Question: Chris, how do you alter your training immediately following a competition?
The competition that you have just completed and the time of year largely dictate the recovery process afterwards. By the way, and to digress from the question for a moment, if you are serious about being competitive in CrossFit it’s a good idea to do some local or larger regional competitions. What that does is give you a chance to “test” your plan for tapering, warm-ups at the competition, meals between workouts, and so on.
For the local/regional competitions your rest/recovery time can be as short as a day, and no more than two. You should be able to quickly get back to your training cycle that will allow you to progress for your main competition. If you are feeling run down it’s a good idea to initially get back to the gym with lower intensity and loading in your workouts. Examples of this might be something that provides built-in rest like and EMOM (every minute on the minute). This can also be great to work on some simple skill development or longer cardio respiratory endurance days since they are by nature of lower intensity.
Following the main competition of the year I typically recommend a week or two off from the gym. Personally, I am usually back in the gym within 5-7 days, but with similar principles mentioned above. Even if you placed well in the competition, coming off of the intense pre-competition cycle can often lead to a let-down. In such scenarios it is best to give yourself the time you need to recharge your batteries. Do some fun physical activities which are not stressful. If a couple of weeks have gone by and you are not yet physically hungry to be back in the gym take another day or two and it could lead to a better week or month of training.
This is a great question and exposes what many people fall victim to when starting out CrossFit. First of all, CrossFit is a strength and conditioning program, not just a conditioning program. With well varied programming you will find a variety of loadings, rep schemes, and movements throughout a week that will help increase strength for most beginner to intermediate athletes.
CrossFit has 4 models that help support our definition of fitness: “work capacity across broad time and modal domains”. One of those models is The 10 General Physical Skills. This list was developed by Bruce Evans and Jim Crawley, track coaches in Texas and is as follows:
1. Cardio Respiratory Endurance
Our belief is that he or she who is most fit will be best balanced across ALL 10 of these General Physical Skills. If we have excess capacity in one area it usually means we lack in another. Many people make the mistake of assuming that one of these is more important than the other. This would be true for a specialist such as a power lifter, or marathon runner, but for a generalist that is looking to have GPP (general physical preparedness) none is more important than the other.
It’s easy to think that we need to increase our strength to do workouts Rx’d, which may be the case, but the same could be said about coordination, ctamina, flexibility, or any one of the 10 GPS.
Doing a workout Rx’d is a huge achievement for many and should be celebrated. Having said that we still want to maintain the intended stimulus of the workout the majority of the time. Take the following workout for example:
Run 400 meters
7 Front Squats (225/155)
If you don’t have a baseline to start with regarding how long this should take an athlete think of a Regional level CrossFit competitor, or even the “fire breather” in the gym. The workout listed above for a Regional Level athlete should take anywhere from 7-10 min.
-Run 400: roughly 1:30/round
-21 Pull-Ups: roughly 45 sec/round
-7 Front Squats: roughly 45 sec/round
Each round taking approximately 3 min
These times allow for transition, chalking your hands, breaks between the bars, etc. Some athletes will be able to do it faster, some a bit slower, but the intention behind the workout is for power output. That means that the athlete should be able to move through the workout with a strong pace. Below would be two different athletes that although capable of doing the workout as rx’d, would be missing the stimulus.
This athlete may lack strength and have difficulty with the front squat. They may be able to get them done, but the rep scheme for the front squat is singles or doubles with long breaks between reps from the start to complete the set of 7.
The run and pull ups may not be the issue at all for this athlete since they suit his strengths, but if the front squat weight holds him back so much that the workout now takes him 15 min, we have lost the intention of the workout.
On the opposite end of the spectrum this athlete may have no issue at all with the front squat but the combination of the run and pull ups slows them down. Their cardio respiratory endurance for the run which is now taking 2:30-3 min, and stamina on the pull ups which forces them to do sets of 5 and less with long breaks to get to 21 holds them back from getting through the workout quickly. If this causes them to finish the workout in 15 min we have lost the intention of the workout.
The majority of the time the workout should be scaled to allow for a similar time domain and power output to be reached. Athlete number 1 should scale down the weight on the front squat to something where they can get at least the first round in consecutive reps. Athlete number 2 may scale down the distance on the run to 200 meters, or the pull up repetitions to 15/round, and if needed, scale both of them.
From the examples above you can see that strength may not be the glaring weakness. And if it is, well varied CrossFit programming including one strictly heavy day/week will increase the athletes strength over time. If our stamina or CRE is the limiting factor the same could be said. Well varied CrossFit programming providing a variety of rep schemes, loadings, and distances will increase this athletes capacity in these areas.
On occasion it is ok and recommended that you give your athletes a chance to perform workouts as Rx’d without worrying about the time. It will give them a victory, and baseline to work from for improving their fitness. Most of the time, in most situations, and most scenarios the workouts should be scaled down appropriately, first with load, then reps or distance, and lastly the movement, in order to maintain the stimulus intended.Chris Spealler is a multi top 10 finisher at the CrossFit Games and one of the sport’s legends. He currently works for CrossFit HQ and owns his own facility (CrossFit Park City) in Utah. Chris’ amazing strength endurance, endurance, and work ethic always made him a fan favorite.