Don’t Hit the WALL!

Have you ever looked at a workout and thought “chilled, I’ve got this one!” Then, five minutes into it you hit a wall. You’re dripping with sweat, you’re out of breath and your muscles seem to have lost all their ability to perform. Yup, I’ve been there. It’s not fun. But WHY does this happen?? How is it possible to feel insanely good in one workout and then completely and utterly useless in another?

Well, besides the fact that there are obviously certain elements to a workout that may favour or disadvantage you. Say, you are GREAT at heavy weight lifting, but when it comes to those sub 7 minute metcons you feel like you’re dying and your body is working against you. That’s just telling you to WORK ON YOUR WEAKNESSES! However, if it is a workout that you think you could crush, but for some unknown reason, it crushes you.. well that is likely to be a failure on pacing accordingly.

For me, one workout always comes to mind when I got my pacing strategy completely wrong. It was at a Crossfit team competition and I was honestly so excited for this workout because it had all my favourite exercises in it. We had to do 14 reps of deficit handstand push ups into 7 reps of overhead squats and the second part was maximum reps of muscle ups. I started the handstand push ups at full speed, made it to 8 and suddenly I could not push myself up anymore. I struggled through the last 6 reps, literally doing them one at a time. When I got to the overhead squats, I struggled to even get the bar above my head, let alone squat! Anyway, I eventually finished those two exercises and then it was my turn to do muscle ups. Well, this part was just embarrassing. After several attempts I managed to get a total of ONE muscle up, much to my dismay. I will admit, I shed a couple of disappointment tears after that one. But, this is a typical example of not pacing correctly. I went out way too hard on the handstand push ups which completely destroyed my muscle endurance for the rest of the workout.

So what is a pacing strategy and why do athletes use it? Athletes use pacing strategies during competitions and workouts in order to maximise performance and prevent failure of any physiological systems such as the heart and muscles. Therefore the athlete is self-regulated by an appropriate distribution of workload and energy in order to prevent early fatigue or significant deceleration late in the event (or early, like me!). A pacing strategy is a conscious and  unconscious system that uses knowledge of the end point of an event as well as memory of prior events to determine the best pace for a specific workout. The subconscious brain uses the predicted duration of an activity in order to determine the appropriate pace that can be maintained without hitting that horrendous wall we talk about. When the workout begins, physiological feedback is used to monitor the pacing strategy which tells us if we need to slow down (to preserve our physiology) or if we can speed up.

So, lets take Crossfit as an example. The workouts are constantly varied right? So how do we know how to set a good pace? If you have been doing Crossfit for a while, then you will know what it feels like to do a longer workout such as Cindy (20 min AMRAP of 5 pull ups, 10 push ups and 15 squats) compared to a shorter workout like Fran (21-15-9 thrusters and pull ups). You will also know what a more strength based workout will feel like in comparison to a metabolic conditioning workout. So using these past experiences as well as your current fitness and skill levels, you should be able to determine how fast you want to move throughout your workout. There are four types of pacing strategies most commonly used:

  1. All out pacing strategy: this strategy is generally used for very short workouts that last between 10-30 seconds and utilise the Phosphagen energy system such as a 100m sprint or Tabata intervals (20 seconds on, 10 seconds off). Sometimes, due to excitement and adrenaline, this strategy is used at the beginning of a workout that lasts longer than 30 seconds which ultimately leads to that very hard brick wall we all hate. So try save this pace for those sprint events!
  2. Slow start pacing strategy: this strategy is used by more conservative people or those who aren’t quite sure what kind of pace is required by the workout. Basically, the person starts the workout at a slow pace and usually maintains the pace, or sometimes increases it. This pacing strategy is often seen in individuals who are new to a specific sports. This is fine for the first and MAYBE second workout… BUT the individual soon needs to be able to adjust their pace in order to complete the workout at the desired intensity.
  3. Even pacing strategy: this strategy is used for shorter and middle time/distance workouts. The individual maintains the same pace throughout the workout but is still working at the desired intensity. This pace is ideal for workouts that are about 20 minutes or longer as they use the glycolytic energy system and therefore the athlete will be able to reach the end of the workout.
  4. Variable pacing strategy: this strategy is used for long distance/time workouts. The individual will receive feedback from their physiological responses (heart rate, breathing frequency, body temperature, etc) which given them an indication of if they should speed up or slow down throughout the workout. Generally, athletes using this strategy will start at a faster pace, then slow down, and speed up towards the end of the workout.

So, next time you you walk into the gym and look at that white board, or decide to do a triathlon (whatever floats your boat), think about what you are about to do and the best way to go about doing it in order to really get the best out of your workout. Because damn, hitting that wall is painful and occasionally embarrassing and tear jerking…

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The Naked Athlete

The fitness industry is known for showing off their hard earned bodies in tiny pieces of clothing, and it appears that Crossfit is no different. Men whip off their shirts at any opportunity and women walk around in booty shorts and sports bras. If they are wearing clothes at the start of a workout, they are bound to start stripping down to as little as possible once they get going. I have first-hand experience in this because I do exactly the same thing.

In the bodybuilding industry it is understandable when super tanned, muscle bulging men and women walk onto the stage in tiny bikinis and speedos… they need to show as much of their hard earned work as they can. So why do Crossfitters like to run around in the smallest items of clothing they can find? Well, I’ll tell you why I think they do…

Crossfit is an EXTREMELY sweaty sport when you do it right. It involves very high heart rates, muscles that work extra hard to lift the heaviest weights possible, and multiple fitness domains being tested all at once. This leads to tonnes of sweat and a very high internal temperature. So, it is common sense that you would take your clothes off to cool your body down right? For me, as soon as I start heating up, my shirt comes off. It’s just too uncomfortable to have material rubbing against my body. The same goes for the length of my shorts… long pants retain the heat which is just too bloody uncomfortable.

And now you’re thinking… but all those elite Crossfit athletes have amazing bodies, of course they want to show off those abs of steel and whip their clothes off. Well, that’s sort of true too… they are clearly comfortable and happy with their bodies, which is just another reason for any non-elite crossfitter to get better. Added bonusà HOT BOD! I definitely did not want to take my clothes off when I first started Crossfit, no matter how hot I got. I was way too self-conscious to just run around in my sports bra. But that’s the beauty of the sport… the better you get, the more confident you become and the less you give a damn about what people think!

When I am working out, no matter how many people are around me and who they are, I will most likely take my shirt off (unless it’s the depths of winter- then maybe not!). It’s definitely NOT because I want everyone to see my body, it is simply because I feel more comfortable training like. It is really annoying when your shirt gets caught in the rowing machine, and when you do handstands and your shirt ends up covering your eyes.

So, if you’re ever in a Crossfit box and find yourself staring at half naked athletes wondering why they don’t have shirts on, this is probably the reason. While you’re wondering this, we’re probably asking ourselves how on earth you manage to train with all those clothes on!

 

WOD: 7/01/16

Yesterday got a bit hectic and I forgot to post my workouts. I ended up doing Crossfit in the morning which was super tough! I struggle with thrusters as my shoulders fatigue quite quickly! I then went to HIIT class in the afternoon which was an absolute killer! But I feel like the assault bike and I have become one 😋

 

this was me one year ago when i first started crossfit
 
Am: strength- 2 rounds for reps: (40secs on 20 secs rest)

1 min left KB swing (24/16)

1 min right KB swing 

1 min American KB swing 

–> 137 reps

WOD: 7RFT

7 deadlifts (50/30)

7 thrusters (50/30)

7 ring K2E

–> 8:40

Pm: HIIT 3 rounds for reps

1 min row (cals)

1 min bench hops

1 min assault bike (cals)

1 min HRPU

1 min no handle sled push

1 min rest

–> 332 reps