For just over 99% of us, week five of the CrossFit open marks the end of our participation in the CrossFit Games season as an athlete. This means that for all of us still harvesting pipe dreams of getting to the Games, those dreams have been firmly put to bed, at least for this year. Nevertheless, we now have a unique opportunity. We are at a fork in the road from a training standpoint and what we do next will begin to define our athletic career. Of course in order to know where we should go, we first have to look at where we are.
The open qualifier is a lot of things but a good exercise program is not one of them. The workouts aren’t meant to build on each other, which means that any kind of progression (the key to a good program,) is out the window. The workouts do a great job of testing different aspects of your strength and conditioning while making the workouts standardized so that you can gauge progress against your own past performances as well as other people's performances. That is what they are for and that is how you should use them.
Often times we repeat workouts more than once in an attempt to improve our scores. I would recommend this strategy only if you are trying to qualify for regionals or get your gym qualified. The rep count is often so high in these workouts that when you do them more than once you are putting yourself in a deep neurological deficit and it can take days if not weeks to recover. Not to mention overuse injuries resulting from a high rep range in one plane of motion.
Basically, you are driving an even bigger steak into your programming and risking unnecessary injury the more you repeat the same workouts. That being said, I just want you to know what it is that you are getting into when you do repeat them. I am competitive and would never settle for anything less than my best so I get it if you feel the need to go hard, again… and again. Either way, bygones being what they are, the open is over! Here is my recommendation on how you should proceed.
First things first, take a little stock of how it all went. The open always does a great job of highlighting weaknesses. What are yours? Take some notes on what will need to be improved for next year so that you can structure the year appropriately. The best way to do this is to take advantage of the huge body of data that the open provides.
Relatively, how did you do in each component of fitness from maximal strength, muscular endurance to straight up metabolic capacity. Were you middle of the pack in some workouts and lower in the pack in others? The other aspect to take into account is feel. What felt good and what felt like friction. Athletes tend to focus on numbers a little too much when they are looking for improvement but often times the best thing to do is just sit back and think for a minute. Where did you feel strong? Consider this when thinking about your plan for next year.
Drink a beer. Judging by all of the posts I've seen on Instagram over the last few days, that isn’t a problem for most of you. I’ve seen entire gyms post a picture shotgunning celebratory beers. Awesome. It doesn’t matter if beer is your thing or not. Just give your vices a little bit of attention. Take a little time off and recover. Going hard for five weeks takes a much bigger toll on your body than most of us realize.
The adrenal fatigue alone is worth taking 4-7 days for some simple active recovery. You don’t have to leave the gym altogether, just flush out your muscles with some light interval work on the bike and generally give yourself some movement with low impact. Your body will thank you for the rest of the year. Most of us want to be fit for life so risking burnout at any given time really doesn’t make sense from a commonsense approach.
After your week off from the grind, it’s now an appropriate time to begin getting back into the swing of things. Remember, it takes much longer to build strength than it does metabolic capacity. After five weeks of high intensity interval work, your engine should be looking good. Aim to maintain that instead of improve on it. Running a good strength cycle while sprinkling in metcons once or twice a week makes sense here.
Throughout the year you will most likely run many different cycles ranging from strength to hammering your weaknesses to working technique. Because there are just so many disciplines to be good at in CrossFit, it almost never makes sense to avoid one of them altogether. Instead take a couple days a week to combine what you need help with. For example, run a strength cycle based on percentage work or whatever your flavor is. Then twice a week put conditioning workouts such as an AMRAP or a chipper into your program and make the movements involved, gymnastics based.
There is a lot that goes into programming smartly throughout the year but if nothing else, the open provides a perfect jump off point. A time to take inventory of skills, build community (something about shared pain will do that,) and use the good aspects of the open in order to design the rest of the year. Lastly, it is worth noting that metabolic capacity should be slowly increased throughout the year, peaking at next year’s open. Depending on how strong you felt/did during the real cardio intensive workouts will depend on how early you need to start putting your foot on the gas. Typically, it is appropriate to start ramping up in December.Regardless, each discipline should get their own time of year and then metabolic capacity work should wrap up a good year of training. Basically, burpees and box jumps are the cherry on top of the ice cream sundae you have spent all year making but of course, never eating. From all of us here at LuaVíve, congratulations on the end of another epic open season. Here is to a fitter and healthier year ahead!