Workout of the Day

How Not To Do CrossFit

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“Anyone can make an athlete tired; it takes a real coach to get an athlete results.”

I came across this piece of advice a number of years ago, and it is one that will continue to ring true for me in perpetuity. This idea gets at a common problem in CrossFit and other training programs or ideologies that prioritize high intensity. Often, either athletes or coaches (or both) get caught up in chasing a feeling and forget about the whole purpose of this exercise stuff: results.

If we’re honest with ourselves, this feeling is a big part of CrossFit’s popularity. We’ve all likely heard the testimonials that go something like this: “I tried a CrossFit class back in 2011, and we did a short workout with thrusters and pull-ups, and I threw up and thought I was going to die and walked out of the gym feeling like I got hit by a dump truck -- I was hooked from that moment forward, man!” The centerpoint of this experience, and of the individual’s draw towards CrossFit, is a feeling -- namely, a feeling of being super tired. This feeling is popular right now. It’s part of CrossFit’s popularity, it’s popular in high school sports conditioning programs, and it’s also behind the popularity of things like spin classes, HIIT classes, yoga classes that resemble high intensity calisthenics more than traditional yoga, and any other variety of class led by a mic’d up instructor breathing hard and telling you to turn it up, go harder, chase that burn. I can very easily make you tired by telling you to do 150 snatches for time at 90% of your 1rm. But that would be foolish, and would not get you any closer to results.

Now, there’s nothing inherently wrong with encountering this feeling or relishing in it. Feeling very tired after a workout can coincide with a results-driven program, and feeling very tired generally does indicate effort, an integral piece of the results-driven puzzle. Undeniably, this feeling is often what gets people in the door, and that’s a good thing. But this feeling is not enough; and if we keep our sights lined up on this feeling alone, we’re going to be missing the mark on results all too often.

Getting back to the original quote, though it was directed primarily at coaches, its sentiment applies just as much to the athlete. We’ve talked before about the intensity paradox in CrossFit (here and here), and how this perception of intensity as blood, sweat, and Rage Against the Machine every day can be detrimental to progress. Listen to your coach, and you'll probably find that they're telling you exactly what kind of stimulus (and even what kind of feeling) you should be getting from the training for the day. The reality is that some days, you will not leave class in a puddle of sweat with Bambi-leg syndrome, and this doesn’t mean you’re not getting fit. Stimulus for adaptation comes in multiple forms, and it doesn’t always manifest itself as tiredness. So no, you shouldn’t go for a hard run or go to spin class just because you didn’t feel tired or sore after leaving the gym.

It’s time to reframe, to stop chasing the feeling and direct ourselves towards the results. This reframing requires us to step back and look at the bigger picture: regardless of how tired I am today, am I getting results?
And if not, why? Is it the exercise? The consistency? The recovery? Let’s have the conversation, and get what we came for.

- Preston Sprimont


2/2/17

  • Hang power snatch - 2,2,2,2,2

  • 6 min AMRAP

    • 12 overhead squats (95/65)

    • 12 pistols (6/leg)