4 Ways to Own Any Workout
Written by: Coach Slater
If you’re new to Derby City, knowing how to tackle the day’s workout can help you be more successful faster. If you’re a grizzled veteran, with weathered hands callused by years of grit, creating better workout strategies can get you past that fitness plateau.
So, let’s look at four ways to own any workout:
Take Ownership of the Whiteboard
I like to look at the workout and ask myself, “How long should this take me?” I typically guesstimate the overall time by first estimating how many seconds it takes me to complete 1 rep of a particular movement in the workout, at that particular weight listed, while including typical rest time between reps. Do that for each movement in the workout, multiply those numbers by the total number of reps, and I’m beginning to get a ballpark time to shoot for. Based on the time you decide for yourself, you’ll know if this is a quick WOD (short, repeated bursts that require a lot of energy for each rep) or paced (longer, slower, more of a grind), and formulate a strategy from there.
Learn Your Speeds
Any workout longer than three minutes needs to be paced! Pacing is all about maximizing the value of a workout. Do you know what your 70% effort feels like? Can you feel your 20min metcon pace? Understanding your current exertion level is where I see a lot of people struggle. Mat Fraser has everything from an all-sprint to a three-hour pace, and he knows what all of those feel like.
You cannot approach every workout the same and expect to get better! Shorter workouts should hurt a lot more than longer ones. Back in my day, there was no pacing. We just attacked everything as hard as possible from the moment we heard 3, 2, 1, Go… and then tried to hang on. Turns out, that’s not really ideal all the time. You need to know a faster speed on your Wallballs, just as you need to know a slower speed with them. All Wallballs are not created equal. And if you *have* the same speed on your Wallballs, no matter what the workout is, you’re missing a chance to better yourself.
Focus On Your Weakness
Look at a workout and ask yourself, “Where do I expect to get in trouble?” You can do this one of two ways: a) generally and b) specifically.
A) From a wider, general perspective, maybe you expect the suck to hit in the 4th round of 5. But maybe, in the middle of the workout, you feel the suck hit in round 2? There’s a good chance you went out too fast. Duh. On the other hand, it’s possible that you make it thru all 5 rounds and never hit the wall. In that case, maybe you didn’t approach the workout with the right intensity. Maybe you’re a “pacer”, and you’re used to only going one speed, and struggle with shorter, powerful bursts. You should work at doing the opposite of what you’re used to doing. Simple, right?
B) From a narrower, more specific perspective, what if the WOD has a 15cal Bike, 12 Hang Power Cleans, and 9 Chest-to-Bars. Some may go casually thru first the two movements to be able to attack the C2B better, while a gymnast may push the bike harder knowing that they’ll kill the C2B easily regardless. So they wait to find out in round 4 or 5 that their strength (gymnastics) has now faded.
And what if you suck at everything? Scale it back to the point where you can crush it. Or, push to where your movement quality begins to fade. Or, scale the number of reps to exactly “one rep prior” where that movement usually falls apart (like chicken winging in a bar muscle-up).
Change the plan of attack based on your goals and what you’re trying to improve.
Plan for Pain
This part is arguably the most important thing for approaching a workout: preparing yourself for how bad it’s going to hurt when you get to a sticking point. Your brain has the ability to control you and will completely shut you down, if you let it. So if you think you can go as hard as possible, then go slow for a second, then go fast again, and slow again, you’re sorely mistaken. Establish a consistent pace and pay attention to it. Then, look to increase or decrease that pace as needed, but know that you WILL need to work at doing both. If you’re going the same pace all the same in all of your workouts, you’re leaving fitness growth on the table. A tip I use for helping my pace is focusing on my breath, using a rhythm of inhale-inhale-inhale-exhale.
Then, get your mind right for pain. No one ever got fitter by staying in their comfort zone. The most important part of being mentally prepared, is understanding exactly how you can be better by facing your fear. Know why you want to do this. Know you want to be better.