Fitness is a word you see everywhere. From the military’s physical fitness test to evaluations at work for health insurance, it’s a constant topic of concern. But what is it really? Fuzzy terms lead to fuzzy thinking, planning, and assessment. Let’s see if we can’t get at what it really is.
At it’s simplest level, fitness is your current level of preparation for any given task. Think of it as being a good fit for something. You could be fit for a 1RM squat that blows your friends’ minds, but totally unfit for a 5k run. Or vice versa, you could be fit for a whirlwind of a 10k, but can barely jump over a piece of paper. I think this is pretty intuitive based on the experiences of most CrossFitters.
Usually people will say they want to get in shape to mean they want to improve their fitness. That’s pretty simple, but it doesn’t really help much. Besides noting that round is a shape, I usually want to find out what they mean by in shape. In shape for what? If the answer is to live a happy life, to go hiking when I want to, and have enough energy left over to change a tire on the side of the road in case of emergency, then we know how to plan training. On the other hand, if it means win the CrossFit Games, that’s a different plan altogether.
I’ll assume that most of you reading this are somewhere on the spectrum from live a full life to be a competitive CrossFitter and address fitness on the extreme ends of the spectrum. You mostly likely will fall somewhere in the middle, so draw some ideas from both categories as needed.
Fitness for Life
For the better at life category of athlete, I’d suggest simply coming to your regular CrossFit class 3-5 times per week. The magic bullet seems to be focusing a lot of work in the high intensity 8-20 minute range for most people. If you’re feeling particularly sore or achy, pay attention to your body and take a day or two off to do some recovery activities. You could try a yoga class, go for a walk, row a smooth 5k, or any other easy active hobbies. This isn’t the day to do the 10 mile run in preparation for your half marathon. As an easy guide, you should feel better after you finish than you did when you started on recovery days. A massage might be just the thing to top it all off so you’re fresh and ready to get back to work tomorrow. By following this simple prescription, you’ll find you are fitter than ever and better prepared to face the general rigors of life without collapsing into the recliner at night unable to move and dreading waking up tomorrow to do it all again.
Fitness for Competition
For a competitive CrossFitter, things are a little different. While the type of training you do remains the same, the volume and intensity of training have to be increased. Start by noting what skills you’re missing to be competitive. Most competitions will have some kind of pull up and/or muscle up event. Can you do a handstand pushup? You’ll need to be much stronger than the average CrossFitter, so you’ll have to dedicate extra time to building up the lifts you struggle with to an acceptable level. Do you honestly have the time to apply to the extra training? Based on interviews I’ve conducted, most top level CrossFitters spend about 20-30 hours per week in training. Doug Chapman, Julie Foucher’s coach, assigns about 3.5 hours of training on many quality training days. Then you’ll have to recover so that you can put in the same 3 hours tomorrow, so your nutrition and sleep needs to be perfect as well.
Fitness for the Experienced CrossFitter
Just for fun, here’s a middle of the road approach for someone who has been training for 1-2 years and is starting to see progress slow. Attend your regular training 3-5 times per week. Listen to your body and take time off as necessary to stay healthy. It’s always easier to make up training than to recover from an injury. Then identify your particular weaknesses and spend about 3 months on 1 thing. Are you missing aerobic capacity? Add some rowing, biking, and/or running 2-3 times per week to the schedule as time allows. Do you want to get a pull up or muscle up? Do some strength and skill work 2-3 times per week as time allows. Do you need to improve your Olympic lifts? Practice the lifts and their variations 2-3 times per week as your schedule can fit it in. Hopefully you’re noticing a trend here. If you want to get better at something, you’ll have to practice it.
It’s best to have a plan and systematically address your weaknesses rather than just choosing something random after class every day. After about 3 months of work on a weakness, retest and then decide what needs improvement for the next 3 months. Chances are good that if you have a weakness, you’ve had it for awhile. That means you either don’t know what to do about it, or you need some accountability to get you to do something about it. Let us know how we can help you!