Doug Katona

Jamie Shane
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Photographer: Sweat RX
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Doug Katona is well known in the CrossFit circuit. He has coached a number of top-level competitors with great success. He has also worked with athletes from all sports, consulting with NFL teams for their strength and conditioning programs, as well as Olympic-hopeful swimmer Ella Eastin. In the world of competitive athletes, Katona is a household name.

Katona’s unique style of programming sets him apart from other trainers. He has a mathematical style and relies on the science of analytics and algorithms. His detailed approach is clear, concise, and comprehensive. Couple this with his human approach, and you have a recipe for success.

“Analytics is where some coaches miss it; I’m a geek and love that stuff. But I also make sure that fits into the context of [my client’s] life. I may program something simple, but if my athletes don’t understand it, then it isn’t going to work. I always explain why they’re doing what they’re doing. I’m sensitive to that. I may want certain gains, but my expectations may not be realistic based on their lifestyle. My programming is unique in that it is based on science, and it is humanized. It’s imperative to me that I explain why they are getting this type of metcon, interval, strength, and progression. This builds trust and dialogue with the athlete, and that makes them a true partner.”

To fully assess an athlete, Katona believes you have to subject each individual to unique challenges. No singular template can be applied across the board. You have to look at what’s coming up for them in the future and provide a challenge that is traditional but a little bit “spicy”; that is, it’s fun, but hard. This means finding pathways that haven’t been challenged before and working hard on them. It means forcing people to look their weaknesses in the face and train to overcome them. By doing so, you make the client think. Katona hopes his athletes will become inspired by the process, becoming more adaptable, creative, and motivated to succeed. He wants to create an athlete who goes back to their gym and thinks about what it means to be a complete athlete—and then shares that with others. “If I’m going to help someone, I can’t just feed them what they’re good at,” Katona says. “I’m going to push them out of respect—respect for them and respect for the sport.”

The landscape of CrossFit is constantly evolving, and Katona trains his clients to keep up with this changing face. He loves the direction the sport is headed in and enjoys working with elite athletes in this evolution. CrossFit competitors are not average CrossFitters, and their understanding of the style must, by virtue, be different. The higher-level athlete must be an expert who understands biomechanics, recovery, volume, and intensity with a high level of skill. Katona excels at this type of specialist training. He notes that CrossFit’s unique use of physics and various movement modalities has created a science that will eventually crown the best athlete in the world.

Take for example the upcoming NL1 series in southern California. Doug has agreed to take on the programming for this event and is excited to work with local competitors growing into their sport. He views it as an opportunity to show the beauty of fun and challenging programs that keep the athlete in mind. “The athletes drive these competitions and we owe it to them to offer a program that really assesses who’s the best,” he states. To Katona, this means providing a skill platform that offers athletes a showcase which demonstrates respect for the hard training they have brought to the game.

But he admits that the “phenomenal tool” of CrossFit is perfect for these competitive athletes and that he loves the work. He finds a deeper inspiration in the everyday CrossFitters of the world.

“My motivation and inspiration isn’t solely high-level athletes; it’s also Joe CrossFit. These are the people asking me to be coached, and this is who I most want to help. I love to see a re-emerging athlete.”

All of the principles of training a competitive athlete can be applied to the “regular” people of the world. They still need metrics and biomechanics and nutrition coaching. Just as much as the elite athlete, the average CrossFitter needs to be taught the proper movement and movement applications that are unique to the sport. Just because they don’t want to compete doesn’t mean they don’t benefit from the unique skills that CrossFit brings to life. Katona believes these people—the UPS driver, the mom, and the businessman—are the beauty of CrossFit. They are the 98 percent of athletes that coaches spend their time with, and they are some of the most rewarding clients.

“I love to see the spark in their eyes. I love to help them rediscover themselves as an athlete and see how good they feel about what they can do. If I can teach a person how to move properly, I can help with their vitality and longevity in this sport. I can watch people blossom,” he says.

Katona readily admits he didn’t create the science he loves and graciously offers kudos to Glassman for the amazing work he has done. But Doug knows he will continue to share his own work with as many athletes as are willing to take up the CrossFit challenge. To follow him on his journey, join him in California at Equinox or join his Twitter feed at @dougkatona.

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