March 19, 2012
A Coach's Approach: Adam Stevenson
By Jay Marose and Madeline Mosier
Check out how Outlier prepares its athletes for competition.
Check out how Outlier prepares its athletes for competition.

"We do the same programming for everybody in the gym. Everyone should be afforded the best."


The coaching philosophy at Outlier CrossFit in San Diego centers around its mission statement, which comes from the meaning of the very word “outlier:”

We can define outliers as the anomalies of the human condition. They are the women and men who have, against all odds, achieved extraordinary success through extraordinary effort. They represent the best of the best - the prototypical role model by which we all aspire to be. At Outlier CrossFit, our goal is not to make you extraordinary. Rather, our goal is to provide the tools and programming you need to show you that you already are.

It is this philosophy Adam Stevenson and his coaches take very seriously. At Outlier and so many other gyms around the world, athletes prove to themselves through CrossFit that they are, indeed, extraordinary beings, performing extraordinary feats. They are, as Stevenson puts it, societal “outliers.”

After three complete weeks of the Open, Stevenson and his group of “outliers” (suitably named with a nod to Stevenson’s Star Wars fascination: Team Outlier CrossFit Vader and Team Outlier CrossFit Starkiller), are ranked 13th and 36th in Southern California after 12.4. 

With the 2012 Open more than halfway through and approximately 80 athletes from Outlier CrossFit participating, how does a coach train and prepare so many athletes for competition? With trainer background ranging from gymnastics to Navy SEALs to psychology, “we don’t create special programs. We are all in the gym working on this together. Separate training programs can create a bit of a hierarchy in the gym and we want to avoid this,” Stevenson says.

At Outlier, no one is greater than the other. It’s simple. Everyone trains together. “Deficiencies are addressed individually, but we do the same programming for everybody in the gym. I’m not going to create a top of the line program for just some people. Everyone should be afforded the best. We're all on the same page. We're all doing the same stuff. We're all connected,” he says.

Perhaps not everyone who is signed up for this year’s Open is aiming for the podium at the Home Depot Center, but the benefit of training alongside elite athletes helps raise expectations and abilities. In this case, Outlier CrossFit adheres to the philosophy of a scalable, one-size approach to training all athletes together.

Dan McAllister didn’t know what to expect at Outlier CrossFit when he moved from West Hollywood where he started his CrossFit training 10 months prior to obtain his MBA at the University of San Diego. “I knew it was going to be a different culture, from actors to ex-military. So I was expecting things to be a little more intense than they were, for better or worse,” McAllister says. 

Strength training is an optional aspect Stevenson and his coaches incorporate into the regimen. “Adam has an optional 16-week strength program, that is a founded in traditional strength programs while still maintaining the many skill driven demands of CrossFit,” McAllister says.

The importance of building such a solid strength base is at the very heart of their training program. “After the Games last year, they spent weeks just practicing strength and not the usual WODs,” McAllister says. “I felt like I had a ways to go on strength to catch up with everybody else.”

Aside from strength training, the psychological fortitude of an athlete can be as determinative of a champion as the physical. “[The coaches are] super supportive and are very involved in giving tips and encouragement every step of the way,” he says. “It’s a very family atmosphere.”

The coaching staff is interactive and “they are there to keep you going. They give you a countdown, a  ‘3-2-1’ to keep you moving.”

Stevenson has his own take on Outlier’s flexible, personal style. “Hugs? I love hugs. I think it comes down to the athlete,” he says. “I have a guy who needs someone yelling in his face. I’ve seen people yelling in the face and that doesn’t work for me. At Outlier our goal is to have fun.”