How to Train Like an Athlete (Part II)

You have already decided that you WANT to train like an athlete at CrossFit Tel Aviv (“Train Like an Athlete”). Coach Yoni, as a part of a series of articles written to help further educate the CrossFit and fitness communities in Israel, discusses exactly HOW to train like an athlete.

In Part I, Coach Yoni covered: 1. Experience 2. Technical Knowledge and 3. Physical and Mental Preparation. Read about Optimal Training Time and Recovery Workouts in Part II:

4. Optimal Training Time (physiological training unit)

We have previously discussed how the typical gym-goer seems calm during their workout and usually their workout is itself calm…and long, and boring. If you are looking for maximal results you will have to remember the importance of intensity, volume of training, and one last important ingredient: optimal training time. Now lets see how we can clarify all of these and make them work together.

The optimal time for a taxing high intensity workout is approximately 30 minutes, be it max strength, explosive power or strength endurance (metabolic conditioning). This is total work time, and it is not a figure etched in stone. Sometimes at CrossFit Tel Aviv we will lean more towards intensity and by default this will lower volume (i.e. short and heavy under 10 minute metcons like classic CrossFit WOD “Diane”). While other times we will lean towards volume and this will require reducing intensity (for example, WODs such as other Crossfit classics like “Cindy” or “Angie”). If you are training for pure strength you should aim towards getting done within 20-30 minutes, but make those minutes heavy. Beyond that time frame we tend to get fatigued and lose focus, therefore reducing the quality of training and increasing the risk of injury.

But, our CrossFit classes last for 1 hour. So far I only named 3 out of a possible 10 fitness attributes that we can train, which leaves plenty of time in that hour to train the other 7… start working on those 7! If you do not know what the 10 fitness attributes are, go ahead and re-read the paragraph about technical knowledge in Part I (or refresh your memory here.).

Which brings me to my next point, volume and time efficiency.

At times we will want to work high volume at lower intensity, which is less taxing and can be performed optimally for up to 50 minutes (depending on the intensity). High volume exercises are a very important part of your endurance training and are a must in order to achieve true elite fitness. This is also where I as a coach have the hardest time. In order for us to be able to train high volume at lower intensity at CrossFit Tel Aviv, two things must happen.

A) The athletes do in fact come in early for training sessions, or at the very least on time and certainly not late. If you come in late you will not be focused, you are interrupting, you have not properly prepared, you are reducing the quality of the workout for your teammates and worst of all you are taking a chance of getting injured. In my eyes, it is also disrespectful towards your teammates.

B) The athletes need to be time efficient and have at least a basic familiarity with most, preferably all, of the movements required for the work out.

Being time efficient at CrossFit Tel Aviv means:

Knowing your personal stats- I cannot overstate the importance of this, it is your measurement of progress, and it wastes a lot of time establishing them over and over.

Understanding how to train in a group setting- help each other out and pay attention, this means that the person squatting/pressing/ benching etc. should worry only about shouting out what weight he needs set up and setting himself up for the lift. Everyone else should worry about loading the plates and setting up the bar if its a human rack. And for gods sake please remember your turn in the rotation and be ready for it. Your turn is not an appropriate time to chalk up or answer your phone. Be ready for your lift before it comes.

Knowing what weights, assistance, etc. you use for metcons and what you use for strength (resistance bands for pullups/dips, kettlebell weight, hammer weight, etc.).

Reading the board and listening- the coach repeating himself is a waste of time, explaining something that was unclear again is not. Know the difference. If you act like a space cadet you will diminish the quality of workout for yourself and your peers, pros don’t do that. Be a pro.

Knowing the movements- a movement should be taught once, and reviewed a few times thereafter. Remember the names and acronyms, it will save time explaining and moreover it will save you time during the metcon.

Recovery Workout: What, How and When?

There is also a third type of workout and depending on the frequency of your training it may be just as important as any other workout. It is called a recovery workout. Remember this name for it may save you from over-training, overuse injuries and even overload injuries.

What: When we train heavily, toxins are accumulated for various reasons. For the most part these toxins end up in our connective tissues. The cardiovascular system is in charge of getting the waste and toxins from our body to the liver  and eventually to be secreted from the body. Think of a recovery workout as cleaning your house with a water hose: the higher the water pressure and the higher the quantity of water you use – the cleaner the house will be. When you raise your heart rate, you increase your blood pressure and have more volume of blood flowing per minute, essentially “cleaning” the toxins. But you don’t want to raise the heart rate too high during a recovery workout because that will require heavy muscle work. You want to avoid this as the muscles need rest time in order to build themselves up. And here we are with the basics for a recovery workout: enough work to clean the house, but not too much work that will require heavy muscle work.

How: Low intensity, large volume exercise. Classic examples would be a long bike ride or a slow jog. A good indication to know that you are not overdoing the intensity is the “speech test”. If you can’t talk while you are running, you are going to fast. Another excellent recovery exercise is stretching. I would recommend a beginner or intermediate yoga class (which we provide twice a week at CrossFit Tel Aviv). Stretching a muscle causes increased local blood flow and helps clear toxins. Best of all is a combination: I like to take a 45 minute jog and finish with 20-30 min full body mobility work. And my best recommendation is to just pick something you like doing and do it, if frisbee or basketball is your thing, go do that. If it is BJJ, Krav Maga, swimming or soccer, do those. Remember to have fun and do it at a pace that is nice and easy.

When: On your “off” days, preferably a couple of times a week.

One last note on recovery: toxins will be cleared up much faster if immediately after your regular workout you “take a walk around the square, lower your heart rate gradually, active recovery”… ever hear me say that? I bet you have. If your heart rate drops your tissues will be stuck with the garbage. Take a 2-3 minute fast pace walk and keep your heart rate relatively high, you’ll thank me over the next few days.

So all of these are experience, but there is more to it than that, this is just the tip of the iceberg on how to train, and training doesn’t even amount to half of the reason you progress. The bottom levels of the pyramid are rest and nutrition. More about those to come!