I have come across many CrossFit athletes over my years as a coach. I’ve seen the crazes that have gone through our sport. I’ve seen; the die hard (do or die) athletes that the sport used to breed (firebreathers), the “kip everything for efficiency” phase, the “gymnastics is the key” phase, I’ve seen the “weightlifting technique is key” phase, the “accessory work overload” phase… I’m pretty sure there’s a few more in there but these are the ones that spring to mind. Now, the CrossFit world is stuck in another phase (even if you don’t realise it). I’m going to call this phase the “more work = success” phase.
More work = success
First of all, let’s talk about what this phase is. It’s a combination of a couple of the previous phases, namely “weightlifting is key” and “accessory work overload”.
While I do strongly agree that weightlifting technique is extremely important and accessory or auxiliary work can fix faults in areas that need work, you don’t need it all in one day and if you do want to put it all in one day, you cannot do it all in one or two hrs. Science dictates this.
Our role as trainers
We as trainers have a great responsibility to our members to ensure that they get the very best out of our programming. Is grandma with a hip replacement a competitive athlete? No. Is John from the accounting firm going to the Games? Unlikely. Our role as trainers is to ensure that our members train to be a better moving human being. Better than they were before they came to see us. This isn’t happening if you are doing a 5 x 3 rep power clean then a metcon to finish daily. Yeah, it might make some of our clients happy because they think they are getting a killer workout, but they aren’t ever truly getting the best out of the workout.
More work is setting you up for failure
CrossFit programming should be beautiful thing. A nice mesh of weightlifting, gymnastics, athletics, mobility, and agility that challenge the athlete cardiovascularly, mentally and should all be on a nice progressive overload to ensure growth will happen. This doesn’t happen when you put a heavy weightlifting session at the start or finish of your daily metcon. All it does is create chaos for the body to catch up with. Can you say you have ever given your workout 100% knowing that you have more work to do after your workout? Stop lying to yourself and answer honestly, you hold back to make sure you can hit the other part with some sort of intensity.
The piece of the puzzle that everyone keeps missing
If you want to do a sprint workout the rest periods need to be long (for recovery) this leaves open time for other areas of improvement (we use it in our gym as an opportunity for Mentality WOD’s and skill development). If you actually give a sprint WOD everything that you’re supposed to, you’ll need the rest. Or what about those warm ups? We utilise this chance to take out muscular instabilities with unilateral work, or a chance to make sure that our clients work on the basic skills of CrossFit like double unders, pull ups, push ups and technical work for Olympic lifts or play some games that work the agility. The list goes on. You don’t need a metcon in front of a metcon to get fit. That’s what will break you. You need a very well thought out conjugate style of programming.
Would you know what fitness was if you saw it?
If I told you that I could make sure you are setting personal records all year round (in weightlifting, metcons and gymnastics) and take away muscular instabilities, improve your brain capacity, joint mobility and stability and give you a chance to work your diet and improve areas of fitness that need work with one hour sessions that only have one WOD in it would you take it? You should because this is how you will be able to play with your grandkids. This is how you can fix that bad shoulder. This is how CrossFit is prescribed. This is how you get fit. Not smashing yourself for hours each day, day in and day out until your body can’t handle it anymore. It doesn’t work that way.
Don’t worry I haven’t forgotten about the competitive athletes. I absolutely agree that a competitive athlete should be doing more than just the WOD programmed for the regular class, this is where a competitive programme comes into play. If your athlete wants and needs the extra work, it’s laid out in detail, in-line with the regular weekly programming. Not just an athlete doing what they think is best for them. It has to work with the daily WOD or it’s just work for the sake of work. It won’t do any good.
If you’re just going into a local competition and wanting to make sure you can handle the volume of work for the weekend, try adding some of the competitive programming in 2-3 weeks out from competition and then go back to regular one session per day training to ensure you will get fitter before your next competition.
What you should take home from this?
More work in the gym is just that… more work. It isn’t the key to being the next Rich Froning or Iceland Annie. Muscles grow fast but tendons, bones, instabilities and skill development take time. If you are one of those gifted people that pick something up fast, great. It still doesn’t mean you should be doing two or three workouts per day. If you started young in an a background that developed your body to be a strong, flexible and mobile athlete, you might stand a chance of going to the games. Otherwise, the unfortunate reality is we all are just trying to get fit and stay alive longer. Beating yourself up daily isn’t the answer to that. Give every workout the intensity it deserves and the recovery it needs and you will live a long healthy and happy life.
Basically what I’m saying here is, go to the gym and workout once per day, work on your diet and all the other things in between and stop worrying so much about being the next big thing. Focus on you 20 years from now and above all enjoy the ride.