Too Heavy, Too Slow, or Just Right?

In this blog we are going to look at pacing our workouts, why it’s important, and how to do it. We’ve all had those days when we get to the box a few minutes early and scurry up to the board to catch a glimpse of the WOD… Our initial thoughts are… “Only 3 rounds…? Only 135lbs on the bar…? Only a 200m Run…? And then halfway through the second round we begin to feel our legs or shoulders turn into jello, our lunges collapse, and we literally suffer through the rest of the WOD with the thought in our mind of, “Oh God please get me through this workout without a heart attack”. What Happened?

Well there are a number of things that happen prior to and during the workout that we need to take into consideration. First, did we under estimate the intensity of the WOD? Usually when a WOD looks easy or manageable on the board, don’t let it fool you… they all hurt. You can’t just come flying out of the box at super-sonic speed and not expect to breakdown and maintain the same pace throughout the rest of the workout.

Next, let’s take a look at the weight of whatever we are lifting during the workout. It’s very important that we keep track of our 1Rep, 3Rep and 5Rep maxes just for these very occasions. These maxes give us insight into what a good “workable” weight should be while doing that movement during a WOD. A workable weight means something that we can manageably do consistent repetitions with, without dropping the weight after each rep. Depending on the number of reps in the workout, we want to shoot for 5-7 unbroken reps before taking our first pause. Let’s take a push press for example… If our 5 rep max push press is 175lbs, then more than likely 135lbs should be a good workable weight for us to maintain consistent sets of 5-7 reps during our workout. If we have to drop the bar after each rep during our workout, then chances are that we are not maintaining that high intensity that CrossFit WODs demand or we are not scaling to the appropriate weight… and then our WOD turns into “just lifting weights”. If we wanted to just lift weights, we would all be at ‘Average Joe’s Gym’… Don’t be afraid to scale your workout!

The next common mistake is not pacing ourselves through the WOD. What happens when we come screaming eagle into our first round and do all 21 reps of a shoulder to overhead movement unbroken before we run over to the pull-up bar and attempt to knock out 25 pullups? We hit muscle fatigue too soon and are unable to stay consistent throughout the rest of our workout. Then our 5-10 second rest turns into 30 secs and then a minute… which then turns into us not finishing the WOD under the time cap and suffering through the rest of the workout. This goes back to not only knowing what our workable weights should be, but also knowing when to take our first pause before we hit muscle fatigue. Once we hit that first failed rep during a workout, its all over and everything becomes an increasing struggle. Put the weight down 2-3 reps before you feel like you might fail a rep. This will save you through the rest of workout and teach you how to stay more consistent throughout the rounds.

I had decided to write this blog after my 3rd time doing “Fran”, when I finally realized that putting together all of these tips actually helped me out significantly during the workout. The first time I attempted Fran, I was very new to CrossFit, I had just learned kipping pull-ups, and a 95lb thruster was not a workable weight for me… 12:56 was my very first Fran time and I thought I was going to die half way through my 2nd round.

The first thing I noticed was that I was going to have to increase my 1rep and 3rep max thruster in order for that 95lb weight to become more workable. 4 months later I came back and attempted Fran again and knocked 6 minutes off of my time (6:56 was my second time) by solely increasing my strength in my 1 and 3 rep max thruster, but I still almost died after the workout…

I then began to pay close attention to the number of thrusters I was able to complete before hitting muscle fatigue which allowed me to take shorter rests in between sets and kept me much more consistent throughout the entire workout and maintain a higher lever of intensity. 3 weeks later I came back and attempted Fran one last time and knocked another 2minutes and 42 seconds off my last try. I finished the WOD in 4:14 (not a great time, but a big improvement from last)… Not because I became stronger, faster, or increased my endurance in a span of 3 weeks… I just simply learned how to pace myself, what my workable weight was, how to breathe in between each rep, and how to drop the bar before I hit muscle fatigue or failed a rep. I kept my intensity high, my rest short, and my workout consistent… but I don’t think I want another date with Fran for a looooong time…. 😉

So let’s just take a quick look back and recap the key points to pacing your workout:

  • Never underestimate a workout
    Know your “workable” weights (don’t be afraid to scale your workout!)
    Never hit muscle fatigue before you take a quick rest
    Stay consistent in each round
    Remember to breathe between each rep

Happy WOD-ing!!

– Coach Corey