If there is one thing that seems to be unanimous throughout the realm of CrossFit is everyone loves hard workouts. They love hard workouts Monday through Sunday. They want to be a mess of sweat and suffering at the end of the metcon, wondering why they committed themselves to this and how long it’s going to take to feel their body again. They want to walk into the gym sore, they want to leave sore, and they want to talk to you about how sore they still are from the day before. Breathing heavy, moving barbells, and gymnastic work intertwined under the beep of a clock and thundering music – a CrossFitter’s wonderland. It also seems to me that everyone always wants to make the workout harder by various different methods, but most notably by adding weight vests and increasing weight on barbells or the like. What most do not want to do is have an easy workout or do the mundane like work technique, they just want to come in and suffer.
Before I dive further down this train of thought, I do want to say that some works out will be inherently easier than others for individuals based on strengths and weaknesses. Everyone is better at something than the person next to them, so there will be varying degrees of difficulty within the same workout. That having been said, I want to venture out to say that no workout is easy. I firmly believe that if you approach every workout with the mindset of bringing intensity than nothing can ever be easy (throw in some air quotes there). If you’re looking at a workout and you’re thinking to yourself, this barbell is too light or this rep scheme is small. Awesome, you know what that means for you? Go faster. You better never stop moving. At no point should you take your hands off the barbell, drop from a set, or break from a run. You should never have to reach for your water bottle or stop a transition to catch your breath. You should make it hurt. Bring intensity in the face of something that appears to be easy. Reaching for extra weight slows you down, it gives you more reasons to break, to stop and rest a little bit longer. Or force yourself to work the technique of whatever movements you are encountering. I’m not impressed by those who reach for the extra and drag a workout longer than its intended to be. I’m far more impressed by those who take a workout as written, or even scale it down a bit to bring the intensity that it should be performed at.
The mundane is more important than the flashy, cool sounding metcon. And before you throw me on the funeral pyre, I do love metcons. They’re fun, and for me, make the sport of CrossFit what it is. I also believe everyone should be able to perform work through different modalities, whether it is single or mixed work. But in order to be able to have the right to do the flashy and cool, you have to practice. You have to do the long cardiovascular pieces like running or rowing (or long, low level grinder metcons that last beyond your normal 14 minute AMRAP). If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you haven’t done a metcon that has multiple movements and takes just under an hour but let’s you walk away alive. (No, Murph does not count, that thing leaves you ruined for almost a week.) You have to develop your aerobic capacity through different paces and distances. You need to practice and build strength in strict gymnastic movements. Learn, practice, relearn, practice, perfect, and practice the basics until you decide that CrossFit isn’t your thing anymore. Did you catch what I just said? Even when you have developed competency and perfection, you must practice the basics. That means spending time on things that most people cannot be bothered by like reinforcing hollow and arch position and power, hang, and low hang positions (for some low hanging fruit as far as skill work is concerned). It’s time spent doing strict strength like accumulating time in a handstand hold, performing perfect push-ups – not the flop of the floor, leave my quads on the ground, and push my chest up push-ups, or working strict pull-ups. It’s time spent doing unilateral work in the form of carries, presses, and rows. It is being relentless in the way you cool down and recover from all that you partake in.
You need to work hard, and through hard work, you will have hard workouts. But everyday does not have to be the end-all, blow yourself up, gasping-for-air-on-the-floor type of work. It is not an efficient way to build an athlete. You may see momentary gains, but it will lead to an eventual decrease in fitness, strength, power, arousal, drive, and the many other factors that encompass fitness. Whether it’s through becoming brunt out or injury, going hard in metcons everyday will have a negative effect eventually.
So go hard and have fun. Make your lungs bleed and find yourself lying in a pool of sweat. But know when it’s time to tone down the intensity. Understand your limits, know when the weights are too heavy or the reps are too much. Understand your body well enough to know when you are too beat up to train. Begin to understand when imbalances and skills are your weakness and just going hard in a metcon is not going to solve those problems. Take the time to build and master (again, air quotes) the basics. Know when it’s your time to go hard and your time to take it easy. Not that my opinion truly matters to most, but I’m not impressed by how hard you can go everyday. There is a time and place for it, without a doubt. I do think most people misunderstand that to truly be good at CrossFit is to understand how to hold yourself at 80-90% effort for the entirety of a workout (anything lasting over three minutes). I am impressed by those who strive to be better, to work on weaknesses, and play the long game of developing skills, developing their aerobic base, and developing their strength rather than the mentality of I’m going to win the workout even if it kills me.