Coach’s Blog

Pacing & Finding Your Sweet Spot, Part II

September 20, 2017

PART II

 

In Part I, we talked about pacing too much versus not pacing at all. Not pacing a workout correctly could contribute to maximizing your performance and also not reaping the health benefits of certain types of workouts. Not having the ability to properly pace a workout is common for a novice athlete and even some elite athletes. A lot of times this is due to a lack of experience. Sometimes we see a workout and it is easy on the eyes, but the end result is a complete mis-paced crap show. In Part II, we are going to go over ways to find the beautiful sweet spot in your workouts, so you can increase performance and even your health!

 

The first step in finding the sweet spot is to record everything! If you do not have a journal or a log, how on Earth can you truly know how to pace? I would suggest to write notes and comments on how your body felt during the workout in your journal as well. The best athletes in the world for virtually any sport, know their bodies extremely well. They know when to hold back and when to redline. Very few people truly know their body’s limitations without workout tracking or journaling first. I personally like using a stopwatch to keep track of how fast I finish rounds, reps and sets. From this I can get a really good idea on how to pace future workouts that may have similar attributes.

 

The next step is to adjust intensity based on the length of the workout or projected length of the workout. The longer the workout, the lower the intensity. The shorter the workout, the higher the intensity. It is a pretty simple rule, however this is not a clear cut answer for pacing. It is just preliminary information to begin figuring out your game plan. The big mistake we see here is projecting the length of the workout to be too short or too long. To figure out projections, and excuse me while I nerd this one out a bit, you have to know the amount of time it takes to perform a repetition of the given exercise(s). You should not really guess this, you should actually KNOW this information. If you can average 1 sec/rep on a pullup then we know that 10 pullups will take you about 10 sec. Use this method to begin figuring out how long a set will take. Then a round. Now you have to figure out your fatigue factor. Your pace on round 1 is NOT the same as it is on round 5,so you cannot accurately predict a finish time based on your 1st round’s performance. Fatigue factor becomes super individualized based on the athlete’s fitness level and tolerance for certain movements. The best way to get a realistic idea for your fatigue factor is through performance on past workouts. This is why journaling is super important as your performance during certain tasks becomes more black and white, instead of a guessing game. Journaling is really crucial since it takes years of experience to truly be in tune with your body and to “feel out” a workout pace accurately.

 

Perhaps one of the best ways to know how to pace and find your sweet spot during a mixed modal workout piece (AKA CrossFit) is to do more interval style training with the same or similar work to rest ratios. Interval pieces follow the same logic. The shorter the interval, the higher the intensity and vice versa. However, work to rest ratios come into play with interval training, which can make it very difficult to understand. Anything that looks to be about even in work to rest should be treated with the intention of repeatability. Each interval should resemble a similar performance, not a massive drop off. Doing this effectively will lead to greater gains in your aerobic capacity and overall better performance. And will also train you to know how your body does over time, and through fatigue for those specific movement.

 

Even CrossFit Games athletes can have trouble figuring out an optimal pace for a workout. We actually saw how difficult it can be at the 2017 CrossFit Games Event, 223 Intervals. This was the first year that the CrossFit Games had an interval piece for an event. I was of course, extremely excited for this. As soon as I heard the announcement for the event I knew right away that some athletes were going to get completely crushed in the workout due to a lack of interval pacing experience. A big name, Noah Ohlsen, went out the gates way too hot in the event. Before the event started he even commented that his strategy was to go out hard. He learned the hard way that this was a huge mistake. He began the workout in the top of his heat and ended in almost last place in the workout. With the work and rest ratios being so similar, he would have scored better by pacing out a little slower and aiming to repeat the same scores for each interval. The workouts was 2 minutes of work followed by 1 minute of rest and started with 10/7 Ski Erg calories and with the remainder of the time max rep overhead squats until 75 reps are achieved.

 

Ohlsen’s score was not a reflection of his true physical capabilities or his overall fitness level. This was just an example of poor strategy. The interesting thing about pacing is that sometimes the smarter athlete can outscore a truly fitter athlete. The athlete who knows how to pace a workout relative to his/her strengths can beat someone who is fitter but hits a workout entirely too hard or too soft #rewardthepacer.

 

Overall, finding the sweet spot is something that will come with time as long as the athlete is paying attention. The easiest ways to figure out pacing comes through workout tracking and journaling. Dictating your pace based on how your body feels during a workout may not be the most accurate indicator and will probably lead to mis-pacing. Very experienced athletes dictate pace through feel very well, but this takes time and knowledge to be good at. To improve on pacing, do your intervals and record all of them! If you get really good at repeatability begin to increase your intensity because congratulations you just became fitter!


Pacing & Finding Your Sweet Spot, Part I

September 13, 2017

How many times have you done a workout where you crush round 1, hold on for round 2 then rounds 3,4,and 5 become a complete shitshow? How many times have you gone through a workout and told yourself, “that wasn’t too bad”?  I know I have and it is something we coaches tend to see in our athletes quite often. Contrary to popular CrossFit belief, full intensity in a workout should be a very selective thing rather than a “go to” as soon as you hear that clock go 3-2-1! Although high intensity is often associated with getting real fit real fast, it isn’t always the best route for achieving broad and elite fitness. Whether you are a CrossFit Games athlete or a grandpa just trying to stay alive longer, finding your pace is crucial in achieving your fitness goals. Just like the old CrossFit quote goes, “we differ by degree, not kind.”  What we see at the CrossFit Games and what we see in a lot of popular sports is “relative intensity.” Relative Intensity is simply adjusting your effort to the demands of the task. Relative intensity can be a very tricky dance. Sometimes we can go too slowly and over-pace a workout leaving a lot left in our gas tank. On the other end we can go out way too hard and not pace at all, leaving us gasping for air less than half way through a workout.

I think most of us are pretty good at knowing not to go 100% out the gate of a 20 min workout. You don’t have to be a veteran athlete to know that. However, we commonly see a lack of pacing in interval style pieces, where the rest and work pieces are the same or similar. When athletes do not pace well, they hit the intensity button too hard for the workout duration. They hit a 95-100% intensity gear for a workout that lasts longer than their anaerobic system can handle. Your anaerobic system is an energy system responsible for high intensity power output and can only truly sustain in workouts that last no longer than several minutes. A golden rule for an athlete to understand is: the longer the workout, the lower the intensity and vice versa. It is probably impossible to sustain anything above 90% intensity for several minutes before a drop off in power output occurs. Even for an interval piece that is 2 mins of work followed by 2 mins of rest, hitting the gear at 100% effort will leave you absolutely dead after multiple intervals. This style will NOT lead to improvements in your fitness as you will reach muscular failure pretty quickly.

 

On the opposite end, we have the “over-pacers.” Oftentimes, over-pacers will over analyze a workout and pace it to a point far below their threshold. Without a challenge (overloading stimulus) there will be virtually no adaption or benefit. Your fitness will be halted and progress will be stagnant. This can also be thought of as staying in your “comfort zone.” A common characteristic of an over-pacer is avoiding the uncomfortable feeling of being really out of breath. The over-pacer’s brain turns on the “pain governor” or even sends them into a panic forcing a slower and “safer” pace.

 

Whether you over-pace or don’t pace at all, the trouble is not being able to find your “sweet spot.” The sweet spot is where we can maintain a similar power output for the specific duration of time in a given workout. Finding the sweet spot can take some time. There are some ways to get there without being in the game for years and years. We will go over finding the sweet spot in Part II next week!


2017 CrossFit Open Recap

March 29, 2017

NorthEast CrossFit is officially done with the 2017 CrossFit Open! Congratulations to each and every member of NECF for participating in the CrossFit Open! I think it is safe to say that most of us exceeded our expectations and pushed far beyond what we thought was our limits. This year was a very special year for NECF. We had the largest athlete participation we have ever had. There were 131 members from NECF who signed up for the Open. This was also one of the largest CrossFit teams of any CrossFit gym in the entire WORLD!

We wanted to make the CrossFit Open more than just a workout or a competition. We wanted to make it an unforgettable experience for everyone. This year, we had a total of about 16 sponsors, a DJ, and the best crowd for our Friday Night Lights events. It is our hope that everyone had a fantastic time and is feeling motivated for 2018!

The CrossFit Open is a great learning tool for all of us. As an athlete, you can gauge where you are good and not so good. You can break past self limitations. You are simply pushed beyond your point of comfort. As a coach, we learn a ton of things as well. It teaches us how to program better, how to push an athlete and when to pull back and also reminds us of why we love CrossFit so much. The community and everything that happens inside the walls is what really makes NECF a very special place.

Performance wise, this was an awesome year for team NorthEast CrossFit. The team scores get calculated  by the combined total of the top 3 male and female finishers for each workout. Our gym ended up in 77th place out of almost 400 gyms in the northeast region. This was 50 spots better than 2016, where we placed 127th. We were also the highest scoring CrossFit affiliate in Westchester! It was really fantastic to see how well our authentic, home grown team stacked up against some of the best affiliates and super teams in the region. The future is bright for NECF!

Speaking of team performances, lets get into top teams for our in-house competition! Here are you top 3 teams for 17.5:
1. Salute Your Glutes- 25pts
2. Shrug Life- 24pts
3. WOD’ing Crashers- 22pts

Coach Chris’ WOD’ing crashers tied with Coach Cam’s “Flexual Healing”, but it was the tie break that gave the WOD’ing crashers the go ahead victory. A very tight race for this week’s winners!

Now for the top OVERALL team. The fittest team of NECF this year is….
None other than… Team… SALUTE YOUR GLUTES! WOO! Looks like the good guys made a comeback this year with a solid victory. What really pulled this team ahead was the consistent FNL attendance each week along with the scoring submissions. Here are your overall top 3:
1. Salute Your Glutes- 137pts
2. Flexual Healing- 121pts *tie break winner
3. Shrug Life- 121pts

We aren’t done with our participation awards yet! We cannot forget about the fittest male and female of the gym. This is determined not by our affiliate leaderboard, but the members who makes it the furthest in the northeast region leaderboard.

Our 2017 fittest male member is… WELLINGTON BASORA! Wellington is an open gym and 12:30pm regular at NECF. He is a tank of a human weighing in at only 170lbs, though he looks like he is 200lbs (dense bones I suppose). He was top 3 on our affiliate leaderboard for 4/5 workouts and contributed to our team score for 2 workouts. Wellington placed 577th out of nearly 16,000 males in our region! I know he has got his sites set on an ever better ranking for 2018! This is his 2nd CrossFit Open and we are proud of his accomplishments this season!

Our fittest female member for 2017 and the 1st two-time back to back fittest member is KATHLEEN SAEED! Kathleen is a 9:30am and open gym regular. She placed top 3 in 4/5 workouts on our affiliate leaderboard and contributed to our team scoring on 4/5 workouts. She placed 512th out of nearly 14,000 female competitors and also placed 322th in the world in the Master’s division. Her overall rankings were a bit tainted by the final workout, but she is already determined to make a massive comeback. She’s a humble work horse with a great attitude and we are all looking forward to seeing her crush next season!

To close out this long winded post, I would like to thank everyone for making NECF their home.  We have become quite the melting pot this year. The amount individual growth we get to see from year to year is awesome. We absolutely love seeing our members progress and smash their goals. I know a lot of members had some doubts and concerns coming into the open. I hope these same people came out with a new sense of confidence and motivation. I am extremely proud of everyone.

Big thank you to our sponsors and DJ Joe P for making Friday Night Lights an incredible event.  Out FNL event was quoted by one of our sponsors as “one of the best Friday Night Lights events I have ever seen”. Don’t be surprised to see other gyms follow suite. Next year we plan on making FNL bigger and better. Thank you to our members, volunteers and spectators for supporting each other every Friday night. And lastly thank you to my awesome staff of Chris, Cam, Adam, Kenny, Debbie and Steve for spending extra time on their Friday to making FNL a smooth operation. Friday Night Lights could not have been done without the help of these awesome people, so when you see them at the gym give them a thank you hug!


Making the most of your time at NorthEast CrossFit.

February 6, 2017

Trust us. We understand busy schedules. In fact, many of the members we have here at NorthEast CrossFit initially joined because they needed a more efficient workout that didn’t require them to be in the gym for hours at a time.

That’s why we’ve put together this list of ways you can make your time at the box as productive and fulfilling as possible.

HOW TO MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR TIME AT NORTHEAST CROSSFIT:

SET A TRAINING SCHEDULE

While you generally enjoy coming into the box, there are some days when maybe overtime at work, school papers, family issues and other nasty things can really get you in the mood to skip the WOD “just because.”

A good way to deter the “just because” excuse is to get into the habit of coming in at the same time on the same days. Once you’ve created this habit, it becomes automatic. You’ll find yourself going to the box without any force involved regardless of the plants who could probably use watering (or any other strange excuse you give yourself.)

Bottom line: A schedule keeps you consistent, and consistency is the key to forming healthy habits.

TRACK YOUR PROGRESS, CELEBRATE ACHIEVEMENTS

If you’re serious about hitting your fitness goal, it’s critical to track your progress. And we don’t mean stepping on the scale every morning and completely freaking out at any increase in weight.

Muscle weighs more than fat, so if you’re doing it right you’ll be gaining lean muscle while you’re losing fat which doesn’t always result in seeing a lower number on the scale.

Throw out that scale and buy a notebook. Keeping track of your workouts and progress will help you train with a purpose. If you did 5 back squats at 135 a few months ago, and that sequence has come up again, well now you’ll know what number to shoot higher than.

Bottom line: Knowing what you did yesterday will help you be better today.

COME EARLY, STAY LATE (TRAIN MORE, CHAT MORE)

Many of us get into the habit of coming in on-time and leaving on-time. That’s by no means a bad habit. But to make the most of your workout, the best thing you can do is put in a little extra time before and after class.

We know, working out before working out sounds like advice from a crazy person, but it’s really the key to taking your fitness to the next level.

It’s no news to say that putting in some extra credit will turn you into a better athlete, but when you do it with other athletes that like to go above and beyond outside of class times, you’re fostering some really positive relationships. That’s when the true awesomeness happens.

Bottom line: To get the most out of your training session, put in some extra work both physically and socially

ASK FOR HELP

It’s ok to admit that you feel a little intimidated to ask for help at the box. But don’t be! Even those big, huge, grunting, bearded guys were new once. Everyone has been in the same spot and there’s absolutely no shame in needing some extra help to understand a movement. In fact, that’s the sign of a smart athlete who’s on their way to big things.

Bottom line: There’s no such thing as a stupid question. Except for maybe, “Can I pee before you start the clock?” We don’t like that one.

ALWAYS HAVE A WATER BOTTLE CLOSE BY (ESPECIALLY WHEN YOU’RE NOT TRAINING)

Are you the type to only drink water when you’re feeling really thirsty or maybe you like to chug the majority of your day’s water intake right before and after a WOD? Well, you might want to change that and here’s why.

Feeling thirsty and getting dry mouth indicates that your body is already dehydrated. Dehydration can reduce the volume of blood pumped by the heart which means less oxygen to the muscles which often results in premature fatigue. And if you try to quick fix your dehydration by drinking lots of fluid right before class it can cause bloating and cramping. That’s a terrible way to suffer through a WOD.

This is especially important for women. “Women are not small men,” says Stacy Sims, Ph.D., exercise physiologist-nutrition scientist. “They’re five times more likely than men to have GI problems when exercising . . . women are also more likely to suffer from heat exhaustion and heat stroke.”

Bottom line: To get the most out of your training session, stay hydrated all day long before you step foot into the box.

SLEEP MORE

We want you to sleep more. In fact, we insist you sleep more. We can’t stress enough the importance of getting a good night’s rest because without it, all the training and dieting in the world will just be a waste of time.

It’s hard to believe that something you do when you’re not even awake can be one of the most important ways you can make the most out of your training sessions, but it’s true. To put it simply, lack of sleep stresses out your body which cases weight gain and anxiety.

Bottom line: Prioritize your sleep. Prioritize your well-being.

PRACTICE MOBILITY AT HOME

Stretching and becoming more flexible really shouldn’t take a back seat in your plan to become a fitter you. If we could tack on an extra 30 minutes to the WOD for mobility, we’d do just that! An hour a day at the box isn’t going to undo a lifetime of sitting on your bum craning over a keyboard.

Invest in a few key items for home like a foam roller and a PVC pipe to improve your range of motion while you’re watching TV or right before bed. Practicing mobility at home will improve your overall athletic ability and will decrease the risk of injury.

Bottom line: Mobilize everywhere and invest in the tools to do so.


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