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For most of us doing CrossFit, the allure is in the workouts. The infamous WOD, which we look forward to with anticipation, and maybe just a hint of nervousness. CrossFit bases its fitness methodology on these WODs. On the principle of short bursts of intense exercise, where we, the athletes, attempt to create as much power output as we are physically capable. Doing so taxes us, puts our bodies under stress and makes us stronger, faster, and generally fitter. And damn if it isn't effective! But for some, perhaps many, progression can come all too slowly, or seemingly not at all. You're doing the workouts regularly, but the results aren't what you'd like.
A key component which may be lacking is intensity. Intensity can be boiled down to simply "how hard you're working", or perhaps more accurately, "how close to your limits you're working", and it's basically the only way you'll improve and better yourself through these kind of workouts. Intensity is what forces your body to adapt, and improve, but intensity is also what makes your body send you the signal of "Woah, slow down- this sucks!". Refusal to listen to this voice is where real progress is made. You're effectively telling your body that you want to regularly do more than it's currently comfortable doing, and the only way things are going to get easier for it, is for it to get fitter to compensate. And when it does, you push it harder, repeating the cycle. This is the very basis of improvement for your fitness, and it is critical this is understood.
So how can we make the most of the WOD?
By working at the highest level of intensity you can, for the entire duration of the workout. This of course doesn't mean working at a sprint pace for a 20 minute workout, but if you're not breathing hard, you're not working hard enough. If your muscles aren't being taxed, you're not working hard enough. If you don't hear that voice asking you to slow down, you're not working hard enough. Keep that going until the very end. Until the work is completed, or the clock runs out. Don't let up, don't stop, don't take it easy. You're in that workout for at most maybe 20 minutes. Make the most of it. The worst that's going to happen is you might feel a little queasy. But the benefits are uncountable.
If you're not entirely sure what the voice sounds like, by the way- here's a little exercise I encourage you to do next time you're in the gym: Hop on the rower, and sprint for 250 meters. Literally sprint. As fast as you can. It's less than a minute's work. Less than 45 seconds if you're fast.
Good. Now rest 2 minutes and go again. Then you'll have no doubt what it sounds like.
That's the voice you should become acquainted with, and you should be hearing it in every WOD. Ignore it, laugh in its face, tell it to fuck off. Do whatever you need to do, but fight it with everything you've got. And if you do slow down, know in your heart it's because you have to- not because you were asked to.
How and the Why pt6
In the grand scheme of things I've only been lifting weights more seriously for about 18 months. Before that I really only did cardio at the gym and some assisted weights on machines. I wasn’t too sure about lifting any free weights so never really did it, and never appreciated how doing so would strengthen everything. I take part in roller derby, having originally played the game but took around 6 months off thanks to a broken leg, and now referee it. During my recovery I started to lift weights a little thanks to recommendations from the physio but didn’t go much more than light dumbbells, and the odd light deadlift.
In a moment of madness I took part in Tough Mudder in 2014 thanks to some arm twisting from a friend, and it was doing that which made me realise that I probably needed to do something more than strict cardio and occasionally swinging a kettle bell. That said, it took me another few months to finally look into where to lift weights and how I wanted to go about doing it. Toward the end of that year I began cross fit at CRG. Since then I’ve learned how much I can push my body, learned its limitations and seen benefits in all aspects of my life. From confidence, mental strength and I can all round now better cope with the demands refereeing roller derby puts on my body both physically and mentally. Since I started at CRG I’ve realised the benefit of lifting weights, strengthening of muscles around joints and as a whole. This was what it was initially. Since fell in love with weightlifting and feel so much better about myself in body and mind. I lift to clear mind/lose self. It’s one of the most frustrating and rewarding things I’ve done. I now like pushing my body and finding out what I can do, and often surprise self. I've also discovered that it's ok to fail, sometimes you're just not meant to lift that weight but failure only makes me stronger and strive to better myself further.
If you told me I would feel that way about anything exercise wise when I was a teenager, I wouldn’t believe you. Heck, I'm even doing Tough Mudder again this year, my teenage self would have kittens at the thought.