When Programming For The Games, Ignore The Crowd
Let’s take a break from formulating our beat Froning strategy. I’ll try to finish it within the next couple of days. But I just had to start this now, while it’s fresh in my mind.
With the Games behind us, I’ve gotten a good amount of interest about the program and questions about my thoughts on the workouts. Were they too long? Were they too short? Too heavy or too light? Too out of left field or too conventional? My answer has generally been I thought the workouts were exactly as they should have been. Which was whatever they were. Because really, it didn’t matter what they were. That’s the point of the sport. The athlete is supposed to be, in theory, prepared for anything.
That said, it seems the CrossFit masses are of the opinion this year’s Games was the most endurance based of any. And that includes the 2012 Games which included the Pendleton sprint distance triathlon. Between the Burden Run, the Row event and the Pool, endurance was heavily emphasized and it’s easy to see how the masses have that impression.
Consequently, the athletes that followed programs like this one where we emphasize the importance of strength development, seemed out of step with the events programmed at the Games. Some of those athletes may not have done as well as we thought they would given past performances. The first thing the masses look to is the athlete must have trained wrong. He or she must have trained strength and not endurance. All the events were long. The “results”, the masses think, speak for themselves.
One thing I have learned over the years however, is to ignore the masses, when it makes sense to. Just because the results in the short term did not pan out – some athletes did not place/perform as expected – does not mean they trained improperly. I have found designing programs for athletes is very much like designing a portfolio of investments. (As you have come to realize, I will regularly refer to the commonalities of training and investing.) Sometimes the best plans don’t pan out. In fact, studies have shown that the portfolios designed by the best investors in the world lose to the average returns of the stock market 1/3rd of the time. Imagine if those investors’ performance was judged on the one out three years their portfolios lost to the market. I talked about this in a letter I wrote to my clients years ago:
The major problem with short-term performance measurement
One major problem of apportioning too much relevance to short-term performance is that on occasion bad decisions with favorable outcomes are often well received while good decisions with temporarily unfavorable outcomes are met with fervent objection. Variance from expected and intended results are just as “wrong” when the apparent result is above expectation as when the result is below expectation. Of course it is nice when we are “wrong” yet our returns are outstanding. However it would be improper for us, and an error on your part, to assign us some superior investment skill in such an instance. It would be equally improper for us (or you) to label us handicapped in our investment skill simply because our short-term performance is poor, when in fact our process and judgment may have been “correct”.In the words of Benjamin Graham, ‘‘You are neither right nor wrong because the crowd [the stock market] disagrees with you. You are right because your data and reasoning are right.”
Just as investing acumen should not be judged on short term performance, neither should program design be based on the results of one athlete in one event. If the reasoning behind the program is driven by the data and science, and not the fleeting emotions of the crowd, then the program is sound.
I laid out the tenets of our program in a previous post. They are:
- The sport of fitness is typically a series of 10 minute endurance-like events consisting of a limited number of multivariate elements, commonly known as met-cons.
- Although the sport of fitness is an endurance-like event, proper strength development is the gateway to outsized gains in movement efficiency and endurance performance.
- Paradoxically, the athlete’s ability to perform well in endurance-like events of 10 minutes or so in competition will increase if he favors shorter, more intense efforts in training.
Does this approach seem out of line with what would be proper in preparing an athlete for our sport? To some, maybe even most, I’m sure it does. The 2013 Games were mostly long aerobic events right? Certainly they were longer 10 minutes. And definitely longer than they were in 2012. Um, well, a look at the data tells us, not so much:
- The median time domain for the 2012 CrossFit Games was 7 minutes.
- The median time domain for the 2013 CrossFit Games was, drumroll please… 8 minutes.
That the Games were so “short” in time domain may be a surprise to some of you. But it’s what the data tells us. In fact, the time domains were shorter than they were for the Open. The Games were “endurance-y” but not as much as you would think. This fact drives the first tenet of the program. Tomorrow I want to get into the second tenet, which is likely the most at odds with what the masses think is proper training for the sport of fitness.
1) clean and jerk: 20 minutes to max for the day, add weight first 6 attempts, then 3 attempts at max
2) 5 x 1 clean, landing position, no hook grip @ heavy as possible, rest 2-3 minutes
rest > 30 minutes
3) snatch pull + snatch: 1×3+1 @ 60%, 1×3+1 @ 70%, 4×3+1 @ 80%, rest 2-3 minutes
rest > 3 hours
a) run: 2 x 800 meters, rest 3 minutes, 2 x 400 meters, rest 90 seconds, 2 x 200 meters, rest 45 seconds
b) row: 2 x 1,000 meters, rest 3 minutes, 2 x 500 meters, rest 90 seconds, 2 x 250 meters, rest 45 seconds