“I never want an athlete of mine to look at a workout and be concerned. We’ll be prepared for any workout and we’ll celebrate anything thrown at us. I think if you have a glaring strength, it may be as bad as having a glaring weakness.”
Doug Katona, one of the partners of CrossFit Endurance alongside Brian MacKenzie, is the mind behind this year’s Games preparation for powerhouses like Jeremy Kinnick, Noah Ohlsen, Guido Trinidad, Heather Welsh, Whitney Darchuk, Rika Diedericks and most recently, Talayna Fortunato.
Katona discovered his passion for detailed and skill-focused CrossFit programming by connecting and identifying with each of his athletes individually.
“I sincerely take a vested interest in my athletes’ wellbeing,” Katona says. “And it’s not just programming, although I’d put mine up there with anyone else’s. It’s about being a coach that has two ears and one mouth, that listens and relates to his athletes.”
Katona aims to combine personal details with technical programming.
“My programming is very technical and time consuming,” Katona says. “At the Games level, they absolutely need individual plans — a template just won’t work for that level. I consider the totality of their lifestyle: what they do for a living, how they are eating, do they have kids, stress levels. And I track these things not just weekly, but daily.”
These minor details become major as he develops specific training for each athlete.
“I never want to leave a stone unturned in my programming,” Katona says. “I program a pre warm-up — which may be mobility specific to that day’s movements — a dynamic warm-up, the skill for the day, accessory work and typically even a cool-down piece, all of which are connected for the day, and all of which are specific to what that athlete needs that day.”
Katona’s athletes send him videos several times per week of their skills, which he analyzes and provides feedback on. Katona believes it is this attention to detail that sets his programming apart from others.
“I put everything under a microscope and am very meticulous about breaking down percentages and progressions, and identifying areas that athletes need to hit with skill and technique work,” Katona explains. “They can lift a load that is heavy, but can they lift a load that is heavy and fast?”
Known for analyzing even the simplest movements, like wall ball shots, Katona demands movement efficiency. He critiques not just CrossFit movements, but also how his athletes live.
“They literally eat, sleep and breathe movement efficiency,” Katona jokes. “It’s not enough to just move well in a workout. It’s about hammering those mechanics so you sleep, stand, sit and consistently live those good movement patterns.”
While Katona uses an analytical approach, he also prides himself on the emotional connection that he has with his athletes.
“I communicate with my athletes multiple times a day,” he says. “Jeremy (Kinnick) and Talayna (Fortunato) and I probably talk and text at least five to 10 times per day. I take great pride in having a pulse on my athletes and being able to read their tone and how they’re feeling …”
Katona has developed community with his athletes, despite distances, aiming for an approach that extends beyond the typical coach/athlete relationship.
“For example, Jeremy Kinnick PR’d his squat clean the other day with impeccable form and technique,” Katona says. “I emailed the video to all of my other athletes to show them that these are the cues that we’ve been talking about executed to perfection, and to have that network, that team behind you as an athlete, is critical.”
Katona cares about more than just where his athletes appear in the rankings. He also highlights the importance of having fun.
“Somehow, all of my athletes have gotten nicknames,” Katona laughs. “We call Talayna ‘Slinger,’ Jeremy is ‘Butter Nation,’ and Guido (Trinidad) is ‘Bulletproof.’”
With the Games becoming increasingly competitive, Katona believes his strong focus on skill and movement efficiency is a key part of the formula to keep his athletes at the top of the charts.
“Being humble enough to know you actually need to work on skill improvement is a huge differentiator in the Games,” Katona says.
He adds, “I never want an athlete of mine to look at a workout and be concerned. We’ll be prepared for any workout and we’ll celebrate anything thrown at us. I think if you have a glaring strength, it may be as bad as having a glaring weakness.”