I got a couple questions from Russ Greene prompted by my article on OPT’s training blog. His questions will benefit everyone so i decided to post my responses here. I’ll do it in an interview style where i put his questions in Bold followed by my response.
Should those pursuing Crossfit and GPP regularly train long workouts (20-30 minutes and up)?
Why? The goal of Crossfit is to increase power output. The ability to produce power decreases as your time increases therefore keeping workouts in a lower time domain allow athletes to produce a higher average power. Is there value in going a little longer occasionally? Of course. If you never experience the longer domain you will be hurting when it is time to go long for real. In my opinion this is not where you develop fitness but rather where you strengthen your mind and prove to yourself that you can do it. I recommend no more than 15-20% of your workouts go over 20 minutes (actually 15 but i know there are endurance junkies that just don’t get it).
If so, you have stated that if you’re pacing yourself, you’re not improving your fitness. How do you square that with the need to pace oneself in longer workouts? You don’t sprint the first 400 of a 10k run or the first round of a 10 round WOD, do you?
Let me ask you a question: What is the point of training? If you are simply trying to get a better time, then by all means please pace the workout, calculate the most efficient way to rest and work and get a world record time. If you are interested in improving your fitness you need to learn how NOT to pace. You need to work as hard as you can for as long as you can then rest just long enough so you can push just as hard. If you do this, your time will probably be worse but since you put more effort into it you will see better improvements in fitness. Its the effort that counts.
Yes you pace a 10k because you aren’t getting more fit doing it, you are working within your capacity. If you didn’t pace it you may get more out of it…Try it. There is a reason nobody does it this way…It fucking sucks!
You can look at crossfit as a numbers game and really geek out on the average power thing and therefore never make it over the hump or you can design workouts that allow you to improve your fitness without having to “game” a workout. I have sent this quote to a couple of my clients because i think it says it all.:
“A wise man once said “sure you can fraction the reps and make it feel a little easier and still get a good time; or you can not be afraid and get uncomfortable”
More broadly, is it possible to improve all aspects of GPP at once?
I’ve said this before and still believe it. The simplist example of this is looking at strength vs endurance. Lets say for example in a day we were to do 5×5 back squat (that means 5 heavy sets not: 135,185,225,275,315) and follow it up with a 5k run or row. By putting the additional 5k on the end there i have essentially taken 2 steps forward and 1 step back with my strength and MAYBE taken half a step forward with regards to endurance because we all know by now that running doesn’t make you a better runner. Ok, so we made a little progress in both domains but what happens to flexibility? Well if we had skipped the run and were going full range on the squats maybe we maintained it but its not likely we improved it. Throw in the run and Bam! all progress to flexibility is gone as well as half the strength we just gained. Why do you think powerlifters and olympic lifters laugh when you ask them to go for a jog or do angie? Its not because they are lazy, in fact they are just the opposite, they just understand the importance of being strong for their sport and know that angie and running will make them weak.
So i stand by my answer. No you can’t improve your GPP all at once. it is a process. Work on weaknesses, when they aren’t weak anymore start on what is next on the list.
Lastly, why should Crossfitters focus on olympic lifting if they are also deficient at gymnastics, running, and all three energy systems? Why focus on one particular mode of Crossfit in one particular time domain and thus energy system?
Simple answer: The Olympic lifts (snatch and Clean and Jerk) are gymnastics with weight. Even better than the real thing.
The olympic lifts are one of those things that give you the most bang for your buck as far as strength, coordination, accuracy, agility, balance, strength (yea i said it twice) and flexibility. Add in more than 5 reps and you have stamina and CR Endurance. The total package in my opinion and Crossfits by definition. If i can get all of that out of 2 movements, why waste time teaching athletes anything else? Well thats an easy answer but you see my point? For those of us who don’t do Crossfit for a living (everyone. until the CF games have a pot of 100,000+) we need to get the most out of our training and what better way to do that than the olympic lifts.
We already know that when we train anaerobically we see benefit in out aerobic capacity so why even waste time there? We also know that during any type of exercise we are using all energy pathways and therefore gaining capacity in each. If you think your body is that segmented you are mistaken. As soon as you start using energy (birth) you are constantly using all 3 pathways. That is why our body’s are such amazing machines.
I want to thank Russ for the questions and the critical thought. Someone truly seeking knowledge will look at everything critically and demand explanation. I commend Russ for being persistent. Let the conversation begin.