Friday, May 29, 2009


Much discussion is given about the best way to 'game' certain workouts. With the rise in popularity of events such as the CrossFit Games (and the popularity of CrossFit in general), many people seem to be equating 'best workout' with 'best strategy for a particular workout', instead of best effort put forth on a particular workout.

Let's look at a very basic example, the CF workout 'Helen', which is done for total time:

400m Run
21 Kettlebell Swings
12 Pullups
Repeat 3x

If competition was important to me and I absolutely had to beat Kelly and Angel (it's an ego thing...), I would be reluctant to go too hard on the running as I am a total hack runner. By dogging it on the run, I'll remain relatively fresh for the things I'm already good at, most likely resulting in a lower overall time. This is great if my goal is to beat Kelly and Angel. This is not so great if my goal includes not being lame at things I'm already lame enough at.

Now, knowing that I am a hack runner, what physical improvements to my running do I receive from being a big baby on the run (Hint: lower total time/better score does not always equal direct physical benefit)? How do I expect to become better at running hard and recovering if I never subject myself to that at the very time I should Training!

And there lies a bit of a disconnect in many people's training. The gaming of workouts has become standard practice for many of us despite the fact that we have no desire to be 'Best CFer On Earth'. Instead, the focus should be 'How can I bring my weak points up?'. The answer is to put forth the best effort possible on the things you are not good at, even if it means you blow up later on. That's what practice is for. Does it really matter if you struggle in training? Will your world end if you don't finish first, but you really give it your all on something that is difficult for you? My guess is that you will find the final product to be much more capable and complete if the stopwatch or scorecard is not your only reference while training.

Personally, I find that when I start worrying too much about the number on the timer for too many workouts, I train myself out of the ability to put forth a truly max effort: My body (and mind) has been conditioned to hold back for fear of what's next. The timer hides my quality of effort on the things I am reluctant to push. Lately some 'quality of effort' workouts have been turning this tide around. These workouts all include plenty of rest between efforts and each effort is the best I can put forth in that moment. Things like:

-How far can I carry/drag/push that thing?
-How far up the hill at Buena Vista park can I sprint (not run) before I have to stop?
-How many reps can I get (think back squats etc) before I have to rack the bar?
-How many pushups can I make Angel do with a 100lb Sandbag on his back (answer: a lot)

Now, if competition is your thing and gameday is looming, obviously you do what you need to do inside the rules of competition to maximize your showing. I'm not suggesting that anyone who is gaming or strategizing a workout is not putting forth a good effort, but don't let this mindset invade every aspect of your training. There is a reason that high level athletes of all stripe do not care about winning at every single practice or training camp. They are too busy trying to get better.

The stopwatch is a useful tool, but it is also blind to the quality of the individual effort.

-Adrian 'Faster-Isn't-Always-Better' Bozman


dave said...

another great post. i check here all the time hoping for posts like this and tuesday's. thanks for doing these!

Anonymous said...

I agree 100%
Although I suffer from the addiction of gaming every single workout. I tell myself it is being efficient. But alas I know I will take it way to easy on the row or run in order to make up time somewhere that hurts a lot less.
Time to change.

John Hill Gardner III said...

awesome post

Spencer said...

Great post Adrian - one of the best things I've read in a while

Spencer (in Dallas)

Person said...

I disagree that this is a good post. Faster is *always* better, even if at the expense of form, friends, or family.

; P


Tom Woodward said...

Great post Boz. I really like the idea of doing single mode efforts with some rest in between. Makes you go balls out on every rep. Especially when it's a head to head comp.

meg said...

ross. either comment more often or come back to sfcf.

Steven said...

Great post Adrian. Subtle attitude tweak and it changes the whole game. I'd forgotten the fact that the daily training session is for development and discovery not necessarily setting a pr or "managing" the effort. Thanks for smacking me in the forehead again!

MattSolomon said...

Great post. I love this blog.

Those pics of heavy drags while holding DBs are bad ass. CFSF seems like one the most unique, random and amazing affiliates....

Person said...

Aw thanks Meg! I'm workin on it. Give me about a year and a half.

Unknown said...

Boz, you rock! I love this post. Hope you are well brother, Cheers
Matt (CrossFit Brisbane)

Grant said...

Nice work, Boz. You are beginning to deliver again, finally! I'm only kidding. But seriously.

Thanks for a great weekend. After being star struck for a few minutes I was able to glean a lot from you and the rest of the coaches.

I will keep using your performance and joke cues, even if the latter seldom work.

Grant (CrossFit Ktown)

Anonymous said...

Is that a homemade Prowler? That is sweet. Defranco has some great videos on Youtube of kids training near the edge of Pukie. Is there a way to get the specs? Thanks. Great Post
Greg Boyd

Anonymous said...

It pays to be a winner. Break out the man pants and game the workout.

jd said...

Reminds me of Georges Hebert, who "created ... le Methode Naturelle, with the ethos ...'Being strong to be useful'.... He had a rule: no competing, because he believed that when you try to beat the other guy, you are testing the other man’s weaknesses and not your own."

Margie said...

Eloquently put. Another underlying point here is that it's all a FUN experiment, and the appeal is as much about the game as it is about the sport. We were just reminding ourselves of this at CFSBK.

KLowe said...

Nice post. This specificaly rings true for fight gone bad. The posted scores of athletes specifically for this WOD really mean nothing to me. This is easily the most GAMED wod out there. People starting with Push press and ending with an easy row and a rest just to re-load for push press again. It is crap.

IMO FGB should be performed exactly in the order as rx'd and balls out on every exercise. Then show me how many 400+ scores there REALLY are.

-FGB rant off

Thanks for the post

KLowe (crossfit huntsville)

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Anonymous said...

agree 100%
Although I suffer from the addiction of gaming every single workout. I tell myself it is being efficient. But alas I know I will take it way to easy on the row or run in order to make up time somewhere that hurts a lot less.
Time to change.

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