Coaches' Blog

  • Are You Cherrypicking?

    By Matthew Mitchell

    with Pete Hitzeman

    Abby doing an overhead squat

    You aren't helping yourself get better by avoiding hard workouts. (Athlete: Abby Lemon | Photo: Pete Hitzeman)

    As a coach, it’s a funny feeling sometimes posting the WOD for the next day. As your mouse hovers over the Submit button, you wonder if anybody will show up for the beatdown you’re about to post.

    Then again, the best athletes in the gym know that what’s posted on the WOD blog isn’t necessarily what they’ll be doing. If it’s Open Workout 14.5, for example, not everybody is going to be doing 84 thrusters at 95/65lb. In fact, about 75% of you will have that workout scaled in one way or another, with the result that most people who walk in and chalk up will be doing a customized workout. We might reduce the reps or the weight, or substitute a movement to accommodate a lingering injury. We might institute a time cap. We make all of these decisions based on your needs as an athlete.

    Some workouts are going to be harder than others. That’s intentional. If you are “strategically selecting your rest days” to avoid those tough days, you aren’t helping yourself. The tough days are put in the programming on purpose, to give you the opportunity to challenge yourself and grow as an athlete. If you’re only doing the things that are easy and fun, you can’t really complain when you stop making progress.

    It is okay to fear the grind. Everybody in the gym gets nervous as the clock ticks down to start a big workout, including your coaches! But once you start moving, it’s business as usual. You’ll get the work done. And when it’s done, you’ll have a bigger sense of accomplishment than you get from cherry-picking all the workouts that sound fun to you.

    So the next time you’re checking the WOD blog before bed, and catch yourself thinking, “That looks awful! I’m kinda sore, and I could probably use a rest day anyway, and I’ll go extra hard next time..”

    Suck it up, buttercup. The tough days in the gym, and the movements that are hard for you, are exactly the things that are going to make you better. It’s not a coincidence that the people who show up for the tough days are the ones making progress in leaps and bounds.

    And besides, 3 minutes after the workout is over, you will be so happy you came in, and didn’t talk yourself out of the chance to tackle a tough day in the gym.

  • Taper Week: The Do's and Don'ts

    By Pete Hitzeman 

    For those about to Pig, we salute you!

    The weeks and months of preparation have all come down to this. All the dozens of training runs and lifting sessions, the aching muscles, the early morning wake-ups, all have been endured to be ready for this single event.

    It's time for the big race, and you couldn't be more excited!

    But now is not the time to lose focus. A lot of newer athletes and racers make critical mistakes in the days leading up to their event that can undo so much of the hard work they have put in during training. Doing taper week right can make the difference between a great day at the races, and a miserable survival slog.

    So here's a list of pitfalls to avoid and strategies to try that will get you to the starting line primed and ready to rock.

    Taper Means Taper!

    Resist the urge to cram in a few last-minute runs and workouts. Even if you had some hiccups in your training schedule that kept you from getting in all the long runs you wanted, it's too late now. Trying for one last long run to shore up your endurance or one last tempo run to bolster your pace won't do you any good.

    It can take up to two weeks for the positive effects of those runs to be realized by your body, through appropriate rest and recovery. That means that you won't be in any better shape for having squeezed in that last-second training, and there's every chance that you'll be under-recovered and over-fatigued come race day.

    Now is Not the Time to Try Anything New

    By all means, shop the deals available at the event expo, and support the vendors that support the sport. But on race morning, stick with what's tried and true. No new shoes (blisters), new socks (same), or new nutrition products from your goodie bag (upset stomach). As cool as it is, don't race in the event t-shirt (chafing!). Think back through your longer training runs and which ones went well. Do whatever you did for those runs, right down to what pair of shorts you wore.

    Scored a sweet deal on some new shoes at the expo? Great! Wear them the week after the race.

    The same rule applies to your pre-race meal. Skip the huge pasta dinners and the "carb loading." Your body has been replenishing its energy stores all through your tapering phase, if you've been doing it right. The night before a big race is not the time to try that new Thai Fusion restaurant. If you can, have a normal dinner at home, with maybe a little extra salt on your sweet potato. If you're staying out of town, look for a local restaurant (or better yet, a grocery store) that serves things similar to what you typically ate through training. It's been working for months; it'll work for you now.

    One kind of "loading" you do need to pay attention to is hydration. The last few days before your race, make sure you're drinking plenty of water and electrolytes. This will help the recovery that's happening during taper week, and ensure you don't arrive at the start line in a dehydrated state.

    Speaking of Nutrition...

    You don't need to fast the morning of the race, but don't overeat, either. Training in a fasted state is an effective way to induce your body to utilize fat as an energy source and improve your body composition. But race morning is the time to play your trump card, and give your body some natural sugar to readily burn as the miles wear on.

    My race morning routine includes a cup of coffee, a banana, a couple eggs, and maybe a Clif bar to keep myself from feeling hungry during the race. The earlier the race starts, the more I may eliminate from that lineup. For instance, if I have to be up before 5am (because race directors are not nice people), I'll probably skip the eggs.

    What to Wear?

    As mentioned above, race morning is not the time to try any new attire. Wear shorts, a shirt or jersey, socks and shoes that you have already tested in your training, and haven't caused you any problems over longer distances. Blisters and sensitive body parts getting chafed can turn a nice day into an extended nightmare.

    Keep an eye on the weather as the race approaches, but don't overdress! You'll only need rain gear if it's truly pouring, and you'll get plenty warm enough in shorts and a t-shirt if it's anything above 50°F. I've run races in the low 40s in just shorts and a tank top, and while the first mile or so was uncomfortable, I was more than happy later in the race as some of my competitors were red-faced and sweating buckets.

    If you're concerned at being too cold at the start, try hitting up your local thrift shop! For about five bucks, you can get a set of warm-ups that you can wear to the start, and then toss along the side of the course as you get warm.

    The Race Morning Routine

    Plan to have all of your food down by 90 minutes before your start time. Reduce your fluid intake to just the occasional sip with about 45 minutes to go. The last thing you want is an upset, sloshy stomach as you storm off at the start, or to have to stop and pee three times in the first five miles.

    Don't forget to get warm and get loose! It seems like you'll have plenty of time to do both in a longer race, but the fact is that running uses a very limited range of motion, and isn't great at priming your body for the effort of those long miles at the end.

    With about 30 minutes left until the gun goes off, it's time to start getting warm. This is also a good time to ditch/stash your extra clothes (you'll only be cold for a minute!) and hit the porta-johns for the last time.

    Start by jogging easily for 5 minutes to get your heart started and your blood flowing, then do a few sets of skipping, deep lunges, toy soldiers, high knees, butt kickers, star touches and/or high knees. Don't neglect your core and arms. They'll be working all morning, too!

    10 minutes before the race start, move into your start corral. Your body is ready, and you've done everything right to get you here. Be calm and confident in your training and preparation. Visualize your race, remember your strategy, and keep moving to stay warm until the gun goes off.

    Enjoy the atmosphere and the energy of the start line, but don't get too excited! There's still a long day ahead of you. The adrenaline of a big event sends a lot of runners out the gate like a shot. More often than not, those are the same ones you'll see standing with their hands on their knees by the roadside, several miles in. Go out at a level of effort far under what you feel like you could do. It will pay off later in the race, when you've still got energy to burn, and others are flagging.

    Don't Forget to Have Fun

    The best thing you can do for yourself to have a good race is to HAVE FUN. None of us are racing for money, so relax and enjoy the experience, even if you're trying to hammer out a new PR. Read the funny signs, high-five a few spectators, and chat with your fellow runners. The race is just the expression of the fitness you've spent the last few months (or years) building. Enjoy the fruits of your labor and that post-race high. You've earned it!

  • How to Attack Deload Week

    By Matthew Mitchell

    With Pete Hitzeman 

     After 5 weeks of flogging at the hands of Dave Castro, who ISN'T ready for a deload week?

    The 2016 CrossFit Open has drawn to a close, and now it’s deload week again. Thank goodness! I think we're all ready for a break after 5 weeks of intense competition WODs!

    Deloading phases in a training regimen are the time to let your body recover, and let your muscle tissues repair and become stronger. It's during rest and recovery that your body makes the adaptations to the stimuli you've thrown at it. Done right, you'll come out of a deload phase rested, recovered, and ready to tear the doors off the hinges for the coming weeks of heavy training.

    The weights programmed for your strength sessions will be cut significantly, and the intensity will be somewhat scaled back on the metcons. Easy to stay on course, right?

    But many athletes do deloading wrong. Where it all starts to unravel is in the approach to that daily WOD. Many newer athletes who rarely (or never) "RX" a WOD will get excited when they see the weights and reps on the whiteboard:

    “Finally a workout with programmed weights that I can do RX!”

    Maybe you can do that weight, but should you? Remember, this is “deload” week. Rest, recover. If you scale the workout every other week, chances are you should be scaling during deload week, too. It's about the intent of the workout, not necessarily whether or not you can get away with moving the numbers on the board.

    Experienced athletes are no less likely to mess up deload week. Scaling up is their common mistake. This week is not the time to be writing RX+ on the board. Don't let me catch you doing it! Ego stays outside the door, remember.

    This week, instead of trying to pick really heavy things, pick up fairly heavy things better. This is a good week to focus on technique.

    • Pick one movement flaw in your lift and make an effort to clean it up.
    • Spend a few extra minutes on mobility.
    • Pick a skill and practice it.

    Attack your deload week from the other side too, and address your diet. You aren't going to be so blown up from the workouts this week, so you'll have the extra brain bytes to really pay attention to your nutrition choices. This week is a good time to identify and eliminate your worst diet choice, or try a new strategy for meal prep. Use deload week as a springboard to better habits in the weeks ahead.

    The past few weeks, you have been working hard, and you probably have some soreness and inflammation in your muscles and joints. Make sure your diet is supporting your recovery work in the gym during deload week. Foods that are high in added sugar, grains, and dairy can all contribute to bodily inflammation.  If you want a fuller recovery, eliminating inflammatory foods is vital.

    The work in the gym may seem easier during deload week, but that doesn't mean it's time to stop paying attention. Remember to continue to select loads that will allow you to work within the intent of the workout. Seize the opportunity to polish technique and work on your common mistakes. And deloading your workouts doesn't mean a de-emphasis on your diet! Do it right, and deload week might just be the most productive week in your whole training cycle.

  • The Best Team in Fitness

    By Melissa Mitchell

    With Pete Hitzeman

    Kelly and Cindy Spurlock tackle 16.1 in back to back heats. Their work ethic and camaraderie in the gym has improved their fitness, as well as their relationship.

    Who's your favorite sports team? When you think back on the best season they had, what attributes stand out? Chances are it wasn't their talent as individuals, or their uniforms, or their bankroll. It was their ability to work as a team. They had found a way to allocate their personnel to cover weaknesses, enhance strengths, and dominate their competition.

    It's no different in the gym. The most successful teams in fitness are couples, and there's no sport that better accentuates this than CrossFit. It's the only sport in the world that, through appropriate scaling, can place a husband and wife on equal competitive footing. It's the only place where you'll find a woman screaming at her man... to motivate him to stand up a heavy squat.

    But the advantages of husband-wife teams extend far beyond four walls of the box. Because they share common goals and priorities, it's much easier to stay on track. Nobody's ordering pizza and a pitcher of beer on Friday night, when they know they have to be up at 6:30am for boot camp the next morning. At the very least, there will be some empathy when one or the other (likely both) of you is waddling around the house, the day after an Open workout.

    You'll also be able to share the load of daily life more easily. One of you can make it to the gym while the other shops for groceries, then switch for the cooking. Or, like you'll see Jon and Dana Moore doing at CFD, one holds the baby while the other does the WOD. When you're a team, compromises come naturally, and everybody wins.

    And at the end of the day, what are the best parts about your relationship? It's how you work together, how your other half always comes up with ways to surprise and impress you, how you grow in respect and admiration for each other. Going all-out, side by side, through a 14 minute AMRAP will show you parts of your significant other that you've never seen. And you're going to like what you saw.

RSS Feed