Sunday 7.28.13

Enjoy the CrossFit Games, but......

In the 80's/ 90's, like most kids, I worshiped Michael Jordan.  When I played basketball I would try to drive to the basket by myself (ball hog), do some flying contorting lay up jumping from the free throw line, stick my tongue out, and dunk on the 7 ft basketball hoop we had set up in the back yard.  Everything I had seen Jordan do hundreds of times before.  And I would beg my mom for some Wheaties and once in a while I scored some.  But try as I might, being a short, stalky, white guy with no vertical leap and definitely lacking "hang time", eating Wheaties would never help me become Michael Jordan.

As we grow up, I think we all still try to emulate the things we see our sports heroes do, use the product they are endorsing, or train exactly like them as a way.  Whether they're from the Football world, the Bodybuilding world, or the CrossFit world.  But is the really the best way for you to train?  You who works night shift, with 2 young kids at home, that gets held over at work constantly, or always driving your kids to some activity, sleeping 6 hours a night/ day if your lucky.

I love the CrossFit Games.  I think it's great to watch what the absolute fittest people in the world can put their bodies through.  But, the CrossFit Games is for the top 1% to prove they are the best in the Sport of Fitness.  They are testing their bodies.  I think we should test our bodies too.  Testing our limits is the best way to push yourself further than you think you can go, lift heavier than  you think you can, or complete a challenge that mentally you were unsure you could do.  But we need to make sure we are training smartly, how our bodies responds to it, not what a superb athlete says worked for them.

CrossFit for Fitness versus Sport

When first came online in the early 2000s, it was about top level fitness…constantly varied, functional movements, performed at high intensity. You would do the workout of the day (WOD). The WOD is one workout. It could be a heavy barbell lift like a back squat, or a combination of pull-ups, push presses, and running done for time. Workouts are shorter and more intense than a long slow distance run. Every fourth day is a rest day to allow the body to recover in order to get stronger, faster, and fitter. The CrossFit diet consists of meat and veggies, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch, and no sugar. This is CrossFit for fitness.

The majority of people doing CrossFit do so for improved fitness. These people want to live healthy and productive lives, feel good, look good, and be prepared for whatever life may throw at them.

In the past few years we have seen the birth of CrossFit the sport. CrossFit the sport is for serious athletes that do CrossFit on a competitive level outside of just their local box. They may train multiples times throughout the day. They may periodize their training to prepare for the competition season. They usually previously competed in a high level sport, such as gymnastics, Baseball, track and field, etc.  In a competition like The CrossFit Games, that includes more than 10 workouts in three days, competitors are not really improving their fitness level during such a grueling event but are instead testing their fitness at the very highest level. This is CrossFit the sport.  They leave the competition wrecked and needing to recover.  This is not health.

Unfortunately, it’s very easy to mistake CrossFit the sport with CrossFit for fitness. People see photos or videos of someone like Rich Froning and think that’s what CrossFit is all about.  Its the same thing as any other sports endeavor.

All the fitness magazines showcase training programs from NFL athletes, elite powerlifters or bodybuilders and tell you to train like them.

What if we trained like a NFL wide receiver?  Our bodies would be destroyed, we would be constantly over-trained and lacking rest.  We would need many pain relievers to get through the day.  That is not health and fitness.  That is a highly paid super talent with the best doctors, sports medicine, chiropractors, and time at their disposal, trying to make the most money they can in the shortest time possible before their bodies give out and a new young guy takes his place.

Or what if we ate like an Olympic swimmer? A 12,000 calorie diet would certainly be unhealthy for us, but it was necessary for Michael Phelps.  Most of us don't even have time in the day to eat that much.

Rich Froning recently stated in a video put out by the CrossFit Games that he does not take a rest day.  That's great for him, but we are no Rich Fronings.  And the preponderance of evidence states that rest and recovery is necessary especially with intense training.  That's why programs a rest day EVERY 4th day.  Rest is necessary for your health and longevity in fitness.  See The Compound's blog post on 7.14.13 for more on Rest.

So how do you train for a local competition?

We like to compete and have held competitions at The Compound and encourage you to go out and compete in other local competitions.  Competing is how you test your limits and is the best way to push yourself further than you think you can go, lift heavier than  you think you can, or complete a challenge that mentally you were unsure you could do.  But you don't need to complete multiple WODs in a day to prepare for a competition.  That is cutting away at your ability to perform at your best because you are not recovered from your last workout.  Your goal should be to complete your one WOD a day at the best form and highest intensity possible.  Then go home, recover, and get on with your day, and show up to the competition as rested as possible.

If you need more work, as most of us do, it would behoove you to work on a skill, such as a gymnastics skill or strength movement before or after the WOD or later in the day.  And i'm not talking about a "cash out" where you do an exorbitant number of reps of handstand push ups after a WOD, where you just try to get through the number you set for yourself and your reps become shoddy.  Rather, I mean a 10, 20, or 30 minute session working on quality movements and aspects of the skill that you are weakest at.

Competing and seeing many competitions of various types, generally people do not finish higher in the competition due to a lack of "WODing".   It is a lack of skill and not using correct form.    If you look at the best athletes (in this case the CrossFit Games athletes), they move nice and controlled, not extremely rushed, because their form is impeccable.  Improve your form and you improve your time, and with it your fitness.

The Compound's programming seeks to bring the best of several programs together that we feel will help everyone who works out here.  But we are all different and have our individual strengths, weakness, and goals to work on.  Next week, we will talk about how you can use The Compound's programming to reach individual fitness goals you set for yourself.

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