Testing vs. Training and Why Competing Everyday is Silly
This thing called CrossFit can be a double edged sword in many ways. In many of its brilliant foundations and principles, you can also get way too much of a good thing. In a group format that tends to motivate people to do more than they normally would, push more than they ever have and try things they’ve never tried, it can result in a tremendous transformation of both mind and body. The confidence that comes with first handstands, muscle ups, and lifting heavy weights is unbelievably noticeable in those who are in the beginning stage of the process.
But when does that push become too much, and it turns into an obsession to always push harder, always PR and always try to win? Generally this results in burnout, injury, getting fatter instead of leaner and experiencing significantly decreased performance. Ironically, that push to always do more to the fullest resource of your body is the downfall of many athletes.
This is why it is important to understand the meaning of training vs the meaning of testing, how to look at each workout and training phase for what it is, and how to best approach that workout or phase. People in CrossFit love to throw around the ideas of randomness and the unknown and that you should be physically prepared for whatever life throws at you. As a healthy human being, you should be able to shovel your driveway and chase after your kids without injuring yourself or having to sit down to catch your breath from exertion. If you want to be really healthy and prepared for anything, you should be able to survive emergency situations like having to move really heavy objects quickly, jump over obstacles, sprint away from zombies or escape to high ground during a tsunami.
Obviously the former set of scenarios are everyday situations, and the latter are more once in a while/once in a lifetime type of emergencies. The former could be done by a healthy individual everyday without ever having to take a break. If you had to experience the latter on a daily basis, it wouldn’t be too long until you started to see the ramifications of redlining your body all the time. You’d start to lose sleep, muscle density, strength, stamina, libido, energy and you would probably start to hold fat stores in all of the places that people don’t want to have fat..
Those side effects would all be due to responses from your nervous system dealing with what it knows to be life or death scenarios. When your body thinks its going to die, it goes full steam ahead to providing your body with the resources and awareness that it needs to live another day. This dump of response comes with the price listed above.
Can you see where I am going with this yet?
As a CrossFitter or athlete of any kind, you absolutely cannot redline yourself for days, weeks or months on end without paying the price. You must understand the idea that training days and phases are building you up for the time that you need to put it all to use. God forbid it occurs in the situations listed above. More realistically, in our setting, it will take the form of a benchmark workout in the gym, a testing day that your coach tells you to really give it everything you’ve got, or a competition like the Open.
This is especially important for those of you who have been doing this a little while now. As you gain experience, and are aware of how deep that you can actually dig within yourself, it is easier and easier to end up at the bottom of a deep, deep Central Nervous System hole. As you become more comfortable at higher levels of intensity, you can trick yourself into thinking that its benefitting you to try and kill yourself everyday, and that somehow you’ll get more comfortable with the pain, making you a better athlete. Unfortunately, this is tricking your body into thinking its in the situations listed above and that it needs to chemically react accordingly to deal with the threat. When you add that into the fact that .000001% of the people reading this (probably even less) are able to do this professionally and therefore have to deal with the outside stresses of work, life and family paired with a shitty diet and alcohol intake, it can add up to a really difficult situation for your body to deal with for any period of time.
So what’s the point? Should you consider this a free pass to half ass it in workouts, take up Zu**a, and actively recover on the couch with your post workout ice cream so you don’t risk physically taxing your body at all? No, no you shouldn’t. Should you ever completely redline and kill yourself in the gym just because sometimes it feels good to light the tires up and pretend that you’ll be the one that has to save mankind? Absolutely. You just need to find the happy medium that is sustainable on a daily basis between the two of those options. Treat the day to day for what it is, training the body for a greater purpose of health and longevity with the occasional “I do CrossFit, watch what the f**k I can do,” day thrown in there. Stop giving a shit about winning every workout, and save the big guns for the war of competition. Your body will feel better, you’ll be leaner, and you’ll actually be more fit in the long run.