4 Elements That Keep CrossFit Fun and Rewarding with Time
I have been thinking and reading a lot this year about nutrition, programming, injury, and competing. After a lot of reflection and discussion with those I trust, here’s some guiding advice to what will make you a happier athlete for the rest of 2015.
Each of the elements I am covering will always begin with two questions.
What do you want?
What is unique about you that requires consideration?
These two questions are often overlooked, particularly by those writing as experts. In order to show clear expertise and that they “figured it out”, there are no questions to be asked, only the final answers. Always ask these two questions.
When it comes to what you put in your body, these initial questions are very critical. If you want to enjoy eating all kinds of food, not be glued 100% to an official diet, or you have a very tough time eating meat, this drives your decisions. You can see where I am going with this. Know basic facts about your eating and lifestyle preferences.
That being said, whether you want to hear it or not, a diet focused mainly on vegetables and fruits is hard to argue against. There is so much evidence around our system’s difficulty digesting meat and breads over time that are impossible to deny any more. You need to start listening to the basic science of your body.
Here is the challenge with this: eating enough calories to support muscle growth and energy production through fruits and vegetables is really difficult and often expensive enough and time consuming enough to make it a non-option.
My short recommendation: focus on slowly moving meats and keep starchy carbs to a minimum in your weekly routine. Work to find a good, clean supplement/bar/shake to help you get what you need hit your calorie numbers so you don’t walk around feeling hungry all day. To go ultra strict, eliminate snack foods completely from your routine. They are often overprocessed.
Find a good clean supplement to help hit your daily calorie numbers each day so you don’t feel…
This topic rests a lot on what you want, what your performance goals are. Even I have had a difficult time answering this question since I started CrossFit three years ago. I think I am finally able to a better answer for myself and this will change my training programming in a noticeable way.
My considerations are a formerly broken back, a left big toe that has very little range-of-motion anymore, and some neck/shoulder nerve tweaking. What I really want is to better balance my flexibility and strength, then dedicate more effort to competing this year. Ask yourself: What do you really want to achieve? What do you have to consider about yourself and work around?
You have to understand that programming is not something you should be borrowing, or sampling temporarily. That might be okay while you are still testing different approaches, but ultimately you are on a program or you’re not. You don’t “try the invictus workouts” for a couple of months while also throwing in your local box workouts here and there. That is not effective. It will not work.
If your priority is being fit so you can do anything, any day, for random amounts of time, there is nothing wrong with that. Only understand that this type of training will not be the best for you. It will be good, but not the best. Most likely if you compete and this is how you train, you may have consistent issues moving higher in the ranks as a CrossFit Masters athlete.
Know that constantly varied workouts have a SINGLE purpose within the workout and a SINGLE purpose across workouts. Within the workout, it keeps intensity high. If you are static and perform squats all day, then your level of intensity cannot stay high. Across workouts it eliminates isolation and repetition that inevitably occurs around 8-9 weeks. Isolation and repetition can create overuse and increase injury. It also would show you a plateau in performance as another undesirable outcome.
This is controversial advice, but I will say it anyway: You want someone who understands exercise physiology (not just a CrossFit coach) to do programming for you. There are many things to be done this year and committing to a programming strategy will be the structure and incentive to get you what you want.
Recognize that you need to get training in (6-8 days) every two weeks on all three energy systems. If it has been two weeks since you hit the long, aerobic system 6-8 times (which happens in CrossFit) you need to fix the void. Running a mile, a 5k, or rowing similar distances is a good fix. With my bad foot, rowing and airdyne are best for me.
What injuries have you sustained and now surround with strength and flexibility training? What do you want? To be fit only or to compete? There is no right answer, just identify your considerations and choose your goal.
I’ve been working on my back recovery since my first CrossFit workout. It has been very tough to get where I am, but I am proud of the goals I have achieved:
Squatting heavy weights
Increasing squat mobility (below parallel within 15 minutes after warming up!)
Training regularly at 5:30am
Through every miniature goal, I have been healing my back. I’ve been surrounding it with strength and flexibility. And now it is slowly feeling more and more normal.
Now that I’m turning my focus to not only competing but also to more flexibility, I’m also coming to my own unique conclusion about myself and my relationship with injury. I would normally accept injury at a higher rate if this year I wanted to compete and that’s it. Though, with flexibility becoming an equal priority, I will definitely back out of a 90%+ attempt in my weightlifting if I don’t feel extremely good that day. Feel it out for yourself, like I have done.
Injuries are nearly inevitable in some form. That doesn’t mean that one day you’ll go down in a heap with your leg buckling under you. What it means is this: to improve your fitness, you will need to cross over your limits on a weekly basis. If you cross too much you might strain something, hurt something. If you push it way over the line, you’ll rip something, and require yourself to heal over many weeks.
It is all about body awareness and I have bad news. After all my years in sports–as an athlete, coaching, and now in CrossFit–the verdict is in. Body awareness is a talent that can only be taught to a certain level of fitness. You know that guy that always gets hurt. That one that constantly rips their hands. That girl that looked like she was being electrocuted when she got her deadlift PR and has been out of commission on and off for the past 3 months since.
Body awareness is a talent that can only be taught to a certain level of fitness.
Those people are not good at gauging when they should back off, slow down or simply say “that’s good. I’m done today”. Work on this as best you can. As a 41 year old I do this often. I push myself when I can and slow down, lower the weight, or hang up the bar if my body is feeling off.
There is a really great satisfaction about competing in CrossFit. You are doing it every day anyway!
The great news: The way your mind and body interact in your competition will be nearly identical to your daily WODs (if you’re doing it right). So if you haven’t competed, or haven’t done very many serious ones, take my word for it: you are more ready than most any other athlete to compete.
Again, you will want to consider your lifestyle and what you want here as well. For example, imagine my goal is: “I would like to do a summer and fall comp this year. And I want to work toward those with my programming. They do not need to be big comps, they just need to be local for convenience.” Your goal may be similar or very different from mine, so ask yourself:
Do I want to compete?
To what scale do I want to compete?
What events will I sign up for?
Your story will drive how you handle your schedule this year.
Also, find a way to practice a competition as well because there are subtle activities happening in competitions that are not happening in your daily routine. Example: You are told to get to your two-rep max on overhead squats in 6 min. So look at your weights laying in piles next to your bar. You are thinking, “Well I would do 45s then a 10… Oh wait, there is no 45. There is two 25s? Wait.. ‘3-2-1 go!'”
It has happened to us all in a competition. Quick math and quick strategy take practice. The CrossFit group I run does these practices. It can be eye opening, though usually after-the-fact, so you’ll want to go through experiences a few times.