What program to follow?
When you first start Crossfit the daily workouts seem random and chaotic, and so they should. Constantly varied is part of the methodology. Behind good programming there is a goal, a plan, and a pattern. Programming can be broken down into macro and micro cycles. Essentially most crossfit boxes should be peaking at the time of the Open. You should be at the peak of your athletic year. If you are one of the few who make it past the Open and are heading to Regionals, then its time to work on some weaknesses and prepare for the set skills at Regionals, if you are the lucky few who get past Regionals, then its off to peak at the games. For most of us the year starts and ends at the Open. After the open training for next year starts. Think of the Open as a test, which is why I encourage everyone to partake in the open.
After the open it would normally be the start of a strength macro cycle. Conditioning is not that important now as the Open is 12 months away. Normally there are several Strength and Skill macro cycles with a shorter conditioning cycle added in to maintain. Then as next years Open comes back upon us we start a final Conditioning cycle then a de-load before the open begins.
This is programming explained in simplest terms. Now, this is generic programming, if you have a large weakness you might need some extra programming. For many this is something like a squat program, a muscle up progression program, a running program, etc. For this example I will use a squat program, because many of our athletes do extra work on squat programs. I get asked all the time, which squat program is the best. If we honestly knew, there would be no debate, but there is debate, everyone has an opinion as to which squat program is the best. The truth is, there is no best program, if someone says they have the best program, they are naive. Some programs work better for different people, and also depends on where their starting point is. The best program is the one you are doing. The reason a squat program works is because you are squatting 3-5 days a week. It is about practice and time under load. So choose a program you believe in, follow it, and finish it.
When an athlete has been at it awhile many start looking for "competitors programming". First off, if you are not consistently in the top of the class, you don't need any specific programming. As Tommy Hackenbruck said, "You don't need a harder workout, you need to workout harder" This is where my favourite self-destructive habits come up. First pet peeve is cherry picking. This is the person who comes in and only does the workouts which they will perform very well. On days were the workouts are not in their favour they are nowhere to be found. What is worse is when the athlete does "competitors programming" and cherry picks the workout they will perform that day from a series bunch of different websites for what they like. Other coaches come up with programming the day of, with no longterm plan and thought. This is usually an inexperienced coach. I normally expect at least a week in advance for personalized programming, with the entire cycle we are currently in explained at the start.
When you start following "competitors programming" you are jumping in mid-cycle. As with a squat program, stick to it. Follow the programming for a minimum of 6 months. If you can see the previous programming, look it up. See you if can understand the plan. Even better, if you can talk to the programmer ask the right questions. Find out what their long term plan is. If you don't trust the program, then you will quit. You must follow the programming whole heartedly. If you program hop yo will never get the results you want. Also be careful because most competitors programming is geared towards someone doing this as their full time job, most people will get burned out. Also, if you have to scale the programming, you are definitely not ready for it.
Speaking of competitors programming. Usually you get what you pay for, most of it is free. It is generic and does not target you as a specific athlete, if you really want to up your level you need programming that is targeted towards you as a specific athlete. You also need a coach who watches you train and can give actual feedback to your progress. A good coach will realize when you come in that you had a bad night and change the programming accordingly.
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