Pushing Too Far: The Problem of the Stubborn Member

Stubborn members.

It’s easy to cheer for the members who are all high fives, glowing smiles and gushing social media posts. But, what about those hard-headed members who bust their ass and try hard in the gym, but leave each day frustrated because they only see the negative in their performance? Yes, they see gains, personal records, body composition changes and many other improvements, but most of the time they’re too myopic to appreciate that their performance is improved as much on rest days as on training days. There has to be a balance.

They’re typically easy to spot:

  • Everyone else in a class has finished the WOD under the time cap, but they refuse to cease even after the clock has stopped.
  • They hit a handful of new PR’s during a testing week only to overflow with frustration the following week because one measly workout got the best of them.
  • They admit to performing heavy squats at home, even though the programming already has them squatting twice during the week.
  • They finish the class and proceed to go for a run because they didn’t “get enough out of the WOD.”
  • They ignore what they’re doing outside of the gym and don’t see how staying up all-night and drinking every weekend is affecting their performance. Maybe they’re so beaten down that they think they have to completely stop working out, rather than let us intelligently scale down their workouts or, more importantly, fix their other lifestyle choices.

It seems a majority of these members are dealing with past body image or self-perception issues. If a person feels they are at the gym to punish themselves rather than to become better, we can guide them with improvements in their mentality, but they need to continue to be around a community of positive influences to effectively change their thinking. And self-loathing or self-doubt is a deeper topic that we won’t be touching on in this short article.

So, how do we fix it?

First, include discussions about the importance of rest and recovery into the beginner process and on-going member dialogues. Next, we need to make sure we’re leading by example. As Coaches, we can’t wreck ourselves day-in-day-out and then expect our members to believe us when we tell them to take it easy. We have to train intelligently as well. Our athletes have to trust us and we have to build that trust by practicing what we preach when it comes to appropriate volume and recovery.

For someone who’s already showing these signs of stubbornness, we believe it’s best to sit down for a level-headed, face-to-face conversation (before the WOD, never after) showing our concern for their progress while pinpointing one of the problems previously discussed. They need to know our concern comes from a place of love and trust. Our members become our friends and family, so it’s important to talk to them like a friend for these important conversations. If that approach doesn’t work, then we try to convince them to scale down WODs (reps, rounds, weights) to change its intensity demands.

The last option for getting ahead of these hard-headed members is providing active rest alternatives to the daily WOD. These alternatives could include endurance classes that are heavily focused on technique and movement efficiency, or yoga or ROMWOD-like classes that focus on biomechanics and neurologic relaxation. Not only are you helping your members mitigate their weekly training volume, but you’re also providing additional value to their monthly membership costs.

Slater Coe has been involved in CrossFit since 2008, and has watched as his own perspective on coaching has evolved due to a myriad of influences. He tries to make human movement understandable for all levels of athletes and believes mentality can have a great effect on performance. Coe is the head Coach at and a co-owner of Derby City CrossFit in Louisville, Kentucky.