratio.

Within a class, do you set aside some time for cooldown and/or stretching after the WOD?
Firebreathers have “extra programming… usually custom-tailored to the athlete’s strengths and weaknesses.”
Ronny: After most WOD’s (met cons) we will typically go for a quick run around the building as a way to chillax after getting the heart rates jacked. Sometimes after a heavy strength workout we will go through some mobility after as well. Beyond that, we dont have a large segment of time that we dedicate to cool downs. We encourage athletes to go upstairs into our mobility area and take care of what they are dealing with post-WOD. We have foam rollers and lacrosse balls available for use up there, as well as K-Star’s MWOD posters lined up against the wall for reference.

Do your firebreathers follow the same programming as the general membership?
For new clients, we have a mandatory foundations program, which is four mandatory private sessions, or possibly eight, depending on their ability levels.
Ronny: Our firebreathers usually do extra programming on top of of the “normal” programming. Usually this comes in the form of a double day, which they’ll do during usual class time. This extra programming is usually custom-tailored to the athlete’s strengths and weaknesses.

How about your new athletes or beginners or anyone who needs special attention?

Ronny: We have a mandatory foundations program, which is four mandatory private sessions, or possibly eight, depending on their ability levels. There are a handful of athletes, whom we call TLC’s, who need more attention and encouragement. People who are learning to to just squat their own bodyweight, for example. I make it a point to call them and talk to them after just to see how they’re feeling. They just need more encouragement and someone to believe in them.

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