Posts Tagged ‘Training’

The next week of Smashby’s Tip of the Week is live, and it’s the final of my four week handstand push-up progression!

Although the video is a bit long, I cover a lot of information.

The first three weeks focused on my process for teaching athletes how to safely get upside down and support their own body weight. This final week moves through progressions I use to continue to build confidence in athletes, along with timelines for when I think the next step should be t

Here’s a snapshot summarizing my 4-week series:

  • Learn and progress through the steps to safely learn Wall Climbs/Wall Walks
  • Learn and progress through the steps to safely learn a Headstand
  • Learn and progress through the steps to safely learn a Handstand
  • Build strength and control through the use of Negatives
  • Learn and progress through steps to safely apply Kipping to Handstand Push-Ups

What did you think of this series? Did you find it helpful? If not for yourself, do you think it’s a good way to teach other athletes?

Let me know in the comments, and let’s talk about this. If it’s good, I would love to share it with others. If it sucks, help me improve my content so it can help others.

Thanks in advance!

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I’m convinced that time is just going to just keep moving faster for the rest of my life. HOW is March already over?! While a large portion of my energy was focused around the CrossFit Open, and helping athletes prepare for it more effectively, it still felt like 31 days went by in a flash. But, we’ve got some recapping to do, so let’s get to it!

March 2018

Fitness- The 2018 CrossFit Games Open is OVER! We did it! After five long weeks of competing, personally redoing every workout once (and doing better each time), I ended up in 278th place in the South West Region out of 9,236 men. That places me in the top 96th percentile in the region, for those of you keeping track at home. Oh, none of you are keeping track? Ok, cool. Another fun stat, is that I finished as the 99th fittest male in Colorado! Top 100, baby! Check out my rankings, by year, since the Open started. I wish they’d show how many people were in each category for scale. This is fun.

OpenRankings2018

Last month I felt I had a lot of success with snatching. That’s weird because I don’t remember snatching much at all this month. The Open ruled my training mentality, and that’s fine because I knew that would happen going in. Now, it’s time to get back on track and set some goals!

My “First Ever” class this month was YET ANOTHER another Yoga class with Em. January was just a regular yoga class. February was partner yoga. This month, it was my first time doing yoga with approximately one million other people! I’ve always seen pictures of yoga mats laid out, side by side, as far as the eye can see. I didn’t understand how that could be soothing, or comfortable… and now that I’ve taken a class in that setting, I still don’t! There was a cool “Deep House Yoga” practice that took place inside a night club that I had been to many times… which is inside of what used to be an old church. Yes, weird on so many levels, I agree. But, I’m three months into 2018, and have done yoga three times. Go, me!

House- The garage is done! Check out this beauty. I’m actually really proud of this project. Now, to organize! We also bought a new tent for summer camping adventures (correct, there will likely never be any winter camping chosen by this household!) and set it up to “waterproof” it before our first big weekend trip in a few months! It’s awesome.

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Other- My “baby” brother turned 18 years old in the middle of the month, and my dad randomly messaged me in a Saturday asking if I wanted to meet up with them the following weekend in Tuscon. We had a blast! I also got to try an old Stupid Human Trick during the few hours of down time I had with my bro. Here’s my pool jump!

What’s going on with all of you? I’d love to hear some of your accomplishments in March, or goals for April!

I saw this really funny post on the UnitedLifters Instagram page yesterday, and it made me think a little bit.

WorkoutTiming

All my life I’ve claimed to *not* be a “Morning Person.” Yet, I chose swimming as my main sport through high school and college (filled with 5:30am practice times) and I have been a morning class coach at CrossFit gyms for the last 6+ years! I know, it doesn’t make sense to me, either. Before I coached CrossFit full-time, I had another job during the day, coached in the evenings after work, and then I’d often work out after the last class at night.

That means that in my 9+ years of CrossFit, I’ve worked out at five in the morning and at nine at night, based on my schedule at the time. I think it’s such an important experiment to conduct for yourself to see what times work best for you and your lifestyle. While it’s easy to say, “I’ll never set an alarm before 5am because only vampires and crazy people are awake at that hour,” I’ve seen people whose lives completely change when their workout is done for the day before the sun even comes up. As you might assume, anyone who is willing to get up that early is probably pretty determined! That also means the “family” of people who train at that hour really look out for one another. I must say, the Rooster Crew is an awesome group of people! And since you’re done for the day at school or at work, when you leave you can do whatever you want. You won’t need to worry about getting home after 6, 7, or 8pm and still needing to find time and motivation to cook and eat dinner, clean, and then relax. I dunno, that sounds pretty sweet to me!

That said, I’ve also seen other people who come in to the gym that early looking like they rolled straight out of bed and into their car, showed up to class still half-asleep, and left class still looking that way! While there are perks to being in and out early, it’s certainly not for everyone! One benefit of going to class in the evenings, is that they’re typically busier and bustling with energy. After a long day at work, people want to unwind, and the athletes here often form strong friendships of their own. “Work, Gym, Sleep, Repeat” becomes the routine for thousands of people in adulthood, and there are fewer places that can have fun, be social, and help you stay in shape than a good CrossFit box.

We can’t forget that other class; the Nooners! This group typically come from all walks of life! They’re stay-at-home parents, students with a late start for classes, folks who work from home, night shifters, firefighters or those in the medical field who work for multiple days straight and have multiple days off in a row, people on vacation. You can find anyone at a noon class!

I want to challenge you to attend a class at your gym that’s at a different time than your usual. If that thought just made you so uncomfortable to step outside of your comfort zone of the coaches you know and athletes you’re friends with, then we’re onto something! Isn’t it crazy to think you’ve probably never even seen a person that’s been doing CrossFit for the same amount of time as you, at the same gym, just because you go to different classes? Your new best friend or ideal training partner could be right under your nose and you’d never know! If nothing else, it would help make the community of your gym a little bit smaller with a few more people getting to know one another. If you do give it a shot, let me know how it goes.

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The CrossFit Games Open is such an incredibly fun time of year! It gives those of us who have been in the game for years a chance to see how far this sport has come. We sit around like alumni back at our old college bar reminiscing about the glory days. “Back when I started CrossFit, you were a beast if you could hit a 225lb snatch!” “Remember when an Open workout was seven minutes of burpees, and that was it?” “I used to be in the top 200 in the Region.” Gosh, those were the days.

Nowadays, some of us look at scores that are submitted during this competition and LITERALLY think, “Nope. That’s impossible!” I chuckle to myself trying to process some of the outlandish things we used to say would NEVER HAPPEN. Today, a 275lb. snatch for guys and a 335lb. clean and jerk rarely even causes an eyebrow to raise, and that is just beyond me. But that’s what this event allows us to see.

Click on a workout, filter by top score, and watch just how many people are capable of incredible feats of human strength. For workout 18.2A, there were over 330 men worldwide that cleaned over 350lbs, immediately AFTER a workout. I remember watching Jason Khalipa fail a 135lb snatch AT THE GAMES a few short years ago. That’s an awful lot of progress in not that much time.

With all of that there is something we all need to remember. All people are not created equal. All athletes don’t spend the same amount of time working out. No two humans have the same genetic makeup. There are always going to be athletes who are better at some things than others. All of that is normal. It is completely alright and expected. And we should never be upset if we’re not the best.

If someone beats you on a strength workout, it could just mean they’re stronger than you. It doesn’t mean that they’re a better person. If someone else score more reps on an endurance-based workout than you, they may just have a better engine. It doesn’t mean that “you wasted an entire year of your life training.” This CrossFit thing has become an UNHEALTHY obsession for thousands of people all over the world. Are there less healthy obsessions? You BET! But it kills me to see people beat themselves up over their ranking in a competition where you don’t even know WHAT you’re preparing for in the first place!

Look, with two weeks left in the 2018 Open, all I can ask of you is that you try your best. If you’ve been busting your butt for the last 12 months, be proud of that! Congratulate yourself for being that focused on trying to make yourself better. Most people do not have the determination to stick with something that hard for that long! If you have NOT been training hard for the last 12 months, then be aware that being a “competitive CrossFitter” is now a part- or a full-time job. And even then, there is ONE PERSON who wins.

It’s probably safe to say now that all of us are more likely to get drafted as a kicker for an NFL team than to win the CrossFit Games. Another fun side note is that the minimum salary for all rookies in the NFL is $465,000. EVERY ROOKIE  in the NFL will make at least that much. In a league with nearly 1,700 players. Now in CrossFit, in a worldwide competition with over 440,000 athletes registered, the OVERALL WINNER (both male AND female) make $275,000. The 20th place person makes $2,000. Two Thousand Dollars. They likely spent more than that to fly TO the Games and on lodging. If not, they very likely spent more than that on supplements and body treatment over the course of the year. The point there is that I doubt very many of us are trying to get better here to make a living doing CrossFit!

I say that to keep this thing in perspective. One of my friends recently said, “Ok, so you made it to Regionals. Congrats! What happened the next Monday? Did you still have to go to work? Yep. You did. Oh, you made it to the Games?! That’s awesome! Did you still go back into the office the next week? Yep, you sure did.” That’s not to knock the efforts, motivation, or inspiration people have to make themselves better. I love that. No, really, I LOVE THAT! And THAT is what I think your focus should be. Are you actually getting better? Are you able to live your life and be healthier and happier and stronger and faster? If yes, then you’re good. Be proud of that!

If you’re sore and hangry and miserable and lonely all the time because you “HAVE TO” train and limit your calories and go to bed early and work out again…. to hopefully be top 400 in your Region… is it worth it? That’s a question that you can only answer for yourself. I just hope that whatever your answer is, it won’t be one that you regret in two, or eight, or thirty years.

I have so much respect for athletes who commit their lives to constant improvement. I’m lucky enough to coach a LOT of them every day. But it breaks my heart when I see them absolutely devastated for not performing better at a random workout on a random day. My heart cries when they comment on their lack of self worth or say how poorly they feel they did, when after MONTHS of hard work, their efforts have improved their performance in so many areas! Imagine working really hard on something, getting SO MUCH BETTER at it, and still not feeling good about yourself? THAT is where this equation goes wrong in my brain.

Please know that your self worth is in no way assessed by your ranking in the worldwide Open. Your family and friends won’t love you any more because of how well you do. If your goal is to get better, then I’m all about it. But constantly remind yourself that all we’re doing is working out and trying to be healthier humans. I hope you can remember that most days.

Two more weeks to go, everyone. Keep your head up, and try to have some fun.

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Unfortunately, I’m not close friends with any Professional Athletes. I say unfortunately because I think it would be sweet if one of my best friends was a Major League Baseball player who’d fly his crew all around the country to hang out and be obnoxious fans at his games. (Ok, I just wish I was in an entourage.) ANYWAYS, I bring that up because while most of us were never pro stars, a lot of us played sports throughout most of our childhood. Some of us were pretty good, too!

Now I’m not saying that it’s cool to act like Uncle Rico and be stuck back in your glory days, but I do think that a lot of us have some really fun stories to share about our athletic accomplishments growing up. In fact, it’d probably be fun to share some of those stories with your friends over a beer (or a Kill Cliff…..) to give a bit more insight as to what your past was like. In a sport like CrossFit, I’ve also found that experience in certain sports can sometimes shed light onto a person’s ability to be more successful at exercise racing. For example, wrestlers, swimmers, and hockey players have a strange ability to almost “black out” during a workout and push harder than a lot of other people. Football and rugby players often times have residual freak strength from when they back squatted over 500lbs and cleaned well over 300lbs, even though it may have been over 10-15 years ago. Soccer and baseball players are frequently still fairly explosive and handle body-weight movements really well. Runners… well runners still only run well. (Just kidding, runners! You’re good at other things, too.)

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I bring this up because as a coach I come in contact with people who join a CrossFit gym, and after a lifetime of being good at whatever sport they played, they’re humbled every single day. This usually leads to one of a few different paths for the athlete to take.

Some people are discouraged and don’t want to go back to the gym because they’re “embarrassed at how badly” they feel they did. They didn’t use a lot of weight, had to stop and rest a lot, felt like they were the worst athlete in the class, or woke up unbelievably sore. First of all, those people need to know that CrossFit is really hard. For everyone. Every day. That’s one of the first things I ever heard about the program. “It doesn’t ever get easier. You just get stronger or move faster.” Yet we all come back time and time again. The way to get better at this stuff is to keep showing up! Throw those athletic shoes in your bag and head back to the gym tomorrow. You’ve got this!

Others refuse to “accept” their current level of athletic ability and push too hard, too soon. Ok Frank, I understand you used to hit .400 and throw a 96 mile-per-hour fast-ball. News flash, sport… that was 25 years ago, you were 30 pounds lighter, and didn’t sit behind a desk for 10 hours every day. No matter how many times a coach tries to work with them, they always “have to go Rx,” even if it means finishing last in the workout every single day, or failing to meet full range of motion on barbell lifts. If this is you, take it easy. Go light on the barbell one day, reduce the number of reps to finish the workout a little faster, slow down your reps to make sure you’re doing them right. Your body, and your coach, will thank you.

Another group is overtly aware of their athletic past, yet realizes that while they may be more athletic than most, the brakes still need to be pumped a little bit to stay safe. Being able to lift something with bad technique and potentially getting hurt doesn’t outweigh the benefits of hitting a “CrossFit PR” for a given movement. They remember that in college they ran a 4:53 mile, but are plenty satisfied with the 6:04 they just ran last week. These individuals understand that most of use are working out to eat more of what we want, and to look better naked. Thanks for being smart!

Why would sharing your information about your athletic past (and history of injuries while you’re at it) benefit you in CrossFit? It’s not to brag about what you used to do or get upset that you’re no longer at the level you may have once been. It’s to equip your coaches with tools they can use to best help you. In a class of 20 people, I usually will have a different way of coaching each person. If one athlete has never played a sport in their life and the other is a former National Champion, the cues and encouragement given to each of them might be a little bit different. I certainly don’t think it’ll negatively impact your performance in the gym at all. So speak up, share your story, and be proud. Not even of where you’ve been, but of where you are right now. In the gym, trying to make yourself better. I know I’m proud of you!

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“It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”

We’ve all heard that saying, and for most things in life, I agree with it. When it comes to fitness, it’s almost always true! People who buy magazines, download ebooks, and perform google searches with titles like, “Shredded Abs in 4 weeks” and “Arms Like Arnold By Summer,” likely hate hearing that though. There’s a time and a place to be “Type A,” and situations that require patience usually aren’t at the top of that list!

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“If it seems too good to be true, it probably is…”

The human body (and mind) should be viewed as a canvas. One, that through years of proper care, maintenance, and training, can develop into an incredible and useful vessel to get us through a long and happy life. Can I help a client lose 20lbs in 20 days? Probably. But will that weight loss be sustainable, and will it be done through healthy means? Probably not. So come because you want that six pack in time for your vacation, but stay to work towards physical independence long into your 70’s and 80’s!

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“Incremental Progress is STILL Progress”

A lot of the movements we do in CrossFit make up entire disciplines by themselves. For Running, Rowing, and Cycling, there are thousands of professionals around the world who devote their time to improve at just ONE of those skills. For professionals, a ONE SECOND Personal Record on a half-marathon can represent a huge success due to hundreds of hours of training! Olympic Weightlifters squat, snatch, clean, and jerk 5 to 7 days per week. During their competitive careers, it can sometimes take years to attain a one kilogram PR! Yogis work on balance and breath control constantly in hopes of improving their practice. It could take months of dedication to improve enough to finally get a single new pose. Climbers work on pull-ups and strengthening their grip in order to be more effective at getting up their mountain or wall. So then here we come, CrossFit athletes extraordinaire, and we want to get better at all of the things. All of the time. Forever. It’s simply not realistic.

Have you ever heard of an athlete going on a Strength or an Olympic Lifting Cycle? Maybe a phase during their training geared towards improving Aerobic Capacity? What about a Deloading Phase, where weights and volume stay fairly low to allow the body to rebuild and recover! There is a reason for these cycles. When an athlete is new at a sport, it can be easy to improve “all of the things” for a while since you’re just learning proper movement patterns. Once basic proficiency is gained, it will take more focus and specific training to continually make large improvements. As I said above, CrossFit can basically include ANY physical activity. Since there are only 24 hours in a day, and since most of us should also devote time to eating, sleeping, working, and anything other than CrossFit, it is literally impossible to improve everything forever. I’ve talked about it before, and will bring it up again, but there are people out there who need regular reminders!

Pick a few things to improve, devise a plan of attack, and most of all… Celebrate every victory!! If you’ve been working on Handstand Walking and take two extra steps, that’s an improvement. Are your knees caving in less when you squat because you’ve been thinking about it, well then great job! And do you want to put 50lbs onto your Deadlift 1RM? That’s a great goal to have, just make sure you’re happy when you “only” PR by 5lbs along the way.

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It really is a marathon. By taking care of your body, training smart, and giving yourself a pat on the back when you deserve it all along the way, you’re likely to be able to keep playing for a long time.

Here’s last week’s recap and my goals for the upcoming week.

Last week:

  • Fitness
    • Metcons
      • Workouts have been all over the map for me lately in terms of feeling good or bad about my fitness, but such is life. I’m very curious to see how this year’s Open goes in terms of movements that I consider “strengths” verses “no so much strengths” for me!
      • A variation of Isabel (30 Snatches for time) was Wednesday’s workout, and I debated all day whether I would try the “Rx” version of the day (115lbs) or whether I’d give the “Competitor” weight (155lbs) a go. At the last minute, I decided that 155 was the right choice, did quick singles the whole way, and finished my 30 reps in 4:03. I’ll take it!
    • Barbell Work
      • Monday brought waves of Power Cleans; Min 7 – 3 Power Cleans @ 81% (230lbs), Min 8 – 2 Power Cleans @ 84% (240lbs), and Min 9 – 1 Power Clean @ 87% (250lbs), and some pause Front Squats (heaviest at 275lbs)
      • Built to a heavy single of Clean and Jerk on Friday and hit 280lbs. It wasn’t my prettiest lift, but I’m glad anytime I get to 275+
    • Calorie Challenge
      •  Since it was a short week (I left town Friday afternoon and just got back), I had quite a bit less time to sit on a rower or bike. I did, however, hit another 700 calories. That puts me at 3,000 for the month so far. I’ll likely reach 4,000+ by the end of February!
  • I did write one “The 2018 Open is Coming” post! The Open starts this week, I can’t even believe it!
  • Progress on the book (Discipline Equals Freedom: Field Manual by Jacko Willink) continues. Still haven’t given myself more than 10-15 minutes once or twice before bed, but I’ve already put more of a focus on reading in 2018 than I have over the last few years. I’m celebrating that.
  • Swimming Post is live! It’s fun to already have had some people reach out asking more details about my “Swim Better Now” clinics. Bottom line is that I want to help people get better, whether that means swimming faster, or just learning how to float safely in deep water. If you, or anyone you know, is interested please do not hesitate to reach out.

This week:

  • The first workout of the 2018 CrossFit Games Open is released this week. In the past, I have recorded “strategy” videos for each week. My goal is to try and get a video and post live by the time you wake up on Friday morning. Wish me luck!
  • I had a pretty poor weekend of sleep at the place where we stayed up in the mountains, so my goal is to get over 6.5 hours of sleep two days this week. No, that doesn’t normally happen. I was going to challenge myself to say 7 hours, but when I do reverse math based on the alarm, it’s just not realistic. Working on it!
  • I have a really big weekend of work ahead, with nearly 10 hours of client work accounted for between Saturday and Sunday. Even with that, I’d like to devote some time to continuing progress with the drywall in our garage!

Alright, your turn. What’s going on with all of you?

Here’s a picture from our weekend in Breckenridge. Have a great week, everyone!

Every single day you go to the gym, you should give yourself one thing to think about during training.

I’ll give a few specific examples below, but my logic behind that statement is simple. As someone who suffers from paralysis by analysis in my own life, it is so simple to get overwhelmed with details that you can’t focus on a single one properly. For example, I could sit here list over 10 things to think about in order to plank properly. Plank… you know, the thing where you hold your body at the top of a push-up? So imagine how many cues one could have when completing a workout with four different movements, many of which are far more complex than a simple plank.

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Instead, once you know what you’re going to do for the day, pick a one thing and hone nearly all of your energy on completing it as effectively as possible. Let’s discuss a few scenarios:

Heavy Strength Set

If you know you’re going to try and move mountains today, the anxiety and excitement leading up to those heavy reps can be exhausting. For a big squat day, make sure your core is tight throughout the lift. Or that you knees stay out. Or that you take a big breath at the top before beginning your descent. Even those three things combined can be too much to focus on at once. Keep your cue(s) simple, meaningful to you, and effective! The less in your brain, the more you can just move that weight!

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Long Workout

Let’s say it’s a 5 round workout with rowing, wall balls, deadlifts, sit-ups, and pull-ups. There’s a lot going on there, huh? Instead of trying to overwhelm yourself with pacing out your splits of how fast each round should be, you could say to yourself, “today, I’m going to do each round of 20 wall balls as a set of 12 reps, short rest, then a set of 8.” Many people believe that making a plan of attack and “visualizing” your workout is a great strategy.

If you’re in a competition, the stakes are different, and I completely agree! Planning out and rehearsing every second might be the difference between first and second place. But very few people have the time, energy, or desire to spend that much time getting ready for their 4-6 days of training every week! Pick a thing or two, and just breathe through the rest.

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Active Rest/Recovery

Some days you’ll show up to the gym feeling pretty beat up. Your body is sore, your mind is tired, and you haven’t been sleeping well. “But it’s Friday,” you tell yourself, and you “ALWAYS work out on Fridays.” That doesn’t mean you need to red line on the workout, completely wreck yourself, and hobble around all weekend.

If you make the decision that you just need to move for the day, that’s totally fine, and I support you. Even on those days, you can find something to focus on. Maybe on the rowing portion of the workout you focus on keeping your heels down and start to learn what your stroke rate is for repeat 500’s. If there’s snatching for strength, really emphasize making your receiving position as snappy as possible. You can always get better, even if you’re just there to move for the day!

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Now, this post is in no way implying that the rest of your training session should be done by completely checking out. Quite the opposite, in fact. I believe that everything in the gym should be done “with purpose.” Instead, I’m trying to help athletes narrow down a primary point of attack each day. Having a panic attack because you’re staring at the bar before a deadlift attempt thinking, “chest up, back flat, proper stance, breathe, chest up, knees back, push away the floor, grip it and rip it, etc, etc,” doesn’t help anyone.

We’re in the gym to get better every day. Try your best to narrow down your scope on the big things, and as long as you head out of the gym with a smile on your face, most of the time you’ve done alright. This fitness game of ours is most certainly a marathon, not a sprint.

First of all, I’m not sure if I’ve ever written the word don’ts before, but it looks weird!

Ok, back to the focus of the post: Accessory Work

If you are an athlete that steps foot into a CrossFit gym on a regular basis, odds are that there are three to four-hundred things you’d like to improve to become a better athlete. Identifying some, or all, of those things typically leads athletes down one of three paths.

Path Number One

“That’s way too many things to try and improve… therefore, I shall choose to improve none of them!”

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Path Number Two

“I want to get better at Handstand Push-Ups. My legs need to get stronger. If I can improve my engine, I’ll get more rounds in workouts. With more flexible ankles, my rowing will get better. I want to get a PR on Murph next year. But I’d also like to beat my Fran time. ROM WOD 8 days per week will help me. I think I want to go that Double-Under clinic next weekend.” ~ The consecutive thoughts of one person

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Yes, there is a laundry list of things we can all improve upon, but trying to attack too much at once is unrealistic and really not smart. Why, you ask? Because some people (yes, I’m talking to you) will spend 30 minutes after class every day working on Muscle-Ups. Thirty minutes. Hanging and swinging from rings or a bar. After they’re tired from a workout. Not only will that likely lead to tearing hands, but trying to be explosive and technically precise after 60 minutes of torture (excuse me, I mean intense physical exertion) isn’t usually the best plan.

Path Number Three

Be a planner. Pick a few things you’d like to start improving. Find a person, or people, who can help you create an intelligent training plan or progression. If applicable, have someone who can watch you practice, or if you video your attempts, those who can give you constructive feedback. Too often “we don’t know what we don’t know,” and having a more experienced person in your corner can help foster huge breakthroughs. After a few weeks, note your progress on those items in your training log (yay, progress!) and create a new list!

Now, I’ve got Good News and Bad News:

The Good News is that in our sport of CrossFit, you LITERALLY have an ENDLESS list of things you can choose to improve at any given moment.

The Bad News, is that you’ll never be good at ALL of it. So don’t even try.

But, really, that’s also still the Good News! I’m telling you that (for most people in nearly every circumstance) you can work on a single skill foreverrrr, and still be able to keep improving over time! That is so awesome. Most things that are worth keeping don’t happen overnight, either.

If there’s anything I can do to help you on your journey, let me know. Set realistic goals. Have a plan. And actually try your best to enjoy the journey. If all goes well, we’ll be on it for a long time!

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I’m not sure why, but for some reason I’ve always had a really strong opinion as to whether or not people should have programming written specifically for them. For the purposes of this post, let me be clear and explain my definition of Personalized Programming. I am not defining it as “How-To” progressions for certain advanced movements. If someone wants to learn how do their first pull-up, muscle up, handstand push-up, double-under, etc, there are a plethora of guides out there to help. Those are helpful and appropriate for anyone who wants to get better! Personalized Programming means exactly that. It could include warm-ups, strength cycles, extra workouts, multiple sets of accessory work, etc. A full suite of activities to do in order to help you attain and surpass whatever goals you’ve set for yourself.

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A lot of people who pay for this service still belong at a CrossFit gym. These athletes follow their gym’s programming when they take class, and then add in their Personalized work before or after class, or on their rest days. The reason I feel so strongly about not mixing and matching, is because a very common way of getting hurt is by overdoing it. If you train at a good gym, there should be a progression found in your training. Micro and Macro cycles, a gymnastics-focused wave versus a strength block. If an athlete comes in and throws in 3 extra days of heavy back squats when their gym is on a rest week before re-testing a 1 rep max, can you see how mixing and matching could lead to injury?

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In order to define fitness, CrossFit categorized human performance into 10 Physical Skills. They are:

  1. Cardiovascular/respiratory endurance – The ability of body systems to gather, process, and deliver oxygen.
  2. Stamina – The ability of body systems to process, deliver, store, and utilize energy.
  3. Strength – The ability of a muscular unit, or combination of muscular units, to apply force.
  4. Flexibility – the ability to maximize the range of motion at a given joint.
  5. Power – The ability of a muscular unit, or combination of muscular units, to apply maximum force in minimum time.
  6. Speed – The ability to minimize the time cycle of a repeated movement.
  7. Coordination – The ability to combine several distinct movement patterns into a singular distinct movement.
  8. Agility – The ability to minimize transition time from one movement pattern to another.
  9. Balance – The ability to control the placement of the bodies center of gravity in relation to its support base.
  10. Accuracy – The ability to control movement in a given direction or at a given intensity.

The entire CrossFit methodology is founded upon a concept that an athlete is only as strong as their weakest link out of those 10 movements. Therefore, if you’re really strong but not great with balance, you’ve got a glaring error in your fitness. The example I always remember hearing included two male athletes; one who could deadlift 500lbs but couldn’t jog a mile without stopping, and the other could run a sub-5 minute mile, but couldn’t deadlift twice his body weight. The purpose of the comparison was to say that just because someone may have been incredible at one thing, their deficiency in another thing could severely impact their overall effectiveness as an athlete. In CrossFit, the goal is to be more of a jack of all trades and a master of none. That way, no matter what is thrown at you (the unknown and the unknowable), you’d be more adequately prepared to handle it successfully. (Click here to read the incredible “What is Fitness” article that essentially serves as the Manifesto of the entire program)

Why bring in all of this CrossFit history if I’m writing a post about personalized programming? It’s simple, really. If people are trying to get better at CrossFit, and CrossFit says, “Do everything, all the time, and keep trying new things,” but people spend hours and hours focusing on one specific thing instead, doesn’t that seem kind of counter-intuitive? As I’ve said many times before, most people who are at the gym are there simply to get in better shape. That demographic will benefit just fine from belonging to a gym that has a decent idea of how to make people more fit. In my opinion, they do not require personalized programming.

So which groups of people should devote the extra time and money towards having something written specifically for them? I’ve created a partial list below:

  1. Competitors– CrossFit claims to be the physical fitness program that “specializes in not specializing.” That means you don’t really need to focus your efforts on any one thing in particular because at a good gym, over time you’ll do almost everything on a rotating basis. If you’re training specifically to compete in something, however, you’ll need to hone in on certain areas that you’ll likely see in competition. If you can’t perform the Olympic Lifts without some degree of efficiency, you’re not going to do well. Be clear of the distinction here: Competitive CrossFit athletes ARE specializing in a certain type of fitness, so they will benefit from personalized programming. Training for an Olympic Weightlifting or Strongman event? I completely support getting programming made just for you! In those cases, you’ll need it!
  2. Looking for Subject Matter Expert– You might love your gym’s regular class programming, but you’ve always wanted to improve your running technique or learn how to swim. If there isn’t someone around who can teach you those skills, of course it makes sense to find a professional somewhere else who can.
  3. Trust in a coach– Maybe someone who used to coach at your gym left but they know you really well. Perhaps a famous athlete you’ve always loved and followed posted online about offering customized plans just for you. There is nothing wrong with turning to people you know and trust to help make you better. That’s why we live in such a great time. We can be connected with people all over the world! 
  4. People training on their own– If you are paying for a program made just for you, and that’s the only thing you follow on a regular basis, that now becomes your only training. In this scenario, you’re less likely to overdo it. This option is great.
  5. Just for fun– I’ve written an 8 week rowing plan for someone who just liked rowing and wanted to get better. I’ve worked 1:1 with an athlete for 4 weeks who just wanted to learn how to do a muscle-up. You don’t need a reason to explain why you want to get better at something. I just don’t ever want it to lead to injury. If you’ve got time and money to follow a plan, more power to you!

Who do I think should NOT invest in Personalized Programming?

  1. Beginner athletes– A lot of gyms have a specific “On Ramp” program where they run new members through a basic overview of things they could experience in a given class. Once that’s done, give yourself a few months (years?) of following the daily workouts provided by your gym. Your average “Weekend Warrior” won’t need to work out for more than 4-5 hours per week at a good gym to get in better shape. Most people don’t need much more than  that! When the time comes that you decide your goals are more specific, and your gym isn’t providing resources to help you grow, then you can look for custom programs.
  2. Athletes who are going to overdo it– I understand you want to get better. That’s what’s crazy about this sport of ours. There are SO MANY THINGS we want to improve on, all the time. The good news in all of this, is that with good coaching, you can create a list of goals, and then set aside a reasonable action plan to attack them one at a time. Just don’t go to your home gym four times per week, try to do every workout you see Ben Smith do with your friends, follow Jason Khalipa’s EMOM of the day, attend every skills seminar your gym hosts, and compete every other weekend. It’s too much!

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When it comes to Personalized Programming, there’s also a big difference between in-person versus remote coaching. Thousands of “online coaches” offer training plans that are a one-size fits all offering. The reason I don’t like those as much is that it implies a few things. First, that the coach writing the programming understands the needs of the athlete following it. If I send the same plan to 10 people looking to get better at 10 different skills, there are going to be some things help you, and others that might not. Make sure that if you don’t have a set of eyes on you during your training, that you’ve got another way to ensure you’re moving properly and not establishing bad habits.

Most of my personal training clients who I don’t see every day either send me videos of their more technical movements so I can review them and provide feedback, or schedule in-person training once per week, or a few times per month to cover some more advanced movements with a coach present. That’s the way I prefer to do it, at least! If they are 100% remote clients, where I never see them, I just make sure the programming is safer for them to do on their own. If careful attention is paid to results, and the lines of communication are open between coach and athlete, everyone is likely to be ok.

To conclude the longest post in the world, let’s recap:

Personalized Programming is great and can help athletes everywhere. It can certainly help take performance to a new level if done properly. I am also NOT bashing companies and coaches who offer Personalized Programming to others. I am specifically referring to athletes who belong at one gym, and feel the need to do more and more and more to try and improve. More is not always better. Especially if there’s not specific reason for doing more, such as an upcoming competition.

Too many people think they need something special, when all they need is time to get better at things. It takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to become a “master” at something, remember that. If there was a magic pill or a proven short cut, I promise you more women would snatch 250lbs and more men would have sub-1:30 Fran times!

In the event that someone thinks they need more volume, the first thing I’ll typically suggest to them is to do slower volume. Moving slower and with more of a focus on technique and full range of motion can help speed up progress a lot more than rushing through more. (Read more about my philosophy on that here, if you’re interested.)

Be patient. This CrossFit thing is a marathon, not a sprint. Find coaches and training partners who can help you, but also keep your ambition in check. If you’re injured you can’t train, and nobody has time for that!

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