Selecting slightly heavier dumbbells and wall balls.  Adding a few kilos to the recommended weight for a workout.  Substituting burpees over a bar in place of regular burpees in place.  These are just a few of the things that I’ve done recently in my own training. in a bid to train smarter  And I keep being asked why?  Is it to massage my ego, or maybe protect my ego?  I’d like to think not, and here’s why.


My competitive performance history

A late comer to crossfit, it’s taken me 5 seasons to get to a point where I reach the top 10 in my age category within the UK.  I have sufficient skills and fitness to come within the top 10% of Europe and Worldwide within my age group. Over the years the progression towards the Crossfit Games has changed for everyone, age group athletes included.  Now the Top 10% are invited to the quarter final stage, another series of workouts submitted online over the course of a long weekend.  Finish near the top of those and then the field becomes seriously narrowed down for the semi finals afterwhich a handful of age group athletes are Games bound.  Since their inception, I’ve qualified two years running for quarterfinals.  Thumbs up!  But that’s where it stops.


Quarterfinal Squeeze

Now here’s the kicker!  The open is an inclusive event, designed for mass participation.  The workouts reflect this.  They are typically light, and simple.  This doesn’t mean that they are not effective test of finding the fittest people on the planet – because they are.  But they’re only stage one – and everyone gets to play in stage one.  The bar shifts when it come to quarter final workouts.  They must be completed in the space of 3 days.  They become far more complex in their skill requirements and combinations of movement in workouts.  The loading gets heavier too.  As a result, I’ve never completed a quarterfinal season.

Two seasons ago I didn’t submit the first workout on time, and therefore didn’t attempt the final workout.  Last season I was injured and so didn’t enter.  However, I did attempt one of the workouts that didn’t affect my injury.  It was tough but I completed it inside the time cap. Thumbs up?  Nope!  This is the serious part of the competition – no prizes for taking part.  It’s where the big dogs start to emerge.  Heavier weight?  No problem.  Complex skills under fatigue?  No problem.  Slowing down?  No chance.  My performances in the Open stack up against these athletes but they pale into insignificance after that.

The quarterfinal phase sorts the wheat from the chaffe.  Having completed a quarterfinal workout next to someone who went onto the Games, the very best at this stage really are high speed, low drag.  The face doesn’t change, their speed doesn’t drop from round one.  They shift fast, because thats what they do.


A Fair Crack at the QuarterFinals

This season I just want a fair crack at the next stage.  To complete them and to be able to look back and know that I’ve given them my best.  But the gap is big and there’s an incredible amount of work to be done.  I have to be able to cope with heavier loads than the Open shows me.  My skills have to be robust under fatigue and high volumes.  This all means being fitter.  And losing my ‘cry face’ during workouts.


All sounds lovely but putting it into practice is hard.  I can’t train any more than I am.  At my age I have to balance training enough with training too much.  Losing training days due to overuse injury will be very detrimental.  However, continuing to simply perform the class schedule as I have done will also not address the issues that I’ve identified above.  I need to train slightly smarter.  I have a great coach and I think their programming is legit in terms of preparing me for Crossfit competition.  Therefore, changing my programming isnt an option – some people do it, but its not for me.  As far as I can see the baseline programming isn’t broke, so I don’t need to fix it.  So what does training smarter look like for me at the moment?


Training smarter for a decent level of performance

Stretch every day.  At 48 years of neglect means that my mobility holds me back on skills in gymnastics and weightlifting – making these movements hard and inefficient.  It significantly increases my risk of injury too.  Dedicated stretching every evening is something I can commit to on a daily basis.

Never miss a weightlifting day.  My weightlifting lets me down and doesn’t reflect the years I’ve spend building strength.  Partly due to mobility but partly due to technique.  I’m never going to win a max lift event in weightlifting but I can become comfortable shifting 60-80kg around for moderate volumes and barbell cycling.  I have no choice, I suck at it and so I can’t miss those scheduled classes.

Add small volume of accessory work.  I can’t add hours to my training week because I will break.  I can add minutes onto the front and back of sessions though.  Over the months, those minutes will accumulate into hours of extra skill work that might just make a difference come an event.  The low volume (8-15 minutes) will minimise the chance of overuse injury.

Add intensity to classes.  Make the box higher, select a heavier dumbbell, slightly more load if the barbell movement is one I’m comfortable with.  Select the weights and intensities and volumes that are shown in the latter stages of the competition.  Not because I’m trying to outdo those around me.  In fact it’s incredibly humbling how much these adjustments slow me down so I’m finishing towards the end of the class pack.  I’m ok with it, as over time I’m hoping the extra stimulus will feel ‘normal’.

These simple changes don’t take up too much extra head space, time or energy.  That’s why I feel they are smart.  I do hope, rather than know though, that the subtle changes in training stimulus will produce the results I want over the next couple of years.  How will I know?  My split times will be consistent in workouts and my cry face will be replaced by a poker face.