Speed Is Not Exciting
I recently found myself way out of my depth. I was riding a motorcycle in a country where the road rules were advisory at best, with a group of guys who were far more experienced, on a machine more powerful than I’d ever ridden. A recipe for disaster. There were downhill hairpin turns that challenged my balance and coordination and the speed at which we were riding was in direct conflict with my innate sense of self-preservation. I eventually grew more comfortable over the course of the day and afterwards reflected on the progress I’d made, and in doing so couldn’t help but compare it to our daily training at Perpetua.
When in the gym, our bodies are the machines. Changes here can be likened to physical adaptations; an upgrade to the chassis of a bike akin to increased muscle mass, engine upgrades representing improved lung capacity and blood composition. The rider, then, comes to embody the neurological adaptations of training. Cornering techniques, throttle and brake control all represent the various adaptations we make in the brain. This applies just as much to efficiency in the more basic movements like the burpee as it does to proficiency and beyond in the more complex movements like high skill gymnastics and the olympic lifts. A powerful bike controlled by an unskilled rider is just as deficient as an expert on a scooter. Our training is designed within a contextual template developed by Kenny Kane of CrossFit LA, ensuring that both the physical and neurological are improved together through the different focus of each day; Practice, Competition and Mental Toughness.
Practice: A practice day is where the machine gets upgraded and tested. Strength is built through progressive barbell and gymnastics work. We rev the engines to increase our aerobic capacity without taking ourselves to or beyond the absolute limit. These are the days to have fun making mistakes in conditioning work. Experiment with sustainable rep ranges in the conditioning pieces or with scaling options during the workout. You might sometimes gas yourself out, and while this should not be the intention going into the workout, doing so every so often helps you to learn valuable lessons.
These are the days where we learn and refine new skills, making our movements more efficient, allowing us to move safely with more speed and confidence. Movement quality on these days is of the utmost importance.
Competition: This is a race day, the application of everything we’ve done in practice. Pacing and scaling options should be planned out prior to execution in order to optimise performance in the same way that a rider would memorise a racetrack. We should have a good idea of our sustainable rep ranges from our practice days and should look to stay within them. If we blow out the engine here it will waste precious time. With that said, we should push as hard as our skill and engine allows.
The difficulty of the racetrack represents the skill set required for the workout. High skill gymnastics like muscle-ups and handstand pushups should not be taken on at speed by the inexperienced as they’ll either slow you down to the point of tedium or, much worse, pose the risk of injury. You’ll get far more from an appropriately scaled workout than you will from tackling something that is beyond you, and you’ll get much more enjoyment from it.
Mental Toughness: These days are like a drag race. Simple, brutal and more mental than physical. The machine will always have more capacity for speed than the rider, who will limit it in the interest of safety. On these days we look to push past our mental barriers and find comfort in the uncomfortable. The best example here is Open Workout 12.1: 7 minutes of burpees. Physically, you can always do another burpee, but your body will tell you that you need to stop. Hold on, you’re capable of far more than you think in that moment.
Returning to the title of this piece for a moment, what do I mean by speed not being exciting? To me, speed never has been. Acceleration on the other hand, THAT is exciting. You can be on a motorway for an hour and creep up to 120mph without even realising; the change is gradual, imperceptible, unexciting. This gradual acceleration represents our practice days and their sustainability is the reason that they make up 70% of our training. Going from 0-60mph in four seconds? These are our Mental Toughness days, exciting almost to the point of inducing fear and completely unsustainable in the long term, hence their infrequent inclusion at 10% of our programming. Competition days live in between these two, making up 20% of our training; unsustainable in their intensity but valuable, exciting and a great gauge of progress.
Approach these days with the appropriate mindset and over time you’ll creep up in skill, strength and speed without even realising it.