So…you’ve been doing CrossFit for almost two years now and you’ve caught the “bug”. You know what I’m talking about. You just did your first RX competition last month and you’re hooked. Spending an hour at the box everyday isn’t enough anymore. You want to do more. So what’s next? How do you ramp up your intensity without committing the serious crime of overtraining? Here are 5 steps to help take you to the next level:
#1 Identify and Work on Your Weaknesses
CrossFit is defined as “increased work capacity over broad time and modal domains”. In layman’s terms: be well-rounded. CrossFit asks its athletes to be good at short distances, long distances, in-between distances, as well as gymnastics movements, weightlifting movements, and monostructural movements. Therefore, it is important to identify the movements that you struggle with and then dedicate extra time each week to focus on them.
One great way to get started is to review past Open workouts and write down the movements you struggled with. If you didn’t do the Open, then look at the workouts that were posted the past couple of weeks at your local gym. This will give you an idea of what type of movement (gymnastics, monostructural, or weightlifting) that you need to focus more time on. If you’re unsure of what kind of accessory or skill work you should do, here are some resources to help get you started:
- Gymnastics movements – CrossFit Jaakarhu’s YouTube channel
- Rowing and ski erg – Darkhorse Rowing’s YouTube channel
- Weightlifting – Starting Strength’s YouTube channel; TrainHeroic website/blog
#2 Track Your Progress
Tracking your progress is an important component of becoming a successful athlete because it allows you to see where you’ve improved and what areas you still need to work on. Some ideas of things you should keep track of:
- Daily class programming (the wod and your time; any strength work)
- Accessory work (type of movement and number of sets/reps)
- Rest times between sets
- Weights for strength sets
- Whether you made or failed a lift or rep(s)
Some of these examples may seem a little extreme, but it is important to keep note of even the smallest variables in order to accurately track your progress.
#3 Focus on Nutrition
There’s a quote commonly posted on various social media fitness pages that says, “Abs are made in the kitchen.” This might not be entirely accurate, but the main idea behind it is: what you eat is important. There are all sorts of diets, nutrition trends, and products out there that boast about being the best. In the CrossFit world specifically, many athletes work with personal nutrition coaches, follow dieting templates like RP, or meticulously weighing and measuring their food to accurately count macros. None of these methods are bad. In fact, they have all been proven to positively impact an athlete’s performance and help them feel good. However, oftentimes these approaches to nutrition can be intimidating and overwhelming.
If you don’t have the money to spend on a nutrition coach and counting your macros seems like a daunting task, what should your approach be? The easiest way to change your nutrition habits is to change the way you shop for food. An easy rule to follow when you are buying groceries is to only shop around the outside of the store. Here you will find the ingredients for CrossFit’s recommended nutrition recipe as stated by founder Greg Glassman: “Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch, and no sugar.” Eating a ‘clean’ diet full of whole foods is the best nutritional approach when it comes to improving your performance.
#4 Interval Work
Becoming a more competitive athlete often means that you have to include pieces in your training that aren’t showy or even fun, but extremely important nonetheless. Interval work is one of those ‘pieces’. Many times, athletes neglect endurance training for fear that they will lose strength, speed, and power. However, with the regular implementation of interval work into one’s training, an athlete will successfully increase their cardiovascular endurance while maintaining the strength, speed, and power that they were fearful of losing. Here are some suggestions for different types of interval work:
- Tabata (20 sec work, 10 sec rest)
- Sprint for 30 sec, jog for 90 sec
- 4x500m row, rest 2 minutes between each set
These are just a few examples of different types of interval training. The important thing to remember is to mix it up. Don’t do the same type of interval work every week. CrossFit asks it’s athletes to be good at everything and the same goes for intervals. If your body is used to working for shorter periods of time and resting for longer, then it won’t respond well if it’s asked to do the opposite. For more information on the benefits of interval training, check out the research conducted by Dr. Stephen Seiler.
This is a term that is commonly used in many CrossFit gyms, but its importance is often overlooked. Mobility is important for several different reasons: it leads to increased strength and overall performance, it reduces the risk of injury, and it also aids in a quicker recovery. Mobility can often be intimidating if you’re unsure where to start, so here are a few resources to help you out:
- Dr. Kelly Starrett’s book Becoming a Supple Leopard
- romwod.com (or the app version).