Since we are right in the middle of the CrossFit Games season, and our very own Dylan Kelly will be competing next weekend in the Central Regional, I thought I would give you all some insight into how Dylan and I prepare for workouts, and competition workouts more specifically.
If you have ever watched the CrossFit Games, you may have heard the commentators talk about pacing, strategies and how important it is for athletes to not come out too fast and risk burning out by the end of an event. All of this is true, however, let me say one thing first:
Training and competing are not the same thing. There are many stages we go through as competitive exercisers. We train at the highest intensity possible, constantly testing our limits and seeing how far we can go at a redline pace. When we get close to competitions, we begin practicing working out using pacing strategies. And when we actually compete, we know our limits and how the pacing felt, and we can base how we want to attack a workout based on what we already KNOW.
For training purposes, I absolutely recommend going as hard as you can, as often as you can. If you always try and strategize for a workout, you will never test your limits. How will you know how many unbroken overhead squats you can do at 135 pounds, and how fast it takes you, if you are always breaking up the reps to avoid burning out?
Once you have become familiar with your body and its performance in workouts, you can use those indicators to come up with strategies. The first thing I always do is come up with a timeline. I try and estimate as best I can the FASTEST possible time that a workout can be done in. For example, I know that 1 wallball shot takes 2 seconds. If I see 150 wallball shots, then I know that the fastest possible time would be 300 seconds, or 5 minutes. Through years and years of experience, I have come up with a mental database of all the different movements and how long 1, 5, 10, 20, etc reps would take me. I know that 21 thrusters at 95 pounds takes me just under 40 seconds. I know that when I want to pace out 21 thrusters, I can afford to do them in around 42 seconds. These are all things that I KNOW, because I have paid close attention to my limits and capabilities.
The second thing I look at is what movements will need to be broken up into multiple sets. If the workout has 5 rounds of 9 deficit strict HSPU, I know that there is no way that I can get through all the rounds unbroken. If I try and push the first round with an unbroken set, I will likely be setting myself up for muscle failure by the 3rd round. So I immediately recognize that in this particular workout, I have a weakness, and I will need to game it a little. I would likely break up the HSPU´s into a set of 5 and 4 for the first round, and then 4-3-2 for the second round, and then try and go with 3-3-3 for the 3rd and 4th rounds. Round 5 at that point is just a gut check, and you try and hang on with whatever you can.
Once I have come up with the fastest possible timeline, and the movements that I need to break up, I try and come up with what I think is a realistic time for myself. If I am competing and I have time before the competition, I will try the workouts out, and see how my strategy worked. Again, if you have the luxury of trying a workout before the competition, making small adjustments can be crucial. If not, don´t stress it, just stick with what you know and towards the end of a workout, put your foot into the gas pedal and hang on!
For the average CrossFitter, who does not compete, you can still use these same strategies when looking at a workout. Look at the rep schemes and try and remember the last time you did a similar movement, weight and rep scheme. If two weeks ago you did a workout that had 30 burpees per round, and it took you 2 minutes, and this week there is a workout with 15 burpees per round, you should definitely be able to do those 15 burpees in a minute.
All in all, if you want to strategize workouts, you have to know what you are capable of. Pay attention to what you are lifting during our strength sessions. During a workout, keep a close eye on the clock. Start paying attention to EVERYTHING! Lastly, don´t always pace workouts. Train as hard as you can as frequently as you can and you will expand your boundaries and abilities!