Training vs Testing

The open is nearly upon us and with it come some interesting questions and personalities. Over the next couple of posts we will dig into a few of the things we are likely to see and what we can do about it. Let’s start with one of the questions. “Should I scale this workout?”

One of the nice things about the open is that due to the nature of the contest there are some very clear constraints. The workouts have to be accessible, manageable for groups, repeatable, able to be judged on video, and performed with the tools available in the average CrossFit gym, and so on. There are a limited number of movements which allow us to loosely predict the types of things to prepare for. This information coupled with nearly 10 years of workout history from all the previous Opens we have lots of opportunities to test, retest, and train for this five week competition.

I got a message the other day from from athlete asking about how to approach a retest of an open workout involving double unders. The athlete who normally is proficient at double unders had been struggling with double unders recently and they asked if they should scale it down so they can “get a good workout/score” of if they should repeat Rx and just suck it up on the double unders. The most common answer I give athletes when they ask how they should approach some aspect of their training is “it depends.” In this case though it does not. In training we are looking to create a specific stimulus and we will frequently adjust elements of the training to maximize the dose response to the training. Heavier or lighter, faster or slower, more or less rest are all factors to be manipulated to target a specific adaptation. This becomes one of the limiters regarding the efficacy of group training but that is for a future posts. But generally speaking we try to make the dose as specific as possible because we want the response to training to be as specific as possible. This all goes out the window when it comes to testing. And the Open is very much a test. For many athletes it is the most stringent and rigorous series of tests in their whole training calendar. For most CrossFitters around the world we show up to the gym everyday to move the needle a little at a time on this lifelong fitness journey, but ultimately we aren’t striving to test ourselves in any meaningful way beyond a bikini and helping your cousin move into a 4th floor walkup. The Open then becomes an opportunity to really see how you stack up among a global population of like minded individuals. How has your training prepared you for the unknown and unknowable? And it is only by doing the test as prescribed that we can find out. And this holds true for retesting as well. How can I know if I am any fitter if I don’t do the workouts as I have done them in the past. And even using the term workouts is misleading. These tests are not about “getting a good workout.” They are uncovering the truth about your current fitness. Where are your weaknesses? Where are your strengths? What should you be spending more time on every day until it no longer holds you back? Training is the work we do to improve. Testing is the work we do to see how much or how little we have actually improved. Training is what we do all of the time. Testing is what we do once in a while. Training is frequently done at sub-maximal loads and at sub-maximal paces. Testing is the search for max loads and the upper limits of our paces. Train when it is time to train. When it is time to test leave everything on the table.

Jordan Holland