May Newsletter

Metropolis Newsletter
May 2017

Welcome to spring training!

All signs point to another sweltering summer ahead. Break out those running shoes, because it’s time to get faster and fitter. (Did someone say EWOD?)

That’s right, endurance wods are coming back. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, check out the Facebook group here.

We’re also going to be meeting outside every so often, so pay attention to the blog (that means you, Ed).

Let the beautiful weather be a reminder: in the history of our species, the gym is a modern substitute for the challenges of the wild. The fastest, strongest, and meanest creatures don’t need to lift weights or use cardio machines, their fitness (like ours used to be) is forged in the jungle and on the mountains. If you’ve got the means, there’s no better time to climb, run, bike, swim, and play. Just remember to post your plans on the blog so we can do it together!

Moving on to some fitness talk…

Eyes on the Prize

In the immediate month post CrossFit Open, I’ve had lots of conversations with my athletes about their goals. Everyone wants to get better, but with so much to work on, progress can be slow, and sometimes that pace can be discouraging. The truth isn’t exactly comforting:

Work out hard at least 4 days a week. Eat right and drink in moderation. Get plenty of sleep. You will improve, slowly.

Just like with the worst workouts, the simplest prescriptions are often the most challenging.

We’re working to increase our work capacity across many time and modal domains. With so many variables to optimize, knowing whether we’re moving forward or just spinning our wheels isn’t always obvious. Yes, the workouts are hellishly fun, but to wake up early or stay up late, push through the aches and pains, skip happy hour, and so on, you need to believe that what you’re doing is working. This is a classic statistics problem.

The problem is: finding the signal in the noise.

The signal is the underlying process we’re looking for. For us, it’s progress, across many different variables.

The noise is all of the variables that confound our understanding of that process. There’s a lot of noise in CrossFit. Constantly changing rep schemes, unique combinations of movements, different time domains. Then there are variables outside of the programming that confound us. How we’ve eaten, how we’ve slept, how consistent we’ve been. When you look back on a month of training, it can be difficult to answer the question, “Am I getting better?”

If you need to see results to stay committed, than you have to find the signal in the noise. 

Here’s how:

  1. Look at one variable at a time.
    • If you’re looking at your wod times, or how often you have to scale, or how often you beat another person, you’re looking at a very noisy picture with lots of variables confounding the signal.
    • If you consistently beat another person, you might be inclined to think you’re fitter than them, but what if this person is coming six days a week, and you’re coming twice a week? Maybe you only beat them because you’re always training fresh, or you only do certain workouts that appeal to you. If that keeps up, you won’t be beating them for long.
    • Instead, look at variables in isolation. How has your 500m row time changed over the last 6 months? How has your back squat changed? Can you do more pull-ups now than you could last year?
  2. Learn to filter out the noise.
    • Sometimes the wod is simple. back squat 5’s, and a one mile run. Boom, the signal is right there. Lift heavier, run faster, and you’re probably fitter. But sometimes you’ve got to look harder. Let’s say the workout is:
      – 3 rounds for time: 30 calorie row, 18 power cleans @ 185/125
    • You’ve got 90 calories and 54 cleans ahead of you. What is this weight like for you? Can you do it touch and go? Fast singles? Slow singles? Or if you’re scaling, how much? Whether you go heavier or move that weight faster than you have in the past, that’s some signal in the right direction. Strive to see and realize that progress.
    • What about the row? What’s your calorie/hr pace for a 10-15 minute workout? Keep your eyes open… Did you have to fight to keep the pace above 1000 in 16.4/17.4? Hopefully you’re moving at a faster pace today.
  3. Amplify the signal in one domain.
    • If you really need to see progress, pick one thing to work on and dominate that one thing. Do pull-ups every day. Squat every open gym. Practice that handstand every Wednesday. Progress will come faster the more you focus.
    • Just be careful: Focusing on one element will get you better at that element. You may or may not be getting fitter overall. If this element is already one of your strengths, your time would be better spent fixing one of your weaknesses.
  4. Take the long view.
    • Don’t step on the scale every day. Try every week, and plot a line after you’ve got at least five weeks. The line is the signal, the numbers are mostly noise.
    • Don’t expect your 1/3/5 rep max of anything to go up every week. Hit it heavy every week without fail, and test again in two months. It’ll go up.
    • Look at your rank in the CrossFit games. Look at your Murph time. Look at “Fran”, “Diane” and “Cindy”. We retest these consistently, but not more than twice a year. If these are improving, that’s a very good sign.

Finally, don’t fear the noise, embrace it! The fact is, even athletes who follow highly structured strength and/or conditioning programs often do not see obvious progress for much of the time. One of the beauties of CrossFit is that for athletes consistently pushing themselves, progress can be sustained for years, because there are so many directions in which to progress. (No, you haven’t plateaued.)

“Almost everyone’s instinct is to be overconfident and read way too much into a hot or cold streak.” – Nate Silver

If you’re hot, keep on going strong. If you’re cold and discouraged, stay focused, stay committed, and trust the process: Work out hard at least 4 days a week. Eat right and drink in moderation. Get plenty of sleep. You are improving. 

Upcoming Events

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USAW SP-L1 Certification at Metropolis – May 6th and 7th. More details here.

Guy’s Night at Heidelberg – Thursday, May 4th, 7pm

Ladies WOD & Wine Night – Thursday, May 4th, 7pm WOD at the Trop, drinks to follow

Murph – Monday, May 29th. Get ready.

Bodyweight Skill of the Month

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Each month I select one gymnastics skill for you to focus on.

This Month’s Skill: Core Strength

When it comes to testing general physical preparedness, you’re often only as good as your weakest link. Don’t let that weak link be right in the middle of the chain!

This month we’ll rock some good old fashioned ab work. Expect planks, sit-ups, and l-sits.

If you haven’t yet, get to know that GHD. It’s an easy and very effective way to improve your core strength. Start with 30 reps. If it’s your first time, you might be pretty sore the next day. It might be a little scary. Your back might complain a little bit. Work out the kinks, and keep at it — it’s worth it.

Links to Cool Internet Stuff

The Riverside Park Traveling Rings – take your upper body fitness outside, these are a fun challenge!

Learning to Squat – one New Yorker contributor gets under some heavy weight

One last thing…

Mondays in May are heavy deadlift days. Get ready to start your week off right with some big pulls.

Happy Training!

-Matt

Comments

  1. Wow! As motivational as always. It is an amazing article, thanks Matt.