Everyone’s discovery of Crossfit, was not immediately followed by the statement that they were going to be the greatest Crossfitter ever. The first time we read about it or show up at our local box, making it to the Crossfit Games was the furthest thing from out minds. Our interest started for different reasons. We were hoping to lose weight. We were hoping to be in better shape for our kids. We wanted to be better at a sport. We wanted to be better at our jobs. We didn’t want to feel our age. We want to prepare for a run, ride, obstacle race, etc…
Regardless of our motivations, we walked in the door and we got started. From there we have done numerous workouts and countless reps. Every so often we take on a benchmark WOD or even sign up for a local competition to see how we are doing. Or we venture out and play a sport or take on some completely new challenge. The main thing that we must understand is that there is a difference between Training and Testing.
One measure that people will use is the Rate 0f Perceived Effort (RPE). Rate of perceived effort (or exertion) simply provides a subjective way for you to describe how hard you would describe a given workout. The Borg Rating Scale runs from 6 – 20. This may appear to be an odd range, but the intent is that the rating number multiplied by 10 should be comparable to your heart rate for that activity. So running at an RPE 12 pace, should put you in the ball park of an 120 beats per minute pulse rate. And similarly for someone at maximal exertion would have a heart rate very near to your max heart rate. This is generally found by subtracting your age from 220.
(Max Heart Rate = 220 – Age)
So for a 22 year old, that would mean: 220 – 22=198, their Max heart rate is 198.
The older that we get the lower our max heart rate becomes, and the more subjective this scale becomes.
Other RPE scales are based off of a more familiar 1 – 10 comparison. 0 being no exertion and a 10 being the hardest you could possibly go. One of the best references that I have found and utilize is this.
Everyone has different strengths and can lift different weight and move different speeds. So just like I can ask someone to lift 90% of a max lift, I can also ask someone for 90% effort.
This is an important concept in training. If I come and are working on max effort deadlifts you may not be horribly sore the next day but you aren’t going to be ready to perform at your highest level. Your body just underwent great stress both on your musculature and your central nervous system. Simply put; your circuits are going to be a little fried. This could be potentially limiting for your training for the next day or two. From a training standpoint, going a 100% one day, will probably put you at 80% the next day, and then possibly 60% the day after.
This is why we program a rest day every few days to give our body the opportunity to recover. From a training stand point, we don’t need to go to our max everyday. When we consider our RPE our best training is when we are consistent. If I can push myself and keep my RPE at about an 8 out of 10, then I will be getting a good workout but my body will be able to recover adequately before my next workout.
Testing are those times when we want to know what our MAXIMUM capacity or output can be. One Rep Maxes. Time Trials. Benchmark WODs. Competing in local competitions, or even the Crossfit Open. These are the times when we measure our progress. Every day is not a testing day. In fact, testing days should not be that frequent. Testing too often breaks up the consistency of a training program and slow progress not always enhance progress. This is especially the case when training for an event or competition. In these cases people set up their training programs to allow them to “peak” at the time of their competition.
One of the things that gets people in trouble tends to be impatience. Athletes when they are following a program, especially if it s a new program, start to get curious about how well its working. Maybe they can see some progress and they want to see where they are at now. Or maybe they aren’t seeing the immediate progress and need to know that their program is working. In cases like this you have to trust in your coach and their programming. Testing itself isn’t bad, just testing too often.
Testing gives us a chance to really “open up the throttle” and see how well we can do. When done right, testing can give you an opportunity to mark your growth and improvements. Progress can take many forms. Improved movement, increased strength, improved times. When done wrong, it can impede our training and even give us a false sense of accomplishment or success.
Truth in Numbers
As we have just seen, most cross fitters have just finished up the Crossfit Open. Unfortunately with any competition there is always those that are trying to find a competitive edge, sometimes beyond the limits of what is permissable. It is usually a case of pushing the standard of what is a good rep and a no rep. For the competitors that hope to make it to Regionals or even the Crossfit Games, the lines can be blurred because of the motivations of profit and celebrity. In the case of those of us that rank much further down on the list, it tends to be a case of ego. Athletes jockeying for position on the leaderboard but willing to perform and count questionable reps. Just to try to gain a few spots or do better than the person next to them. They are afraid of the damage their ego will take when they realize that their performance isn’t quite where they think it should be. If we cheat our testing, or sacrifice the standard just to rank higher and to make ourselves feel better, then where we really lose out is in understanding what we can do to actually get better. Do you want to say that you ranked a few positions higher or do you want to we truly desire to get better and have our integrity in tact in the end.
In the end we need to understand where we should put forth out efforts. Consistency is the secret. Rome was not built is a day, and neither can we expect to build ourselves to be as great as we dream unless we are willing to put in some SMART and HARD work. We need to train to get better, and we need to test from time to time to know and see how much we have gotten better. As athletes, we need to put more trust in our training and embrace the process not just the progress.