My Experience at the CrossFit Level 1 Trainer Course

Mastermind Weekend 1/16

Hey there!

I'm Tina

I’m the owner of Carrots ‘N’ Cake as well as a Certified Nutrition Coach and Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner (FDN-P). I use macros and functional nutrition to help women find balance within their diets while achieving their body composition goals.


An in-depth, 4-week reverse dieting course for women who feel like their metabolism has slowed down, think they might have hormonal imbalance and can’t lose weight no matter what they do.

Check out the news that arrived in my inbox last Friday afternoon!


I passed the CrossFit Level 1 Trainer Course! Hooray!!

Next step: Talk to the owners of my CrossFit box about coaching.

Now that I’m a CrossFit Level 1 Trainer, let me tell you about the course.

They Level 1 Trainer Course was held at CrossFit Reebok ONE from 9:00 – 5:30 pm on both Saturday and Sunday with a one-hour break for lunch each day. On Saturday, I arrived at 8:30 to get checked in and settled. There were about 50 participants at the course and five incredible trainers””E.C. Synkowski, Denise Thomas, Spencer Hendel, Mel Ockerby, and Joe Masley. They were all very knowledgeable and amazing teachers. I felt lucky to have these trainers at our course.

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The CrossFit Level 1 Trainer Course included four main parts:

  1. Methodology lectures
  2. Movement lectures
  3. Workouts
  4. Exam

10 Principles of Physical Fitness

The methodology and movement lectures were divided between the two days. The trainers alternated giving the lectures, so it was nice to hear from different people. Each of the trainers did a great job of explaining their topics and they made sure to highlight key information by repeating it or writing it on the whiteboard. Basically, they made it pretty obvious what was important and what would likely appear on the test.

CrossFit squat diagram

Here’s a general outline of what we covered in the two-day course:


  • What is CrossFit
  • What is Fitness & the 4 models used in the definition of fitness
  • 9 Foundational Movements, including explanation, demonstration, and practice of their mechanics
    • Squat: Squat/Front Squat/Overhead Press
    • Press: Shoulder Press/Push Press/Push Jerk
    • Deadlift: Deadlift/Sumo Deadlift High Pull/Medicine Ball Clean (Day 2)
  • Technique for Fitness
  • Workout: Fran


  • Explanation, demonstration, and practice of Deadlift, Sumo Deadlift High Pull, and Med Ball Clean
  • Workout: AMRAP 8 – 8 push-ups, 10 Med Ball Cleans, 12 sit-ups
  • Nutrition for Wellness and Fitness
  • Defining Midline Stabilization
  • Glute Ham Developer, including explanation and demonstration (we didn’t practice this)
  • Kipping Pull-Up, Snatch, and Muscle-up, including explanation, demonstration, and practice
  • Programming for Workouts
  • Exam

For the movement lectures, we alternated between listening to one of the trainers explain and demonstrate a particular movement and breaking into smaller groups to practice. I really liked this way of learning because as soon as I received the information, I had a chance to put it into practice, which helped me make sense of it more quickly and effectively.

There were 5 groups of about 15 people, so we were able to get a good amount of one-on-one time with each of the trainers as we practiced the movements. Each of the trainers had their own special way of teaching the movements along with the progressions. They also taught us how to identify common exercise faults and correct them with cues as a coach, which I found to be one of the most valuable parts of the course. By the end of the weekend, I had a chance to interact with every trainer a number of times. (The photo below is two groups.)

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I really loved the emphasis on functional movement and safety during the course. CrossFit gets a lot of heat for injuries, so it was nice to see this issue addressed and discussed. A huge part of CrossFit, especially for beginners, is mastering the proper mechanics of the movements. For example, a newbie CrossFitter isn’t going bust out “Fran” (Thrusters and pull-ups) on their first day, but, as a coach, you can break down the movements and scale them accordingly until consistency has been demonstrated in each of the movements. Once the mechanics have been mastered, you can pick up the intensity to perform the movements as hard, heavy, and fast as possible. Long story short, I really liked how much time was spent on teaching us proper mechanics of each of the 9 Foundational Movements.

mechanics consistency intensity crossfit
[image source]

At the end of the day on Saturday, we did “Fran”, which you’ve probably heard me mention a few (hundred) times on CNC. Doing Fran prescribed is my big goal for 2013, so I was nervous about it all day.

Before the workout, we practiced Thrusters and kipping pull-ups, and I felt pretty good about them. But, as soon as I picked up the 65 pounds for the Thrusters (prescribed weight for women), I just knew it wasn’t going to happen. Ok, I probably could have finished “Fran” at that weight, but the 10-minute time limit that the trainers gave us worried me. I didn’t want to be the last person to finish (for me, being the center of attention = worst thing ever), and I had never done Fran without a band for the pull-ups, so I wasn’t sure how my arms would hold up. And, truthfully, if I was going to do “Fran” Rx, I wanted to do it at my own box.

We love you, Fran

The group was broken up into three heats. Most people hung back and waited for the second two heats, but I just wanted to get it over with, so I hopped into the first. I went with #55 pounds and planned to do all of the kipping pull-ups unassisted, and things went pretty well. I did all three sets of Thrusters unbroken and without much trouble, which makes me think I could probably handle 65 pounds. The pull-ups went better than expected, but, by the final set of nine reps, I was doing singles. I finished in 7:19. Not bad. Next time, Rx for sure!

Most people were finishing “Fran” around the same time (6:00 – 8:00). There were a few people who got cut off at the 10-minute mark, but, each time, the entire group gathered together and cheered them on until the end. I love this aspect of CrossFit, and it was really neat to see how everyone came together. Before the workout, barely anyone was talking to each other, but during and after the WOD, everyone was high five-ing and chatting up a storm. It was really cool to see how CrossFit brings people together.

Before each heat, we did a slow clap to get everyone psyched up!

CrossFit slow clap

Side note about “Fran” at the Level 1 Trainer Course: I saw a woman do a 2:58 “Fran,” which is incredible. She went in the second heat, and I actually thought she was on her set of 15 pull-ups when she FINISHED the workout. In the CrossFit world, a sub-3-minute “Fran” by a woman is like seeing a unicorn. It’s definitely something special!

So, the nutrition lecture”¦ I was actually kind of surprised by it. I expected it to be a Paleo brainwash (been there, done that), but it wasn’t at all. Instead, we were encouraged to eat “meats, vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch, and no sugar.” Isn’t that the Paleo diet? Well, yes, it is, but the emphasis of the lecture was eating whole foods. E.C., who gave this lecture, actually joked that potatoes, white rice, and too much fruit will kill you, but her point was to eat whole foods and do what’s best for you.

[image source]

Another important takeaway from the nutrition lecture: Food is fuel and at the foundation of fitness. CrossFit emphasizes weighing and measuring your food to optimize your physical performance. The Zone Diet was recommended since you eat in balanced “blocks” of proteins, carbs and fat. In theory, experimenting and finding the right ratio of these three macronutrients will provide you with optimal nutrition and performance.

I generally like the idea behind the Zone diet and try to include carbs, protein, and fat in all of my meals, but I could never do the whole block-counting and food-measuring/weighing thing. It would take so much time and drives me nuts! I just want to EAT! But, I do think it’s a great starting point for people who are trying to figure out which foods best satisfy and fuel their bodies. I also like the idea of experimenting with these radios to figure out what works best for you. For example, I use to poo-poo the idea of adding protein and fat to my meals””I thought I could live off salads and Sandwich Thins””but now I know I need these two macronutrients in my diet to truly feel satisfied, and I wouldn’t know that if I hadn’t experimented with my diet.

[image source]

At the end of the two-day course, we were tested on what we had learned. The exam was 55 questions (50 counted toward your score, 5 were un-scored and used for future testing). The test was pretty straightforward””although a number of the questioned required careful reading””but it wasn’t as difficult as some people made it out to be. If you read through the CrossFit Training Guide (<— free download), paid attention during the lectures, and took notes on the key concepts, you’ll do just fine. Mostly everything was covered in the course, so there weren’t any surprises on the test. I finished my test in 20 minutes, but then when back and double-checked every answer before handing it in. We received our test results 5 days later via email.

The only thing I didn’t like about the CrossFit Level 1 Trainer Course was that we didn’t spend a ton of time talking about how to actually coach. I know effective coaching is something that comes with practice, but I would have liked more of an opportunity to actually practice what I had learned during the course. Now don’t get me wrong, I loved learning all about the philosophy behind CrossFit and all of that good stuff, but the course didn’t include much hands on experience for coaching, which, of course, is essential for teaching others. Obviously, after taking this course, I’m not going to be a super star expert coach right away. My CrossFit box (and I am sure others) has a great observing/coaching program, so, hopefully, that will take what I learned to the next level. There’s also a CrossFit Coaches Prep course that’s recommend for trainers, who have coached for at least 6 months, so maybe that’s something I should look into down the road?

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All in all, I’m really glad that I attended the CrossFit Level 1 Trainer Course. It gave me a great foundation for coaching and what CrossFit is all about, and I am excited to share what I learned with new CrossFitters. The course also helped me master the form for a number of the Foundational Movements, which will definitely help me become a better athlete.


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Question of the Day

Have you taken the CrossFit Level 1 Trainer Course? If so, what’d you think? If not, is it something you would like to take?



  1. Congrats!! Question – when you pass them all and become a trainer – which would you teach at? I am not currently signed up for Crossfit but have definitely thought about it!

  2. Congrats! Thanks for the feedback about L1. I’m taking mine in June, and I’m super nervous. I still scale on some elements, so that makes me nervous. But, I also think that will help me in coaching others by knowing all the work it does take to get to the Rx level.

  3. I would LOVE to take the CF Level 1 course, as well as coach on the weekends. What’s keeping me back is that I just don’t have a ton of time to devote to CF and I’d feel like a lame coach if I couldn’t devote 4 days a week, to both coaching AND my own workouts.

  4. Do you need to do the workouts RX in order to pass the Level 1 certification? Because there is no way I can do Rx but I can do Fran with the green band and maybe a 42 pound barbell?

  5. Wow, congrats on passing the course! I’ve heard a lot of good things about CrossFit, but have yet to check it out. The gym is great, but I think CrossFit definitely takes working out to a whole new level.

  6. I’m planning to take the course…I’m from P.R. so I have to travel to take it…how much $$ it cost?

  7. Word of encouragement… im in the course this weekend as a crossfit newbie- it is a great idea to take the course before ever having the chance to learn bad habits and everyone is super helpful. You dont have to be huge, strong, experienced, or even want to coach to gain from the course

  8. Tina ~ I’m taking the course THIS weekend in Miami! I’ve been studying for a while, and remembered this post. It’s been super helpful, thanks for sharing your experience!!

    Have you been coaching at all?

  9. I’m wondering if you had to get up in front of everyone and teach a movement to the whole class, or anything like that, or is it mostly just listening to the instructor teach the movements. I am interested in taking the course, but would feel very nervous if I had to get up in front of a bunch of strangers and teach them how to to a certain movement/workout.

  10. I am taking the L1 this weekend. Thank you so much for this post! It has both put me at ease as well as psyched me up for it even more! And congrats!

  11. What was your previous experience heading into this course? How long had you done Xfit prior? And can anyone do it or do you need a special background?

  12. Is it possible to take this course having never done crossfit. I want to learn crossfit, but want to do it from my own garage gym because memberships are just crazy expensive around here and pretty long drive to get to.

  13. Congrats to your Level One 🙂

    Just received my PASS Email. We had Denise Thomas also as Coach. Did mine in Vienna.

    But now the Journey just starts.

    Have a Great Time.

  14. Thanks for this post! I’m taking the course March 1 weekend, remembered having read this so was happy to revisit. Any tips? I’ve been studying – I think I’m nervous because it’s been so long since I’ve had to take a test! I’m excited to become a coach, I LOVE Crossfit – it’s a life changer for me for sure.

  15. Hello I found your blog very interesting about what is really happening during the course. I’m attending it this weekend in Milan and am quite concerned about the test itself, I have read the handbook, but not by heart, I remember the general outlines of it and have been practicing CF over a year now and consider myself a good athlete in general. But will I do OK if I give more emphasis on the course itself than on the book? worried…. 😛

  16. this was exactly what i needed to hear. i want to take the course, but i am a very average crossfitter. 🙂 i started to second guess myself, that maybe i wasn’t ready. reading your post makes me feel better and gives me an idea of what to expect! now, to look at the calendar!

  17. I just took the Level 1 and passed as well. Like you, I really enjoyed it. I wish we had more time to actually coach during the course as well. I don’t feel totally confident coaching others… but that will probably come with time.

  18. Can you pass the course if you get cut off at the 10 minute mark on the workout? You made it seem like it didn’t matter if you had to modify the workout, but I’d like to know for sure.
    Thank you!

  19. Hi there! I came across your post when I was searching for the CF Certification Level 1……

    I’m literally shitting in my pants cos I signed up to take the certification (happening this coming November) and the best part is – I’ve never done CF before!! I’m currently a quarter ways through the training guide. OMG. Do we have to remember all those terminologies and the Zone menus??

    Also – physically – I have never really done weightlifting. Weight training, yes. And I just started doing the 9 functional movements and the CJs and the Thrusters. I can’t bloody overhead squat with a 22kg barbell. Am I in deep shite?? And my max is 22kgs. Am I in deep shite??

    Please advise before I panic, hyperventilate and wonder why I even signed up… (I’m a triathlete, by the way. And wow about triathletes being really not strong. LOL) !!

    Thanks for your time!

  20. I just started CrossFit a little over a month ago. I’m still not in very good shape but I’d love to take the Level 1 to learn more for my own purposes. Do you think it is reasonable or should I wait until I’m a little more advanced and able to do more of the movements before attending? (When I say not in very good shape, I mean 50# overweight, but I’m working on it)

  21. Hi! I am thinking about doing my level 1 cert and found your blog entry. Thanks! I am by no means even a competetive athlete but enjoy crossfit and it changed my life (like so many others). I am worried about having to do a WOD like Fran. I do not even have unassisted pullups, so what are the chances… My putpose in doing the course is to learn more about CF and to become better at it myself, perhaps eventually helping out as a trainer. Any advice? Thanks and really enjoy your blog. What are you up to these days – the entry dates from 2013?

  22. Hi , loved the article.
    I’m taking up the L1 in shanghai next month , so that gives me about a month to prepare and honestly I’m a little nervous.
    Is this duration enough for preparing?

  23. I have taken the test 4 times, I’ve been doing crossfit for over 2 years and this is the hardest test I’ve ever taken. Alot of the questions on the test are not in the handbook. I’ve read that book 5 times and I hate that test with a passion. I don’t understand the test,most of the stuff on the test is never discussed in our box. And alot of the questions are twistedoing around to trick and confuse you. I must b an idiot for taking it 4 times. It’s very depressing. I love crossfit and continue to take this idiotic test until I pass.

    1. Quick question. I’m in the same boat as far as the test. Did you ever end up passing the test? This will be my 3rd time taking it and I’m just wondering if there is any other strategy. If you have any insight or suggestions I’m all game. Thanks.

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