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Thursday, March 1, 2012

In-Season Training for the Crossfit Open

Every professional sport year is broken up into very distinct phases where athletes know exactly what to train, how to train, how much to train, etc.  Lets take football for example.  There is an off-season, when athletes work on increasing their strength, power, speed, etc.  There is a pre-season, when athletes begin to transfer the strength and power they developed in the off-season to more sport-specific skills.  There is an in-season, when athletes try to maintain their level of fitness as best they can while trying to maximize recovery.  Then there is a post-season when athletes take time to recover and "decompress".

I want to talk specifically about the in-season.  With most sports, you know exactly what you are training for.  You know when and where your competition is.  You know the exact demands required to be successful for the sport.

Crossfit competition is a different animal.  Crossfit athletes have no idea what they are training for!  The Crossfit Open is a 5 week competition.  Workouts are released Wednesday night and you have until Sunday night to complete the workout and submit your score.  We know when the workout is, but we have no clue what the workout will be!

Week 1 of the Crossfit Open gave us 7 minutes of burpees.  Who saw that coming?  Not me!  What will week 2 bring?  I have no idea!  So how do we prepare for what we don't know?  How do we keep our fitness level high while recovering enough to be as close to 100% by Thrusday morning?

Programing throughout the year is easy.  You try to expose yourself to everything.  You do long and short workouts.  You do heavy and light workouts.  You do high skill and low skill workouts.  Throughout a training week you are beating up your body.  You take a rest day then beat it up some more.  You eat nutrient dense foods, don't consume evil foods (like alcohol and sugar!) and get a lot of sleep.  You recover the best you can after each workout, but sometimes are still left sore for days.  A lot of times it doesn't matter if you are fully recovered for your next workout, you are still getting a lot out of the workout.

During the in-season it is of the utmost importance that you are fully recovered.  You cannot go into a Crossfit Open workout sore or tired.  It has been said before that every repetition counts.  In workout 1 of the Crossfit Open I completed 102 repetitions.  This effort put me in 11,353 place.  If I had completed 1 more repetition I would be in 10,508 place.  1 repetition accounts for 845 spots in the standings!  Being able to perform to your maximal ability is of the utmost importance in this competition!

Here are a few strategies.  You can use a different strategy depending on the type of athlete you are.

Performing each workout 1 time as part of your normal training cycle
This strategy is for the high level competitor as well as the "doing it for fun" competitor.  If you are a top competitor like Rich Froning or Jason Khalipa, you can feel pretty comfortable that your first effort in the Open workouts will get you to the regional level.  There is no need to attempt the workouts 2 or 3 times to get your best possible score.

If you are participating in the Open simply for fun, you can also perform each workout just 1 time.  Implement the Open workouts as part of your training or "just another workout".  Does it really matter if you perform 100%?  Not really.

Performing each workout 1 time while still following normal training routine
This strategy is for the athlete who feels somewhat comfortable they will reach the regional level but still wants to perform at 100% to maximize their placement in the standings.  My good friend Dan Goldberg falls in this category.  He finished 12th in last years regional and wants to finish higher this year.  He feels very confident that he will reach the regional level this year but he still wants to maximize each performance.  Dan does his best to stick with his normal training routine, so he is best prepared for regionals.  He may change his training cycle slightly so he is well rested for the Open workouts, but he is not overly concerned if he is not fully recovered; 90% of his best should be enough!  A little soreness is not going to affect an athlete like him too much. His main concern is regionals, so he is trying to be as prepared as possible for that competition.

Perform each workout multiple times to maximize performance
This strategy is for the "fringe" athlete.  This is where I stand.  My goal is to make it to the regional level.  I need to do everything I can to get every repetition possible.  I performed the first Open workout Thursday morning and completed 98 repetitions.  I performed it again, with a strategy, on Saturday morning and completed 102 repetitions.  Those 4 repetitions could be the difference of performing at regionals and watching regionals from the sidelines.

From week to week, you must be very careful with your programming.  My strategy is to take a rest day on Wednesday, perform the workout on Thursday, take another rest day Friday, then perform the workout again on Saturday.  I do two very hard workouts on Sunday and Monday (heavy and long).  I perform a "heavy breather" on Tuesday (something that won't leave me sore but will elevate my heart rate for a long period).  This seems to be a good strategy for me to keep my fitness level high as well as allowing for maximum recovery for the next weeks workout.

Whatever your goals are for the Crossfit Open, the most important thing is to have fun!  The Crossfit Open is truly an open competition.  Anybody in the world can compete and see how they stack up with the worlds fittest.  Work hard and have fun!

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