“Why do I still suck?” It’s a common question. One that I’ve been answering for far too many years! Despite the negative connotation, there is a positive to the question if you’re asking it–you care about your progress.
I generally answer with another question: “But do you suck?”
Yes, training was really difficult and it almost feels like your first week of training, every week! Take a moment to reflect on where you’re at, though. Would you have been able to complete that week of training with that technique and intensity three months ago? No, even if you’ve already been training with us for five years.
You are fitter now than you were three months ago. That means you’re able to do more work for a given amount of time, and it sucks when you’re doing that. It’s uncomfortable and it hurts. You aren’t going backwards, you’re just able to push yourself more.
Our programming is also progressive by design. That means it gets progressively more challenging–more load, more reps, more technical. Just one year ago I couldn’t program strict pull-ups for the L1 (fitness-base) track of our programming. Now, I have to!
I won’t let you adapt to the stimulus. Everytime you feel like you’re starting to “get there,” I’ll hand you a simple rowing and sled workout that will have you on your ass in less than 5 minutes. And that’s when you might feel like you’re going backwards, or that you still suck. You aren’t, it’s harder because you’re fitter.
There’s also something really cool that’s driving your improvement. Greg Glassman, the founder of CrossFit, said that “the magic is in the movement.” He was referring to the movements we program. But I also think that the magic is in the people. The people are uplifting–they push you to be better.
So no, you don’t suck and you aren’t going backwards. Unless of course you’re eating shit, not sleeping, and scaling poorly in training.
This outlook requires a shift in mindset. Reflect on the good instead of focusing on what doesn’t feel so good. Be grateful for what you are able to do instead of focusing on what you ‘can’t’ do yet.
Okay I know I’ve had a lot of the “one thing to change” posts recently, but that should highlight that improving your nutrition isn’t difficult. It takes a several small, simple changes. This one really is easy.
READ. Read nutrition labels. Specifically the ingredients list and macronutrient profile.
If it has an ingredients list, it’s not natural or ‘organic.’ If you couldn’t grow it, it didn’t have eyes, ears, a nose and a mouth, or it didn’t come from something that had eyes, ears, a nose and a mouth, it’s not natural. If it has an ingredient list it was manufactured, by humans.
The items at the beginning of the ingredients list are the predominant ingredients. So if sugar comes first, the product is primarily made of sugar.
Just because it says ‘no sugar added’ doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have sugar. There are about 50 different ways to label sugar on foods:
Barley malt, beet syrup, buttered syrup, cane juice crystals, caramel, corn syrup, carob syrup, dextran, dextrose, diastatic malt, diatase, ethyl maltol, fructose, fruit juice, fruit juice concentrate, galactose, glucose, glucose solids, golden syrup, honey, high fructose corn syrup, lactose, maltodextrin, maltose, malt syrup, maple syrup, molasses, panocha, refiner’s syrup, rice syrup, sorbitol, sorghum syrup, sucrose, sugar, treacle…..
And read the label BEFORE you eat it. It pays to know what you’re putting in your mouth.
Consistency is key, right? You need to consistently eat well and train to get results. Consistency is defined as the quality of always doing something in a similar way–keeping the same. For example, training at least three times a week and only having two treat meals a week might be what you need to consistently do to get results. There’s a problem with consistency, though. It gets derailed easily.
Here is an example of great consistency getting derailed.
You’ve been having only two treat meals a week for a couple of months and are feeling great. Your body fat percentage is down and the headaches from too much sugar are even gone. And then you have a social event to attend, a Christmas party. So you ‘let your hair down’ and have a bender. A b.e.n.d.e.r! You feel sorry for yourself on the next day so you comfort yourself with more
drugsbad food. Monday comes and you haven’t prepared any food because of the weekend’s activities. You buy some “healthy” convenient snacks and meals, and that’s what you do for the rest of the week because you’ll only have time for shopping on the weekend.
You make it to the supermarket on the weekend, but by then the taste of
cocainesugar is back. You’re off the rails.
It might sound a bit dramatic, but it’s a scenario I’ve witnessed far too many times in my 15 years in this industry. Consistency gets you going. Persistence is what keeps you going.
Persistence is defined as continuing on the course of action in spite of difficulty. It’s getting right back on track after having a bender, and after all the setbacks and detours that life will throw at you.
Our definition of fitness is increased work capacity across many activity types and durations through life. Lifelong health and fitness. So you are able to go snowboarding in your 70s, play sports with your grandchildren, and get yourself out of bed until the day you die.
A few six week challenges or one year of good training isn’t enough to get you there. Persistently working on your health and fitness–your nutrition, training, recovery and lifestyle habits–will.
The purpose of strength training is to enhance your ability to apply productive force. Whereas metabolic conditioning (metcon) improves endurance and stamina–your ability to gather, process, deliver and utilise oxygen and energy. Strength, endurance and stamina are all important pieces of fitness with each skill requiring unique training methods. Hoping to achieve the benefits of one skill through training in another skill is like eating an apple but expecting it to taste like an orange.
This is often seen in metcons that include weightlifting movements. You want to get stronger so you opt for the prescribed load because you understand that to get stronger you need to be able to move heavier loads. You know that you can manage the heavier load too. And you do manage it–you get through some rounds and reps, but because the load was relatively too heavy for the metcon, you either didn’t complete a decent amount of reps or came well short of the time cap.
You ate an apple hoping for it to taste like an orange. But you got neither apple nor orange.
Metcons improve your endurance and stamina. That’s precisely what they are programmed for, even if they include weightlifting movements. That is why, depending on the goals of the workout, the guideline loads are relatively low to moderate–to enable you to get lots of work done in minimal time. When you opt for a load that is too heavy, you don’t get enough work done. You don’t improve your endurance and stamina. No apple.
Metcons do not make you stronger. They are not programmed to make you stronger. No orange.
Strength days are programmed to make you stronger. So on strength days, go as heavy as form permits. Even risk failing a lift here and there because that’s part of the strength process. But go into a strength-based session with the go heavy mindset and with consistency and persistence you will get stronger.
In contrast, go into metcons with the hard and fast mindset–get as much done as you can in as little time as possible. That will improve your endurance and stamina.
There certainly is some carry over between training methods, but it’s indirect and minimal. Strength training gets you strong, metcons improve your endurance and stamina. Apples and oranges 😉
I’d like to interrupt the nutrition and lifestyle blogs for an update on the programming. I’ve been slack with giving you insights into the programming, so back to it at the start of new training blocks.
A quick review on the previous two training blocks first. The 12-week block that began in April had a strength focus. We managed that by keeping strength work to the the first piece of a session IF there were two pieces to that session. Everyone knows that the barbell is a strength development tool, but gymnastics also plays a massive role in strength development. We therefore performed a lot of strict gymnastics work for the L2 stream, and either static or eccentric work for the L1 streams.
The 13-week block that followed that (the most recent block) continued with a strength focus but with less overall volume to make way for better intensity.
Remember, a focus is NOT a bias, because a bias would require sacrificing other components of fitness. Our aim is a broad and inclusive fitness so although we focused on strength, we didn’t overlook conditioning work. And the great results we had in tests of stamina and endurance during Test Weeks proved that all components of fitness improved.
Here’s what you can expect over the current training block:
- Firstly, every time we do strength work it will continue to be max effort work. That means you’ll go to the heaviest load you can manage, for that day, and for that rep scheme. You’ll typically see “heavy single/double/triple” in the notes. The differences between a heavy single and a 1-RM, for example, is that on a 1-RM attempt you may end up failing a lift because you’re attempting a PB. Whereas on a heavy single there should be no misses because you aren’t maxing out. This develops confidence in the lift, which in turn develops strength, and stronger people are harder to kill.
- The strength movement will change on every max effort day. For example, a sumo deadlift today for lower body strength and a squat next time. This helps to prevent or break plateaus, and also give you more exposure to different strength work more often.
- There are always differences in the L1 and L2 streams here. L1 athletes will simply have more volume and relatively less load.
- Strict gymnastics movements will still be used for upper body strength development, but the L2 stream will have these movements in conditioning workouts too.
Endurance & Stamina Conditioning
- This will be the new focus. It doesn’t mean more conditioning workouts than previously, in fact, we’ll be doing less overall work because we want good intensity (power output) in metcons. But metcons will be the first piece IF there are two pieces in a workout. IF there are two pieces, the barbell strength work will come after the metcon.
- As always, there’ll be a good variety of low, medium and high rep workouts along with a good dose of long interval-based workouts.
- The Endurance Club is going to hit a running cycle. This will be interval-based training and it will include a lot of accessory-based metcons as part of the sessions. I’m also going to program a ‘Day 2’ for anyone who wants to do a second day of running in a week (this will be self directed, though).
- The amount of gymnastics work we’ve done in previous cycles remains largely the same but moves from being a part of the strength pieces to the metcons. There’ll be high volume gymnastics movements in metcons and they’ll often be combined with interfering movements.
- Gymnastics comes before weightlifting in the hierarchy of athletic development, so we’ll never sacrifice it.
- As noted above, instead of just strict gymnastics work you’ll be doing more gymnastics-based metcons in order to improve upper body endurance and stamina. Sometimes a gymnastics movement will be coupled with a weightlifting movement that will interfere with the working muscles. You may not feel the lungs work much on these, but you’ll feel a lot of local muscular fatigue. Aside from swimming and cross country skiing (like the ski-erg), this is the best way to improve the endurance of upper body musculature.
- On other days, gymnastics conditioning will be more skill-based. This is where you’ll learn the progressions for a new skill, improve a skill, or improve your capacity in a skill. As Greg Glassman says, a fitness program devoid of gymnastics practice and skills is deficient. This is also the sort of stuff you can’t do anywhere else. Even many CrossFit affiliates don’t have the space or resources for gymnastics skill work like rope climbs.
- For those who are able to perform the more technical gymnastics movements, we’ll be increasing technicality and growing your capacity in those movements.
- The Barbell Club will have a low volume on-the-minute style program to develop consistency under heavy loads. This format also develops your ability to complete technical movements under tight time restrictions and fatigue — that carries over in to every other aspect of fitness too.
- The UpSkill plan is there for anyone who needs individually tailored work. We have people working on gymnastics, weightlifting, strength, conditioning, and even rehab or basic skills like skipping. If you’d like more info on this plan, get in touch!
- A good CrossFit program should be injury prevention by design. However, I do still believe that there is room for accessory work. Such work is intended to keep you injury free by preventing any imbalances from developing while keeping the areas of most use (shoulders, midlines, knees) strong and stable. This work will be programmed on occasion to keep you healthy. You can either ass around while we do this, or you can care about your health and performance and apply yourself just as you do in metcons.
This 12-week block will take us right into the December holiday season and when we’re back in the new year we continue the conditioning focus to ensure that you’re all ready for the Open!
To remind you yet again, the big picture is to continue developing a broad fitness throughout life. We’re always working on all aspects of fitness.
Sometimes, you need a more tailored approach. That’s why we have Tayla, the Client Services Manager, to help you with goal setting, but more importantly to direct you to the best services we have to offer for YOUR goals. So if you’re feeling a bit stuck, get in touch!