Thursday, September 16, 2010

Getting Better Faster

As an athlete that is training for running a race, competing in a triathalon, competing at a Crossfit competion or just trying to be better at whatever other sports you do-you should consider incorporating High Intsity Training (HIT) and Intervals into your workouts because it helps you to get better faster.  Most athletes want to get better but don't always understand how.  Too many of us fall into a training rut and continue to do what is comfortable - always doing the same flat 5 mile loop, biking at a comfortable pace, not pushing yourself during a WOD in Crossfit.   So how do you break out of your trianing rut and actually get better and in most cases faster?  In Crossfit we talk about "getting comfortable with being uncomfortable" which allows you to train your body at a higher intesity and reap the benefits of a great workout that doesn't take that much time.  Let's take a practical example, in running if you want to get faster you can't just add more miles of long slow distance.  To run faster you need to practice actually running faster; pushing yourself at a higher intensity and achieving a faster speed - a novel concept right.  How many runners out there actually do this regularly?

So how do you actually do this practicing "fast" stuff?  Through high intensity training and doing sport specific interval workouts lilke 400m, 800m, and mile repeats where you run almost as fast as you can and your goal is to get faster each time, achieving negative splits, with a reasonable amount of rest/recovery in between.  Doing repeats and tempo runs (where you run for a set/goal pace for a set amount of time or miles within a run) are how you get faster when you're training for a race - running longer at a slower speed only gets you to a point where you can cover more distance in a single run - which has its time and place in trainign as well but you don't have to do it as often as you think if you throw in more high intestity workouts.  I have to admit, I find every reason not to do the repeat workout or tempo run that is scheduled into my training plan because they are tough to do - especially on your own.  One reason I like to have a running training plan when I'm training for a race is because it schedules speedwork into my week, so that it's harder to avoid doing it because I have to write on my plan that I missed or didn't complete that workout.  Once I started adding these "speed" workouts to my training regime, I  quickly noticed better results and faster times both in my regular training runs and most importantly in my races.  At first it was difficult for me to realize that I can get a better workout in 20 minutes when I'm working at a high intensity, verses working out for a full hour at a much lower intensity.  Like most people I come from a background where I thought longer was always better than faster; people ask you how far you biked, ran, or swam not how fast you do it.

So how does my Crossfit training fit into all of this?  Crossfit is fundamentally based around the concept of using high intensity training to make you better, especially in workouts like FRAN one of the Crossfit benchmark WODS.  21-15-9 reps of Thrusters (65# Ladies / 95# men) followed by Pull ups as fast as you can is meant to push you HARD.  
It doesn't look like its that hard when you read it...try it and let me know how you feel, but make sure you're pushing yourself to move through it as fast you can.   What I love about Crossfit is that there is a level of intensity that I can achieve when I'm working out at the box that I cannot achieve through anything else I do.  Not only are you racing the clock, but you're racing against other people who are working out next to you.  So how is this different than a running race or a triathlon?  For me I can only generate the same amount of intensity that I can for the duration of a Crossfit workout at the end of a race but I can't keep it throughout.  Maybe since the Crossfit workouts have shorter, more varied movements its easier to push through the next set of pull ups and then push through the thrusters instead of push for the next 5 miles of running or biking.

Since Crossfit includes high intensity training as a portion of its programming, keeping Crossfit in my training routine regardless of what sport I'm training for has proven to help me to improve in all of my sports.  I continue to get better at Crossfit and have PRs in running and in triathlons.  Crossfit has really taught me how to work through the uncomfortable spots, like the middle miles of the bike portion of a triathlon, as well as shown me that when I push myself, I am capable of more than I thought I was.  I ramp my Crossfit training up and down based on the season and the reason for my training.  Last year I chose to focus on Crossfit over the winter months, and I'm going to do the same thing this year.  These past few months as I've been training for runs and triathlons I've cut back my Crossfit training to two classes per week, with some body weight Crossfit stuff on my own to supplement my running, biking, and swimming.  Adding things like tabatas to your workouts which is doing 20 seconds work followed by 10 seconds rest for 8 sets or a total of 4 minutes.  We do tabatas in Crossfit, usually squats, pull ups, push ups, or sit ups.  The goal is similar to the strategy for the running repeat workouts where you are aiming for negative splits, in tabatas you want to get the same number of reps or better each round and your score is calculated based on the lowest number of reps achieved over all 8 of the 20 second work intervals.  Add this to your workout routine weekly and you'll have a new appreciation for high intensity work.  Better yet, string the 4 body weight movements together, add something like a row or a bike or run too to mix it up.  I think tabata squats is a REALLY tough workout, and its something I feel for a couple of days after.  My best tabata squat score is 19, which means that I got 19 reps or more for each 20 second interval over the 4 minutes.  Give it a try and see where you are, then the next time you do it, try to improve by 1 rep.

1 comment:

  1. I've tried the tabata squat workout and yes, it is an intense workout. You'll feel this one for several days, especially if you are not doing regular exercise. Mom