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.


osatts said...

As far as competition goes, somebody, very recently, told me that we should compete against the WOD not other athletes...very wise statement.

Regarding standards, my only standards are that full ROM is completed on each movement in the WOD. Variety should be a major part of every CrossFitter's programming. We have so many effective tools at our disposal we should utilise them all; not only to help us progress but to keep us sane!

Those of you who haven't read Blair Morrison's blog about his time in Europe NEED to! We should look at our surroundings - stairs, rocks, scaffolding, lamposts, hills, name it! If you can pick it up, push it, pull it - why not DO it?

Oh and Jacob, I'm going to make myself a pair of parallettes over the week or so you can throw them into my programming!

osatts said...

Also...I know that we can't pick up, push or pull a hill, but you get the picture, right?

Russ Greene said...

In a well-designed CrossFit competition, the winner will be the guy who has the least weaknesses. Being the best at any one lift or workout, is often a good sign that an athlete is not as fit as he could be. The guy with the fastest fran in the world didn't make it to the games, for example.

By constantly adding new elements, we discover more and more areas of weakness. And these weaknesses are the most fruitful areas for potential growth.

Find more stuff you suck at, and get better at those things.

Tsypkin said...

Owen: Good call on the parallettes. Also, be prepared for a WOD that involves pushing and/or pulling a hill.

The blog Owen is referring to is It's linked on our recommended reading and is one of the most worthwhile training blogs I've yet been lucky enough to come across.