Hello 816 friends! Now that the Open has wrapped up a few weeks ago and I’ve had some time to sort out my thoughts about it, I’d like to take this time to share with you a little bit about what I’m feeling and talk about some upcoming issues that many of you might deal with now that we’re all back in training mode. But first, I have to set a little bit of a disclaimer and warning. If I’ve coached any of you, you know I tend to be a little blunt with my thoughts, maybe even a little sarcastic at times, saying things like, “If you catch the bar like that, you will break your back,” or, “A perfect air squat makes the world a happier place.” So before I start, I just want to apologize if I come across as overly blunt, maybe to the point of being a little bit of a jerk. But the truth is, I just plan on being honest, and personally, I sometimes think that is the best and most important thing a coach can be.
Anyway, now that we have that out of the way, let’s jump right into my thoughts about the Open. For five weeks, each and every one of you took on difficult WODs that tested you physically, mentally, and emotionally. You got to tackle movements you’ve never done before and pushed yourself further than you’ve ever gone. Along the way, there were high points where you accomplished something you never thought was possible, whether it be getting your first muscle up, stringing your double unders together, or landing in a certain place on the leaderboard. However, every one of you experienced low points during Open as well. You might’ve struggled with your pull-ups, gased out on 15.5, or couldn’t get your feet above the line during handstand push-ups (trust me, I know the feeling). But through all these highs and lows, let me first tell you, well done. Congratulations. The Open workouts are no easy task to complete and to stay in it for five weeks is another story altogether, but you all did it! You were focused and determined and faced each workout like it could be your last. I was fortunate enough to get to witness almost everyone complete an Open workout and it was beyond inspiring to watch. You persevered through those five weeks and I know you all are better for it. Your hard work embodies what CrossFit 816 is all about and I know I can speak for all the coaches at 816 when I say that we are so proud of you and we are beyond blessed to have you all as athletes.
Now that the Open has come to a close though, you might find yourself asking, what’s next? While I love competing in the Open and seeing how I stack up against everyone else in the world, I also love using the Open as a way to measure my progress and see what movements I need to work on. I urge all of you to do this as well. Think back to those five weeks and ask yourself where you struggled, where you thrived, and what would you like to improve on in the future. Make a list if you have to. With that list, set goals for yourself, but be specific about them. Pull-ups are not a goal. What do you want to accomplish in regards to pull-ups? Some specific goals would be getting your first kipping pull-up, five strict pull-ups in a row, or stringing ten butterfly chest-to-bar pull-ups together. These goals are measureable and can be easily checked off a list when you accomplish them. Keep in mind, these goals don’t just have to be just movements either. Your goals could include losing ten pounds, shaving ten seconds off your Fran time, or staying ten minutes after class to mobilize. These would all be great goals! You can even add a time for when you’d like to achieve these goals. For example, lose ten pounds by May 31st or register in a competition by the end of the year. Then after you set these goals, work on them. Matt programs time to work on GOATs all the time or you can come into open gym. Working on something you’re not good at can definitely be frustrating, but if you dedicate the time and effort, you’ll slowly learn to get better. And here’s where I insert the cheesy line, remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day.
So, all this extra work you all might be doing to reach your goals leads me to my next subject, which is my main point, so if you’ve just been scanning over this post so far, READ THIS!! And at that, don’t just read, relate to it. Ask yourself, “Am I doing this?” because I know I can say I was definitely guilty of this for a solid six months. So let’s set the stage for a quick second. You’ve looked back on the Open, you’ve made your list of weaknesses, your goals are set, and you’re determine to knock goals down like bowling pins just as soon as you can! In fact, I could probably use myself as a real life example. Last year, I completed my first Open and did decent, but I had some major flaws in my game. I couldn’t get a muscle up when fatigued, I could hardly string 15 double unders together, and don’t even get me started on my chest-to-bar pull-ups. So the Open finished, and like I said, I did decent but I was hungry for more. So before I knew it, I threw myself headfirst into my trainingx spending every free minute I had at the gym working on something. I started going to the morning class and the evening class and even joined an Olympic lifting team to get stronger. Before I knew it, I was spending three hours a day at the gym and taking a rest day maybe once every two weeks. I did everything from the class WOD, to the competitor’s training programming by Bergeron, to my own programming, and then the programming from the Olympic lifting coach. As I’m writing all this, I can’t help but laugh at myself. People had always told me I spent a lot of time at the gym and I needed to rest more but hey, I was 20 years old and was too stubborn for my own good. Not to mention I had all these weakness that I needed to get better on so I had to work on them as much as possible. However, I felt like my progress would improve slightly and then stall and then next thing I knew I was taking two steps back. I was frustrated and confused and did the only logical thing I could think of and spent even more time in the gym. So why wasn’t I getting better when I’ve spent months and months working on my weaknesses? Why might you find yourself not improving at the rate you want to, even though you’ve been coming in on extra time, or find yourself doing an extra workout a couple times a week? Well, my good people, this is because of intensity, or lack thereof.
Intensity. You might’ve heard this term thrown out during a workout a couple times here and there but do you actually know what it means and what constitutes a workout as being intense or not? Did you actually know that there are factors that determine intensity? Without boring you all or confusing you, intensity is our power output during the workout. The higher the intensity, the higher the power output. The more we lift and the faster we move- these are the biggest factor that attribute to higher intensity. For example, a 1RM deadlift is very intense. A 2:15 Fran time is crazy intense. But a 20 or 30 minute AMRAP? Well, not so intense. Now before I go on, I’m not saying 20 or 30 minute AMRAPs are bad! They have a perfect place in CrossFit. But the intense workouts are your money-makers. The high intense workouts are where we see our results. It’s during those workouts that we turn into fat-burning, muscle-making, sexy beasts! During the longer workouts you find yourself at a lower power output for a longer duration, and like I said, it’s important to hit those long WODs once in a while, but it’s your heavy lifting and shorter WODs that will lead to you getting stronger, getting fitter, building muscle, and losing that fat. These heavy lifts and shorter WODs will also translate better over to your activities outside of CrossFit. It’s why you see athletes using CrossFit to supplement their training. With CrossFit, triathletes can bike and run faster, basketball players can jump higher, and even your everyday, average adult lives a better quality of life simply because they can move easier.
Alright, now that we’ve had our brief lesson in intensity, let me tie it into my little story and how you can also benefit from this. So to recap, I was training over three hours a day and making very small progress with my weaknesses. This was happening because of my lack of intensity. Every day I was lifting, working on skills, hitting two workouts a day and sometimes more, and Olympic lifting. But while I was doing all this, I could never give 100% of my effort to any of it. The workouts were always hard and I was always out of breath, but not because I was hitting that high intensity that we talked about. It was because I was exhausted. I was doing too much. Even during my lifts, when I felt like they were heavy, it was only because I was too tired, not because I was nearing a difficult weight. This was the big mistake- too many workouts, not enough intensity. It was plain and simple. Back then I didn’t know that though. It probably took me until the beginning of this year to finally figure that out. I changed my workouts to be 5 times a week, with a recovery day and a rest day to complete it. I rarely workout twice a day anymore. While I still might hit two WODs in a session, my WODs are generally shorter, probably the majority being ten minutes or less, and I’m rarely in the gym for more than two hours. I lift heavy and Olympic lift several times a week, but not every day like I used to. However, when I do workout, I give everything I have into them and perform at the appropriate intensity. And changing all of this has been a hard concept for me to grasp. It still is. I still get nervous that I’m not spending enough time on this movement or this lift or I’m doing this all wrong. And who knows, maybe sometimes I am. But recently, I’ve noticed tremendous improvements in all areas of my training, which I why I wanted to share all of this with you. I did well in this past Open, which was a very gymnastics-dominated Open, an Open I would’ve crashed and burned on in the previous year. I’ve been hitting PRs on my lifts, recently achieving a bodyweight snatch, something I didn’t think would happen anytime soon, as I’ve maybe snatched once a week for the past four months. This now leads me to you guys. I want you all to realize that more is not always better, and I want you to realize this sooner, not months later like it took me. Take a step back and look at how you train. Do you just do the class WODs programmed for the day? Do you add in extra work? Are you finding yourself adding in more workouts to your day, but still feel like you really aren’t getting any better? Now look at your intense factor of your workouts. If you can go through your past workouts and say with 100% confidence that there’s absolutely no possible way you could’ve went faster or lifting more or done more during your workouts, then you’re in a good spot. Your intensity is where it should be. However, if you think you might’ve gone a too slow during a workout and spent a good chunk of time standing around, you’re probably lacking the intensity a little bit. If that’s the case, why do more? Why not just focus on upping your intensity and moving a little faster? I know it’s hard to put yourself in a position of discomfort and it can be difficult to reach a level of high intensity, but you would be surprised what you can do when you’re working towards a goal. For the majority of CrossFitters, this is what they need to do, not just add more volume for the sake of working out more. Embrace those shorter workouts and give it all you have until you’re on the floor gasping for breath. Then, and only then, will you get the most out of CrossFit.
Now to wrap this bad boy up, I want to leave you with a few thoughts. You all are amazing athletes. You show up, day in and day out, and work toward achieving the goal of living a healthier life. You’ve made that first step that millions of people won’t and for that you all are incredibly brave and awesome and I applaud you. Most of you took on the Open with a smile on your face and challenged yourself in ways that are out of this world and for that you should be proud. Now take this experience and learn from it. Use it to get better, but also use it to get smarter. Be smart with your training and know that more does not equal better. Fear those shorter workouts, knowing that means you just need to move faster. If you do it right, a 5 minute AMRAP will be enough. Don’t waste your precious time being counterproductive by coming into the gym to go through the motions of multiple workouts. Make the most out of that time, and then go home to what really matters- your spouse, your children, your friends, your life, and know that you’ve done everything you can to make yourself fitter and stronger. My freshman year of college, my nutrition teacher said something that has stuck with me since and I’d like to end this post with it and maybe it’ll impact you like it has me. She said, “In our society, most people will live until they’re 65. However, it’s how they live their life in their 20’s and 30’s that determine what type of well-being they have at 65. Take care of yourself now and you’ll be running around with your grandchildren. Abuse your body though, and you’ll be in a wheelchair with an oxygen tank wondering if you’ll make it to see your grandchildren grow up.”