I hope this answers your questions in regards to training. Let it be known that I am not the “resident expert” on the subject. This is simply what I have learned after nine years of CrossFit, and A LOT of trial and error. With that being said, let’s begin.
Know what kind of training you should be doing
To know what kind of training you should be doing, you must first set some realistic goals. You should also know what you are realistically trying to accomplish. Most people will say “Regionals” or “The Games.” That is the end goal of every good CrossFitter, right? Wrong! You should know and understand that a fraction of 1% of all those who CrossFit actually go to the games and the next Rich Froning truly is a “needle in a haystack.” I’m not saying this to discourage anybody or break anyone’s heart. I’m saying this to open your eyes to reality. Nobody accidentally ends up at the Games or Regionals for that matter. A Games or Regionals level athlete has dedicated a large chunk of their lives to the Sport of CrossFit. If your day does not revolve around CrossFit, it’s going to be difficult getting an invitation to Regionals or The Games.
After I had got into the Fire Service, I realized something needed to change with regards to “working out.” Having a big bench and a big squat and a big deadlift might have gotten me a long way in the locker room, but not so much on the fire ground. Sucking down a 45min air bottle in 10min isn’t helping anyone, you know what I mean?
After coming to grips with this, please do not retreat into some dark corner of the gym, rocking back and forth, eating tamales and crying your eyes out. Instead, embrace it. Life just got simpler and a lot less stressful. One of the pioneers of CrossFit, Chris Spealler, was asked what he thought about the games. His response was shocking to most. He said he hated it. Simply because it makes people think that this is what CrossFit Is all about. It takes a lot of the fun out of it. Most people have jobs, families at home, mortgages, other interests, and responsibilities that come before CrossFit. CrossFit exists within their lives, rather than their lives revolving around CrossFit. Does that mean that most people will never see numbers or times similar to that of a games athlete? Absolutely not! The reality is that you can see those kinds of numbers and times, in time, with “regular class programming.” The difference is volume. Can you see those kinds of numbers any and every day of the week, multiple times per day? Probably not. This is what competitive programming is meant for. Once you have the numbers and the times and the skills and the nutrition and ZERO gaps in your game, THEN you are ready for competitive programming. Competitive programming prepares you for a CrossFit beat down. Its purpose has never meant to make you stronger or faster or go longer. It simply prepares you for a beat down. In time, for a true competitor, yes it can do all the above mentioned, but again, I say it takes time, and this is a rare breed of person. Competition training is teaching the competitor how to survive and thrive in a CrossFit competition.
You should know and understand that a fraction of 1% of all those who CrossFit actually go to the games and the next Rich Froning truly is a “needle in a haystack.” I’m not saying this to discourage anybody or break anyone’s heart. I’m saying this to open your eyes to reality.
Emily Beers has an old article in the CrossFit Journal entitled “In Search of a Programming God.” It is free, and I encourage you to read it. Written in the article, she does a fine job of showcasing four different CrossFit Games athletes and the programming that they follow. Strangely enough, not one athlete’s programming looks the same. Some train for 6-8 hours per day, while others only train for 1-2 hours per day. The commonality is this, they all train on what they suck at! Remember one of the foundational elements of CrossFit is that it was meant to be a minimalist approach to strength and conditioning. Where most programs conquer that with volume, CrossFit answers that with Intensity! And encourages you to work on what you want to get better at. This is our Misery, and this is what spawned the CrossFit Games. The bottom line is that it works. This methodology will make you stronger, faster and more conditioned. Most people simply do not need 2-3 (or more) hours per day in the gym. They need one good hour in class, chock full of hard work. They need to be more focused!
In John McCallum’s book “The Complete Keys to Progress,” he has four chapters entitled “the Fountain of Youth.” In these four chapters, he addresses several things, basically centered around being fit and healthy. It was written back in the 1960’s but sounds similar to the CrossFit principles. The one that sticks out the most when it comes to being fit and healthy is “vigorous social activity.” What exactly is vigorous social activity? CrossFit! Never forget that the community is what makes CrossFit great. That and results! But the community has a lot to do with the results. Yes, get in the gym for that one hour, work your butt off and get focused, but never forget to have fun. It is an essential part of your health, wellbeing, and your progress.
My personal Experience
My personal experience with this is what brings me here today. After I had got into the Fire Service, I realized something needed to change with regards to “working out.” Having a big bench and a big squat and a big deadlift might have gotten me a long way in the locker room, but not so much on the fire ground. Sucking down a 45min air bottle in 10min isn’t helping anyone, you know what I mean? So, I stumbled into CrossFit, and I hated it. I hated it because it “told me” that I wasn’t that strong or that in shape. Regardless, in my eyes, my job depended on it. I had to let go of my “meathead” ways to pursue something foreign to me. Conditioning! So after about six months of CrossFit, “regular programming,” I had lost 33lbs and absolutely loved CrossFit! All the sudden I could breathe! One day I decided to take a week and just check some of my old lifts. I didn’t really care about the outcome, just curious and strangely enough, everything went up, with the exception of my bench press, which stayed the same. Either way, I was hooked after this. Nine years later I’m still seeing progress. Steady, consistent progress.
please do not retreat into some dark corner of the gym, rocking back and forth, eating tamales and crying your eyes out.
My next statement might sting a little, but the only time I stopped seeing progress was when I attempted competitive programming. Two weeks in and my body shut down. Yes, I attempted this multiple times. Not being able to function properly is a problem in my progression and life for that matter. So, back to the ol’ reliable “regular class” and low and behold…results. Progress. Again, not to break anyone’s heart, competition programming is not for everyone. There are very few actually, who it is for. If you’re having problems progressing, it usually has nothing to do with volume. More than likely its mobility, nutrition, sleep, lifestyle, intensity, focus, etc…etc…
Finally, again, this is my opinion after a lot of experience and trial and error. I still see big numbers and fast times with “regular class” programming. If your goal is to go to regionals or the games and it is a realistic goal, then do it! I am not here to stand in your way. Hopefully, it improves you and answers some questions. My closing thoughts: Trust your coach. Trust your programming. Work hard. Eat good-ish. And have fun.
My Recipe for Success!