The Open is upon us, and that means lots and lots of time spent thinking about 1) what the new workout for the week could/will be, and 2) once it’s finally released, how you’re going to approach the workout. That’s a whole lot of thinking for just one workout. It’s way more time than we get on a regular basis for a typical CFK workout, especially if you’re part of the 6am crew. But it’s also necessary and appropriate because more is at stake. Performing in the gym and performing in a competition are two completely different monsters that require very different approaches.
Performing in the gym
For a regular CFK wod in the gym, the best and only strategy should be to go as hard as possible. The ultimate goal is to improve your overall fitness level. Maybe it’s because you want to be in the best shape possible. Maybe it’s because you want to look as amazing as possible. Or maybe it’s because you dream of one day competing in, and winning, a CrossFit competition. The answer is, and always will be, intensity. There will never be a substitute for hard work.
Any attempt at over strategizing, rep for rep, your daily workout will only work against the development of your fitness. That’s because the entire point behind strategizing a workout is to keep the body from pushing too hard from the start so that a constant pace can be maintained throughout. Assuming everything goes according to plan, you will have maximized your score. Again, that’s great for competitions, but not for the gym. True fitness can only be found in the land of “beyond your body’s limits”. You can only get to that special place if you go as hard as possible.
Performing in a competition
Strategy and competing go hand in hand. Think about any sport. Teams and players always go into games with detailed game plans. The plans outline exactly what needs to be done in order to ensure victory. The same can be said about CrossFit Open workouts, or any other fitness competition. The goal isn’t to develop fitness. That’s already being developed in the gym on a daily basis. Competitions are where you put that fitness to the test. The goal is to score as high as possible on each workout, and that can only be done with a specific strategy that matches your specific strengths.
We see the dividends of a top strategy all the time. Let’s use the Open as an example. Many people perform each workout multiple times. Of those people, over 90% (based on my personal experiences with people) do better the second time. That’s usually because they alter their previous game plan. It has nothing to do with their fitness. That hasn’t changed in one or two days.
Let’s use the recent 14.1 workout as an example. Sure you might be able to go unbroken on the set of 15 power snatches at 75 lbs/55 lbs, but should you? Probably not. Unless of course your capacity/fitness is such that you can hit several sets of unbroken snatches without it destroying you for the rest of the workout. A smarter option would probably be 5-5-5 on the snatches with roughly a 3 second break in between. Yes, breaking the snatches up in such a way would take longer than going unbroken at first, but the small breaks in between each set will leave the body significantly less trashed for the subsequent rounds. It will definitely be a slower pace, but it’s also a pace that can be maintained for much longer. That’s how you maximize a score. Do not confuse pacing with being super casual, however. An athlete should always still have some urgency about them.
Strategy gone wrong
Strategies are great and all, but what happens when the sh*t hits the fan, so to speak. Fighters, both mixed martial artists and boxers, talk about it all the time. The real fight starts when somebody gets punched in the face. How does the game plan change afterwards? Will you crumble under the pressure and pain? Or will you stay strong and stick to the details that you know will get you the victory. The same can be said about a workout. It’s easy to stick to a plan for the first round, or even a second round, but what happens when the lungs catch fire and the legs start wobbling?
It’s great to go into a competition with a plan, but it’s even better to go in with a back-up plan to the original plan. I see it happen all the time: an athlete is supposed to get a set of 5 reps (in keeping with their game plan), but they can only manage 3. Suddenly the athlete crumbles under the pressure of not sticking to the original plan and everything falls apart. It’s important to understand that an original game plan is rarely adhered to for the entirety of a workout. You must be flexible in your approach when you start to hit the proverbial “wall”. Don’t get bogged down by not hitting your 5s. Instead quickly switch over to sets of 3 and keep on trucking. Don’t freak out. Don’t get flustered. Roll with the punches and start a new game plan. The best scores will always come from the athletes who deal with “getting punched in the face” the best.