Three Tips for Training the Chronically Ill

chronically ill

It is no secret that CrossFit Affiliates worldwide have set the bar in general human performance over the last decade. One could argue CrossFit has a monopoly on the fittest humans on Earth.

With the CrossFit Games approaching its 11th season, CrossFit founder and CEO Greg Glassman has focused his attention on the ever growing chronic disease pandemic by founding the CrossFit Health movement. This grass roots movement is focused on exposing and exploring what Glassman calls “The Mess,” referring to the ever-increasing cost of medicine, the overabundance of pseudoscience, fraudulent medicine and the failure of modern medicine to end chronic disease. CrossFit Affiliates are the beacon of light for worldwide chronic illness, touting a whopping 15,000 locations on Earth – the largest presence of preventive health care in history.

Given the focus and direction HQ has recently taken, Affiliates are beginning to see increasing numbers of the chronically ill joining their Boxes. This increase of the morbidly obese and chronically ill seeking the help of Affiliate Boxes has presented a new set of challenges for trainers and Box owners. Here are three tips that may help you and your trainers successfully help your members to overcome their illness:

1. Assess Ability

First, assess their ability. At CrossFit Enoch, all of the chronically ill get a functional fitness test. This establishes a baseline of fitness for both the new member and our Coaches. The new members can experience what it is to move with purpose, and the Coach can experience how the member moves so future scaling can be determined. Once the test is done, results are discussed between myself and the other Coaches. Keep the assessment safe, simple and relevant. We assess the quality of their squat. Assess a max calorie effort in one minute, and if the person can tolerate a bit more work, assess total calories for fifteen minutes on an air bike. Max hollow hold and max plank will assess core strength well.

2. Accountability via Data Collection

Second, introduce your member to accountability through data collection. The Box environment creates a community for accountability, but having your member record their performance data takes it a step further. We utilize Beyond The Whiteboard at CrossFit Enoch. It drives their participation, it encourages them to take ownership for their performance and it keeps a record of how they are progressing. Often times the psychological component of joining a Box can create anxiety and stress. Looking back at past numbers can be a source of encouragement and inspiration during those times. We reward effort at Enoch. While WOD times and scores have value, especially assessing absolute intensity, we educate our members the times are relevant to getting into the correct metabolic zone. Recording their own data and keeping their intensity in focus creates an environment for success in accountability.

3. Pair Them Up

Last, introduce your new member to others that have walked the same path. Pairing new CrossFitters with more experienced CrossFitters that have overcome helps you as a Coach to better manage a large class and it helps them to have a safe training experience while eliminating the fresh-off-the-boat feeling. It opens the door for them to see CrossFitters for what they really are – people on the same journey as them, seeking the same thing. A better self. A better life. And a community of acceptance that leads to healing.

Jason Cooper is the co-owner of CrossFit Enoch in Conroe, Texas. Jason was a critical care nurse for 16 years before becoming a full-time professional clinical liaison. He educates the masses about the inner workings of the medical system. Jason has written for the CrossFit Journal and has been featured by CrossFit HQ for his advocacy as The Nurse Advocate. He spends his time training in his Box with his family and friends, ultra running, mountain biking, and advocating for the advancement of nurses and for transparency in health care. Contact him on Facebook (@crossfitenoch), Instagram (@thenurseadvocate) or email him at