Practice, Training, or Competing?
By Coach Colby Bone
You show up to the gym lift heavy, ideally as heavy as possible for 1, 3, or 5 reps. Then you rest for a few minutes before hitting the workout. In your mind there are really only two speeds allowed in any workout: off or on. And ‘on’ means 100% effort.
If you don’t leave the day – any day – feeling completely exhausted then something is obviously wrong, right?
The problem with this workout style (or philosophy, if you will) is that your body isn’t designed for maximal intensity output day in and day out. It works great for a year or two, maybe three if you’re lucky…and young (read: under the age of 30). But maximum effort every day is a recipe for injury.
An analogy from one of the various sportballs seems be appropriate here:
If you play high school football, the vast majority of your practices are full-out efforts in full pads with full contact. The reason for this is that your high school career is short, 2-3 years.
If you’re lucky enough to make it to the next level and play collegiately, there is a sudden reduction in the number of days that you spend in full pads with full contact. Because, if you can stay injury free then your career has just gone from 2-3 years to upwards of 6 or 7.
If you make it one step further, to play professionally, then you would see a further reduction in full pad days. Correlated to that reduction in full contact practice, you would see a return to spending more time on fundamentals, working the playbook, and in the weight room. The reason for this reduction in contact (read: intensity) is that you are now, hopefully, doing this for life (or at least for a career).
What practicable purpose could it serve to put you in full pads and put you up against a 250 pound linebacker every single day when the most likely outcome, over time, is that one or both of you end up injured? Instead, that max effort/max intensity should be stored up and channeled into your competition…in this case your games.
So how does this carry over to what we do every day at Petworth Fitness?
This is the unsexy one. The one that gets neglected the most. The one that could prove the most beneficial.
This might be spending 20 minutes of a class perfecting your Turkish Get Up or working through low to moderate volume snatches at a lightweight with the intent of improving technique and consistency. A good workouts program allocates 20-30% of its time to practice.
This is the slow-it-down part. The dissect what is wrong or, maybe more importantly, what could be done better part. And there’s always something that could be done better. Always.
High skill movements are the easiest examples to come up with on this front because there’s a degree of technical precision that is readily apparent. But it’s not just high skill movements like snatches or Turkish Get Ups that could benefit from methodical practice.
For example: If you struggle with getting to depth in squat movements, when’s the last time you did 50 or 100 air squats for quality with no consideration of time?
This is the one that should up the majority of time in the gym. It’s the one where you work at 70-90% of effort. Fundamentally, it’s about increasing capacity.
If it’s strength work then it’s for reps and if it’s a workout, it’s something just at the edge of your comfort zone. Some days it means going really fast (those pesky 5-8 minute metcons) but not quite expending max effort (80-90% effort), with an eye towards understanding when you can/should put the pedal down.
Other days it means slowing down a bit (70-80% effort) and trying to figure out your pacing, to improve your consistency so you better understand your capacity under a given set of constraints (workouts of the 14+ minute variety). Still other days are about being fast and consistent, this is where interval work comes into play.
This is the easy one. You go all out and try to hit a 1 Rep Max or post the best time on the workouts or you actually enter a competition. These most certainly have their place in a well-rounded fitness program, but should probably take up no more than 10% of your time in the gym.
One great way to fill this space and to scratch your competitive itch, is the CrossFit Open. Which, luckily for us, is just over the horizon.
For those of you who don’t know, The Open is one workout a week for five weeks. It’s announced ever Wednesday night on games.crossfit.com starting the last week of February. We’ll be doing them at the gym every Friday from February 23 through March 23. They will be the workout of the day for the CrossFit classes and a modified version for FastFit classes.
We’ll also be doing Friday Night Lights this year for those who register for The Open and need to be judged for official scores. Click here for full details on Friday Night Lights. Learn more about The 2018 Open and Register Here!