Living an Athletic Life
With The Open approaching, I want to write about training and competition, but not just inside the gym. I want to share my thoughts on what it means to live an athletic lifestyle.
The coaching notes for Friday, January 25th for the CompTrain Class program had the following statement about Practicing vs. Training vs. Competing:
There are three different modes we can be in on any given day. Practice, Training, or Competition. Most professional athletes spend most of their time practicing and training, with competition reserved for sometimes just once per week, like in the NFL. While we aren’t professional athletes, we can be mindful of how we operate during our workouts. If we’re looking at other’s scores and looking to beat them every day, we are competing every day. If we’re focused on working hard to get better and moving well, we’re training. If we’re highly focused in low intensity environment, we’re practicing. Athletes can ask themselves where they spend most of their time. Most of the improvements take place in the practice and training zones, where competition mode is reserved for those special occasions, maybe a few times per month where we turn the brain off and go during a benchmark or repeat workout. Below is a snapshot of what each zone looks like.
Intensity: Very Low Heart Rate: Under 65% Focus: Very High Load: Under 60%
Intensity: Moderate-High Heart Rate: 75-90% Focus: High Load: 75-95%
Intensity: Max Heart Rate: 90-100% Focus: Subconscious Load: 95%+
Athletes cannot and should not compete every day, but they certainly live an athletic lifestyle.
I will get back to Practicing vs. Training vs. Competition shortly, but I want to bring attention to something a lot of CrossFit athletes miss: Homework. Nutrition, Mobility, and Recovery. Those three things are just as important to an athletic lifestyle as training in the gym. They enable athletes to train at the highest level possible and to compete when the time comes.
Most athletes are in the gym 1 hour a day and at work 8 hours a day. By spending some time every day on body work and mobility, proper sleep, and being mindful about nutrition, athletic performance will improve dramatically.
I’m not asking people who just want to be healthy for the same dedication as professional athletes, but every little bit helps. Getting on a proper nutrition plan, getting proper rest, and regular stretching and rolling at whatever level people can dedicate given their day-to-day life will be worth it.
The athletic lifestyle is different for different people, make it work for you.
Now, back to training.
With the CompTrain programs, we practice every day. I ask my athletes to be mindful during the warm-ups. We warm-up to prepare for the workout of the day. Be aware of your body during the warm-up, feel tight spots, imbalances, and soreness. Be aware of what might limit you that day. Don’t just go through the motions. Same for the teaching portion of class. During the movement prep and drills, feel the movements, try to get better every day.
It is a given that we train every day. Whether we are lifting or doing a MetCon, we are training around that 75-90%. Depending on the day, we are improving a selection of the 10 elements of fitness. Every day we train, we must be focused on movement. Apply what you learn and feel during the teaching portion to the workout. Make corrections biased on coaching on the fly and try to focus on improving faults.
Now we get to the place I feel something is lost. I feel too many people hit that competition zone every day. They sacrifice movement for intensity. They sacrifice mechanics for load.
Since the beginning of the year, I gave myself a few challenges. I train five days a week. Four days a week I spend in the Training zone. I have challenged myself to not look at the scores before I do a workout. I try to focus on what I am capable of; not what other people have done. I focus on movement, not letting mechanics falter for intensity.
I have the blessing and the curse of working out by myself most the time. One day a week, I turn off the radio and get completely in my head. I listen to my body and try to focus my thoughts on the task at hand.
I have challenged myself to hit that Competition zone only once per week. I compete on workouts that involve my strengths. I use what I learn during my focused training sessions to push harder. I always try to move exceptionally well but let the focus slip and push as hard as I can.
With The Open starting in a few days, I have a plan on how I will approach it. I will still train 4 days a week and compete once a week. I will do The Open Workout on Friday and Monday. Friday will be a trial run. I’ll try to stay in the training zone, get a feel for the workout and the movements, build a strategy. Monday will be competition day. We’ll see how it works.
Now is the perfect time to try out the different training zones. It is also a great time to live an athletic lifestyle, whatever that means to you. You can apply what you learn during The Open and apply it to your daily training when the 5 weeks is over.
The athletic lifestyle a mindset. I want to challenge athletes to change the way they think about training and competition. Compete in the gym maybe once a week. Compete with nutrition, compete with sleep and recovery, compete with mobility every single day.
Don’t just test your work capacity every day. Improve your complete athletic ability every day. Live an athletic lifestyle.