Podcast – Legion Strength & Conditioning

Amanda Heuser on the Assault Bike

The training of many elite athletes involves seemingly endless intervals suffering on the assault bike and the erg.

While there seems to be a general understanding now that the flashy 1RM PRs clogging up our Instagram feeds don’t necessarily translate into improve performance in the sport of CrossFit – what about the long hours of grunt work spent rowing, running, biking and skiing?

Are you wasting your time sweatin’ to the oldies on the assault bike? Does hard work actually pay off here?

There is certainly value in putting in work in cyclical modalities, and we use running, rowing, biking, etc. regularly in the training programs for our clients.

However, the link between improving aerobic capacity in something like a 5k row and getting better at twenty minutes of burpee box jumps and DB snatches is a bit more tenuous than one might think.

So, how should we think about integrating running and rowing into our programming?

Is it enough to do some “CrossFit metcons” and layer an interval-based endurance program on top of that?

What is the relationship between improving scores on tests of cyclical aerobic capacity (like a 2k row, 3k run or 10 min assault bike test) and improving mixed modal tests (like Open workout 18.1, 17.1, or named workouts like Kelly or Eva)?

In this conversation, Luke and Todd discuss:
•How cyclical pieces like running and rowing can be used to teach pacing and improve the ability to be sustainable for powerful athletes
•When aerobic capacity is a limiting factor for performance – and when it is not
•The difference between building an aerobic base and training with cyclical modalities to improve performance in CrossFit

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

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Kristin Miller (CrossFit Mayhem)

Jon and I both worked with Kristin during the NPGL’s amateur GRID tournament – remember GRID? We put together a team of misfits and went out to LA to compete, and we actually did pretty well. We took second overall, which meant that we got an automatic bid to the next year’s tournament. Still waiting for that invite…

Kristin has gone on to make two CrossFit Games appearances with OC3 Black (in 2017) and CrossFit Mayhem Independence (in 2018). She will compete with CrossFit Mayhem Freedom in the 2019 season – which is shaping up to have quite the interesting structure.

Todd & Jon have a conversation with Kristin and discuss:
•How training is planned and structured at CrossFit Mayhem (Hint: There are minimal schedules and Rich programs every day on the fly)
•How Kristin went from starting CrossFit from distance running to competing at the CrossFit Games twice with OC3 Black and with CrossFit Mayhem Independence
•How important team dynamics are during competition – and how to prevent emotion from getting out of control during a competition

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Show Notes

  • [0:14] How did Kristin end up at CrossFit Mayhem? And the anxiety of “trying out.”
  • [7:03] Commuting several hours to compete with OC3 in 2016
  • [13:19] Kristin’s dietary restrictions
  • [19:44] Getting started with competing in CrossFit
  • [23:42] What actually happens at Mayhem on a daily basis (There are no schedules)
  • [34:53] Mayhem athletes mostly train individually – so how do they develop the team communication skills necessary to compete?
  • [46:36] How is Mayhem approaching the changes to the 2019 CrossFit Games season?
  • [52:21] How do Mayhem athletes work on their own individual weaknesses while still training as a group?

Michele Fumagalli Rowing

In competitive CrossFit, most people tend to either consistently go out too hot on every workout (and have a melt down a few minutes in), or they tend to overpace everything and always feel like they had more in the tank to give.

Based upon this, a coach needs to be able to understand what kind of prescription will give each athlete what he or she needs in order to improve understanding of the appropriate effort for a given situation.

So, is the best way to do this by giving athletes freedom to feel things out? Or is it to give them prescribed paces and weights so that they have to learn how the feel when tasked with accomplishing a specific prescription.

Todd, Jon and Luke break down:
•Why the chaos of CrossFit can disrupt some of the principles of linear progression from traditional endurance and strength training models
•Why prescribed paces and weights can work to hold athletes back in training – so that they can spend their adaptation currency elsewhere
•How to know when athletes don’t know how to pace and need to learn to calm down – and when athletes overpace and need to learn to push themselves

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George Sterner Muscle-Up

When it comes to “effort” in skill training, it seems that less is more.

Athletes who compete in CrossFit often thrive on giving full effort. They enjoy the process of pushing themselves – and they also believe that, unless they’ve given everything they had in a session – that they did not maximize their time on the gym floor.

In skill acquisition, however, full effort is not necessarily full victory.

In fact, many athletes need to learn to relax as they perform skills like muscle-ups, handstand push-ups, and barbell cycling. Being too tense during workouts with high volumes of these kinds of movements is one of the easiest ways to get really, really tired.

It can be challenging for folks to take a step back and work on improving the quality of their movement through consistent, low intensity practice – and it can also be difficult for them to work on movement in an unstructured “play” type environment without prescribed reps and sets.

On this episode of the Legion podcast, Todd, Jon & Luke discuss the process of skill acquisition in CrossFit athletes:
•Why it’s dangerous to think that you’ve “graduated” past skill work
•The difference between purposefully training movement quality in a fatigued state vs attempting to acquire and improve skills
•The intuitive capacity of the best to correctly select an appropriate movement strategy for a specific demand – and why the rest of us need to work harder at this skill
•The value of unstructured skill work – and why this is so difficult to do for the archetypal CrossFit athlete

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Bridget Erickson - D-ball over Box

Todd and Luke continue to talk through the changes to the 2019 CrossFit Games season.

The incentives for people to participate in the different competitions will change significantly – and we will see people having to put much more thought into their training as they decide which competitions to truly peak for.

No longer is everyone on roughly the same schedule in terms of shooting to make it through the Open to Regionals, then shooting to make it through Regionals to the Games.

Now, we will see some gamesmanship as far as attempting to schedule the season in a way that makes sense.

We will also see variation in athletes between those who actually have a plan for how to approach multiple events in a season compared to those who just want to throw down all year.

Todd and Luke break down:
•What will the toll of repeated online qualifiers be on athletes?
•Is it possible to create a points structure that allows athletes to bypass the typical qualifying process?
•Is there an opportunity for a crowdsourced peer review process to cut down on the amount of dishonesty in online qualifiers?
•How many teams can an athlete peak in a season? And how will athletes game which events and which qualifiers they choose to do?
•How will programming for the sanctioned events be handled? Will this change the dynamic of how athletes are able to train for and prepare for these events?

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Jon and Luke talk through some of the changes to the 2019 CrossFit Games season (which are still not fully clear yet) – but we do have enough information for athletes to start planning their training.

The structure of the season for most athletes will likely change as the focus shifts away from the Open and more toward the sanctioned CrossFit events.

We will see how this continues to shake out, but here’s our initial thoughts in terms of how to structure training and what to expect.

Jon and Luke break down:
•What do these changes mean to the training structure throughout the year for athletes?
•How much will Open participation change?
•What can bubble athletes on the edge of qualifying for Regionals or the Games look forward to in their training?
•What will change for people who have an opportunity to qualify directly to the Games from the Open?

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For many athletes, every training session is a competition and they’re constantly evaluating themselves on their results.

While having an idea of where you sit and what you need to work on is generally a good idea, this can also swing too far.

Athletes often find themselves getting caught in negative emotional spirals when their training results don’t match up with their expectations.

However, there is also a natural variation in daily results. How do you know if you’re outside of that range of acceptable variation? And how do your emotions surrounding your results impact your ability to improve over time?

Todd, Jon and Luke break down:
•How to know when you’re actually overtraining – and when you’re just having a bad day
•What percentage of your max you should be able to hit consistently on your lifts
•Why being overly focused on the outcome of your training sessions can make it more difficult for you to actually get better

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Athletes love to get wrecked by a really difficult workout.

People training hard often feel that they didn’t do anything productive unless they’re completely destroyed at the end of a session.

While this desire to push to maximum potential can often be helpful, there is a point past which it is no longer adaptive.

The best in the sport are often pacing just under an all out effort – they’re able to do most of their training at a high but controlled effort. Things that look like crazy difficult EMOMs are actually a blend of skill work and muscle endurance work.

So, how often should an athlete push to full on, rolling on the ground, can’t walk afterwards redline in training?

Todd and Jon break down:
•The dangers of redlining too often
•When in the season to push hard – and when to dial it back
•The psychological reasons that athletes feel that they always need to push themselves as hard as possible in their training sessions

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Tempo training has recently become quite popular in the functional fitness space – probably thanks largely to Marcus Filly’s popularization of Functional Bodybuilding.

The folks at OPEX have long been teaching and prescribing tempo training, and Marcus’s functional bodybuilding training started with his work with OPEX head coach Mike Lee.

As I said in this podcast, I kind of like it when solid training principles end up reaching a more “mainstream” level of recognition and acceptance. However, there’s the danger of people starting to take tactical pieces from the internet like tempo training without understanding where it fits in the bigger picture of a training plan.

Todd and Jon break down why we might use tempo training for a competitive fitness athlete – and some of the common pitfalls and errors that athletes run into when attempting to apply the use of tempo in their own training?

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Jon, Todd and Luke break down when to modify training and when to do it as written.

People tend to either constantly tinker with their training – making modifications without understanding what they’re doing or why they’re doing it – or they tend to relentlessly follow every letter written in their program – regardless of how they’re feeling on a given day.

The best are able to find a happy medium, which results in them getting the best training in for them over time. How can we find that sweet spot?

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