Everyone wants to be better. In the case of working out, better is usually attributed to extra work. Think about the stories you’ve heard of Rich Froning (back-t0-back-back defending CrossFit Games champion) hitting 5 workouts a day. If he’s working out that much, and you want to get to his level, you should also be working out 5 times a day. Right? Wrong. Despite all of the good intentions, for most people, extra work is actually a negative rather than a positive. Knowing when extra work should be started, and what kind of extra work should be done, is a big step to making sure extra work adds to your fitness level, but never hurts it.
There are two main reasons extra work can be detrimental to your progress:
- physical readiness
- mental readiness
Being physically ready for extra work is the first step to going above and beyond the daily workout. CrossFit WODs are super demanding. For most people, a single WOD is more than enough physical activity for the day. Heck, for most people, 2-3 WODs a week is all the body can handle. Those of you that have been sore for an entire week after a particularly difficult WOD know exactly what I’m talking about. A certain capacity must be achieved before taking on more volume (multiple workouts per day). Jumping on the extra work bandwagon is a recipe for disaster unless your body is physically ready. If you aren’t on Rich Froning’s level don’t follow Rich Froning’s routine. Your body won’t like you very much. We won’t even dive into the injury risk associated with doing too much on a body that never has an opportunity to recover.
Remember, too, intensity is the name of the game. If doing more than 1 workout means you’ll be sacrificing your intensity level for the main WOD, it just isn’t worth it. One workout at 100% effort is infinitely better than 3 workouts at 70%.
The mental side of things is just as important. Taking on more than one can handle can cause stress and feelings of being overwhelmed. Think about a big deadline at work. If you’ve got 5 things you have to get done by the end of the day or your boss isn’t going to be very happy with you, you aren’t going to be having the best day ever. Having too much on your plate at the gym can have a similar effect. Suddenly you have to start making room for more than one hour in your schedule to be at the gym. Suddenly the main WOD isn’t all you have to worry/focus on. Before you know it CrossFit isn’t fun anymore. It feels more like work than something you do because you’re passionate about it. It’s a story all too familiar with the trainers at CFK. People who take on too much, too soon, sabotage themselves and, ultimately, end up quitting.
The Proper Path
Quitting because you started doing too much too soon. A little ironic, don’t you think? Especially so considering the original motivation behind initiating the extra work in the first place was an overwhelming desire to be better and a love for CrossFit. In the case of extra work, less truly does mean more. The best possible extra work anyone can do is get their nutrition dialed in. In fact, nothing else should be considered before showing up consistently and eating perfectly is mastered. Consistency in both will lay the ground work for the physical capacity and mental readiness required to increase your work load.
It’s weird to think of nutrition as extra work, but when you factor in the number of people unable to stick to a proper diet, it actually makes nutrition look like the hardest extra work of all. Someone able to successfully stick to a perfect paleo-zone diet builds mental fortitude and strengthens the body by fueling it with high quality food and reducing body fat levels. It’s easy to see then how somebody consistently showing up to the gym and eating right would be in a much better position to succeed with extra work than someone struggling with both. Plus, why do more if your nutrition won’t even allow you to reap the benefits of everything you’re doing? You’ll never be able to outwork a poor diet!
Having said that, it’s always a good idea to ease into extra work. Start by adding 1 accessory item that won’t take up much time and that is easy to set up. Again, the idea is to make any additional volume appear as underwhelming as possible, thus maintaining the “fun” factor. As your body adjusts to the extra workload, and as you prove to yourself that you can handle the additional responsibility, slowly add more and more. It’s always important to remember, however, that no amount of extra work in the world is worth making CrossFit less enjoyable to you. The moment that happens is the moment anything beyond the main WOD for the day is of no more use to you.