Ensuring Progress and Setting Limits During High-Intensity or CrossFit Style Workouts
About the author: Chris Rock is a CrossFit Level 1 Certified Trainer. He earned a Sport and Exercise Science degree from the University of Gloucestershire, is an NSCA Certified strength and conditioning specialist, and holds several other training certifications. He is currently the international education manager for Hammer Strength, Life Fitness, Cybex and SCIFIT. CrossFit® is registered trademark of CrossFit, Inc.
When it comes to CrossFit, there’s a great deal of excitement right now in the health and fitness industry, especially with the CrossFit Games Finals taking place in Madison, Wisconsin Aug. 1 to 5.
What is CrossFit?
CrossFit utilizes constantly varied, functional movements, at high intensities in the shortest time possible where the greatest amount of work is completed to achieve greater fitness. Now this might sound intimidating, but this is the CrossFit way and looking at the growth of the movement this way is certainly appealing to a great deal of people.
So, does this mean to get more fit I just have to do big movements, really fast, with heavy loads?
It’s not quite as simple as that. CrossFit is steeped in methodology not madness.
CrossFit has been developed, for several decades and follows the principle that wellness and fitness are related in the sickness-wellness-fitness continuum. The more physically fit you are, the greatness wellness you experience (measured in blood pressure, body fat, body density, muscle mass and blood count readings).
CrossFit truly takes a holistic approach to its measurement techniques, workout design and programming. It is about improving what you put into your body, how you challenge your mind and body and how long and when you recover.
How do I best use high-intensity workouts to improve my fitness?
Everyone is different in terms of what exactly works for them, which means there is no ‘cookie-cutter’ solution that works for everyone. Instead, there are some overarching guidelines (not rules) that we can examine to get the best out of our bodies.
What is optimal in terms of loading, intensity and volume of work?
In relation to exercise design, I prescribe to, “It is better to get a sun tan, not a sun burn” - Tom Purvis, Founder of Resistance Training Specialists.
When we get a sun burn our skin gets inflamed, hot, sore and red. It eventually begins to cool and then itch and likely peels off, revealing new skin that is paler than before we overdosed on the sun’s rays.
When we get a sun tan, we slowly darken the skin and it becomes more tolerant to the sun’s rays. This principle of gradual improvement being effective for improvement applies to a great deal of aspects when it comes to our bodies.
Does this mean that I shouldn’t do high-intensity exercise unless I’m already fit? I’m afraid you don’t get off that easily. It simply means that we have to listen to our bodies and only push them beyond a level of comfort that is appropriate to you.
How do I know where my personal limit is?
Unless you’re an experienced exerciser (and they don’t always know), you probably won’t know where the ‘limits’ are. This is where you are reliant on a great coach/trainer to advise and guide you and on you putting time in the bank, to learn about your own body.
Now, this is not to say you will never get a ‘sun burn’ again, as we all make mistakes, however to quote Nelson Mandela, "I never lose. I either win or I learn." When you do feel ‘too’ sore the next day, learn that something wasn’t optimal.