I was talking to a member the other day about our programming. He had trained at another CrossFit for awhile and was curious about why we regularly mixed in moderate or more aerobically paced workouts. At his previous gym he said they basically went all out each workout at the highest intensity they could sustain. I thought it would be a good opportunity to tell everyone more about our training philosophy and what we talked about.
So why don’t we want members going balls to the wall day in and day out?
1. It’s not sustainable – We want you all to see regular continuous improvements as well as be able to take care of your kids, go mountain biking, socialize, maybe do some work etc. Going at a super high intensity every single day will get you some good results early on but also set you up for burn out or possible injury.
2. You don’t get more efficient – Have you ever tried to improve a skill or movement with your heart rate at 90% of max? Imagine trying to get better at skiing moguls by starting with 200 burpees as fast as possible then ripping down the mountain. Might not be the best idea. It takes time to practice and lock in movements like box jumps, toes to bar and wallballs so working on them at a lower intensity will make you better, more efficient and able to go faster in the long run.
3. You don’t learn how to pace – If I asked you to go run 3 miles you likely wouldn’t start out by sprinting as fast as possible, then standing with your hands on your knees, then wandering around before trying to sprint again. You would start at a reasonable speed then depending on how you felt dial it up or down as needed. The same principles apply here. We want you to learn how to maintain a sustainable pace and start to understand when you might need to slow down a bit or when you can crank things up and go faster without blowing out.
Last week in Pushing Through the Pain Part 1 we spoke about using your mental game to push through pain that you might feel during workouts, but this has to come with a caveat. There are times when it is not appropriate to push through any pain and it is time to rest your body. The goal of this post is to give you some tools to recognize the difference and to help you continue to take care of your bodies. (This can never be an exhaustive list and if you are worried about a possible injury, rest and being evaluated by a professional is always the best option!)
No-one likes to be injured. It is really inconvenient, causes you pain, and stops you doing the things that you love (like CrossFit). A lot of the time when we injure ourselves it is very obvious. We fall off our bike or hear something pop, feel something tear and then have immediate pain. Other times it can be quite a bit more subtle. After tough workouts your whole body can hurt and it can actually mask something more serious. One of the biggest indicators (in my mind) that the pain you are having is more serious than D.O.M.S (delayed onset muscle soreness) is that you can’t warm yourself up to the point where it goes away. Anytime you have pain and muscle fatigue from tough workouts you should feel some relief once you get moving and the blood pumping again with a thorough warm-up. If this is not the case, then it may be an injury that needs extra attention and time out of the gym.
Pain that should stop you in a workout includes the type that takes your breath away or lights you up during a particular movement. For example you are squatting and you feel a sharp pain in your groin that makes you drop the bar or you are doing kipping pull-ups and you hear a pop and feel a tear in your shoulder. Maybe these examples are obvious but you would be surprised at how many people want to push through them. Another time you really should be questioning whether you should be working out or not is if you are having shooting pain down your extremities especially if the pain originates in your back. This means that your spinal nerves are being affected. This should not be treated lightly! Your spinal nerves are the way your brain and body communicate, when they are affected not only does it impair the way your muscles fire but it impairs the how the whole body functions. When your muscles aren’t firing it is negatively impacting your gains!
Finally, if the pain you experience is sharp, burning or stabbing and starts during or shortly after exercise then it most likely is something that will need either an extended period of rest and/or attention from a professional.
The biggest piece of advice I can give is to listen to your body. The pain cues it will give are quite different when it says “Stop, this hurts” or “STOP, this hurts and I can no longer fully function. Don’t let the mind trick you into not pushing into the pain zone but be aware that the pain zone is very different from being injured.
Pain. As CrossFitters we all experience it at some point. Whether it is the pain of finishing a taxing “WOD” or the pain of sore muscles after a heavy leg day or maybe it is from an injury that you have suffered in or out of the gym; pain is something that most of us come to relish as part of the journey to a healthier, stronger you. I am probably preaching to the choir when I say all pain is a good thing, but for those that don’t believe me, hear me out.
Your body is constantly striving for homeostasis (this is a fancy word for balance). When you push your body to the limit in a workout, the pain you experience when you aren’t sure your legs will continue to work, you can hardly raise your arms above your head, you are breathing so hard that your heart is racing and your lungs are burning is all a feedback mechanism telling your brain that maybe, just maybe you are going ‘too’ hard and need to dial it back a bit. But, there is something to be said about pushing through this pain. Breaking through this barrier is where a lot of the gains can be made. Taking your body to a limit you didn’t know you had can increase strength, speed, endurance and actually anything you are training for.
Some people seem to be better at pushing their bodies more than others and this is where the mental side of training comes in. You know these people, the ones that always seem to have another gear and no matter what you do you can never seem to catch them. You see, your brain is the place where you actually feel pain. If your brain wasn’t connected to your muscles via your nerves you wouldn’t be able to feel anything (let alone move and workout)! So the question then becomes, how do you teach your brain to push through the pain so you can get the gain? Next time you find yourself in the pain cave, try one of these mind busting techniques!
Break the workout into smaller chunks – got a 20min AMRAP to complete? Time your first round and then try to match it for the whole 20 minutes. Need to get through a lot of reps at a heavy weight, commit to smaller sets and rest for only 5 breaths.
Pick a mantra – this can be beneficial in two ways one it is motivating and uplifting i.e “I can do this” or “F*#^ this workout, I am crushing it” or somewhere in between that; it can also take your mind off the actual work you are doing, by the time you have repeated it to yourself a couple of times, you might be through a whole round.
Picture the end of the workout – the time when you get to stop and then imagine the feelings that goes along with it: relief, exhaustion, pride and euphoria just to name a few.
Silently compete with someone else – using an athlete who is a fraction stronger and faster than you is a great way to push into your pain zone. Try to keep up with them or even beat them at the workout and reap the benefits.
The next question we have to answer is when is it not a good thing to push through the pain? Check back next week to find out!
What do you do to push yourself into your pain zone? I would to hear about them!