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Fit to Coach: Once Over 500 pounds, Jeremy Olson Challenges Coaching Stereotypes

August 23, 2021 by
Photo Credit: Jeremy Olson
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Jeremy Olson isn’t the stereotypical CrossFit coach. In 2016, he weighed over 500 pounds and struggled to walk up a flight of stairs without stopping to catch his breath.

Even today, despite a more-than 250-pound weight loss, personal trainer, CrossFit L1, and Precision Nutrition Level 1 certifications, Olson doesn’t fit the cliché coaching physique. He’s not the “shredded six-pack, 24-inch arms” athlete.

One big thing: In late 2020, Morning Chalk Up tackled the question, “Does a CrossFit coach need to look fit?” Olson is living proof that physical appearance and athletic ability have nothing to do with the quality of coaching. 

  • “[Jeremy] struggled with that early on,” said Luke Stoker, Olson’s longtime mentor and owner of CrossFit Psyched, where Olson coaches. “‘Hey, I don’t look the part. People aren’t going to listen to me.'”
  • But, Stoker continues to say, he’s seen the opposite: “It’s more translatable to have a coach that has actually gone through it. [Jeremy] is great at coaching fit people, but really really good at coaching people that are in his shoes or he’s been in their shoes.”

Coaching through experience: Olson has, as Stoker says, ‘lived the life.’ Going through his own fitness journey helps him better understand and relate to those just starting their own journeys, “better than someone who’s been fit their entire life,” Olson writes on social media. 

  • “Early on in our friendship [Jeremy] asked me how he was supposed to coach squats when he has difficulty squatting to full depth,” Stoker said. “My response was simple, I told him to use that. To share that with his athletes. To show them that despite past injury or physical limitations they can always do more than they did yesterday.”

Olson’s experience is particularly valuable in his work as the Nutrition Coach at CrossFit Psyched. 

  • “[New members] go through our intro to nutrition program with him, and they meet this guy that has gone through [all of it],” Stoker says. “It kind of puts the wind back in their sails and they feel like they can accomplish anything.”
  • “I know, no matter what the athlete says, he’s going to have the right answer,” Stoker says. “Whether it’s fitness advice or life advice because he’s been through it all.”

In the gym: Stoker and Olson agree that their community at CrossFit Psyched is an incredibly diverse one, with athletes of all ages, sizes, and abilities. So It’s rare, Stoker says, that a member will challenge Olson’s coaching because of his physique or athletic ability. But, when it happens, Stoker says he turns it back to the athlete:

  • “I would say ‘Ok, why do you think you should be comparing yourself to Jeremy? Why do you feel this way?’ He’s so great at teaching you how to do the movements.”
  • “After the conversation with the athlete, responses have always been ‘Wow, I was looking at that wrong. I should soak up his knowledge,” Stoker continues.
  • To see a coach self-scaling, it’s like wow, it’s not a big deal to not be able to do a pull-up yet because look, [Jeremy’s] a great coach and he’s doing ring rows or lateral pulldowns,” Stoker says.

And it’s getting better: Recently, whether it’s due to COVID or the change of ownership in CrossFit, Stoker and Olson feel the sport is more welcoming than ever.

  • Olson, coming off a vacation that included seven drop-ins, said he felt “welcome at every one of the gyms. I saw athletes of all sizes, I didn’t see anyone getting treated differently… and that’s been a big shift.”
  • “Then they took a step back and realized… I need the lifestyle change, the fitness, the nutrition, and the mindset, and [Jeremy] can coach all these movements really well,” Stoker continued. 

The bottom line: Stoker says having Jeremy onboard has “revolutionized” the programming at CrossFit Psyched. It doesn’t matter that Olson isn’t a shredded athlete with three percent body fat or that he still has to scale movements — that’s not how the quality of a coach is measured. Olson teaches athletes it’s ok to struggle, becoming not just a coach of athletics, Stoker continues, but coaching athletes into a better lifestyle.

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