When you come into the gym, are you competing with other athletes to “win” the workout, or are you training to become the best athlete you can be? Looking at the whiteboard every day, comparing your scores to others, and trying as hard as you can to get a better time on the clock may be making you less fit. Knowing the difference between practice, training, and competing is crucial to your longevity and fitness. Find out more below on how to train with intention! 

Mechanics, consistency, and intensity are three components embedded in CrossFit’s program. They are all interrelated and lead to results. 

Mechanics refers to being able to properly perform movements efficiently, effectively, and safely. An example would be performing an air squat with all 4 points of performance… 1. Weight in the heels. 2. Knees tracking outside to toes. 3. Maintaining your lumbar spine. And 4. Achieving a full range of motion. 

Consistency refers to being able to perform movements with proper mechanics over multiple repetitions. It’s being able to perform the air squat with all points of performance over 10, 20, 30, 40+ repetitions in a row. The second piece to consistency is showing up. Showing up to the gym to workout on a daily basis.

Intensity, defined by CrossFit, is equal to power (force times distance divided by time). Simply put, intensity is how much work you do and how long it takes. As Greg Glassman, founder of CrossFit, stated, “intensity is the independent variable most commonly associated with favorable adaptations.” Intensity is the shortcut to results- the harder one works, the more results they will see.

Sound mechanics and consistency are certainly the safest way to train. However, proper movement also allows athletes to move large loads, long distances, quickly. It allows athletes to move more weight and perform repetitions faster. Being able to do work in less time produces a higher power output. The higher the power, the higher the intensity. The higher the intensity, the greater results. Although intensity will get us desirable results, it all starts with proper technique and movement! 

As we now know, the first step to developing skills and results is done through mastering the mechanics of movements and performing these movements with consistent mechanics. We call this practice. Practice is where we develop and refine skills. It takes into consideration mechanics and consistency and is done with low heart rates, low loads (under 60%), and with the intent of improving technique. 

Practice isn’t always sexy- it’s not always fun. Practice requires you to detach yourself from results and focus on becoming better without worrying about the outcome. Practice is taking the time to do snatch skill work with a PVC pipe, an empty barbell, or with light loads. It’s things like spending 10 minutes working on muscle-up transition drills and kip swings, or sitting on a box with your hands on a rope, working your J-hook lock and letting go without actually climbing. 

How can we focus on practicing when coming into the gym?
Some of us may not even realize it, but you are practicing every day when you take class! Our coaches build in the time during class to work on the mechanics and consistency of the movements in the daily workout. It is why we spend time drilling barbell movements with the PVC pipe and empty barbell, breaking down gymnastic progressions, or drilling the pieces of our catch, drive, and recovery phase on the rower before the workout begins. It is in these moments where we are making changes in our movement patterns and get better under the watchful eye of a coach. 

Although practice is a piece incorporated in class, it should not just end there. Athletes can also spend time practicing on their own. Let’s take an athlete that wants to get better at the snatch. Practice for this athlete could be working with a PVC pipe, empty barbell, or loads under 50-60% of their 1 rep max. Performing drills such as the Burgener warmup, position snatches (1, 2, and 3), tall snatches, and snatch balances under low loads and fatigue will improve positioning, technique, and timing. 

Practice, however, must be done with intention where athletes are getting feedback and constantly thinking about change. One will not become a master at something by just going through the motions.

Training is done with heavy weights, high heart rates, with the goal to improve one’s engine, strength, endurance, and stamina. Training develops capacity that is necessary to compete and challenges skills with added intensity. The key to training within your daily workouts is blending intensity with the deliberate thought of improving your movement patterns. The magic happens when blending mechanics, consistency, and intensity! 

If you are looking at the whiteboard every day, comparing your scores to others, and looking for every possible shortcut to improve your time, you are competing. Competing is done with max loads, maximum effort, and with the goal to beat someone else. Adaptations that take place from competing are very minimal. Yes, you can possibly get stronger and a better engine through competing, but in the long run, you could potentially compete yourself out of shape. Imagine an Olympic track athlete that excels in the 400 meter dash. Their training is not stepping onto the track every day and trying to PR their 400 meter dash. Their workouts incorporate practice, training, and various drills that will aid in the process of PRing in the future. We can say the same for any NFL team. They compete once a week, on game day. Practice and drills throughout the week are non-negotiables for all teams during their weekly preparations. If competing happened every day, athletes’ central nervous systems would be destroyed, in turn, risking injury and production. 

Most regular gym-goers practice 5%, train 20%, and compete 75% of the time. If you are looking to improve yourself for tomorrow and get fitter in the long run, a shift towards practice and training must take place. Instead, focus on structuring your week with 45% practice, 45% training, and 10% competing. In regards to practicing, this can be anything from focusing on coach led warm-ups, practicing a skill inside of a workout, or spending time before or after class developing a new skill. Training should happen during your workouts by focusing on moving better while working hard. Competing should happen one to two times per week. Pick a workout that you are going to give it everything you got, try to PR, and chase a score! 

Our goal is a trajectory of fitness. We want to be fitter at 50 than we were at 40. Maximum intensity every day can eat people up. Taking your foot off the pedal, focusing on your movement patterns, and allowing yourself to become better, will help you get fitter in the long run. 

“Practice? Training? Or Competing?” by Ben Bergeron and Christine Bald. April 19, 2019.

CrossFit Level 1 Training Guide.

“How to Train with Intention || Chasing Excellence with Ben Bergeron || Ep#016”.

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