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The Power of (VERY) Small Group Training

Hey Team

Thanks as always to everyone who trained with us this week.  It’s been a very challenging couple of weeks behind the scenes with Leon, D’Arcy, Emma, Sophie and John all missing time due to illness and Tracey away on leave…somehow we seem to have gotten to the end and all classes were run (it was touch and go there for a while on a couple of days).  On top of that, a community minded group selling ‘Flash-lights that look like light-sabres’ hacked our Facebook advertising account running up a huge bill leading to our advertising account being suspended and our credit card cancelled…happy times!  Anyway, hopefully next week is ‘back to normal’…based on the past couple of weeks, that 100% would not be hard. 

This morning I’m writing from a little balcony in Busselton – and I’m 100% confident that brings up visions of ocean views and sunny days…it IS sunny (or it will be, it’s still a bit early for that!) but my view is of some caravans, a broken down trailer and some pretty old houses…it’s ultimately nice to be in Busselton but these aren’t the circumstances I would have chosen.  Yesterday we watched some footy in Pemberton, Manjimup (both places new to me) and Busselton…today we are off to Dunsborough to do the same…as you can imagine, there has been a LOT of driving in between.  I’m looking forward to getting home tonight and being back on deck at Round 1 tomorrrow morning.

The rest of this post I have been chipping away at over the past couple of weeks – ever since the start of the Summer Bodies Challenge in fact.  For those who don’t know, Summer Bodies is a different sort of challenge and all of the participants have been assigned to a ‘coach’ in groups of SIX…every week, they participate in a small-group (very small group??) training session led by that coach.  I’ve been thinking about this for a while (small group training) because in more recent times the ability of our small classes – eg.  12pm, 7:15pm – to compete with the big groups at 6am, 4pm, 5pm in the bike/ski/rowing challenges etc has been really surprising.  A lot less people and a lot less ‘rest’ doesn’t always = a lower number…generally the ‘bigger’ class comes out on top – but not my as much as you might expect.  After all, a class where everyone has to do 1 or maybe 2x 1-minute bike sprints should easily beat another where each person has to do 6 or 7…but it doesn’t just work that way.  There is something about the level of focus in a ‘SMALL’ team that really can up the ante!

Anyway, I have really been loving working with my group (Team Break-Out!!) and I know the other coaches have been having equally positive experiences and here’s what I would say about the ‘SMALL GROUP’ training concept.

#1:  Very small group training is Commitment Amplified:
When it comes to staying ‘on track’ with your training, ‘COMMITMENT’ to the gym is always going to be a problem for most people.  After all – showing up ‘for you’ sounds cool…but what if ‘YOU’ wants to sleep in/sit on the couch watching NetFlix and eating bon-bons??  In a very small group training setting, the commitment gets amplified. Having a few others in your team who KNOW your name and EXPECT you to roll up is like having your own personal support group who nudge you out of hibernation mode and ensures you show up – and show up ready to conquer your workout. The guys in my group have quickly developed a supportive bond with one another and you can genuinely FEEL the accountability amongst the group.

#2:  Very small group training = Personalized Attention + Technique
In a very small group, the coaches really do become your fitness guides, leading you through the of exercises and there is just a lot more opportunity for both instruction and banter than in a ‘normal’ group session.  Whilst in a ‘normal’ class I can demo and describe, in the small group you really do have the chance to talk about the fine points of each movement…if you change your elbow position here etc…Being literally ‘right there’ to adjust form really does help you people refine technique and patterns of movement.

#3:  Very small group training = Mastery of Complex Movements

This sort of sounds like the ‘previous point’ a bit in that it relates to technique – but the introduction of complex movements can be daunting for COACHES as well as athletes…don’t ‘cos we don’t know how to do them or coach them – but more because we (well, me) get stressed about communicating the intricacies of movements throughout a class.  I know that I have significantly cut back on some of the exercise variety in boxing over the past couple of years because of this – once upon a time (back when we moved around the gym) we might have 5-6 people attempting an exercise at a time which was pretty easily handled…these days it can be 30+ and that can be tricky to manage and coach (though I have made a bit of a commitment to start adding stuff back in!).  
Now, in a very small group scenario though it is simply so much easier to introduce/coach/master ‘tricky things’. It is so much easier to break down the movements into manageable steps when you KNOW you have the attention of everyone…and it is easier to help people break it down when they are literally right in front of you!!.  Further to that, the supportive environment formed within the ‘small group’ somehow makes attempting what are generally pretty challenging routines so much easier – everyone just seems to be in that “WE CAN ALL DO IT” mode vs “Nope – I don’t get it” mode…

#4:  Good Fun and Enhanced Learning:

Training is ALSO supposed to be FUN.  I know we all try to up the banter in our Boxing and Strength sessions – but it can be hard when > half the group doesn’t know one-another.  In a very small group though you quickly learn one anothers names and this makes it so much easier to bring some laughter into every workout. A couple of sessions have been more like a comedy show with a side-serving of sweat rather than the other way round!

SO – given all the ‘positives’ of the small group stuff what are the ‘long-term’ plans for adding these type of sessions to the program?  I guess the first part of the plan is to finish off the Summer Bodies Challenge (that is 10 weeks) and then have a serious look at the time-table – but ideally I’m thinking 2x mornings + 2x avo’s per week would be an ideal setup – and we would set them up in maybe blocks of 6-10 weeks or so…I think it’s definitely possible and DEFINITELY worth it – certainly it will stay on the agenda over the next 6-months or so and we’ll see if we can make it work for the long term.

See you in the gym,


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