I wanted to share the article above with all of you because I found that it sums up a lot of what I’ve been thinking with regards to programming and the training needs of our community. I often hear questions like, “Am I doing enough in my training?” “Why don’t we do more Hero WODs?” and “How come we don’t do more workouts with hundreds of reps of exercises?” I’ve seen people get frustrated with themselves for not being able to do more of an exercise, when just a year ago they couldn’t even do that same exercise. It seems to me like in the last year or two people have become very eager to step up their training, lift bigger weights, hit high volume gymnastics work, etc. People expect their training to turn them into competitive athletes overnight, and many forget why they are doing CrossFit in the first place. Many forget to look back on how far they have come since they started. It’s easy to get caught up in the “fancy” movements, to feel the need to “keep up” with the competitive athletes in videos and at the games. When showing up to daily classes doesn’t instantly turn people into these beasts that they see, and when they aren’t able to perform the skills they want, lift the weights they want, and be able to post the scores they want, AS FAST as they want, they get frustrated.
When I started CrossFit in 2009, it was to be stronger and healthier, which I am. In my first year of CrossFit, I used a green band to do pull ups, I scaled workouts to knee push ups, and I was excited to hit an 80 pound clean. 6 YEARS later, I am able to complete 5 strict muscle ups, multiple sets of full push ups, and clean over 170 pounds. Of course, I would like to do MORE. There will ALWAYS be more weight that can be lifted and more skills to develop, more reps to complete. I would also like to have a life. People often ask me if I’d ever like to train for regionals or the games, and the truth is, not really. I would like to run a successful business that helps people improve the quality of their lives. I’d like to someday have a family with which I can spend my time. I’d like to feel good, wake up each day pain free, and able to do any activity I want for many years to come. But seriously competing, it’s not high on the priority list. Back in 2009 the majority of us were not training for the sake of competition. Most of us showed up to CrossFit because it was fun, we got to socialize with people, and we saw better results than we ever did at a traditional gym. it was normal for people to spend years developing the strength to get muscle ups, to be able to lift heavy weights. We were told it was a process and the goal was to be able to do a little bit more than last time. No one expected to jump in and be able to do handstand push ups in a month or to rep out double unders without putting in tons of practice. But now, people are very eager. They jump from one program to the next, trying to find the shortest road to be able to do impressive things, to feel like they are keeping up. If they don’t see fast gains, they think they aren’t doing enough or they must need a different program, a different coach, etc..
The truth is, regular classes will not turn you into a super competitive athlete, not the kind you see at the Games, not with the level at which people are competing these days. However, regular classes will make you stronger. They will help you develop new skills over time, and they will make you a healthier person. We do not program a lot of high volume work because the majority of people (I’d argue 99% of the people at our gym) really don’t need it, and it may even be detrimental to their overall health. Trying to find the shortest path to see the quickest gains puts people at risk for injury, puts a lot of wear and tear on their bodies, and is not the best way to achieve the goals they had when they signed up for CrossFit in the first place. People forget that because they compare themselves to others, and there is some glamour in lifting heavy weights, putting up big scores, and showing off high skill movements. There is also a lot of work, sacrifice, and risk that competitive people have put in to get where they are.
I want to argue that there is value in taking the slow road, in being smart about the rate at which we with develop skills and strengths. The body appreciates patience in preparing itself to handle loads and tasks. That is my personal belief, and we plan our classes based on that idea. Our goal is to keep people healthy and able to train for years and years. If anyone expresses a true desire to compete, we will provide them with the training they need and warn them of the risks involved, so they can make informed choices. I strongly suggest that if you are going to focus on competing in any sport, do it because you ABSOLUTELY LOVE it. I challenge everyone to take some time to really consider YOUR goals, not for the week or month, but long term, and more importantly, WHY those are your goals. Then the real challenge becomes to not get caught up in the goals of others, but to follow the path that best leads you where you want to be, not just today, not tomorrow, or next year, but in 5 years, 10 years, and for the rest of your life.
For those that want long term success and general health and fitness, the regular CrossFit classes are a great fit for you. A little practice before/after class of skills with which you struggle or would like to see faster progress will be enough to keep you advancing.
For those that want to focus more on lifting and local level competition, and have more time to dedicate to training, The Barbell WOD along with the daily WODs, plus Advanced WODs on Tuesdays at 7:30am and Saturdays at 11am (both resuming after the Open) will be enough to challenge you and and keep you competitive. Emphasis on sleep, recovery, mobility, and nutrition will help performance.
For those that want to train for Regionals and the Games, The Barbell WOD should be combined with personalized higher volume training and skill work to strengthen weaknesses and develop high work capacity. This will require MANY hours of devoted training time per week, along with a STRONG emphasis on nutrition, recovery, mobility, sleep, etc. Many athletes at this level hire coaches for programming and one-on-one training sessions. This is a serious commitment both inside and outside of the gym.