May 8, 2014

How to handle a high volume WOD

I was working late into the night and couldn't sleep, so I decided to go to Crossfit.

Last night I saw the daily workout was:

For time:
115-lb. deadlifts, 50 reps
50 walking lunges
115-lb. back squats, 40 reps
40 toes-to-bars
115-lb. power cleans, 30 reps
30 burpee box jumps, 24 inch
115-lb. thrusters, 20 reps
20 triple-unders

You have to look at this WOD and say, "That's just ridiculous!" It's simply a ton of volume. I actually thought that it was silly enough to show my girlfriend, even just to show the programming, no need for further comment.

Back to 7am, guess what the WOD was? Of course, it was the mainsite WOD. My last two days of workouts left me with sore abs from tabata on Monday and sore parts of my anatomy that I didn't know could be sore from an inspiring set of attempts at heavy power cleans, which left me with a PR by 15lb!

I could feel my eyes desirous of sleep and my body fighting to stay unbroken. Despite being delirious, I know that when I'm crossfitting, my body goes into another realm and these concerns disappear.

The class size was definitely larger than the space allowed, so I made sure to get a platform where I wouldn't have to fight with others for space. Having my own platform meant that no wandering barbells would interfere with my WOD. I am a solo crossfitter in a sea of others.

I was next to a better athlete and one who goes shirtless during workouts (which is an interesting marker and methodology).
The Work for all athletes is the same when comparing athletes of similar height and weight and using the same barbell loading. In this way, we can have fair and accurate measurement and assign placing (1st, 2nd, 3rd).

I know myself as an athlete. I believe deeply in a slow, steady, consistent pace for my body. I could care less what other people are doing. In a crossfit workout, our goal is to complete the given task in the shortest possible time frame. The purpose is simply to increase our power output.

With this self-knowledge, I happily watch others speed ahead from the beginning of the workout. I remain calm and relaxed never doing any movement to failure. If I were to do so, it would require much longer rest periods. I prefer to go at a pace that can be kept for a long time. 15 deadlifts, 5 seconds rest. 15 deadlifts, 5 seconds rest. 10 deadlifts, 5 seconds rest. 10 deadlifts, 5 seconds rest. 25 lunges, 3 seconds rest. 15 lunges, 3 seconds rest. It goes on and on.

I am methodical, like an assassin always aware of the movements of my target. I am patient. For this to be a clean kill, I must be logical, self-aware, disciplined. I will not allow for doubt or uncertainty. I WOD with surgical precision. This is diametrically opposed to what I see publicly displayed in some athletes. I see desperation in yelling, cursing, and emotional outbursts when a movement is not going their way.

I see this as childlike and immature. Through the 50 deadlifts, 50 walking lunges, 40 back squats, and 40 toes-to-bars, my shirtless friend has been way out in front. He goes out quickly while I remain slow and steady. He is the hare to my tortoise. He may have gotten off the bar for his toes-to-bars before I have, but taking rest before his power cleans, he sees me return to my barbell. He says, "Alan, it's you and me."

We start our power cleans at the same time despite our very different strategies for the workout. In theory, I could probably rip through the power cleans in sets of tens, but if I did so, I would be a hyperventilating mess for my 30 burpee box jumps. I would hardly be able to get up from the ground on the burpees and probably would smash my shins on the 24 inch box repeatedly (#fail).

I chose to go touch-and-go in sets of 3s. Holy cow, 10 sets, that seems like a lot! After just 3 reps, I feel my respiration rate shoot up. I take 5 seconds to breathe before ripping another 3 reps. This goes on for the 30 reps and I'm off to the 30 burpee box jumps.

I was aware of the crossfitter next to me who was on his burpee box jumps. We were going rep for rep and it was like a game. He started before me, so I was surprised as we went deep into the 30 reps when he was still working on them.

I think I did some extra ones, not on purpose, but because I was too focused on listening to the sounds, watching myself fall to the ground and bound onto the box. I thought about rest between sets and decided to take a 2 second breath every 10 reps. The purpose was psychological. It was not about rest, but more about a self-awareness, a reward for the 10 reps. Doing a WOD is not about turning off the brain, entering a cave where pain is ignored, it is a celebration of movement, it is the gift of life, a chance to appreciate what we have. My 2 seconds of standing in between sets of 10 burpee box jumps was about gratitude.

This is what Crossfit is. It is the opportunity to express ourselves through fitness. It is the inspiration that makes life beautiful.


  1. What a great insight from an experienced Crossfitter! I'm new to Crossfit, so yeah, I have a tendency to "rush" ahead. I should know better, right, because as a runner, I know perfectly well the importance of pacing. In any case, at the moment, I hate high volume WODs. It always makes me pant like a dog at the end of the workout!

  2. A high volume WOD is meditative. It is not a frenzy. There is no insanity. It is not a fire drill or a crisis, but rather a methodical accomplishment of a task. Upon seeing the programming for the day as a long grinder, it's ok to be intimidated, but once the WOD begins, a calm should wash over you. If you're going to be moving a barbell for 30 minutes, acceptance is paramount.