Some Thoughts on PRs, GPP, and the Storms

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One of the most problematic aspects of CrossFit, as a coach, is it’s lack of a regular end goal.  For the vast majority of CrossFitters, there is no CrossFit season or championship.  CrossFit’s stated aim of General Physical Preparedness (GPP) can be hard for a coach.

CrossFitters are a pretty competitive bunch, especially with themselves.  The lack of an end goal, a tournament or fight or championship or season means that the the “storm” or “girls” WODs are the measure of progress.  This is the very meaning of benchmark WODs.  Thus the benchmark WODs become the tournament, the fight, the championship, the end goal of training.  Of course GPP is it’s own goal, but that is hard for people to focus on, especially in a linear fashion.

However, it is impossible to always PR on the benchmark WODs or even the big lifts.  Athletes who have no other means of measuring progress than their times on the “girls” can easily get frustrated as they train for a concept such as GPP.  Simply being “fitter” can be a nebulous goal for an athlete who is used to a more concrete measuring stick.

Folks, it is simply impossible to PR all the time.  In fact, the more advanced one gets, the harder it is to PR.  Of course, as I have written before, one of the great things about CrossFit is that there are so many aspects of it to pursue.  However, there are athletes who expect to PR on a regular basis, especially if they have not done that WOD in a while.  

Although the measure of “fitter” is through the stopwatch, it is the effort that gets one fitter.  A Fran or Grace time 5 seconds from your best does not mean that you are getting weaker or less fit.  It was a great effort, the repetition of which will see improvement.  A slower PR on a WOD is due to factors beyond simply being more or less fit.  Not only does everyone have “off” days, it is simply unrealistic to expect to PR regularly.

And herein lies the problem with training for GPP.  A wrestler measures progress by wins on the mat in regular scheduled meets, not by his or her strength and conditioning numbers.  Swimmers by their times in meets.  And so on.  Many, probably most, CrossFit athletes do not compete in organized sports and thus their strength and conditioning program is their measure of progress.  This can be hard for an athlete used to measuring progress by matches, meets, seasons, races.

As a coach, keeping forward momentum from turning to frustration in a trainee used to an end goal can be tricky.  I have found that the easiest method to combat this is to keep programming varied and exciting.  I do not let an athlete repeat regular WODs (the benchmarks) often.  For example, if an athlete finds a certain movement problematic, such as the thruster, I would not have her do Fran regularly.  Instead, I would program other WODs with thrusters, always trying to work at a heavier weight that rx’d Fran.  I would also focus on the front squat as the prime movement in the thruster.  Thus training enthusiasm is kept high without bogging down on the focus of a regularly repeated end goal (Fran) and the potential frustration that can arise.

GPP as a concept seems to produce incredibly fit people adept at widely varied ranges of movement and exercise–aptly proven by CrossFit, indeed its very purpose.  A good coach should be able to make it a tangible goal for any trainee.

Please post thoughts to Comments.

Congratulations to Jessica L on her 30# ring dip today, and all the other recent PRs at CrossFit West.

Workout:

5 Rounds

5 Hang Power Cleans

5 Thrusters

5 Burpees

Use the same bar for both the cleans and the thrusters.  Don’t be scared to go heavy.  This WOD completed in 8 or 9 minutes with a heavier load will contribute much more to your fitness level than a lighter weight in 5-6 minutes.

Post WOD and score to Comments.