Chances are you’ve watched the Games on ESPN and seen how fast the top tier athletes move during their events. I have some bad news for you: if you aren’t moving that fast during your WODs, you are doing it wrong.
Now before everyone flips out on me thinking “Who is this guy to judge me?” understand that I’m saying that from the perspective of a person that was in your shoes. I wanted to get better but just doing WODs wasn’t working. So I decided to work smarter and not harder and everything changed. Then I started working with Games athletes on their nutrition, because of that I often get to see their training. Want to know a secret? The way they train and progress isn’t random, and they approach their workouts with a set of philosophies that leave them room to grow.
These are 8 changes you can make to your WODs that will transform your results.
1. Don’t turn metcons into strength workouts.
I am going to say it again because it’s that important. Look at the best person in your class. If the speed and pace of your workout doesn’t look like the speed and pace of their workout, you are sort of missing the point. Using submaximal weights is necessary to build speed and endurance. I can already hear it now “But how will I ever get better if I don’t try it in workouts?”
2. Put the time into developing your skills.
There are so many ways to work on skills, but the most underutilized opportunity is to go to open gym. Yeah, you know that thing that you use to make up the missed WOD from earlier in the week? You can actually use that time to work on skills and guess what, you’re probably not going to blow up like a balloon because you didn’t leave the box soaked in sweat, which brings me to my next point…
3. WOD to enjoy your health and get better, not to punish yourself.
Look I get it, you had date night last night and the wine was flowing and. You don’t normally eat pasta but hey, “When in rome.” Maybe the scale is up a bit. So what? Lighten the fuck up! Just as a single workout won’t determine your results, a couple of days are literally just a drop in the bucket. This is a lifetime commitment that only brings change when behaviors are repeated over and over again.
That said, if you constantly feel a need to punish yourself with grueling workouts because of poor decisions maybe you should examine how those decisions really add up. You might unnecessarily be making a fun night out into something you feel guilty about. Oh by the way, this might help your foam roller addiction, not to mention those rinse and repeat Paleo Challenges and 9 day resets. You don’t work out to earn food – you work out to get better at working out. (Closed circuit to coaches too, stop programming long grinders on Dec. 26th. It’s not only unnecessary, but it also sends a bad message to your clients that they aren’t allowed to enjoy the holidays.)
4. Learn to conserve energy and live to work out another day.
A single workout will not make you great – you need to think about how much work you can do over time. I’ll give you an example of what I mean: I can Rx most workouts but I would say that I only go full-blast about 50% of the time so that I’m not constantly worn out and sore. When, say, toes to bar comes up as a movement in a WOD, I consider how much it will take out of me because I’m not a T2B master. If it’s 5 reps or less, I Rx the workout; anything more than that, and I scale back and do knees to chest. Otherwise, it basically becomes a grueling toes to bar workout instead of a WOD. If I want to get better at toes to bar I will practice it slow and then transfer it over to WODs when the time comes.
5. Always work on growing stronger.
There are lots of things that affect your performance when you are doing varied movements. The key is to be able to breathe freely but if you are operating very close to your one rep max, that’s going to shorten your breath and leave you eating dust as you grind out slow, sloppy reps. Similar to the toes to bar example I used above, if you don’t scale the weight you’re changing the workout to something it’s not supposed to be. We are all weak at something and when you first start off, using challenging weights in WODs will in fact make you stronger. That’s not because of the programming in this instance, it’s mostly because you’re weak overall. As the months and years go by you will need to develop strength through a more focused approach. Slow workouts with rest work best. You can do circuits, you can do EMOMs but as I mentioned with skills, you get stronger by practicing slowly.
6. Capitalize on your strengths.
I am 46 years old. My one rep max for the deadlift is 475 pounds and for the squat, I’ve worked my ass off to get up to 325 pounds. The reason I did so in both instances is because they offer me a lot of bang for my buck. One of the best pieces of advice I ever got was from Sean Waxman, a very well-respected coach of world-class Olympic weightlifters. He said “You are proficient in both of those lifts and you have a limited amount of time most days to work out, so why not just focus on what will give the best training economy?”
Why focus on getting your 135 pound snatch to 145 pounds when getting your 325 pound back squat to 375 pounds will actually give you many more benefits? This of course doesn’t mean that I don’t snatch or clean and jerk and I will often add them as accessories after my main movements, but sometimes you are just working out and for me, making progress in the squat and deadlift are just fine.
7. Stop holding yourself to the standards of others.
There are people that have been training much longer than you, and some may have genetic advantages that you just weren’t born with. Coming to terms with this fact was a big one for me. Once I started to view myself as an individual, I became the most important judge of my success. The simple fact is that where I am now compared to where I was when I started is phenomenally different. It’s good to have examples of success all around you but it’s better to have perspective because lack of perspective will get you hurt and have you pursuing someone else’s dreams.
8. Ask yourself “What result do I REALLY want?”
Six months into joining my box, I was convinced that I had what it took to make it as a Masters athlete. I was dead wrong. I’m not even in that ballpark and no amount of preparation will get me there. That’s just fact.
That doesn’t mean I can’t participate in competitions and enjoy my workouts but it’s nice to have a reality check every now and again. I didn’t start out to have abs (though I do) and I also didn’t start out for an ideal physique (though I am quite happy with the mirror). I have three types of workouts I do each week, I body build twice a week (slow circuits, no curls in front of the mirror for this guy), I strength train twice a week and I metcon 2-3 days a week. I can truly say that five years in, I have just about the perfect mix for the results I want. That result is simple: I want to be more capable, and that means that if I have more useful muscle I can do cooler stuff. I like doing things that keep me interested but most importantly I like doing them because it gets me the results I wanted when I first started without really worrying too much about it: I wanted to simply look good naked and I’ve done it.
Certainly, solving food has helped me achieve my goals but but understanding how to get better has also been an important part of my transformation. I am hardly the best athlete in my gym but I am quite focused on actions that get me results. Sure, you can just do what’s on the board and you will be healthier but if you want to take things to the next level, swap out the “always harder” approach for “always smarter” and I think you will be happy with the results.
. Published on February 2, 2015.
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