“What I’ve learned and where I’m going” by Coach Jason Lapadula
This past month marks another year of the CrossFit Games, and another year of huge growth for the newly minted, “Sport of Fitness.” But the spirit of CrossFit as a whole is not that of games athletes; it’s of everyday people just trying to look better, stay fitter, or train for their sport, hobby, or job. In my short two and a half years of doing CrossFit, I’d like to think I’ve experienced a decent amount of the training protocol and the community. I’ve also done some stupid things, and have learned a great deal from my shortcomings as both an athlete and an individual.
I suggest everyone make a list of goals to accomplish, both short-term (within a few months to a year) and long-term (your “end game”). Also evaluate your training retroactively to determine where you are, and where you are going. In other words, it’s hard to make progress if you don’t know how to get from point A (where you started your journey) to point B (where you want to end). If you have no clear goals in mind, think about signing up for an event (local CrossFit throwdowns, Civilian Military Combine, Tough Mudder, weightlifting competitions, etc.).
I started as a somewhat overweight kid just looking to stay fitter. Eventually I decided I wanted to join the military, and knew I needed to be in shape for that. Now that I am in the military, I need to train for the situations I may encounter in the near future. After establishing my points A and B, here are some of the things I have learned in the past few years, and some of my goals for the upcoming years:
What I’ve Learned
1) For me, and for everyone else who is not a games athlete, CrossFit is a training tool. If you are training for something specific, you need to practice your event/sport/job – no amount of strength and conditioning can replace it (that is not to say we cannot supplement it). Let’s apply this to one of our most sought-after skills in CrossFit – the muscle-up. Is there a need for me to be able to do ring muscle-ups? Sure it’s a cool party trick, but it doesn’t keep me up at night thinking about how some people are better at them than I am.
Bar muscle-ups on the other hand, although still not quite a necessary skill, may have some carry over to certain tasks I need to do – so I practice them more. Strength and conditioning is nothing more than GPP (general physical preparedness) for the athlete, and technique is highly specialized. Whatever you do, make sure your training program coincides with your goals.
2) Mobility and strength are the two biggest limiting factors for most people starting CrossFit. This is why many people cannot get into a decent overhead squat – mobility limits your positioning, and strength limits your stability. How do you fix this? Easier said than done – get stronger and mobilize like it’s a second job.
3) Record your workouts. This ties in with getting stronger, and overall better. Again, if you don’t know where you are, how will you know if you are improving? I’d suggest writing down everything you do in your workouts, but if anything, at least record your strength numbers and your benchmark workouts (“Fran,” “Helen,” etc.).
4) Keep your endurance efforts cyclic. This is more of a guideline than a hard-and-fast rule. Cyclic movements are running, rowing, biking, etc. – they do not have a clear beginning or end of the movement (no eccentric/concentic cycle), whereas non-cyclic movements have a clear beginning and end. I have seen very little training benefit from workouts with purely non-cyclic movements lasting longer than 20 minutes. These workouts also place an enormous stress on your musculoskeletal system, due to the large amount of reps.
5) Learn everything from everyone. An elitist attitude makes people ignorant. CrossFit is a great training tool, but realize there are some very smart people outside the CrossFit community as well. Many coaches in the strength and conditioning community have yet to realize the potential of CrossFit, which may cause some individuals in our community to become defensive of their beloved program. Be the better man/woman – take those useful bits of information those coaches have to offer, and ignore the trash talk. Remember that the best training program is the one that you will do – meaning that if I give you the holy grail of training programs, and it beats you down to the point where you stop training, that protocol is a failure.
So what if your friend does Zumba instead of CrossFit? If it works for them, and keeps them motivated to exercise, who are you to tell them to stop? Sure you can try to coax them into trying CrossFit, which I believe will yield better results, but if they’re working out, they’re doing more than the average person. Similarly, if your friend or a famous trainer/coach bashes CrossFit, learn why and try to formulate your own opinions. There are some great pieces of knowledge to learn from these people, even if they don’t agree with your training program.
6) These is no perfect program. Find out what works for you and stick with it. There is no single training program that is going to be best for everyone – doing the same workouts as Rich Froning will not make you win the CrossFit Games. Find what works for your engine. Learn what the difference between laziness and, “I’m beat down and really need a rest day,” feels like. People have different strengths, weaknesses, schedules, and stressors that affect their performance. In the words of a famous coach, “What’s effective depends entirely on the objective, the starting condition of the individual, the time and resources available, and the level of understanding and self-discipline the individual can apply to the process.”
Where I’m Going
1) Workout outside more often. I think working out outside is a great training tool. There’s something about the comfort of a gym that, in my opinion, makes people soft. There’s nothing quite like a hill sprint with a weight vest, or running through the woods, or swimming in open water. This year, I will be working out outside more often, because it provides another variable to my training program, and is way more fun than being in the gym all day. I am also making an effort to take some trips to go hiking throughout the year.
2) Incorporate more odd objects and weighted carries. Similar to working out outside, the comfort that a barbell provides is quite different than that of a sandbag. Also, weighted carries are one of the most functional training tools that I believe is missing in most people’s training programs. I recently did a mile farmer’s carry with my 45# vest, 12 # steel pipe, and 35# kettlebell – I haven’t felt that kind of pain and near defeat in a while. I am making a point to do at least one workout with weighted carries every week, and use more odd objects rather than barbells this year.
3) Do more running and swimming. These are tasks that are specific to my job/sport, so I need to train them as such. I am a fairly good runner, but I need to perform well both for long distances and with load – two things I need to work on. I also need to work on my swimming – I can barely do 100m repeats without drowning. My goals are to swim 1000m continuously both freestyle and combat sidestroke.
My physical fitness is only a piece of the puzzle (as I assume it is for just about everyone), I still have a lot of mental and emotional goals to accomplish. Of course this model can be applied to just about anything in your life – establishing your bearings is paramount to accomplishing goals. Retroactively evaluating your past experience/performance and goal setting are two important steps in making progress in your performance inside or outside the gym.