Last week I posted Part I: How to Get Faster – Eight Recommendations to Increase Your WOD Speed by John Rushin. In Part 2, John follows up with four more practical ways to help you get that faster WOD time. Have you applied any of these recommendations to your workout? In the next few weeks I’ll be posting updates on how implementing these suggestions has worked for me.
Part 2: How to Get Faster – Eight Recommendations to Increase Your WOD Speed
By John Rushin
In Part 1 of the “Eight Recommendations to Increase Your WOD Speed,” our focus was on improving your physical abilities to make you a faster CrossFitter. Now that we’ve reached Part 2 we are going to look at four more recommendations that could be described as strategic and lifestyle based. These may not seem as difficult physically to implement, but each will present its own unique challenges. By becoming better physically and mastering the following recommendations you will not only be a much faster CrossFitter, but a better all around athlete!
5. Have a Transition Plan
This is something that none but the most serious and competitive CrossFit athletes think about in their daily workouts. What I mean by transition plan is knowing how you are going to move from one exercise in a WOD to the next. Have all of the necessary equipment set up in the closest proximity that the workout and your box will allow.
For an example let’s go back to the WOD Helen I mentioned above. If the overall layout of your box is such that you have to run across the floor out the door and 50m to get to a track to run your 400m then obviously valuable time is going to be wasted. Let’s also take a look at the strength portion of Helen, the KB swings and the pull-ups. Be smart about your set-up and have the KB directly (or close to directly) below the pull-up bar/rig so minimal time is wasted going from the swings to pull-ups. Minimize the physical space between the different stations you have to work through to complete a WOD. Even though this may seem like it will only save a few seconds between each movement if there are multiple movements and rounds in a WOD those seconds add up quickly. This is an easy adjustment that requires no training effort to shave some seconds off of your WOD times. In addition, when you start competing at a high level in CrossFit those seconds are absolutely vital and may mean the difference between finishing on the podium or in the middle of the pack.
TB adds: I waste a lot of time resting between movements. I’ve started forcing myself to do at least one rep of the next movement before I rest. Most of the time I’m able to do 3 or 4 reps, and it’s helped shave off some time.
6. Maintain an Emergency Energy Reserve
By saving some energy in an emergency reserve you will maintain a workable pace throughout the WOD while saving a little something for a hard push at the end. This will have a two-fold effect on performance. One, going at a pace that allows you to have an emergency reserve means that it is likely you will be moving more efficiently with proper form because you are maintaining better control. Two, the push at the end where you really step up the effort both physically and mentally is where you are going to make the improvement from the previous WOD times you’ve posted.
So how do we know how hard to go and when to kick in that reserve and go all out? This may take some experimentation with efforts and timing in your WODs, however I personally like to adhere to the “80-80 Rule.” This states that for 80% of the WOD go at 80% perceived effort. For the final 20% of the workout go as hard as you can with what energy you have left. If done properly, that final 20% should see an increase in speed from the previous 80% of the WOD. If it does not that simply means your initial 80% of time was done in a greater than 80% effort and some slight adjustments need to be made.
The “80-80 Rule” is general in nature, but serves as a good starting point to do some testing on yourself to see what works best for you. Maintaining this reserve not only provides a burst of energy at the end of a WOD, but also a psychological edge throughout. It’s almost a comfort to know that you can turn it up at any point and have a good push left at the end to try to improve that WOD time!
7. Optimize Your Life Outside of Training
For most of us CrossFit is not just a “workout routine,” its much more than that. It’s a lifestyle and this is how it should be. No, I’m not saying that everything in our lives should revolve around CrossFit specifically. Nobody wants to be “that guy/girl.” However, I am saying that functional fitness and living a healthy lifestyle in and out of the box is a vital aspect of being a fit and functional human and developing longevity.
To maximize the benefits of the time we spend training we need to pay attention to what we do when we’re not training. Specifically, we need to dial in our diets and the supplements we take, ensure we are mobilizing appropriately, and getting plenty of sleep.
In regards to nutrition and supplements, there is no one prescription (as I’m sure you know). It is going to take lots of experimenting with your diet to find what works best for you. Another point to remember is that a supplement is just that, a supplement. It is something that should be utilized in addition to a healthy diet, not in place of. A good rule to try to follow is to get as much of your nutrition from whole foods and meals and rely as little on supplements as possible.
As far as sleep goes, again we are all different. Some people require more than others while some seem to be able to operate effectively on minimum sleep. What seems to work for the majority of athletes is to aim for a minimum of eight hours a night. Experiment with your sleep and find out how much you need to wake up fully rested and not have a midday crash.
While we’re on the subject of rest I should mention the importance of having rest days in your training schedule. When you train, your body is literally being torn down and will rebuild stronger than it was before. This is the basis for obtaining the gains that we so treasure. It is during periods of rest that your body does the rebuilding. You need this time to recover and grow in order to reap the maximum gains and benefits from all of your hard work. You cannot continue training and working your body everyday, as you’d simply tear it down and not allow it to rebuild stronger.
8. Foster and Maintain Confidence and Positive Mental Imagery
Finally (and some may argue, most importantly), we need to address the mental and emotional aspect of improving speed. It may sound like the biggest cliché in all of sports (and life in general), but a key to improving performance is to have confidence in yourself! Lots of athletes plateau and get locked into this state of stagnation. After a while this is all they believe they are capable of, so it becomes what they expect. One thing that I can guarantee is that if you do not believe you can do better, then you will not improve!
Another aspect of mentality that is important to develop is an awareness and knowledge of your body. You have to be in tune with the signals your body is sending to your brain that manifest physically. If you are feeling tired, fatigued, stiff, and/or sore it’s probably not the best day to try to PR Fran (or anything else for that matter). These signals are your body trying to tell you that it needs a break. This does not mean you are weak or lack drive and discipline. It means you are an intelligent athlete who listens to your body and does what is best for it. In many cases this translates to backing off and allowing yourself some much needed healing time.
The final point that I would like to make is that the WOD begins with your mentality and attitude the minute you step into the box. This sets the tone for the entire workout. Begin visualizing the workout as vividly as possibly beforehand and continue that visualization until you start the WOD. Think about the time you want to break in the workout and what needs to happen in the WOD for you to get there. Visualize the entire WOD all the way through to a successful finish. This will have a two-fold effect: first it will put you in a positive frame of mind and extraordinarily focused on the upcoming task and second, it creates a clear mental road map for the WOD. This means that from the mental aspect you have already done the workout! You know what to expect, you know what the weight is going to feel like, and most importantly you know how and when your body will fatigue. There should be no surprises!
If you are patient and follow these “Eight Recommendations to Improve Your WOD Speed” you will experience speed gains and new PRs! Like I said in the introduction these recommendations are probably nothing you haven’t heard before. Sometimes though we need a reminder to get us back on the track to improvement. Be patient with your body and realize that speed gains are more difficult to achieve than strength gains as they require you to not only move a load, but to do so efficiently and with coordination. This is something that is certainly easier said than done, but the results will be well worth it. Stay motivated, stay focused and with time and effort and you will get faster!
Summary of Eight Recommendations to Increase Your WOD Speed
- Master Form and Technique and HAVE PATIENCE!
- Increase Your Cardiovascular Endurance
- Repeat the Movements with Correct Form
- Confront Your Weaknesses
- Have a Transition Plan
- Maintain an Emergency Energy Reserve
- Optimize Your Life Outside of Training
- Foster and Maintain Confidence and Positive Mental Imagery
A big Thank You to John Rushin for contributing to True Barbellion. Is there a coaching topic you’d like to see discussed on TrueBarbellion? Let me know!
John Rushin is a strength and conditioning coach specializing in running and endurance athletics based out of Seattle, WA. Currently, he is the Head Trainer of the Endurance Program at The Lab Strength and Conditioning and an assistant trainer at A Community Project CrossFit, both in Seattle.
He founded the Discipline Strength Performance (DSP) Athletics brand which was designed and created as a vehicle to bring his knowledge and coaching expertise to athletes nationwide. As a trainer, he specializes in preparing endurance athletes for competition through a unique strength and conditioning program and the Pose Method of Running. He holds certifications in:
- CrossFit Level I Certification, 2013
- CrossFit Endurance Certification, 2014
- USA Weightlifting Olympic Lifting Certification, 2014
John is available for private training sessions as well as running seminars. If you are interested please contact him for more details!
Also an avid writer in the field of strength and conditioning, John posts two blogs on his websites DSP Athletics and DSP Running and often contributes articles to Truebarbellion, Tabata Times, and others. He can be followed on Twitter and Instagram (@jjrushin for both) and contacted via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. He welcomes questions, comments, and the sharing of thoughts and ideas. Feel free to contact him anytime, he’d love to hear from you!