Quality over quantity

Like most of us who started CrossFit ‘back in the day’, I used to simply click on CrossFit.com every morning, thought ‘oh God’, then went to the gym and did the WOD, no matter what.

However don’t we all want that magic pill (i.e. perfect programming) and are restlessly searching for the “best”?

Most of us do.

So over the years I followed various programmes including high volume programmes (2-3 hours a day and 5-7 days a week) because like most people I often signed up to the ‘more is more’ philosophy.

As time has moved on and my life has become busier, I have an ever dwindling amount of time to train (oh woe is me) which has actually been a blessing in disguise for my own training because it has made me more focused on getting as much as possible out of my time so when I do train I’m chomping at the bit.

Unfortunately though, I frequently see members making the same mistakes that I did  by going for the ‘more is more’ attitude whilst their intensity drops session by session to a point where by the end of the week most of them are basically just phoning it in.

This ‘more is more’ style of training in CrossFit started to gain popularity around 2009 when Mikko Salo won the CrossFit Games. Mikko became famous for his volume and would start his day with a 5k row/run or running or rowing intervals, then train again during the day and again in the evening. The current champs (Sam Briggs & Rich Froning) are also famous for being big volume junkies. Whilst we hear a lot about the volume (number of hours a day) that a lot of the top dawgs do, what doesn’t get enough publicity is the sheer amount of recovery they also do, more on that later.

This brings me nicely to the title of my little ramble, ‘quality over quantity’.

Intensity is the key, not volume.

Actually that’s worth saying again.

Intensity is key!

You will get a lot more from shorter periods of high intensity training than from longer periods of low intensity training – that’s not an opinion, that’s a proven fact (isn’t that what attracted us all to CrossFit in the first place??).

When we talk about the volume that the top athletes do we need to remember that they hit every part of their training with high intensity.

Unfortunately what most coaches see day in, day out, is people doing different classes back to back at either low intensity ‘because they’ve a lot to get through that night’ or go all out in one and then cruise through the other. Neither approach will serve you well and I don’t think that it’s a coincidence that these are the people that tend to regularly have niggling injuries.

In my opinion the best approach is to get in, train as hard as you can (at your own individual level), get out and go recover. Rinse and repeat.

Of course the obvious rebuttal to this is that people have skills that they want to work on so that’s why they go to more classes. Good point. Why not make one of your training days a skill day where you go to an open gym and attack those skills then and not when you’re pre-exhausted from a class, so that you can give them the attention that they deserve.

If you still think that you can give more, then first look to your recovery (are you getting 8+ hours sleep a night?) and nutrition/hydration before looking to add volume.

If after making sure that you’re waking up naturally every day and your nutrition and hydration is excellent, you still believe that you can give more – it’s time to look at those flexibility issues that are holding back your range of motion and/or technique so why not add in extra mobility work? Improving how the body moves and working will not only put you on the fast track to more efficient movement (and PB’s) but make your day to day life more comfortable and enjoyable.

If after all of that you have more in the tank, then and only then should you look to add extra volume to your training.

In order I’d suggest;
– Train 3/4 days a week for one hour. Remember that this will be your only chance to train that day so keep intensity high (you can chat afterwards).
– Add extra social exercise once per week (game of football, golf, hill walking, swimming, walking dogs etc. etc.) – enjoy your fitness!
– Make sure that you are getting sleep, 8-10 hours a night (you need to be waking up naturally and feeling refreshed).
– Improve nutrition & hydration.
– Improve flexibility.
– Increase training up to 5/6 days a week for one hour.
– If you’re doing all of the above, now you can add more volume/extra hours of training into a given day.

Remember, intensity is key when you train so get in, train hard, get results and then go enjoy life and your fitness wherever it takes you.

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