I have tried to sit down and write this so many times…usually invigorated by the “I need more cardio” or “I don’t want to get big” (from a female) or “I need to lift more” (from a male)…or the “We need longer WODs”, “We need shorter WODs”, and “We should run more (or less)”. Sometimes when you’re on the field you can’t see the big picture like those sitting in the stands.
This time, the desire to put this out comes from a 365 day look back at what our athletes talk themselves into as the ideal way to “train”, and most with the common goals of:
Look good naked
Feel good/Be healthy
There might be a HANDFUL…yes, maybe ONE handful, who anticipate taking a real shot at making it to “The Show” – really, the CrossFit Games. The structured training commitment, the time, the nutritional dial-in…not everyone can commit to lifting heavy, giving 110% every WOD – exactly how it’s written, work on skills and deficiencies in their off time/Open Gym, avoid the diet/cheat traps in everyday life and lower the booze content to get their bodies in the competition ready shape they would need to be to make it to that level. 99% of our athletes want to be healthy, feel good, look good and have a good time progressing at “their sport”: CrossFit.
But first, a quick note on high level athletics and health:
Everything comes at a price.
The executive working for a promotion, or new business owner, spending 60-70 hours a week at the office and doesn’t see his family. The bodybuilder who diets herself down to an immune system crash and ends up with Shingles the day after a show. And finally, the CrossFit Games or Ultramarathon/Ultra-endurance athletes who train at the expense of heart and muscle health. Elite athletes in high physical demand (not necessarily high skill) sports don’t live as long as the average person does. You can find evidence of this HERE, and HERE, and HERE. If you actually click on these links, you may say “Whoa there Sammy, you’re jerking my chain! These are “endurance athletes” and I CrossFit.” Well, if you’re spending hours in what you think is a “metcon”…maybe, but you lost the glycolytic pathway at around 2 minutes. WODs where you drone on for 35 & 45 minutes are NOT, I repeat NOT where the magic is…it’s Fran, Helen (under 11:00) Annie…THAT’s where the magic is. Sure, we need some 20, 30 and 60 minute WODs to build some long term endurance, but you shouldn’t think that’s where your fitness is coming from. And way too many of you think that. My fear is that your health isn’t ideal, and you’re living off of the adrenaline and endorphin rush of the WODs, so the after effect of the WOD is when you feel your best…versus day in/day out. You should feel good and be energetic ALL THE TIME! When you was up in the morning, and yes, even after you see what the WOD is for the day!
Those who think you don’t want to lift heavy are saying you don’t want to be strong. Being stronger makes Grace at 135/95 A LOT easier. And Grace isn’t heavy. If you think it is, you’re not strong enough.
If you aren’t typically RXing most of the WODs, then scaling the short workouts is key so that your time in the WOD is as we expect it to be for the targeted RX athlete. Finishing way too early or blowing the cap = completely missing the point.
Getting stronger on the barbell at the expense of mastering gymnastics is a mistake. Mastering gymnastics at the expense of losing ground on the barbell is also a mistake. Avoiding sprints/running because you don’t want to waste muscle is a mistake. We try to balance all of that for you each week.
When we program for the week, we have goals for the week: Heavy, Light, Couplet, Chipper, under 6 minutes high intensity, 30 minutes low/moderate intensity, 15 minutes of mixed intensity…there’s a goal, and plan. We have been in this sport since 2007… 9+ years! We’ve studied dozens and dozens of programming theories, and continue to morph ours to periodize you for the Open, give you strength program options to let your body “rest” from all the metcons…we’re overly confident about what we put out there for you to do! Trust the process.
We understand this business. We’ve watched CrossFit programming from 2003 to today. We’ve experimented with different patterns, quantities, strategies over the past 6 years. We change our strategy when we see something new works…but most of the time, old is new. The pattern we have programmed this past year for PP, FS, BS and Thrusters: 1-10-1-20-30 is a great example. That was originally on CFHQ’s mainsite programming back in 2005! We know that CFHQ still dominates and influences many / most of the boxes out there who lay out programming for the community. We know history repeats itself. Sure, the Games came under some criticism over the last few years for the level of intensity, but we make that choice to partake in this sport. We could….go be Yogi’s. Don the skirts and white shorts and play tennis. Run until we look like toothpicks. But we chose to incorporate all the things that come with a solid foundation of fitness (The 10 General Physical Skills) into our sport, and make that our sport! We get our strength, cardio, and sometimes our flexibility in one sport! Dang! I don’t have to worry about getting to the gym to lift for 45 minutes, and then jump on the hamster wheel for 60 minutes every day? What a BORE FEST! Now I have to find something “fun” to balance out the mundane-ness of what I just did. THANK YOU CROSSFIT! Everything in one package…including the fun and time with friends.
While part of our job is keeping the athletes happy and safe, another part of it is making them (you) better, fitter and keeping you a little “off balance” as to what to expect. This makes you better too.
So let me take a quick second here to give you a little outline, or “manifesto” as to how your CrossFit training and “lifestyle” will contribute to the goals of being healthy, performing well, feeling good and looking good naked. These are facts – and it’s often easy to lose sight of the facts when you get caught up in the adrenaline rush of CrossFit.
Of course it starts with this! Even CrossFit’s foundation starts with this.
I won’t get all preachy on you, but here are the facts:
- The healthier your diet (whole food based), the healthier you will be
- To help you see the link to your training, think about these two things:
- Carbohydrates fuel glycolytic training. If you are low carb and trying to CrossFit hard, you will fail. Your plan will back fire and you will not accomplish your training or body composition goals. Your body will break down hard earned muscle tissue, turn it into glycogen to refuel low muscle glycogen stores (gluconeogenesis)
- Protein repairs torn down muscle tissue. That’s what we do: break it down so it’ll remodel stronger. If you don’t consume enough protein, and at the right times, you won’t recover properly, strength gains will wane, and you’ll wonder where all of your hard efforts are are going!
- Balancing carbohydrate and protein is important. Vegetarian and vegan sources of protein (non-animal based) come with a huge dose of carbohydrates. So when you eat protein, you’re also eating carbs in this scenario. High attention must be paid to this balance so your carbohydrate feeds aren’t too generous.
- The variety and nutrient density of your diet directly affects your performance via the little power factories in your cells: your mitochondria. Dr. Terry Wahls beat Multiple Sclerosis by feeding her body (and her mitochondria) a diet enormously high in nutrient density. What does that mean? It means these little guys contribute to your health, performance…everything. The more nutrient-dense your diet, the better your mitochondria function. But what does nutrient density mean? Well, not only does it mean you cut the crap out of your diet, but you focus on variety and getting the biggest bang for your buck in the foods you choose – a variety of brightly colored vegetables and fruits is one of the keys (see list below). While eating the same thing every day helps with discipline to stay on a healthy diet, it also causes some deficiencies that could affect your performance. Matt Lalonde is one of my favorite gurus on this topic. HERE is his most recent talk at the Ancestral Health Symposium – he’s a bad ass!
- Red/Orange tomatoes,
- all greens,
- onions/garlic from the allium family (white),
- red and green cabbage and Brussels Sprouts (cruciferous family),
- peppers of all colors, potatoes of all colors (orange, purple, white, red),
- beets (red/purple and golden),
- radishes and daikon,
- carrots (all colors),
- fennel, bok choi, celery…from the stalky family
- Calories, Macros, Flexible Dieting, Reverse Dieting, Meal Frequency, AltShift…everything works as long as you put the effort into it. Just make sure the foundation of whatever you are doing makes sense for health….because without good health, nothing else really matters.
This has been the year of sleep research! Everywhere you look we are being told that if we don’t get enough quality sleep – focus being on the words “enough” and “quality”, it can adversely affect so many aspects of our lives and health, including
- reproductive challenges
- body compositions
- hormone imbalances
- poor performance at work AND the gym
- memory and concentration problems…and the list goes on
Here’s a great post by Chris Kresser from this past year: 8 Tips for Beating Insomnia and Improving Your Sleep
You need to spend at least a few times each week on the barbell, working heavy lifts and skills on the Olympic Lifts so you can go heavy on a snatch. If your overhead squat is horrific, you snatch will never be good. That’s why I say skills…many of the things we do are skill-based and require practice. It’s not always gut-busting, puke your guts out practice, but it’s important and it’s stimulating to your body and your growth as an athlete. Spending skill time on the barbell will allow you to do better on SWODs with the barbell!
You need to spend a few times a week working on your body weight movements (BW), aka “gymnastics”, and your strength on the strict movements. No, I didn’t say Kipping, Butterfly or swings. I said strict. How many strict pull-ups can you do without breaking? 10? Hope so. Can you do 30 pushups without breaking. You better! Can you crank out 10 ring dips with ease. Of course you…can? How about that strict handstand pushup? You’re always working your press and jerk in open gym because you can do it and it’s fun, but pressing your body from a headstand into a handstand, with good form…how about that. Think about how great of a training session during open gym you’d get if you sent 20 minute pulling and pushing: As many pull ups (strict) as you can do unbroken. Jump off the bar. Rest a bit. Then as many HSPU (strict) as you can do unbroken. Can’t do them? Wall walk into a negative HSPU with a roll out is a great effort, negative strength work, and good skill work on the rollout. Do that 5 times and go back to the pull. Keep this cycle up for 20 minutes. Boom. Great sessions with good gains! Ask your coaches for help, advice and drills…but don’t avoid it. It makes you an imbalanced athlete.
So you’re super strong. You have good bodyweight strength and great barbell strength. But how is your barbell endurance? How do you do on Complex 1? (21-18-15-12-9-6-3 of DL, HPC, FS, PJ). Do you burn out? What about high repetition power snatches? They always come up in the open. This is just another one of the things we want you to be good at. Some of the WOD’s you see us program are specifically designed to help you with that. Building muscle endurance, the ability for a muscle to contract a specific way over and over and over again requires specific properties of that muscle that are built by training higher repetitions. The ability to recycle ATP and the number of mitochondria (like little power factories inside the muscle) are enhanced by endurance training – so don’t cherry pick because the load is light – do the work, reap the benefits!
Again, so, you’re super strong. You have good barbell strength and great bodyweight strength..you can do a 100# weighted pull up. But how many pull ups (kipping of course!) can you do unweighted? Toes to bar? Push ups? Pistols? HSPU? Remember those mitochondria – remember that they’re increased in number by high repetition, and high intensity interval work. Working in high repetitions of different movements will help you get better at performing high repetitions of those moments. Funny how that works right?
This is where it gets tricky. Earlier I said long-slow cardio comes at a price. Essentially, it wastes muscle to create fuel for that type of training…which is OK, I guess, if you want to look flabby and less “toned”. We keep most of our longer WOD inclusive of gymnastics and barbell work. But occasionally, you need a bout of long cardio -30+ minutes. We need to make sure our training is working…though we don’t train THAT particularly a lot, our high intensity intervals carry over to longer cardio and allow to keep getting better at it without training it. Magic!
Skill = efficiency. Practicing lifts, and gymnastics, and even running form and technique with the focus being on the most perfect, efficient and technically correct way you can move, will only make EVERYTHING easier. A tight kip versus a broken kip? Tighter is lighter. An efficient bar bath on a clean or snatch – vertical translation of a barbell versus the barbell swinging away from the body allows you to cycle faster or lift heavier. Skill work is important. It’s a must in our sport.
METCONS & CONDITIONING
The magic of CrossFit is in the combination of all of the things listed above, plus this. Not solely in the metcons and conditioning. By metcons we typically mean the balls-to-the-wall, all-out, go-get-it-fast, WODs. By conditioning we mean the EMOM’s with scheduled reps – we’re either working to increase your strength or high repetitions movements by either limiting your rest or scheduling your rest, respectively. This is a very important and “sexy” aspect of your training, but it’s not the only thing.
MOBILITY/SOFT TISSUE MANAGEMENT
We can’t stress this enough. You have options too! Saturday Yoga or Open Gym time used as mobility. Thursday Open Gym – use 1/2 for mobility. After your WODs, use your talk time for mobility – drag your chat buddies to the floor! If you don’t know what to do – ASK. “I need a good stretch for_________”. One of our favorite questions!
If you are spending all of your extra time on cardio, exercise or stressing because you don’t think you did enough at the gym and you don’t spend any time reading, doing something you truly love (other than exercise), walking through nature, meditating…whatever!, then you need to make this change. We need to stop living our lives with our parasympathetic nervous systems parked in the garage. Your sympathetic nervous system is your fight or flight system. It gets a lot of work/action from CrossFit, daily stressors, etc. Contributing to yourself is an important aspect of self care we all tend to forget. Why? Because we’re taught to put others first. But only to a degree!
This might be the time to begin learning new skills toward a new or second career. Learning is never boring when you love what you’re studying. Learning a new language as an adult can keep your brain active and ward off diseases of the brain.
If you’re still at a loss, let me help you out:
I was lucky enough to attend one of the last held “smallish” Affiliate Meetings in 2009 in Miami where Coach Glassman spend a ton of time talking about quality…of coaching, of customer service, of caring and of running a box. Honestly, not a lot of it was any different than I’d known in my past career (healthcare/business). In fact, it was hauntingly familiar. Fast forward to the boxes known for Groupons, Living Social and “Try us for free for a week (or a month or 3 months!)” and we’ve entered a time where new boxes think volume is where it’s at….and they suffer a revolving door of athletes, creating a need for more Groupons. Athletes don’t stay with them long enough for the coaches to get them through the progressions they’ll pass through on their way to mastery. We followed Glassman’s plan of taking care of our athletes, keeping our facility top notch, having a HUGE care factor, and creating an inclusive community of like minded, humble individuals who want so badly for each other to succeed, many of them have partnered up (married…and with children!) or bought homes next to on another! Let this be your happy place – your playground, not a stressful environment where you’re constantly frustrated you “can’t” do something. Focus on what you CAN do, and practice what you can’t. Enjoy the process. Enjoy the sport.
Lastly, to ur budding masters’ community, your bodies are different. You might need a little extra rest, not a little extra work because you can’t keep up with the dude or dudette next to you. Strength/Skill may trump the metcon one day a week to allow more time for recovery. You may need more of certain nutrients, like protein, because as we age we process it a little less effectively. You may need some supplementation to help you recover. But the one thing you don’t need is less stress because you’re getting older, you can’t do what you want to or used to with the same ease as 5-10+ years ago. Lighten up, and realize you have found a sport that you can continue to train in until you’re….well, now that you’ve seen our Legends Program, there’s not end in sight!