Podcast – Legion Strength & Conditioning

Seth Toes-to-Bar
As athletes start to get back into the gym, a lot of people are going to be touching barbells and pull-up bars for the first time in months.

Even if you’ve been doing a lot of push-ups, running and DB snatches, that doesn’t mean that you’re going to be prepared to jump right back into thrusters and pull-ups.

What should athletes be thinking about to avoid injury? How much should athletes expect to have lost in their strength? What’s the first really high intensity workout back going to feel like? And, how should you react when your performances are much worse than you’d like?

Check out the full conversation with Jon, Luke, Todd to learn:

  • What movements are the most likely to give people trouble after significant time out of the gym?
  • What percentage of your previous maxes should you be expecting to lift if you haven’t been using a barbell for a few months?
  • How long will it take to “feel fit” again?

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Show Notes:

  • [00:13] If people are getting back into the gym after only doing lunges and push-ups for the last few months, what should they be thinking about in terms of jumping back into more “CrossFit” movements?
  • [06:18] What are some ways to create intensity that don’t rely on high volume of movements that we may not be used to – like kipping pull-ups? What should people be expecting in terms of their ability on strength work if they’ve been away from barbells?
  • [15:10] What will it feel like getting back into conditioning at high intensity? How often should athletes be doing “hard” workouts?
  • [21:12] Most athletes will be worse at things they haven’t been doing while out of the gym. Even though it will probably come back, it doesn’t mean that it isn’t painful to do worse. How should athletes handle the emotional hit of performances that aren’t up to their expectations?
  • [31:12] Summary of recommendations: pay attention to eccentric volume, especially of movements you haven’t been doing. Understand the timing for regaining “lost” fitness. Be prepared for the negative emotions you’ll probably experience when getting back into training.

Aromas

In a break from our usual efforts to provide evergreen content based upon solid training principles, we instead theorize recklessly and rampantly about what the 2021 CrossFit Games season may look like.

With the precarious financial state of many Sanctional events exacerbated by late event cancellations as well as likely extension of travel restrictions and potential second waves of COVID-19, we are likely to see continued disruption of the competition schedule.

Will local competitions step in to fill that gap? Will athletes be willing to do events that involve multiple people in close quarters?

And, what will the training implications be for athletes who likely won’t have any significant in person competitions on their calendars for awhile?

Check out the full conversation with Jon, Luke, Todd to learn:

  • How likely is that the CrossFit Games actually happen? And, how many Sanctionals will be able to run in 2021?
  • Will people be motivated to train without an event circled on their calendar to compete in?
  • What will the impacts of taking significant time off from competition be on people’s performance?

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Show Notes:

  • [01:03] With significant alterations to the 2021 competition season – both at the Sanctional level and the local competition level – how will athletes stay motivated to train?
  • [09:39] While there are plans to run the CrossFit Games in Aromas, how likely is that to actually happen? And, how many Sanctionals will be able to run in 2021 – and how many will be put out of business due to 2020 event cancellations?
  • [17:26] Will local competitions be running again anytime soon?
  • [22:34] Will people be motivated to train without an event circled on their calendar to compete in?
  • [27:53] What will the impacts of taking significant time off from competition be on people’s performance? Will this further the separation between elite athletes and everyone else? Will some athletes benefit from a forced deload rather than a packed competition schedule?

MaryKay Dreisilker
This is the second part of our interview with MaryKay Dreisilker after our first interview got cut short due to some internet connection issues.

MK qualified for the 2020 CrossFit Games with a 35th place finish in the Open, and she recently did a well-received workshop for members at South Loop Strength & Conditioning on how to handle the stress of COVID-19, as well as the inertia and difficulty getting things done that many of us feel while stuck at home.

We figured that these concepts were worth sharing with a larger audience, so we had MK back on to discuss how she thinks about mental resilience during challenging times.

Check out the full conversation with Jon, Luke, Todd and MaryKay to learn:

  • How to “self start” during unstructured days and overcome the inertia of sitting at home
  • How to balance the rigidity of having structured, planned out days with the need for freedom and adaptability
  • How to break the cycle of feeling overwhelmed – and how to start taking action even when you’re feeling stuck and paralyzed

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Check out more from MaryKay here

Show Notes:

  • [00:58] How to manage stress in uncertain times – and how MK is dealing with the difficulties of “self-starting” with unstructured days and lack of motivation.
  • [13:20] How does MK manage the rigidity of having structure to her days with the necessity to have freedom and adaptability?
  • [24:20] How to handle plans going awry – and how to react when you’re unable to finish what you think you’re going to be able to do in a given day.
  • [29:12] The dangers of negative feedback loops – and how to prevent yourself from starting a downward spiral of negative emotion when things aren’t going well.
  • [39:52] “Action brings clarity” – How should people start to take action when they’re feeling overwhelmed?
  • [47:15] How is MK dealing with emotions related to the uncertainty of the current CrossFit Games season? And, what positive habits is MK focusing on to stay centered?
  • [01:03:53] How to learn more from MK

MaryKay Dreisilker
MaryKay Dreisilker qualified for the 2020 CrossFit Games with a 35th place finish in the Open.

She’s been working with Legion since 2017, so we figured it would be good to get MK’s thoughts on training – especially in times of wild uncertainty.

This is the first part of our interview and was recorded in March, and things have obviously been changing rapidly since then. MK’s advice on dealing with uncertainty and the emotional rollercoaster of training is salient as always.

Check out the full conversation with Jon, Luke, Todd and MaryKay to learn:

  • How to handle bad days in training – and when it’s ok to feel your feelings and when it’s time to move on
  • How to avoid feeling guilty if you have a bad day in the gym or need to skip something
  • How to handle uncertainty and chaos – especially in relation to something that you’ve worked really hard for

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Check out more from MaryKay here

Show Notes:

  • [00:53] MaryKay’s background in both gymnastics and ultimate frisbee
  • [06:02] Starting CrossFit on a Groupon – and gradually transitioning into taking training more seriously and eventually pursuing competition
  • [14:45] How does MK handle bad days in training? And, the process of separating the emotions of training with the actual effort you put into training.
  • [22:27] How does MK handle modifying training – and how to avoid feeling guilty if you have a bad day in the gym or need to skip something.
  • [25:48] How is MK reacting to the uncertainty in the 2020 CrossFit season?

MaryKay Split Squats at Home
We find that a lot of athletes are doing most of their training in either CrossFit classes or with a small group of “more competitive” friends – and that they’re often trying to figure out how to tack on additional training sessions to what they’re already doing.

It may seem a bit crass to be talking about “gains” in the middle of a global health crisis, but – with a lot of people moving from training in gyms with barbells, pull-up bars and assault bikes to training in their living rooms with a dumbbell and maybe a backpack full of heavy stuff from their kitchen, people are wondering if they’re going to lose all the progress they’ve made in the gym.

While some things will definitely take a hit, the good news is that you’re not *that* fragile and adaptations in strength and aerobic capacity are relatively persistent.

The ability to really suffer on a high power output CrossFit workout, however, comes and goes much more quickly.

Check out the full conversation with Jon, Luke and Todd to learn:

  • What traits will stick around – even if you take some significant time off from serious training with full equipment – and which ones won’t
  • Why regaining fitness is easier than gaining it the first time
  • What you can prioritize while training at home with less than ideal equipment selectionListen below – or on the podcast player of your choice.

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Show Notes:

  • [00:15] What is the current status of the coronavirus situation in Barcelona (where Luke is), Chicago (where Todd is) and Denver (where Jon is)?
  • [03:02] It may be crass, but a lot of athletes are wondering if they’re going to lose all of their gains.
  • [08:24] What types of adaptations are people potentially going to lose and which are more resilient even if you take significant amounts of time off? Why does it feel so bad when you come back to doing hard CrossFit workouts after some time off?
  • [19:25] What is the difference between athletes who handle adversity and things not going to plan well and those who do not?
  • [28:50] What should training focus on given that people may not be able to do as much “CrossFit”? What can athletes work on given that they may not have access to a lot of equipment – and what can be improved even in non-ideal circumstances?

Max Recovering
We find that a lot of athletes are doing most of their training in either CrossFit classes or with a small group of “more competitive” friends – and that they’re often trying to figure out how to tack on additional training sessions to what they’re already doing.

There’s been a shift over the last several years in the fitness community towards a better understanding of “training as a stressor.”

This is a fantastic thing, since folks seem to recognize that more is not always better, and training is not helpful if you’re not able to recover from it.

However, this has also led to a industry of recovery tools – often with associated highly mechanistic and scientific-sounding explanations of things like upregulating parasympathetic tone and and influencing the cortisol signaling cascade.

But, do these things actually do anything?

How much does recovery really matter in terms of long-term progress for athletes?

And, can we actually do anything to change our ability to recover?

Check out the full conversation with Luke and Todd to learn:

  • What are the most important variables that impact recovery – and which ones can we actually impact through our actions?
  • Do people really have a genetic ceiling?
  • How to think about volume and intensity in training – and why the “high/low” model from endurance sports is great for CrossFitListen below – or on the podcast player of your choice.

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Show Notes:

  • [00:15] How much do things like saunas, massage guns, supplements, and breathing drills really impact recovery?
  • [06:12] A framework for thinking about recovery: What are the most important variables that impact recovery? Which of these do we have control over? When is it worthwhile to focus on marginal gains?
  • [15:08] Do people really have a genetic ceiling?
  • [19:44] How do we design training programs appropriately relative to someone’s ability to recover?
  • [24:04] What are tangible takeaways for people in terms of thinking about volume and intensity – and how should people design their programs to balance volume and intensity?
  • [31:10] Why the “high/low” model from endurance training is relevant for CrossFitters – and why it helps us find the appropriate level of training stress.

Michael Jacobson Squat Clean
We find that a lot of athletes are doing most of their training in either CrossFit classes or with a small group of “more competitive” friends – and that they’re often trying to figure out how to tack on additional training sessions to what they’re already doing.

For athletes looking to get stronger, this can be tricky since they are often trying to mash together a squatting or weightlifting cycle with a program focused on “CrossFit.”

So, how much additional work should these athletes be doing?
And how much is too much when it comes to adding in additional strength work?

To find answers, we need to understand the concept of “adaptation currency.”

Each athlete has a certain amount of training that they can adapt to in a given week, and they need to spend that “adaptation currency” wisely.

This means prioritizing ruthlessly when adding stuff into your training – especially when you’re already doing a program with a lot of volume.

Check out the full conversation with Jon, Luke and Todd to learn:

  • What are the trade-offs between training with a group (either in classes or with friends) versus focusing only on the most important things for you
  • How to find low-hanging fruit that you can improve with targeted additional training
  • How to structure a week of additional sessions on top of your existing programming

Listen below – or on the podcast player of your choice.

Listen Here

Show Notes:

  • [00:13] What are the trade-offs between doing classes with additional programming vs following a fully individualized program?
  • [10:00] Why training with others can help people who don’t always have the time or energy to train?
  • [15:13] How should athletes think about their priorities in training – especially if they’re already doing a standard CrossFit program in their classes?
  • [25:30] How to think about spending your adaptation currency wisely – and why athletes should focus on low-hanging fruit.
  • [30:34] Some specific recommendations for mapping out a training week and selecting priorities for additional strength work.

You may remember Michele from the 2018 CrossFit Games when she broke her wrist on the first event.

Since then Michele, has gone full-time with her nutrition consulting business Fit Plate Nutrition.

Now Michele isn’t just another athlete on Instagram spouting half-baked nutrition advice. She’s a registered dietitian with a background working in oncology – as well as working one-on-one with a variety of clients looking to look good, feel good, and perform at a high level.

Check out the full conversation with Michele, Jon and Todd to learn:

  • How Michele quit feeling sorry for herself after achieving her long-time goal of qualifying for the CrossFit Games – only to be injured on the first event.
  • What the role of “macros” are for elite athletes, every day athletes, and the folks in between
  • Why being hard on yourself can be counterproductive to long-term progress – and what to do instead if you’re feeling stuck and plateaued

Listen below – or on the podcast player of your choice.

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Check Out More from Michele Here:

Show Notes:

  • [01:22] Michele finally made it to the CrossFit Games in 2018 as an individual athlete – then broke her wrist on the first event. How did she deal with the disappointment?
  • [09:09] How Michele stopped feeling sorry for herself after the 2018 CrossFit Games.
  • [15:09] Michele’s transition from working in marketing for Gatorade to being a dietitian and working in oncology. And, what are the main differences between eating like a “professional athlete” and eating like an “every day athlete?”
  • [26:45] What is the role of tracking for both elite athletes and for every day athletes? And what about for people who are in a “gray area” and are aspiring to be elite athletes?
  • [34:27] How should people balance performance and aesthetic goals in their nutrition?
  • [43:15] Why hard-charging, goal-driven people may not want to “back off” – even though it could be the most beneficial thing for them to do.
  • [51:11] How does Michele work with clients in her practice? And, the importance of focusing on one thing to make long term progress.

Test and retest.

Most people have an understanding that they should be checking in on their numbers by retesting workouts that they’ve done before.

If those numbers are getting better…then great! Progress!

But, if they’re not, then something must be wrong.

In reality, once athletes get past the beginner stage, progress is much lumpier than we think.

Our day-to-day performance varies significantly.

We get stuck on long plateaus where we don’t feel like we’re making any progress.

And we periodically taste a higher level of performance – but then quickly drop back down to our previous level.

While this can be frustrating and psychologically challenging, this is, in fact, par for the course.

Check out the full conversation with Jon, Luke and Todd to learn:

  • Why improved numbers on testing benchmarks don’t always translate into people getting better at the sport
  • The most common psychological traps to avoid during your next testing week
  • What typical patterns of improvement actually look like for elite performers – and why they don’t always get better on testing even if their fitness has improved

Listen below – or on the podcast player of your choice.

Listen Here

Show Notes:

  • [00:15] While knowing your testing numbers is helpful, being too attached to numbers can have negative consequences. And, beginner, intermediate and advanced athletes all need to think about their numbers differently.
  • [06:32] Even if you improve your strength, your cyclical time trials, and your max unbroken sets of gymnastics movements, you may not actually get better at CrossFit.
  • [11:29] Managing expectations is key to going through testing periods. If athletes think that they’re always supposed to set a new record, they can get themselves into some psychological trouble.
  • [17:16] Performance is more variable than people think – especially amongst folks who aren’t the ones who are always at the top of the leaderboard.
  • [19:13] How often should athletes go through a testing period? How can they manage the psychological aspect of testing?

When figuring out pacing for a workout, there’s a few common ways that athletes calculate what they can expect to accomplish.

The first (and most common) is to pace off of someone else who you know is typically around the same fitness level – maybe plus or minus a few reps or rounds.

The second is to do a round at a moderate effort then adjust the pace up or down from there.

While these are both reasonable strategies and can give an idea of what is realistic, it’s also important to be able to calculate an expected pace from “first principles” so-to-speak.

Doing this is a skill just like any other, and requires knowing a few tricks: how long do certain movements take, how long do transitions typically take, how often can you expect to lift a heavy barbell, and how much can you expect to slow down during a workout?

Check out the full conversation with Jon and Todd to learn:

  • How long common movements take – like wall balls, dumbbell snatches, and burpees
  • How to think about pacing heavy barbells
  • How to factor in rest and fatigue when calculating your paces for workouts

Listen below – or on the podcast player of your choice.

Listen Here

Show Notes:

  • [00:15] The 2 most common strategies that people use when approaching workouts: pacing off of their own first round and pacing off of someone who tends to be at a similar capacity. How can we use basic rep math to get an outside perspective on how long our rounds should take?
  • [13:10] How do we account for fatigue accumulating as we work? And how do we deal with barbell-based movements like heavy squat cleans when estimating time?
  • [25:09] Cyclical pieces like rowing and biking give us a monitor – but how do we know what paces we should attempt to hold?