Is one workout a day enough for you?

Probably. I know that is not the answer you want to hear, but its true. We all know the person doing two or three, or even more, workouts per day. They perpetually live in the gym, spending hours on end in the gym, often doing multiple training sessions. They are often continuously chasing the workout high, even taking pride in their ability to push through the pain and always finding new limits. Remember this is not something that can be rushed, you need to put in the quality time to get it done. It would be the same as going on a crash diet for 2 weeks. Nobody wants to hear it, but there are no shortcuts. Instead of doing 1 workout a day for 3 years you will not get the same results as doing 6 workouts a day for 6 months. Certain aspects like skill development, neuromuscular activation and tendon strengthening take years to develop. 

I have been involved in the fitness industry for almost 20 years. I have seen fads come and go. I have tried most supplements, diets, and training methodologies. I have seen people come in with a flash, and burn out equally as fast. We often look at professional athletes as the peak of physical performance, they are, for a short time. Most athletes burn out or get injured well before their 30s. Have you ever talked to a retired NHL or NFL player? Most are pretty beat up from the physical sacrifice they have to put themselves through to perform at that level. These are people who have won the genetic lottery, have the best coaches money can buy, round the clock physical care from team doctors and chiros, huge contracts on the line, no 9-5 job, just training, yet they still can’t keep it up. Fitness is a longterm goal, nobody wants to be the person who talks about what they used to be able to do back in the day. 

If you gym is programming properly, there should be a good variance in strength and skill work, and different modalities of conditioning work. Once you are consistently at the top of the class or have a major weakness/imbalance, then maybe you should look at doing more work. But this also depends on your goals. If you are a regular 9-5er and working out as a fun way to get/stay fit and your snatch isn't the same as people you see at the CrossFit games, no big deal. You don't ever hear of recreational baseball players complaining that they don't have a 100mph fastball, and throwing thousands of pitches per day looking for perfection. So why as a recreational exerciser are you trying to do what the professionals do. Another key point to remember is that you don't need to be what Rich Froning is doing today, you need to do what he was doing in 2009 to develop the skills that have brought him to where he is now. A weak foundation cannot be build upon. 

Strength and skill training should be linear for most all but the most advanced athletes. This is not glorious, but guess what, simple works. For the conditioning aspect, intensity is the key. If you are doing 4 metcons a day, 5-6 days a week, chances are there is not much intensity involved. If you are trying to max out your olympic lifts every week, and missing them. You are testing, not training. If you are only doing 1 workout a day, you can hit it with full intensity. Greg Glassman designed CrossFit with intensity being the key to the results of the workouts. If you have ever attended a level-1 seminar they drill in MCI. Mechanics, Consistency, then intensity. Many coaches and athletes forget this. I will use an example of an air squat to describe MCI for those not familiar with it. Mechanics mean you have to be able to perform the movement property first, so if your knees are coming in and lower back rounding on your air squat, it means you need to work on doing the movement properly first. Consistency means doing it properly all the time, even when exhausted, fast or slow. Intensity, the key, is now doing it for time or under load. So in the air squat example, now that you have your mechanics down pat, you can also perform it time after time with perfect form, it is now time to either load up some weight on your squat and/or try and do it faster. 

So you finished the workout with the best recorded time. Good for you. But how did it look. Were your reps half assed, did your form break down and you went to “survival mode”, or worse did you shave some reps or movement standards. Try finishing with the same time while moving perfectly. Moving with virtuosity with reduce your risk of injury as well as help you move more efficiently. Are you pacing your workout because you still have another 3 workouts today? Thats not intensity. 

Its about task prioritization. The majority of athletes don’t need more metcons, we need to work on rested skill, movement virtuosity, and for the majority of us, mobility work. Its not as glorious doing an extra 30 mins of mobility a day, or working on some picture perfect strict toes to bar. Unfortunately, this would benefit most people more than doing more metcons. The metcons are sexy, the feeling afterwards is what keeps people coming back. But you are not perfecting any skill in an exhausted state. Plus you are adding to the cortisol load on your body by continuously doing high intensity workouts. 

What are your goals? You plan on making it to the CrossFit regionals? Nowadays this is nearly impossible except for the most gifted athletes who are willing to put in the required work. If you are not sure, don’t worry, its not you. You want to podium at local functional fitness events? Unfortunately the top level athletes who can no longer make it to regionals are now trickling down to the local competitions, they are also always filled with people who choose scaled division just so they can do better. Are you trying to be healthy and look good naked? Then one workout a day is more than enough for you. 

Are you following an online competitive program? These are usually designed for top level athletes and are programmed with no feedback from the lower level athletes following the program. Worse yet is paying for beat down programs from coaches who think that more volume is the key. Intensity and skill are the key. It is better to pay for a personal trainer to work on your weakness. Have the trainer be able to see how you move and what needs to be fixed. Having a trained eye on your movement will pay off in spades. A good coach will make you do the things you have been neglecting, fixing those weaknesses. 

Remember as a competitive athlete you are only as strong as your biggest weakness. This means doing more of what you hate doing and less of what you love doing. Not a popular decision for most of us. Nobody likes to have a light shined on their problems. Ego gets in the way of learning, I have coached athletes who refuse to scale workouts or movements because it will make them look less elite. How about doing some workouts for quality instead of always for time. This will take the clock out of the equation and make you have to do the movements better. Think of it like a gymnastics routine where you will be judged on your movement instead of your time. 

Many people have to sit back and think about what their goals are and why they workout. You might be surprised with the answer. If your training is having your too sore or burned out to perform your normal daily life, or you are mentally burned out and dreading your training, or worse, not smart enough to take some time off and continue to grind through your training with a look of despair on your face, wearing your grind as a badge of honour, then its time to rethink what you are doing. Your fitness supposed to enhance your life, not detract from it. 

Yours in health

   Coach Everett


Crossfit Bytown