In any sport or new activity, there is always lots to learn, which can often take time. CrossFit is no different. Not only does CrossFit’s methodology involve numerous gymnastics movements, technical lifts, and the need for a good cardiovascular foundation, but the different time constraints and styles of workouts calls for an entirely separate set of skills: the ability to pace appropriately based on the workout.
Most CrossFitters fall into one of the following four pacing categories: 1) The Wild Man/Woman 2) The Accountant 3) The Shrinking Violet and 4) The Master. As discussed in a previous article, ‘The Wild Man/Woman’ stage occurs when the athlete’s capacity to finish a workout without completely blowing up has not been fully developed yet and they don’t have the experience necessary to know how to pace different types of workouts. Let’s compare this first stage of pacing awareness to the strategies used by ‘The Accountant’ (the second stage).
As the name suggests, ‘The Accountant’ is an athlete who is very calculated and takes their pacing strategies almost too far. Oftentimes, if they fail to adhere to their perfectly calculated plans; they often fall apart and have no strategy to fall back on. These types of athletes will start to create mental and literal spreadsheets of their split times. They often think that by doing the math ahead of time they’ll be able to will their bodies to go along with their plan. However, once fatigue starts to set in, no amount of willpower or sheer determination can keep them from staying on track. Instead of setting a rigid plan with no room for deviations, athletes need to learn how to adjust their plan on the fly based on how the workout is going.
Here are some quick tips for how you can avoid a rigid workout strategy and learn how to pace off of how your body feels:
- Descending sets are typically better than straight sets (such as 6/5/4 for a set of 15 pull-ups instead of 5/5/5).
- Don’t do more than 50% of your max unbroken set (for example: if your max set of toes-to-bar is 20, don’t do more than 10 reps at a time).
- Always leave two reps in the bank. Hitting just one rep that’s “two hard” can push you over the edge, cause you to fall apart, and lead to failure.
- When calculating your likely split times, make sure to build in extra time to account for fatigue. If you know that you can typically do 6/5/4 chest-to-bar pull-ups in 25 seconds when you’re fresh, plan for that to increase by several seconds each round due to fatigue, such as 30s, then 35s, then 40s, etc.