Blog Fitness: Dead End Training for CrossFit Athletes

“Hey Rick, you doing the WOD today?”

“No, it’s not in my programming, I have a tough one today,” Rick replies.

Rick then bores you to tears by showing you the 3 hours-worth of programming he “has to follow” for today. You see, Rick is “that athlete.” That athlete who isn’t all that great, but for some reason feels like his gym’s regular class programming is simply too inferior for his high level athletic needs. He placed 18th at a local competition and immediately began seeking out better programming – because it wasn’t his shitty lack of athletic ability that resulted in him performing poorly – it was his lack of top-notch, Games athlete level programming. He also wants to make sure everyone in the gym knows he follows Comp Train…or Invictus, or whatever other blog makes him feel like he is receiving the same level of coaching as his favorite Games athlete.

 Tori Alemany - Dark Horse Performance athlete on her way to winning the Wyoming Open women's pro division in Cheyenne, WY.

Tori Alemany - Dark Horse Performance athlete on her way to winning the Wyoming Open women's pro division in Cheyenne, WY.

Hey Rick – that programming you are following? It isn’t individualized for you. You aren’t special just because you’ve alienated yourself from your CrossFit community, made your training partners think you’re a douchebag and you aren’t going to get better following a one-size-fits-all blog.

Why is blog programming not the best way to achieve your goals – whether you are a Regional or Games level athlete, or Rick? Blogs don’t take into consideration all the things you need to know in order to develop an effective athletic program. Things like training age, biological age, gender, goals, injuries, career, lifestyle, nutrition, recovery protocols or each athlete’s strengths and weaknesses.

Training Age:

Someone like Rick, is not a good athlete. He’s not going to Regionals, ever, despite what his mom may tell him, or what he thinks about his own level of fitness. Someone with a low training age does not need to be following advanced programming. Following his gym’s regular programming is fine. He will learn correct movement patterns, improve his intensity – and perhaps most importantly in this stage in his athletic journey, will become part of the community rather an alienating himself from it.

Most blog programs are geared for a 20-25 year old athlete who is in their prime, no injuries, already advanced level of fitness and have 2-3 hours a day to train, eats a well-planned out diet and actually spends time on recovery protocols.  

“To all those athletes out there that aren’t on a really high level but want to follow these blog fitness programs – I’m excited that they are taking the initiative and chasing their goals – but they need to know the negatives about this type of shotgun programming,” said Justin Biays, a 2016 CrossFit Games Regional Team athlete and founder of Dark Horse Performance. “Let’s be realistic, you are not going to Regionals. Why are you training for hours on end unless it is something you truly enjoy? If it is, great, but be smart and listen to your body – and stop telling people you follow the same programming as the champ. You don’t.”

 Dark Horse Performance Founder Justin Biays with athlete Tori Alemany.

Dark Horse Performance Founder Justin Biays with athlete Tori Alemany.

For athletes that eat like assholes and don’t spend time recovering – that’s fine, but don’t think you will be able to tolerate a high-volume training plan. The vast majority of these low training age athletes following blog programming think they are headed to Regionals (spoiler alert: they’re not) and don’t do the necessary things outside the gym to keep up with the program. This is a recipe for consistent training injuries and a stale performance progression.

Gender:

Males and females should not be on the same training protocol. Women can handle much higher volumes of training than men. Their strength ratios in certain aspects are different. Females typically have a lower neuromuscular efficiency than males, meaning their protocol can be higher rep ranges at high percentages (high volume) than a male athlete. Blog fitness does not take this into account, they just shot gun EVERYONE with volume.

Current level of fitness

The athlete who has been sitting on their ass has no business jumping into an advanced training protocol, they need to be brought into this by a simple progression prepping their body for the stressors of the program. More often than not, these athletes just hop into the cycle in a not- ready state, leading to nagging injuries and a stall in progress. 

Injuries:  

It is a coach’s job to place elements in the program that target muscle groups that aid in the prevention of injury (prehab exercises). If the athlete does sustain an injury they must gear their protocol to bringing that injured area back to proper function - then building strength upon that or referring the athlete to a medical professional. Blog fitness does neither.

 Individualized programming is the key to longevity and to achieving your goals as an athlete

Individualized programming is the key to longevity and to achieving your goals as an athlete

Strengths and weaknesses

Blog fitness does not take this into account - How can they when they have thousands of followers? All athletes have strengths that need to be simply maintained and weaknesses which need to be attacked. Blog fitness cannot do that so they shotgun every element with volume. Some do a good job prioritizing different elements in different phases of the year, but, do you think the guy who can do 30 muscle ups unbroken and 40 strict hand-stand push-ups unbroken, but can only deadlift 225 needs gymnastics work? Abso-fucking-lutely not - he needs to get fucking strong. If the athlete finds himself or herself in this position and the blog they happened to stumble on is gymnastics heavy, they are shit out of luck.

The Red Queen Theory:

The Red Queen theory or hypothesis - states that we must constantly adapt and evolve to survive while pitted against an ever-evolving opponent or changing environment.

This means if someone is better than you and you both follow the Comp Train blog THEY WILL ALWAYS BE BETTER THAN YOU. You are essentially running the same race at the same speed but you are 400m behind. To catch and pass them you must run twice as fast as they are, train twice as hard as they do and train with a smarter protocol than they do. Blog fitness does not recognize when the training plan must evolve and change at the individual level to catch that competitor who is ahead of you.

It takes individual programming taking into account all the above factors to get someone to their full potential.

“For all the higher level athletes out there, the guy on the cusp of making it to Regionals or the Games: If you got to this level following a blog – think where you could be with programming that actually addresses your needs and actually works?” said Justin Biays.

 Dark Horse Performance Founder Justin Biays with Tori Alemany

Dark Horse Performance Founder Justin Biays with Tori Alemany

Blog Fitness is a dead-end for serious athletes trying to improve while chasing down goals like going to Regionals or going to The Games. For the rest of us – they pose a training risk due to high volume and lack of knowledge about the individual athlete. Also, hey Rick – stop working out in the corner by yourself and join the class. You are a terrible athlete – nobody cares about your super cool training, we think you hashtagging all your Instagram posts with #BuiltByBergeron is annoying – also, stop referring to Ben Bergeron as “my coach.”