Athlete Best Practices

“We are the sum of our actions, and therefore our habits make all the difference.”

When it comes to sustainable, long-term success in the realm of fitness, fat loss, and health there are certain behaviors top performers typically have in common. Keep in mind, nobody is perfect nor should 100% discipline and adherence to our habits be the mark we strive for. Rather, we should aim to check as many important “boxes” as we can, as often as we can. In doing so, we will likely continue to make progress in pursuit of our goals both in the gym and outside of it. Here’s the list, for reference:
Successful Athletes:

  • Keep a training log and know their personal bests
  • Are consistent in their training and don’t make excuses (either do or don’t, there is no “try”)
  • Are willing to prioritize and make sacrifices to accommodate their workouts as needed
  • Focus on cultivating a healthly, well-rounded lifestyle to empower their performance (sleep, diet, stress management)
  • Have things they are working on outside of class – movement, mobility, aerobic endurance, specific weaknesses, etc.
  • Are “coachable” and want to be coached
  • Are good listeners, and aren’t afraid to ask questions for clarity or about how to get better
  • Have other physical pursuits outside of CrossFit. What’s the point of being fit if you never use your fitness in real life?
  • Recognize that the details matter. Small refinements compound over time to create large change
  • Tend to focus internally (in your control) vs. compare themselves to others (external focus; out of your control)
  • Work hard and are competitive! There’s no shortcuts or elevators to the top and you’ve got to always find new ways to challenge and push yourself
  • Have good attitudes! Whining and complaining are a choice and make nobody better
  • Show up prepared and ready to workout. They’ve eaten and hydrated and are mentally and physically ready to go
  • Show up on time (if not early) and typically stay late. Same rules that apply in the real world
  • Are willing to trust the process, presuming the process works & makes sense
  • Have a long term vision of where they want to be, and are willing to be patient to achieve that vision

This is by no means a complete list of habits and behaviors to emulate, but rather a collection of best practices exhibited by consistently successful athletes here at CFSS. Let this serve as a guide to help you figure out where you can make improvements and adjustments to consistently look, feel, and perform better! As a reminder, if you identify areas where you’d like to improve, but are unsure how best to go about it, just ask a coach for advice!

Most Of Life Is Showing Up


“Most of life is showing up. You do the best you can, which varies from day to day.” – Regina Brett

What’s the secret to long term, sustainable progress in the gym? If I had to provide one simple, actionable piece of advice, it would be this: show up! We’ve all heard it before, but the saying really does hold true, especially in the realm of fitness, health, and longevity. When it comes to improving physical capacity, strength, technique, flexibility, etc. frequency of exposure is a critical variable for success. What we see here at the gym is that there is a direct through line from class attendance to improvement in all the meaningful ways we measure progress and success (better performance, body composition, technical skill, recovery capacity, etc.). Simply put, there are no shortcuts or replacements for doing the work, week in and week out. You can give maximum effort two days a week, but you’re not going to see the same progress as someone who is also working hard and training 4-5 days per week. There are a few caveats here of course: we’ve all got different schedules, goals, and recovery capacities. Let’s look at each of these individually:
Schedules: Your schedule might be such that you can’t train every day, even if you’d like to. You don’t need to train everyday to get better, but you do need to be consistent. We recommend 3x / week as a minimum effective dose to aim for. This might mean coming in at 6am if you’re busy in the evening, later at night after a long day at work, or on Saturday morning before your weekend plans kick in. Recognize we all have the same 24 hours in the day and plan your workouts accordingly, even if that means setting the alarm a little earlier than you’d like. Progress or excuses, the choice is yours!
Goals: What are your goals? What are you training for? How do you measure success? Taking time to answer these questions will help us mold and adapt our programs to best meet your needs as an athlete. Most people are simply training for the rigors of daily life and don’t have a particular sport, event, or competition on their calendar. If you do play a sport, are training for a race, or have some other specific pursuit in mind, CrossFit should serve as your general preparatory training that supports all those activities. CrossFit should enhance, not detract, from your other physical pursuits, so there is likely a need to be mindful of both weekly volume and intensity, especially when in-season or near competition. If you’ve got specific goals, talk to a coach about a smart plan to achieve them and how to best incorporate CrossFit with any outside physical pursuits you may have.
Recovery Capacity / Experience Level: CrossFit is hard. There’s a learning curve when it comes to getting better, and progress can be slow and difficult at times. Rarely does someone come in with the baseline level of fitness and skills required to train 4-6 days / week, nor do they need to. With that being said, the body is amazing at adapting to the stresses placed upon it. Train 3 days per week until your body acclimates, then consider adding another day. After doing that for a few months, maybe you consider adding another day to your weekly routine. Taking the incremental approach is the best way to avoid burnout and injury. Gradually increase the demands you place on your body so that your capacity to recover from training can keep pace. Allow yourself plenty of runway for steady development and sustained results.
We must remind ourselves that daily movement is both restorative and essential to our health, fitness, and wellbeing. In order to maintain vital physical traits such as flexibility, strength, and work capacity, we need to practice and train the fundamental human movements that we focus on daily in CrossFit (push, pull, hinge, squat, carry etc.). The other side of the coin when it comes to increasing your training frequency is the need to manage intensity appropriately. Here’s the motto to live by: long-term consistency trumps short-term intensity. Not only is it okay to take an easy day or leave something in the tank for next time, we encourage it! Priority number one is showing up and moving; let your coaches help you navigate the other relevant variables that drive progress.

“If It Fits Your Macros, Bro!”

“Counting Macros” is a growingly popular approach to dieting that involves hitting predetermined daily calorie numbers via specific macronutrient ratios (carbohydrate, protein, fat). This growth in popularity has been aided and accelerated by the proliferation of apps such as MyFitnessPal and other quantified-self technologies that allow people to easily track their food intake, activity, sleep levels, etc. This method is largely a quantitative approach to nutrition and diet, wherein the individual is exclusively concerned with their calories and specific macro goals (carb, fat, protein). One figures out a few baseline parameters – activity level, current weight, goals (lose body-fat, gain weight, maintain, etc.), and then utilizes a calculator that analyzes these variables and spits out your daily macro “prescription” of X calories, carbs, protein, and fat. From there, one would need to determine how to spread out the daily macro intake across various meals and snacks.
First, let’s establish that there are many effective ways to tackle the questions of how, what, and when should I eat to optimize my health, body composition, and performance. Many people find success with the counting macros approach and thrive off the inherent structure it requires. With that in mind, let’s look at some of the pro’s and con’s of adopting this approach.
• Structure – you’ve got a specific macro prescription to hit and it’s up to you to do that in the most effective manner possible
• Everything Counts – every snack and meal counts and must be accounted for. You are now accountable to the app and your daily goals, and must adjust your intake based on your choices throughout the day
• Better Understanding of Portion Sizes – presuming you are largely tackling this approach via meal prepping your own food, you should gain a much better appreciation for carb / protein / fat portion sizes and how they differ from your old or normal consumption patterns
• More Mindful Eating – How much of your current eating rituals are deliberate, conscious acts and how many of them are just mindless habits? Eating a quality breakfast before work is a deliberate act. Eating a muffin or donut at the office because they are there is mindless eating, simply done out of habit or impulse. When everything counts, you tend to be a little more selective about when and where you use your finite calories.
• Lack of emphasis on quality – despite what you may have heard to the contrary, all calories are not created equal. Hitting your macro targets with wild caught seafood, fresh produce, and avocado versus fast food and energy drinks will not yield the same results in the short or long term. Highly processed, low nutrient density foods are unhealthy regardless of the ratio you consume them in.
As a general rule, focus on eating as much high quality food as often as possible before trying higher order nutrition strategies such as counting macros. You aren’t going to track for the rest of your life; make sure you know how to eat correctly and adequately without the use of a smartphone app
• Tendency to Binge Eat – extremely commonplace with folks that track their macros is a self-imposed cheat meal / cheat day / cheat weekend to provide relief from the rigidity of their regular eating. The basic premise is follow a super strict approach during the week, then go completely off the rails at some point over the weekend and consume everything you’ve been avoiding. Eating tasty, unhealthy food from time to time is normal; going on food benders is a clear sign of a disordered eating behavior with long-term pitfalls if left unaddressed
• Prescription Accuracy – who is determining your caloric needs? What about your macro ratios? Are your ratios regularly being reviewed and adjusted to reflect both the relevant variables in your life and your progress or lack thereof on your current ratios?
• Inherent inflexibility – Your macros are fixed and unfazed by your appetite, social calendar, daily workout volume, travel plans, etc. Regardless of whatever complicating variables at play, you still have to hit your numbers
• Impractical – weighing, measuring, and meal prepping work great when your schedule and life are routine and largely unchanging. However, if you travel regularly or have a highly unpredictable job, you will likely struggle with such a regimented approach to eating
• Smart Phone Dependence – Macro tracking only practically works via smartphone applications, allowing us to see updated numbers in real time as well as a database of common foods, preparation methods, and portion sizes. Most people are already overly reliant on their smart phones as it is, and this will absolutely add another significant time reliance to the docket. Every meal will need to be tracked, and typically in real time, to maintain accuracy and up to date numbers. This means more screen time, which none of us needs.
Ultimately, the best diet is the one you can successfully adhere to. It has to be a way of life that resonates with you, which is built to last. Macro tracking can be an effective tool in the long-term pursuit of better health, performance, and graceful ageing. However, it is important to understand both the benefits and the shortcomings before going all in on an approach that may or may not be ideal for you and your goals.

Gym Etiquette

How you behave in the weight room speaks volumes about your character as a person and experience level as a lifter. As is the case in many other settings, gym etiquette amounts to accepted customs and practices, dos and don’ts, and general guidelines one would be wise to follow in order to engender themselves to their fellow athletes and coaches. Here’s a list to get you acquainted with the ways of the weight room.
1) Always re-rack your weights and clean up after yourself. The same thing you were probably taught in kindergarten equally applies in the gym. If you take it out, put it back. If you cover something in chalk, sweat, or DNA, wipe it down and get it back to the state you found it. This also applies to mini whiteboards used to count your rounds.
2) Show up on time (if not early). Lateness disrupts the class, is rude to the coach, and negatively affects the quality of your workout. “Stuff” happens, just don’t make it a habit.
3) Respect the equipment. Most of it is extremely durable, but everything has an intended use, and will breakdown quickly if used incorrectly. Bumper plates are intended to be dropped, dumbbells are not. Boxes are designed to be jumped on, not dragged or kicked across the floor. Treat the gear as if you had to pay to replace it yourself if it broke.
4) Be mindful where you walk and stand. Just like in golf, it’s poor form to walk in someone’s line. In the gym, this means don’t walk directly in front of someone in the middle of a focused lift as this is an unwanted distraction that can impede their focus. Same goes for standing directly in front of your lifting partner; don’t do it. Instead, stand on the side or somewhere out of the way.
5) Load your barbell correctly. Don’t keep adding small bumpers or change plates when there is a larger plate available. Small plates are flimsy, make it harder to calculate the weight being used, and limit the supply for everyone else. Don’t be that guy/gal with 4 10’s on each side when you could simply throw on some 45’s instead.
6) Don’t attempt to spot someone who didn’t ask for assistance / doesn’t know you are trying to spot them. Conversely, don’t spot someone on a lift if you don’t know how to spot them correctly. If you are spotting someone, you better pay close attention and not be a spectator.
7) Don’t ever drop an empty barbell on the ground. Just don’t.
8) Don’t make everyone else wait for you in order to start the WOD. You didn’t just suddenly have the need to go to the bathroom. You’ve also known what shoes you should be wearing and what gear you need since the start of class. Plan accordingly. Asking “wait, what are we doing?” when the coach is about to start the timer also applies here.
9) Don’t even think about leaving until everyone else finishes the workout. Show some support and cheer your classmates on!
10) Don’t use equipment you didn’t get out yourself. Don’t ask “is someone using this rower?” It obviously didn’t pull itself down, so go get your own.
11) Chalk: in the bucket, on your hands, on the bar (from your hands). In reasonable quantities. Clean it up when you finish.
12) Always strive to keep your lifting:talking ratio properly balanced (less talky, more lifty). Respect that many people come to the gym for a reprieve from work, home, etc. and simply want a chance to blow off some steam in peace. Don’t’ be a distraction to everyone else!

“Diet Starts Monday”

How many times have you uttered the following phrase, “diet starts Monday!”, or “[insert new workout routine/lifestyle change] starts tomorrow!”? If you’re like most people, you’ve probably uttered some variation of those phrases countless times, typically after a day / weekend / month(s) of less than ideal lifestyle choices. One of the hardest things people struggle with is getting back on the wagon after they’ve strayed from the clean, healthy living path for an extended period of time. The thought of heading back into the gym after taking a few weeks or months off can be daunting. The same can be said for getting back onto a structured nutrition plan after indulging in cheap calories and junk food over an extended weekend getaway.
Our lifestyle habits, for better or worse, tend to be largely influenced by momentum. When you are in a positive feedback loop of working out regularly, eating healthy, and going to bed at a reasonable time, it seems to require very little effort to keep the good times rolling. This concept also applies to when we are in a negative feedback loop of eating crappy food, staying up late watching Netflix, and skipping the gym due to lack of energy and motivation. Breaking out of our well established pattern requires a massive shift in momentum akin to stopping a freight train barreling down the tracks. So, the question remains: how do we get back into the positive feedback loop after say a weekend bender of junk food, sleep deprivation, and ample amounts of “12 oz. curls”?
Getting back on track is as simple as returning to your normal routine as quickly as possible. Presuming you were on a quality routine prior to your most recent departure from the norm, simply pick back up with the things that made you feel great in the first place. When Monday morning rolls around, force yourself to get up at your usual time, eat your normal meals, go to the gym at your normal time / frequency, and try to get in bed at your usual time at night. Regardless of whether or not you are still feeling the ill effects of the weekend, restore normalcy as soon as possible. By all means, feel free to back off the intensity in the gym, drink more water, and attempt to get a little extra sleep if possible. However, in order to get back on the wagon, you don’t need to do a “cleanse” or a “detox”, a crazy diet, 2 a day workouts, or any other ill-conceived ideas to somehow mitigate your choices the past few days. Don’t beat yourself up about eating pizza or having that extra glass off wine; shake it off and focus on doing your best in the present, as this is the only thing you can actually control. As an aside, depending on how you deviated from the norm the most (lack of sleep, too much sugar, etc.), you can make a targeted effort to get back to baseline quicker by prioritizing that area. So, if you were on team no sleep all weekend, get to bed 30 minutes early for the rest of the week and see how you feel. Personally, I like to kick off the week with a day or two of low carb eating if I was a bit too indulgent the previous weekend, focusing on high protein, high fat, some leafy veggies, minimal starch (if any) and no sugar. This, coupled with getting back into the gym, seems to bring me back to baseline the fastest.
What’s the strategy if we are hoping to get back onto a healthy routine but haven’t had one in months or longer? We want to follow a similar approach to the tips outlined above, with a few differences. For this individual, I would start with re-integrating exercise first as the initial catalyst for other lifestyle changes. Start walking daily, and try to make it to the gym or a group exercise class 2x per week. Start here, and keep this up for a month or more before tweaking volume or intensity at all. Once exercise becomes routine, start making dietary tweaks, eliminating the low hanging fruit – sugar, processed foods, grains, alcohol, etc. and see how your body responds. Around this time, I’d also be looking at sleep, and making every effort to optimize quality and keep 7 hours as the daily minimum. In time, exercise frequency can increase, dietary parameters can tighten, and sleep needs can be tinkered with as well. Don’t try to do this all at once, as this can be too much for most people to sustain. Take a very reasonable approach, and focus on consistency and slowly building positive habit change. As is the case with everyone, progress isn’t linear – there will always be setbacks, vacations, injuries, illnesses, etc. When these things invariably happen, don’t stress. Why? Because your diet starts Monday!

You Don’t Need A Harder Workout


“You don’t need harder workouts. You need to go harder in your workouts.” – Tommy Hackenbruck

As coaches, a common refrain we hear from clients goes something like this, “I feel like I’m not getting pushed enough in class / I’m not improving as fast as I’d like to / I feel like I need a harder workout.” These are of course valid concerns, as seeing progress is one of the most appealing aspects of doing CrossFit. With so many different movements and workout types, it’s not to continually see improvement by simple virtue of showing up. However, there inevitably comes a time when all those newbie gains grind to a halt, and PR’s are harder to come by. When this happens, how do we continue to improve?
All things being equal, intensity is the independent variable that determines your rate of progress in the gym. With that in mind, in order to continue to progress towards your fitness goals, you should aim to gradually ratchet up how hard you are pushing yourself in a given workout or workouts in general. Another, seemingly contradictory, fitness truism is the concept that long-term consistency will always trump short intensity. While this is accurate, it’s worth noting that this concept only works when applied to appropriate training methods done with quality technique and effort. If you are consistently doing pointless exercises with mediocre effort, your results will reflect that. Ultimately, we are looking for a combination of these two principles to see long-term improvement. Yes, you need to regularly push yourself hard, especially on days you are feeling good. You also need to take a wider view and recognize that minimum exercise volumes and loads must be met in order to maintain and build your fitness.
Broadly speaking, folks fall short in one of the following two areas: either they aren’t training hard enough when they come to the gym, or they aren’t training frequently enough to take their fitness up a notch. With that in mind, your lack of intensity has nothing to do with whether or not you are doing the L1 or L2 workout that day. In general, L1 features less technical movements than L2, and is geared more towards challenging your work capacity than your ability to execute higher order movements when fatigued. An L1 “AMRAP”, for example, places no upper limits on your ability to get out of your comfort zone and exhaust yourself. The movements may be “simple”, but the workout certainly isn’t “easy”. In fact, it’s extremely common to see people who have marginal ability on an L2 movement, say pull-ups, perform the L2 workout and perform poorly as a result. They wanted to do the “harder” workout, despite the fact that L1 would have been a much more appropriate and challenging workout given their abilities. The distinction between L1 & L2 becomes much easier to comprehend if you view them on a continuum from less to more technical instead of easier and harder. Instead of attempting to simply survive the L2 workout, strive to dominate the L1 on a consistent basis. Remember, the difficultly of a workout is almost entirely a factor of the effort you put into it.
How do we consistently push ourselves harder? First, keep a training log. If we deadlift every week, and you don’t know what you did last time we deadlifted, how can we possibly improve upon our past performances? Top performers know their numbers and keep training logs. Strive to increase the weights you are lifting in WODs, reduce the amount of rest you allow yourself between movements in a circuit, and raise your level of expectations regarding your performance of a particular workout. If you think a workout is too easy, the more likely culprit is your weight selection, pacing, and effort. Before you come complaining to us coaches, make sure you’ve taken care of those variables first.

Move With Intent!

The whiteboard tells an incomplete story when it comes to workout performance. Think of the whiteboard simply as a scoreboard:
• What level did you do?
• What was your time / score?
• How many rounds did you miss?
• How much weight did you lift?
While these are useful bits of information, they are purely objective, quantitative measures of performance and output. What they fail to capture are all the subtle, subjective, and qualitative aspects of a training session that can’t be conveyed by a score. How you deadlift is more important than how much you deadlift. This can easily get overlooked when chasing a particular score on the leaderboard. Constantly pursuing higher intensity levels as movement efficiency and quality erode is foolish at best, and injurious at worst. Luckily, there are other ways we can measure workout quality and improvement that are both safe in the short term, and sustainable in the long.
Shift your focus to moving with intent each time you set foot in the gym. Moving with intent means moving deliberately, purposefully, and with appropriate aggression or control, depending on what is required at that time. Intent means conscious thought as to how you approached the barbell and set yourself into position to perform a heavy (or light) deadlift. Where do you place your feet? Your hands? What is your breathing / tensioning strategy? What is your desired bar path / body proximity once you start pulling? How mentally aroused and aggressive do you need to be at this particular weight? These are just but a few thoughts that may run through your head when you shift your focus to moving with intent. Don’t simply go through the motions as you perform your warm-up and working sets; be present and concentrate on your execution in all phases of the lift so that you can steadily improve your technique, rep by rep.
Generally speaking, everyone that lifts wants to lift heavier weights over time. However, not everyone understands the intertwined nature of precise, flawless technique and lifting progressively heavier weights. One cannot exist without the other. This same concept applies to conditioning workouts as well – your ability to maintain a high output during a WOD is largely going to be determined by your efficiency in each individual movement component of said workout. Additionally, you cannot hope to achieve the full benefits of any exercise (the real benefit of training), if you don’t perform the exercise with the right intent. A couple examples: picking up a slam ball slowly, then passively dropping it to the ground using all arms on a ball slam vs. ripping the ball overhead fluidly, then slamming it into the ground like you are trying to crack a hard coconut on the ground. Burpees performed by collapsing on the floor, then sprawling back to your feet haphazardly vs. a controlled descent to the floor, hopping back to ones feet where they started, all the while occupying no more space than one would use to perform a push up. A kettlebell swing with excessive layback and soft knees vs. a swing that finishes with powerful hip extension, knees locked, torso vertical, arms long and kettlebell projected to chest height. While both examples may constitute a rep, they are not created equal.
The leaderboard is a great motivator and useful tool for gauging performance. However, a “fast” score that subjectively looked like a slow moving car crash from start to finish is not enviable, desirable, nor more impressive than a slower score performed within the margins of quality technique, executed with a sense of purposefulness. Always strive to move through full ranges of motion, rest when you cannot, and don’t forget that more isn’t always better, only better is better. Raise your personal standards for movement quality and always remember, the standard doesn’t get tired even if you are.

How Often Should I CrossFit?

The effectiveness of any workout routine, CrossFit included, lies largely in the dose. Perform it too infrequently, and you are more likely to experience soreness than progress. Perform it too frequently and you can expect soreness, mental and physical fatigue, and increased risk of injury. We are frequently asked the question, “how often should I do CrossFit?”. However, the question that really needs to be asked is the following: “what is the optimal amount of CrossFit I should do?” In order to effectively answer this question, we must also take into account the individuals ability level, lifestyle, and current goals. A full accounting must take place before we can get to the final workout prescription and ways of structuring the training week.
First, remember your “why” for coming to the gym in the first place. Nobody starts doing CrossFit with a goal of getting really, ridiculously good at doing CrossFit. The reason you start CrossFit is to try something new, challenging, and different than whatever you’ve been doing (or not doing) up until that point. You do CrossFit as a means to be healthy, move well, feel good, and like how you look in a bathing suit. You do it to support your outside the gym activities and pursuits as well. Keep these concepts in mind when you are thinking about how much time you should dedicate to being in the gym. With that in mind, here are a few of the most common training templates worth modeling your own workout habits after.
For the purposes of this discussion, I’m only going to focus on training frequencies of 3 or more times per week. While lower volumes than these are still beneficial, they are too infrequent to merit additional consideration for how they should be structured in the context of a training week.
“3 x 52”
3 days a week, 52 weeks a year. You pick the days, whether consecutive or spread apart, just make sure the work gets done each and every week. For most people, this is what optimal training looks like. 3 sessions a week seems to be the minimum effective dose threshold where you can make great progress and cultivate a respectable level of strength and capacity, while still leaving plenty of time for other activities, family, work, life, etc. Don’t fall into the trap of “more is better”; in reality, it is probably just more, providing marginal additional benefit. 3 sessions a week allows you to spread apart your workouts and hit it hard every time you train, or give you a little extra recovery time when things are hectic at the office. The key with this plan is consistency; you can’t reap the benefits of this program if you aren’t disciplined in you adherence and regularly miss workouts. Conversely, you could likely follow this kind of in the gym template for the rest of your life and see great results with little downside risk of injury, or chronic soreness / fatigue.
“3 on, 1 off”
This is the classic CrossFit prescription for experienced athletes, typically those with who are strongly concerned with performance as primary goal. This training split doesn’t take into account weekdays versus weekends or other possible scheduling constraints, and is intended to be followed on a continuous basis. The logic here is that intensity and quality tend to drop off significantly after the 3rd hard day of training, hence the rest day on day 4. This is an old school CrossFit approach; while no doubt effective, the athlete must have a strong recovery capacity and lifestyle to support this frequency of training without breaking down. This means there must be an emphasis on sleep, nutrition, body maintenance, and stress management for this plan to be sustainable.
“3 on, 1 off, 2 on, 1 off”
For the recreational CrossFit athlete with full time job (aka real life), this is a winning template. 5 sessions per week, with 2 rest days inserted to smartly partition the training volume and allow for adequate rest as well. Depending on your schedule, you could also do 2 on, 1 off, 3 on, 1 off with the same expected results. While quality is undoubtedly better than quantity, high volumes of quality work lead to the best outcomes. In order to continue to develop your fitness, your body will require progressive overload- heavier weight, faster paces, more technical movements, more volume, etc. There is a simple reality than you can’t cram 5 days worth of training into 3 days. If you want to get better faster, this is a great approach. Like the aforementioned “3 on, 1 off”, lifestyle considerations must play a major role in order to be sustainably successful with this approach.
A few other common templates worth exploring are, “4 on, 1 off, 1 on, 1 off”, and “5 on, 2 off”. Both of these approaches are focused on getting the bulk of the training week done during weekdays, allowing for more flexibility on the weekend for other activities. There are many other viable approaches to structuring the training week that are beyond the scope of this post, such as multiple sessions / day (short version: don’t do this). The most important thing to consider is the reality of your schedule and desire to train. “3 on, 1 off, 2 on, 1 off” may appeal to you in theory, but in reality “4 on, 3 off” may be a much closer approximation of your schedule. In that case, follow the option that is realistic and attainable, not optimal in theory.
The last concept worth revisiting is the idea that we do CrossFit not simply to be good at CrossFit, but to enrich our lives and support our other pursuits. Play new (or old) sports and activities, get outside and run, hike, bike, play, and generally strive to be more active. Put your fitness to good use and don’t simply pursue increasingly higher levels of fitness for its own sake (unless that really is your “why”!). Use this guide to hopefully strike a better balance between hard training and the necessary rest and recovery your body needs in order to sustain it over the long haul.

Extra Credit

One of the primary constraints in programming CrossFit workouts is a scarcity of time. We’ve got one hour to cram in a thorough warm up, skill work, strength & power development, and finally hit some conditioning to round things out. Our programming lens is typically focused at the weekly level – are we striking a good balance of workout types, movement patterns, rep schemes, loading, etc. across a 7 day period? While we do our best to be as well rounded as possible, the inherent breadth and depth of CrossFit can make this challenging. One way we’ve tried to mitigate this scarcity problem is by programming weekly “Extra Credit” finishers. Extra credit
(EC) is just that – an additional, voluntary add-on to your current workout designed to address or focus on a common athlete weakness or omission in that weeks programming, or simply something we’d like to place a short-term emphasis on. These EC finishers should be done pre- or post-WOD, as a way to add productive volume to your current training workload without contribution to any significant fatigue or soreness. How often should you do the EC? Probably at least 2-3 in a given week, possibly more depending on what it is. Let’s say the EC is kettlebell swings, but we’ve already done a ton in that day’s WOD, maybe you skip it. However, let’s say the EC is banded glute bridges, or 5 minutes of the couch stretch, those you could and probably should try to do every day you are at the gym. Everyone is looking for improved performance and better returns from their workouts. Stop skipping the obvious solution or pretending you’ll do something more at home- take 5-10 minutes after class to work your weaknesses and round out your fitness.

Movement Patterns > Tools

“As to methods there may be a million and then some, but principles are few. The man who grasps principles can successfully select his own methods. The man who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
A common pitfall we routinely observe athletes falling into is the belief that there is something inherently magical about the barbell as a tool for getting stronger, as compared to the kettlebell, dumbbell, sandbag, etc. The logic goes roughly as such- I’ll spend a few weeks getting the basics down with these simpler tools so that I can prove I’m ready to graduate to the mythical barbell like all the rest of cool kids in the gym who have been training longer than me. Sound familiar? It should, because if you’ve spent any significant amount of time in the weight room, you’ve probably thought these exact thoughts. Maybe you are still currently trapped in this way of thinking.
There is nothing magical about a barbell. Nor is there anything magical about a kettlebell, dumbbell, sandbag, medicine ball, or any other piece of equipment in our gym. They are all tools with varying benefits, drawbacks, and degrees of utility. What’s crucial to understand as an athlete is that tools are always subordinate to movement patterns and training principles. Our express goal is to train all of the major human movement patters as frequently as possible, ideally with as much movement variety and diversity of stimulus as possible. If we accept the premise that squatting is important, we will then recognize that air squats, barbell front squats, kettlebell goblet squats, single leg squats, etc., are all equally valid and necessary means to help us accomplish our goal of squatting frequently.
Unless you are a strength athlete who competes in barbell based sports (weightlifting, powerlifting, strongman), there is no need to obsess over the barbell when it comes to performing strength work. The barbell will certainly allow for the greatest amount of weight to be lifted. However, we do not need massive weights, and the associated compression on our spine and stress on our joints and connective tissues in order to get very strong. Look at gymnasts for example – they hardly lift, if at all, and possess some of the strongest upper bodies and midlines imaginable. Additionally, absolute strength doesn’t correlate 1:1 with athleticism. If the strongest athlete in a given contest were always the best athlete, the NBA, MLB, NFL, etc. would be dominated by recreational powerlifters and weightlifters. The reality is that you need to be strong enough for your given sport or athletic pursuit in order to perform at a high level without getting hurt. Strong enough doesn’t equal as strong as possible.
Understand that every tool has a purpose, a role to play in our quest to help you build yourself into a more robust, resilient, well-rounded athlete. We choose the tools we use based on what will best help the athlete improve given their build, experience level, goals, limitations, strengths, etc. If you’re > 6’3”, chances are you’re probably going to deadlift with a trap bar or off blocks and not from the floor. If you’ve got a significant shoulder mobility asymmetry or strength imbalance, get ready for a steady diet of single arm presses until we resolve the issue. The tools are a means to help us move better and accomplish our goals; think of the tools as interchangeable and unimportant. A well-rounded athlete has mastery of all the tools in the weight room, not just the barbell. Look no further than this years CrossFit Games Regional events, which featured 0 barbell workouts, instead relying heavily on unilateral dumbbell based workouts. The most complete routinely spend time building and maintaining skill and capacity on the various implements we utilize. Lastly, a resilient athlete isn’t one heavy back squat away from a knee injury, or a max-effort deadlift away from 3 months of physical therapy, one 400 meter run away from plantar fasciitis.
When a coach tells you to perform a lift with one tool instead of another, it’s neither a punishment nor a regression, simply a better alternative for you at this time. The right to lift with a barbell is earned, not given. Once it is earned, however, always remind yourself that it is simply one of many tools in the arsenal to aid us in the path to getting better, fitter, and stronger.