Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Not a Gimmick

I was asked recently by a non-crossfitting friend (yes, they exist in theory) what I thought were the reasons for Crossfit's popularity and success. My response was immediate. I said, "Because, it's not a gimmick. Front-Squatting and Running isn't a gimmick."

And it's not. Marrying together Olympic sports is a hard stinking workout, and one without a ceiling or top-end.

Last night, we had nine racks simultaneously in use by teams of three. Beginners were working out next to advanced athlete and both were working at their available capacities.

A couple of nights ago, I was talking about the "not a gimmick" conversation with my good friend and pro-couch surfer Johnny Welborn. His response? "I've been training hard since high school. Add college football to ten seasons playing in the NFL and that's a lot of time. Lifting weights and running always kicks my ass. Always. That's why this stuff works, and why it always will."

Gymnastics? Not a gimmick. Check.
Olympic Weight-Lifting? Not a gimmick. Check.
Barbell Training? Not a gimmick. Check.
Running and rowing? Not a gimmick. Check.

All these elements mixed together? Gut Check.

Coach K-so-much-room-to-get-better-Star

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Sometimes, You Just Gotta Do It

Recently at SFCF, we performed some rough calculations and estimated that we have administered over forty thousand workouts. It’s true and a little staggering. And, buried within this considerable volume of athletic coaching, are certain patterns and predispositions of our athletes. For example, we rarely have to tell women that the weight they are using to back squat is too heavy, and that is why they aren’t breaking parallel (the opposite is quite true of men). Another one, and the topic of this post, is that we rarely see our athletes choose to slow way down (finish last-ish) and commit to actually finishing a skill or movement when they can keep their speed up by substituting or scaling. For example, we will often have clients that can perform all the pull ups in a workout like Fran, as singles, but will move to some variation of jumping or band assisted pull ups if given the chance. Yeah, yeah, I know, you’ve got to “ scale too” to increase work capacity, etc, etc… And it’s true, it is completely appropriate to work at relatively scaled loads to manage overall higher average work outputs over time. But it is also true that sometimes you’ve got to go full dose, and as slow as it takes to get the job done. I mean, forty-five deadlift singles at 225 is a daunting task for a beginner and made worse by the psychology of going SLOW. This however is where real capacity is gained.

As an experiment, take a look on the main crossfit site at the next time a workout like Isabelle turns up (Powersnatch 135 x 30). You will literally see people posting sub 4 minute times with a piece of PVC or the bar. Dewd. Seriously. There is no linear progression for scaling workout that don’t come around very often. And this is not an insignificant point. There are so many things to work on in Crossfit (like several Olympic sports for example) that it is hard to go light and fast one time, planning to go slow and prescribed next time, IF the next time you see that given exposure is several months later. What actually happens is that people NEVER opt for heavy and slow. When we “score” workouts at SFCF for example, we count unmodified and slow, higher than light and very fast. And so should you.
You are never going to go fast at a workout that involves forty-five handstand pushups unless you can actually PERFORM forty-five hand-stand pushups.
Remember, you can always manipulate rep-schemes to fit your fitness/capacity levels and still perform all the work of a given wod. Instead of 21-15-9 for example, how about nine sets of five? Or, god forbid, fifteen sets of three! Clearly it’s tough to do this with deadlifts if you can’t actually pick up the weight, or cleans etc, but there are movements that you can do like the negative portion of the handstand pushup.

At some point, you’ve got to bear down and actually attempt to complete the work.
It’s ok if you have to go slow. Your ego will survive the experience.

Coach Kelly