In the beginning, CrossFit was fairly simple. Simply show up, do the work and see the results. The mere factor of walking half-heartedly through the door on a Friday evening only to lace up your nanos and put in even a minimal effort would bring about results. You probably PR’d at least once a week in some area or another and the mere completion of a workout was an achievement in itself. Fast forward 6-12 months and the results have started to slow. PR’s have become more spread out and less frequent. Just “showing up” for class has no longer become enough.
So what do you do? When the honeymoon phase ends it’s easy to burn out and just call it quits. It’s easy to become frustrated with yourself and your program and often ends in jumping between programs and coaches in an endless fruitless quest for results and completing several hours of training, because “more is better” right?
Unfortunately no. In fact, the entire principle of CrossFit is based upon the exact opposite of this “more is better” theory. Coined by Coach Glassman as the “secret no one wants to hear,” the idea that the best and most successful athletes in the world are minimalists rails against every single athletic principle most of us were brought up on. The idea of spending hours in the gym in a “Rockyesque” fashion to gain the results we crave is turned on its head by this principle of minimalist training. But it’s not that simple. While the idea of minimalist training can be appealing at first glance, don’t unlace your OLY shoes and head out to the bar just yet. The results of minimalist training do not simply come from cutting your gym time in half, but rather taking that time you spend in the gym (maybe 1-2 hours per day) and making it purposeful. That is to say, you need to WOD with a purpose.
WODDING with a purpose is the art of taking each workout that you do, and establishing a purpose and a goal for yourself before you even walk through the door of the gym. The goal and the purpose you set can be different for each workout. For example’s sake, let’s take this workout:
- 5 Rounds For Time
- 5 Clean and Jerks (135/95)
- 10 Pull-Ups
- 15 Kettlebell Swings (53/35)
- 20 Box Jumps (24/20)
If we took this workout and performed it as written with maximum intensity as crossfit prescribes, we know that 135 pounds for men and 95 pounds for women is a fairly moderate weight, and athletes performing this workout should be performing them unbroken.Same goes for the pull-ups, as well as the kettlebell swings and box jumps. As written, this workout is meant to be a fast moving and intense complex of movements. But let’s take a step back and look at this workout for a minute. What else could we do with this workout. If we subbed out the 135/95 pound clean and jerks for something a little (or a lot heavier), we might be able to change the workout into one focused around some heavy clean and jerks with some conditioning and gymnastics thrown in to make those later sets all that much more difficult. By bumping the weight up, you might be able to focus on your ability to perform weights at high percentages of your one rep max under the stress of a workout. What else could we change about this workout? Perhaps if we changed the height of the box jumps to something a little higher, we could change the purpose of the workout to focus around the explosive nature of box jumps, rather than simply rebounding the height you know you could jump in your sleep. Finally, you could simply perform this workout as written with the most intensity you can possibly muster. Pick a “rabbit” in your class or choose a goal time or score, chase it with every ounce of passion in your heart and don’t settle for less than your best. Even if that means scaling the weight on the clean and jerks or decreasing your box height so you don’t ever lose intensity. You should have nothing left to give once the clock runs out and the final rep is complete.
So how do you know what to do everyday?
It will vary from person to person. Generally, if you are following your affiliate’s daily workout, your coach should be outlining the purpose of everyday’s workout. Some days it might be endurance and some days it might be getting comfortable under some heavy weight. If your coach outlines this for you, listen to them. If they say that your clean and jerks or your snatches should be light or touch and go, generally a weight that’s 90% of your one rep max is not going to allow you to complete the workout with the intended purpose even if you complete it Rx. If your coach doesn’t do this for you, then you need to consider your goals when selecting the purpose of each workout. Ask yourself honestly, “What do I need to work on?” Is it double unders? If so, then workouts with double unders should be your time to really concentrate and focus the workout around completing your double unders as fast and unbroken as possible. Same thing applies to people who need to work on t getting comfortable with heavy weights or who struggle with pull-ups. Pick 2-3 workouts a week that will focus on improving these skills and weaknesses. The remaining 2-3 workouts in your week should be devoted to developing intensity (if you struggle with intensity, then err on the side of more workouts a week devoted to intensity), which means that you will be setting yourself up in the best way possible to devote yourself to complete the workout with every ounce of your body.
This is not something that you can achieve simply by walking in the door every day and simply going through the motions. If you want to see results, then you need to set out a purpose for each and every one of your workouts and fulfill that purpose even if it means perhaps not getting to write that glorified Rx on the board next to your name. Instead of investing your focus into the numbers on the whiteboard that will be erased with the close of each day, invest your focus in the results that will stay with you for a lifetime.
Kaylyn Wiese has been CrossFitting of more than five years and has been competing against athletes from across the country since age 16. She currently coaches and trains in Boston at CrossFit Coolidge Corner and is a sophomore at Boston College studying business and data analytics. Find her on Instagram @kaylynwiese and Twitter @kaylyn_wiese.