Metabolic Competence & Awareness: Part 2

In last week's blog, I discussed pacing and the idea that elite levels of work capacity are built in two ways. 

1.) Spending tons of time just under lactic threshold

2.) Increasing lactic threshold.

If you missed it, look here.

This week I want to introduce the basics of a pacing method i refer to as "The Resting Clock".

It's about to get pretty nerdy in here so if you just like to lift things up and put them down, you might want to leave now. 

If two athletes with identical cycle times are completing 100 C2B pull-ups for time and one does:

5 sets of 20 reps

And the other one does:

20 sets of 5 reps

Who wins?

If you picked an answer, you're wrong. The one who rests less will always win.

When taking everything into account like transitions, cycle time, rest time, etc. your rep scheme is often irrelevant. The same goes for almost any workout. I don't care if you did 120 wallballs unbroken to start "Karen". That's not necessarily the most efficient approach for you. I care how long you rested between sets.

When considering to most efficient way to approach a task oriented workout, instead of thinking:

"How can i get through this workout as fast as possible?"

I want you to think: 

"How can i get through this workout with the least amount of time spent resting?"

For simplicity, imagine a theoretical athlete is doing "Grace".

Clearly, the fastest way possible, is to do 30 C&J unbroken like this offensively fit asshole. For obvious reasons, that's out of the question for 99% of the population.

The second thought most people would have is, "Do a really big set to start so you get a big chunk on the workout done. Then chip away with singles until you're done." Generally speaking, this is the amateur's pacing approach. The equivalent of the rabbit discussed in part one who is in the lead after the first lap of the 1600 meter run. 

Let's look at the numbers:

Imagine this particular athlete has done 11 touch-and-go reps followed by 19 singles with an average of 8 seconds of rest during each break. He took 20 total breaks in this workout. 20 x 7 = a total 2:40 spent resting. 

Let's say each rep takes him an average of 2.5 seconds to complete. 2.5 x 30 reps = a total 1:15 spent working.

1:15 working time + 2:40 resting time = 3:55 "Grace"

He is completely spent, rolling around on the floor in anguish and maybe even satisfied with his approach because he managed to hit a PR. 

If this was my athlete, the next time they did "Grace", based on their ability to do 11 touch and go reps, I would be confident that they could do all singles with 5 seconds of rest between reps and bring their time down to 3:40 without even getting any fitter. 

Their working time remains constant but their rest time is decreased by 15 seconds. 

Not only that, they wouldn't be in nearly as much pain. While it is often appropriate for maximizing output, lowering the bar for touch-and-go reps is more work for the athlete. The eccentric loading increases time under tension and is metabolically expensive.

In part one i stated: 

"You maximize the performance of an athlete by finding the highest output that is sustainable for the duration of a given event."

By removing the eccentric portion of the movement and establishing a set amount of rest, we have found a higher, but sustainable output for our athlete. If we complete this approach successfully, we can reevaluate, look at our data, and ask our starting question again when they repeat the benchmark "Grace". 

"How can we get through this workout with the least amount of time spent resting?"

While this only scratches the surface of pacing strategy in the sport of CrossFit, I hope it stimulates your interest in thinking about your workouts more intelligently and maximizing the potential of the work capacity you have already worked so hard to build. 

-Coach Barnett