How do we define CrossFit? Constantly varied, Functional movement, performed at a RELATIVELY high intensity. This means we are not standing in front of a mirror and doing 1 set of bicep curls, resting five minutes, then repeating. We are for the people who want to work hard, push their limits, and be the fittest they can be.
With that said, have we taken “high intensity” to a whole new level? Was CrossFit meant to be performed at maximal intensity? What about crushing yourself in the gym, laying on the floor in a lactic acid bath is conducive to long term health? Is it better to perform constantly varied, functional movement, at a challenging, but sustainable pace?
The concept of sustainable work is something I have dug deep into in the last year. This type of work is called “Aerobic” because you are exercising in the presence of oxygen. Unsustainable work would then be “anaerobic” and without the presence of oxygen. Think about that time you finished a 400m run gasping for air and laying on the floor. That was anaerobic.
The purpose behind aerobic work is to train the cardiovascular & muscular system without a stress overload. Working at sustainable paces allows us to focus on quality movement, all while training the heart and lungs. Building your aerobic base is incredibly important to long term health AND performance. From a health perspective, it doesn’t make much since to have the massive stress a good anaerobic workout provides every day. Long term, that will catch up. From a performance perspective, think about a marathon runner. Does a marathon runner go out and run a marathon every day? No. He or she runs intervals of much shorter distances at the pace he or she wishes to run the marathon at. We want to get right up close to our threshold, hold that pace, rest, and repeat. So what does this look like in a CrossFit Workout?
2:00 work : 2:00 Rest
10 Calorie Row
*match your score each round
You’ll notice in the diagram above that your effort is the same each interval, and close to, but not past your threshold. You’ll know its aerobic because you are able to match your scores from round to round. Getting close to your threshold multiple times and holding your pace is what allows your threshold to be raised overtime.
The purpose behind unsustainable work is to create a stressful situation and adapt to that stress. It will create a strong metabolic response and provide a boost to the aerobic system if done effectively. Sounds good right? Yes and no. Anaerobic work is great, but when poorly managed can lead to overtraining, under-recovering, indigestion, stress overload, poor sleep, poor nutrient absorption etc. etc. The list goes on. The point here is that anaerobic work is effective, however if it is done too often, and without great recovery technique it can lead problems in the long run.
How do you know if the intent of the day is supposed to be aerobic or anaerobic? Ask a coach! We are always here to help you understand your fitness.