Wednesday, 9 December 2009
It's The Standard.
My friends, I am guilty of a great sin.
When I am training on the main site WOD, all my 5k runs are done on the same, flat course. If a workout with thrusters, push presses, or jerks doesn't specify that the bar must be taken from the floor, I always use the rack. I never substitute dumbbells for barbells, or rope climbs for pullups, or do my handstand pushups on parallettes.
Don't get me wrong: I'm not afraid of making things more challenging. In fact, when I'm doing my own programming, I prefer to run in the hills, I love dumbbells, and rope climbs are just plain fun. Fear isn't what's stopping me. It's standards.
You see, when faced with the prospect of participating in the same workout as thousands of other people, I've just got to give myself every advantage I can. What can I say? I get competitive.
Competition is good. In fact, competition is, in my opinion, the primary factor that's driven CrossFit to the success it's had. But a problem arises when we look at every single day of the WOD as a competition unto itself: in the effort to get the best possible time on the prescribed WOD, we lose the ability to be creative and challenge ourselves.
After the 2008 CrossFit Games, Tony Budding wrote an article for the CrossFit Journal about standards. After chest-to-bar pullups were used in the Games, a lot of people took that to mean that chest-to-bar pullups were the "official" CrossFit standard pullup. Budding's point was that standards are arbitrary: that is, the standards applied to our movements – chin-over-bar or chest-to-bar pullups, top of hip below the kneecap on squats, even running a flat 5k rather than a hilly one – are, in reality, just ways of evening the playing field in competition. It may be that abiding by these standards produces greater fitness. However, they are arbitrary on game day, because the only thing that matters in competition is...well, competition. How you trained for it doesn't matter, all that matters is how well you perform.
If you're still pretty new to CrossFit, this won't be much of a problem. Just getting to the point where you can do the main site WOD as prescribed is a challenge for most people. It sure was for me. But as you become a better athlete, the need to add variety and challenge to your training becomes crucial, both for the mental ability to deal with new and unusual tasks, and for the physical capacity to complete them. If all you want is to do as well as possible on the prescribed main site WOD every day, that's fine. That is a perfectly reasonable goal, and you'll still get damn fit. If, however, it is your goal to compete in the CrossFit Games, I urge you to remind yourself that your day-to-day training is a means to an end. So forget about doing things the "standard" way once in a while. Don't be afraid to pick up some dumbbells, climb a rope, squat ass-to-grass, or put on a weight vest.
And for fucks sake, run some hills. You're going to need it.