This past Sunday I had the pleasure of Coaching the Competitors class here at the Sweat Shop. I had written a good conditioning style piece it was:
Every 90 seconds for 15 minutes complete
-7 toes to bar
-5 Bar facing Burpees
-3 Snatches or Clean and Jerks
I was pleased to see everyone made it within the time domain and no one had to cut down on reps, or take an interval off. In fact, most people looked like they were able to stay fairly composed while moving through the workout. Their movement pace, technique, and their breathing all looked controlled, despite having to handle a good volume of work. Then a thought dawned on me: This is when people can perform at their most optimal level.
If you ever watch the CrossFit Open Live announcements, CrossFit Regionals, or CrossFit Games, you’ll see that the top performers in these events are quality movers. Their technique from start to finish is good, their breathing looks methodical and controlled, and they stick to their pace despite what is going on around them. One of my favorite examples of this is Rich Froning when he did the infamous 100s workout at regionals back in 2013. If you ever watch him when he is at his best (don’t watch the triple three), he is composed throughout the entire workout, whether its 5 minutes or 45 minutes.
But I’m Not Rich Froning, Why Should I Care?
While the best of the best in CrossFit practice good quality movement, breathing, and pacing, they’re not the only ones who should be doing it! Our goal in CrossFit is to move as efficiently as possible. If we dial in our technique, pacing, and breathing, it can set us up to maximize our efficiency. Lets go ahead and apply these three principles to a workout, and lets use Grace (30 Clean and Jerks @ 135/95) as an example. If at the sound of 3,2,1…Go, you smash out 14 touch and go clean and jerks with pretty iffy technique and no real conscious breathing, you will probably have just redlined. Your heart rate will shoot up, you’ll be sucking wind, and your body will yell at you to quit. Now, lets say you take a better approach of doing two sets of 7 touch and go reps while being conscious of technique and breathing. You do the two sets of 7 and find you still feel pretty good and are able to get right back on the bar. But why did it feel so much better than doing 14 straight as fast as you could? Lets talk about this. For starters, giving yourself that little break at rep 7 can be just enough to keep your heart rate down and keep you on pace. Even though it will only be a five or so seconds, that might be all you need. Technique is similar to the pacing concept, a little bit can go a long way. Just reminding yourself about simple cues can go a long way in helping maintain efficiency. Its easy to think,”I have done this lift 1,000 times, I have the technique down,” but no one is above giving themselves little reminders. On the clean and jerk just reminding yourself to catch the bar in a good power position, finish your extension on the jerk, and to drive yourself under the bar in the catch for the jerk, can go a long way to maintaining efficiency. When it comes to breathing, the battle is just being conscious about it. A lot of times when we are doing touch and go reps we forget to breathe properly, instead we take these shortened choppy breathes that can really jack our heart rate up. Putting a little bit of extra emphasis on the breathe can help prevent improper breathing patterns.
Throughout any workout you should feel like you’re in control. It shouldn’t feel like you’re barely hanging on to your pace, bordering the red line zone the entire time. Your reps at minute 1 should look similar to those at minute 11. If you can better manage technique, breathing, and pace you’ll find that you can make some serious improvements on your workouts. You also won’t get that completely trashed feeling when you’re done nearly as much which can make you less sore. With the open looming around the corner this is a good time to try to be extra conscious of our workouts and how we are attacking them. Try to be conscious of this triad of things during your workouts and make them a practice that sticks. Even if you are not shooting for a certain place on the leaderboard you should always want to put your best foot forward. I believe focusing on these three things can help get you there!