The Curious Case of CrossFit

Lets start with a two part explanation or reasoning behind this post. What is the Definition of CrossFit, and a tale of Value to all of our new friends and a subtle reminder to the old. With the meteoric growth of Paradigm, its probably important to revisit some of the old mantras and manifestos of Paradigm and CrossFit. 

What is CrossFit? Succinctly put; constantly varied, functional movements performed at high intensity. Its that last part, high intensity that is bar none the most important variable in the pursuit of fitness, and why we have so much more success here, than the millions in Globo-Gyms checking their phones between sets in the expanse of mirrors as wide as the ocean. 

What is Intensity? Oooh this is a complex one; because what intensity isn't is just laying on the floor writhing in pain post workout. Although that is certainly one part of it, but not the most necessary all the time. Other times it can be just near maximal lifts, and only lifts. Other times it can be max effort sprints that blister your soul, or longer than life distances. Its basically anything that challenges your existence. That seemingly simple summation is ever complex in practice though. It appears despite its elegance and necessity, the human mind offers the most resistance to this notion. First and foremost we are efficiency systems, so energy preservation is part of our DNA, second were natural cynics. Something that likely kept us alive in the presence of things like sabertooth tigers and innocent looking fruits. 

Why are we talking about this? Simply put a reminder. We need to make sure we have the capacity to apply maximum intensity or potential to the task asked of us. In this instance we are talking about the workout of the day, or more complex the intended stimulus of the day. Were naturally inclined to assume that if a+b=c, the d+e+f surely means more. This is the curious case of CrossFit, and how less is in every aspect more. 

To dive a bit deeper the human body, or metabolic energy systems largely only have 3 phases directly responsible for genetic and athletic adaptation. ATP, Glycolitic, Oxidative or also called phosphagenic, anaerobic, and aerobic. Regardless the nomenclature they are better defined as Power, Speed, Duration. ATP will get you anything under :10 give or take, and is largely linked to heavy days and lifts. Anaerobic are those gnarly couplets, triplets, or sprints that are under 10:00 give or take and the misery systems assigned matter very little compared to the effort. The last is the grinders around 20:00+ long runs, long workouts, etc. The balance of these three is monumental in the development of fitness, and when targeting these in a day, this stimulus must be maintained. Or else you basically dilute the whole thing. For example 10x200m sprints is terrible, but seemingly quite basic. Perhaps you're inclined to think, "but bro, I need to lift its boat season". Thats not how any of this works. 

For you to achieve the adaptation to the sprints and the anaerobic suck fest that they are, max intensity must be applied. Meaning an expenditure pre intensity will limit that capacity. Like for example you chose to bench or lift. You would drain yourself of valuable gycolitic stores that would be called on to achieve the misery of 10x200m. So now you're thinking, cool. Gonna just hit the bench after the sprints? Nope. Because you probably guessed it. The sprints sapped your glycogen as well. Now you're on the bench working with 6th grade levels of potential. Not a good look. This is why there is a very delicate balance of all that we do here. From the workouts designed, to the class plans and warmups, and the skill work. Also the frequency in which you train (3on 1off) and how you eat (Meats, veg, nuts seed, some fruit, little starch, no sugar etc). That list goes on. The hard part here is the space between your ears, and your trust issues. 

This could or should go a bit further to explain that until you have maximized each of these independent energy systems, you cannot maximize one of them. Slightly confusing for sure. It really just means that every day, week, month and year we must maintain a balance of these three to truly maximize genetic potential. Its why people who only love to lift heavy never look lean, those who log marathon distances never look strong. The people who only do HIIT always look like a semi strong non lean confused human. Balance is key. Lift heavy, sprint, train gymnastics and do so in an ever changing arrangement of time, reps, and sets. You will live longer, guaranteed.

Now there is a case to account or allow for added work, like bench, squat, working your weakness, extra workouts blah blah. Maybe your goals are the games, or maybe you're confused how games athletes look like X, and how they do so much more than you think you do? The answer is they don't. Not in a single session at least. A games athlete is nothing more than a recovery athlete. Their ability to recover is what dictates their success. What takes you several days to recover from takes them hours, some times minutes. Defeating I know. How you're likely asking did they get there then, because it sure must mean doing more. Short answer they got their by prioritizing recovery, not volume. They put nutrition first, rest second, training third. Training for them is defined as intensity at all costs. 

Theoretical Hierarchy of Development

Theoretical Hierarchy of Development

You must address nutrition first. Once you have that dialed in (which we can help, we even color code it..) Then we can worry about Metcons aka busting your ass in the WOD. When you are good at that, address Gymnastics and I don't mean just muscle ups, Im talking improving human movement. After that learn to use that movement to apply force to an external object aka a barbell, or Ball. Then and only then apply this to the sport of your choice, perhaps even if this sport is going to be the sport of CrossFit. 

Many of you are on that path and thats awesome. So perhaps your goals are more, and thats cool too. Start with the workout of the day, whatever it is that day. The workout you don't want to do is the one you need to do most. Then recover! Want to lift or do more? Great go eat, rest and come back no earlier than 3-5hrs or you risk undoing the advantage of one or both training sessions. Once you get good at this, you can start decreasing that window of rest, or increasing the volume in the work window. However until you're RX'ing every workout, meaning the weights, the movement, and the intended time domain, anything else will limit your application of intensity. Once you're acing workouts, then we can discuss the professional training program, until then.... We got work to do, and its always going to be the workout you don't want to do. Own that first.