Met-Cons and Attendance
Earlier in the week, I noticed that Saturday was completely booked, so to accommodate everyone I opened up an extra time-slot. I immediately watched this time slot fill up, too. A total of twenty-four people, booked well in advance. When I posted the WOD for Saturday, I watched as that number went from twenty-four, to sixteen. Why? I can easily assume it was because the WOD was exclusively weight lifting. There was no conditioning. No chance to write an RX by your name. Let me say this, if you’re only CrossFitting so you can finish a workout in a puddle of sweat, barely breathing, then I’m sorry, but you may as well join a bootcamp. I have no problem being honest about it. As a CrossFit coach, with your interests at heart, I am obligated to. Often I watch people going through the motions on the strength work, barely making an effort just so they can get to the met-con. This lack of enthusiasm towards strength is concerning enough that I feel the need to address it in public.
“People often make misguided assumptions about CrossFit workouts based on what grabs their attention on paper. “Tough workouts”, “elite athletic training” and “high intensity” translates as high repetitions, endless rounds, a grab bag of exercises (often seemingly chosen at random), or some combination of the above. And there’s a trend, especially among those new to CrossFit and inexperienced with programming, to ride that met-con train all the way to Cortisol Crazytown.
I’m here to caution you… beware the lure of the Sexy Met-Con.”
Quality > Quantity
Movements like squats, presses and deadlifts are programmed with low repetitions for a reason. To teach quality movement and increase strength. As a beginner CrossFitter, it’s probably a little discouraging to watch people like Dave, Zack or Carrie working out because they make everything look easy. It looks easy because they spend the time working on their lifts until they have them dialled in. When quality of movement is demonstrated, they’re able to increase the intensity and as a result become stronger and fitter. What benefit do you hope to obtain from doing shallow squats, scared-cat deadlifts, and sloppy presses? First of all, you won’t be getting stronger or fitter. You won’t be adding any weight to the bar and without that, you won’t be seeing much in terms of results. Intensity is directly related to results. How many people have you seen achieve elite fitness from a bootcamp? I’m willing to bet the answer is zero. You can only get so far in a bootcamp and then results are halted by a lack of intensity. If you’re a bootcamp instructor please don’t get upset, I said ELITE fitness. Bootcamps are a great place to start, but they are not forging elite fitness.
Overtraining and Injury
Secondly, skipping strength and technique work for the met-con introduces another issue. INJURY. These functional exercises like squats and deadlifts are programmed in met-cons because when performed proficently, at high intensity, they provide a training response comparable to nothing else. However, when they are performed poorly, they pose a risk of injury. If I’ve ever removed weight from your bar, it’s for your own good. Don’t be upset. Seriously, getting an RX by your name is cool, but not if your workout was painful to watch and took ten minutes longer than everyone else.
Further to this, I have seen some fresh-faced athletes, super stoked on CrossFit, coming in and doing over a week straight of CrossFit. NO. If you’re hoping to improve at all, you need something called rest. When you rest, you allow your body to recover from the hell you just put it through. When it recovers, it adapts and becomes stronger. If you’re constantly pushing your poor body into the pain cave, it has no chance to even try to recover and the only thing you’re going to get for all your hard work is pain and disappointment. Don’t believe me? Ask your buddy cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone released in stressful situations that in small amounts helps improve memory, improve immune function and lowers our sensitivity to pain. However, when the stress is chronic (aka when you train a million times per week) you can expect really cool things like increased blood pressure, increased blood glucose, breakdown of protein in muscles, decreased effectiveness of the immune system, abdominal fat gain, messed up hormones, decreased insulin sensitivity and the list goes on. If you want a good example of what cortisol does to a human, look at the bodies of high level marathoners. No one ever looked at a marathoner and said they want to look like that. I have love for those athletes, but I’m not afraid to call a spade a spade.
Please. Take a day off. Go eat a big steak and relax. Trust me, it’ll do more for you than an extra workout.
One Rep Max?
The other thing that I find frustrating is the constant disregard for programming to chase one rep maxes. Yes, setting a PR is fun and exciting and it’s cool to write your name on the big white board, but let’s get something straight, you don’t get stronger by constantly doing 1RM’s. Especially when your technique is brutal. Sets of 3′s and 5′s with consistent technique is where strong people are made. A one rep max attempt is extremely taxing on your nervous system. Going after them several times a week every month is a good way to get nowhere. Again, put your ego aside and understand that in the long run, adherence to programming will be what makes the difference. Not that big PR with crappy form.
Learn the movements. Listen when they’re being explained. Get strong. Take days off. If you’re at all offended or upset by this post I have only tough love for you. If you have any questions about this, please ask them.