monday, may 2, 2011



some fun here with these 2 athletes (i repeat, fun, i.e. intellectual thougths, ideas, critical thinking, no judgement) the thruster/chin up workout for 5 min got me thinking about these 2 they differ so much; also to give some insight into how i think about designing workouts/competitions, the sport of fitness
in Amanda, i watch how Chris and Jason both start with the MU's, no biggie, then on the snatch, Jason goes unbroken, Chris breaks @ last few reps, then into the muscle ups for set of 7 Jason starts grunting at 1:15-1:20 (at the point where oxygen might not be getting to the heart and he wants to use what he knows best - his phophagen system  - we know this as he starts grunting his round of 7 MU's - a sign), whereas Chris, knowing his pacing, breaks the snatches (why does he do this here if we know he can do 9 in a row?), then breathes as needed into the MU's, where @ 1:20 he takes some quick breaths and the only limiter for him is the muscle endurance and strength of the combo of movements...from there on in we know how it laid out, Jason fought hard but toppled at end and Chris paced appropriately for what I believe was the nicest planned attack I've seen in a while (all things aside about BWT vs. event vs. true tests of fitness - another time)
Question is, what would happen if Jason knew his engine (high power, limiter is breathing over 1:20 @ high efforts) and decided like Chris to break the first set of snatches at 5 + 2 + 2...then have an easier time at set of 7 in MU's...maybe he'd have enough phosphagens left (if his aerobic system was also best primed for the event) i would argue to hit a 3:20 workout as he'd have it left in him in the last set as needed, knowing he could breathe and fraction the MU's as needed as he'd have some in him which was not wasted in that first and second set of snatches...(this can be trained as well if done right)
another side note, a comparable is the 2:40 ish Jason did for the 08 Games workout, watch the video and see how Jason just breezes along with the 155#, he PACES it perfectly as if he knows his engine (or does he); some sport scientists believe that there is a central governor that leads to fatigue as this governor creates limits on the ability for the muscles exercising and the heart and lungs/diaphragm and blood - within this model there is the CNS which contains what i believe the LIMITER; which is NEVER measured - is someones like Jason's in this case ability to shut the system off as it does not know its limits; and in return what this does to the athlete when they do know the limit (most get caught up in training harder and longer instead of ensuring a long term progression of improvements in their systems within that are the limiters based upon the sport they have chosen) i digress
then there was the Cindy, clean and jerk workout - comparing Chris to Jason; not taking anything from both athletes but to say that this is a good comparison of fitness and breadth and depth of it in relation to each athlete and how they are made up (i dont know that stats but 5'11 and 200# to 5'5" and 140#) i would question; reason being is that 155# for the distance moved and the reps "combined" with a gymnastics maneuver ,makes this a no brainer for me for Chris to win...seeing Jason move the weight and reps in the phosphagen battery recovery every few sec b/t reps as the rounds got late as well as his BWT for a round of cindy in b/t is admirable...but Cindy in b/t 155# clean and jerk for most who have the technique for the movement and some breathing ability @ 140# is a walk in the park (all you have to do is compare the Cindy scores to see the difference - not known but I can estimate 36 rds for Chris and 25-28 rounds for Jason is the standard)
So the question I have is this; if this is known; how is this a test of fitness (not saying it was, but what happens if it is at the opens like this?) - what would happen if it was 185# clean and jerk - the research I am doing over time will determine this - (what is the limiter, what is the difference in uses of energy systems when the loads and times change - i.e. the 155# to 175# to 195# in examples above and get some good data from that)
and then there was the CTB chin up, thruster workout in 5 min that was done before (side note - did anyone else wonder if they had exposure to a workout like this prior, did anyone feel uneasy about it knowing they got a similar one again?...i did not as i did not do it, but i was just thinking) - i what happens at 1:20,,,Jason leads up until that point, not sure what the rep scheme was but it is obvious that Chris from the get go is relaxed face, no postural changes...then he does these little "extra breaths" in b/t chins and thrusters (focuses on the thrusters like he needs to, and preps for correct execution on the chin ups)...Jason at 1:17 breaks the thrusters...and from there on its a CP/ATP recoup workout for him...where he did not have much of this system left at the end like Chris might have for a few more reps as he sprinted to the thrusters
sidenote - at 1:17 Jason broke (again leaving the oxygen independant state where his engine is primed for), and then faultered a little @ 1:25 on a thruster...from there on it was the same effort...chris started at a slower pace, kept hitting it (and this is the key) "just below threshold pace"...which is why in his comments he said that the 15 and 18 hurt (they do b/c if you're using the right system for that workout, it SHOULD hurt at that point)...
again question is, if the distance moved in the thruster ADDING the BWT and BAR together as well as Jason moving his body (again commendable) for the distance in the chin ups is this a test of fitness b/t these 2?
...and more importantly, can Jason improve to the point that he can ever compare to or beat Chris if its set up right to compare the 2 if that is what one is trying to do in a test of fitness?...i.e. we have been tinkering with athletes on the changes seen as to where is balance point is in when this shift occurs in the balance of fitness tests...adn what is comes down to is this - EVERY person is different and training based on knowing who you are as a person and athlete will allow you to progress over time (ALL scoring aside)...
if Jason as mentioned did break the snatches in Amanda and had a heavier weight in the clean and jerk and less reps for his weight in the chin ups, maybe there could be comparative times...maybe?...maybe not?
then again, who am I to compare?...and then there is the mind-@#$%ing that goes on for folks that kills them mentally and emotionally; how can one really compare?...are you happy with what you have to work with; and if so are you willing to take the emotional work to the next level to improve the best you can knowing that based on what you have physically is only going to get you so far?
CrossFit Athlete Regional Dates:
  • May 27-29: North Central, South East, Australia, Canada West
  • June 3-5: Northern California, Mid Atlantic, Canada East, Europe, 
  • June 10-12: North West, Central East, South West, Africa, Asia
  • June 17-19: Southern California, South Central, North East, Latin America.
Assumptions - right or wrong can be made:
- weekends will entail multiple workouts back to back which means that preparing to have the fuelling, recovery and corrrect effort per workout is more imtp than having ONE good workout per week
- running will be invloved, this will differentiate a HUGE number of folks from the open workouts
- outdoor temperatures, changes in altitude for those travelling and proper prep based on the event location is up to the athlete - from this though one can prepare efficiently for the area, meters above or at sea level, chow they respond to heat/air cooling appropriately and know based on this how to prepare..knowing things like how to run your engine at different gears and speeds based on changes in temp, elevation is key, therefore train the setting as much as you can
- as much as you might not like to hear it, your fitness WILL NOT improve that much over the next 4-7 weeks, what you have built to this point, only the brain can improve now - i.e. the refinement of the movements, skills, energy systems as well as the speed of movements, the pacing for game speed, and the technical skill refinement
- DO NOT allow the scoring and placement of where you are in the opens determine how you "might" do in the regionals; take into consideration that people respond in different ways to different places, events, persons, pressures, etc...should allow you to realize that the top can quickly fall as well the bottom can rise - if they prepare poorly or perfectly for the weekend - as varied, haphazard training will likely result in one good workout per week but NOT a good weekend of 4-7 testers
Here forward:
there will be 5 different workout sessions based on region and its characteristics and date, all allowing a proper peak and weekend for the dates laid out; they will be classified as such starting Wednesday May 4th for groups 1-4 and starting Tues, May 10th for the off season group (as the week is MINOR in terms of time you should take off right now):
group 1: May 27-29
group 2: June 3-5
group 3: June 10-12
group 4: June 17-19
group 5: off season
I will be designing 5 different plans based on this, of course ending with those respective weekend workouts and competitions, ensuring that each weekend is planned from today till then appropriately.
Post notes/suggestions to comments

Tags: Insight


  1. 72d27af1675f8d669b0668a211ccefe4
    1. Lisa M said over 2 years ago

    Just want to say WOW James you always go above and beyond for this community and I am sure I can speak for everybody that we all are so very grateful for your knowledge and committment to making us the best athletes we can be.

    Congrats to everybody who competed and kicked ass in the Open. Work hard over the coming weeks and bring it.

    I obviously will be part of the off season group :(. I began weight bearing this week in my cast so that feels good to be rid of the dang crutches. See the surgeon next Tuesday and get the update on when i might get my cast off??? Feeling very lost right now re training as I am limited as to what I can do and just don't have the programming knowledge to figure it out. Looking forward to offseason training that James puts together and will just modify to my abilities until I can play full out.

  2. 8a8634da284423095ebccf59c7b3712b
    2. RichJ said over 2 years ago

    I couldnt agree more with Lisa, Thanks for everything James! I am extremely grateful...I have def grown and become a better athlete since joining the Big Dawg blog...

  3. A91cb7124b8a649f4746524186ae4a9a
    3. Lars said over 2 years ago

    James, thanks for all your help over the past year and a half. I'm looking forward to competing at regionals (Canada East) in 1 month and representing for the Big Dawgs.

  4. 38374c07ea30127f1feedf778a5a35ff
    4. Nate said over 2 years ago

    TONS to chew on right there, and lots to think about and even compare myself to as far how i've been approaching training, especially with other dawgs like AJ. Thanks for that coach, and thanks for the time and effort put into these regional-peaking programs; will be checking in for sure. I'm doing my own for a bit, collaborating with AJ, but constantly learning, especially from you James.

    would say good luck, but no luck is james said, prepare yourselves appropriately for the hand you've been dealt and then show up with your game face on and tear it up big dawgs!

  5. 7f4d9b93747bcf944039a58fccb6549d
    5. Yago Fidani said over 2 years ago

    Wow! Just want to say thank you James. The knowledge and passion you share is inspiring.

  6. F9384c4defbbd6cd37340dcc1f056fa4
    6. Angelo Fosco said over 2 years ago

    I have to emulate what the others said...I continue to be impressed with not only your knowledge but your incredible way of analyzing and presenting everything. Great stuff today Coach, You have brought me farther than I thought I could go. I look forward to seeing how far you can take me in the future.

    Thanks for everything coach!

  7. 7383445664f7ee9cd679c864df12495e
    7. cam birtwell said over 2 years ago

    Hi James,

    Looking forward to seeing your planning for the weeks ahead.

    Regarding pacing strategy and knowing one's thresholds (and strengths/weaknesses) I find in CF there are as you mentioned a lot of interactions going on.

    Pacing in a competition format can be very challenging as other competitors may charge ahead and there is a pyschology around being ahead of your key competition ... I know for myself that being "behind" can be a dangerous spot to be in unless measurable progress catching people can be seen.

    I also find that taking planned breaks can be counterproductive in some circumstances since the drain on the body of the WOD is not completely known... thus the planned breaks can come too soon or be too long... I guess this is just knowing one's body more.

    Could you give us a rundown of your experience in the Amanda wod? (we can see some of your performance in the video)... did you pace too slowly or were your strengths/limitations known and the resulting time was a well-measured effort?

    Breaks can also provide a relief from the discomfort that might make it harder to convince the mind to dig back into that discomfort ... there is sometimes a critical rhythm to be maintained in WODs that keeps the discomfort in the periphery through switching the focus to steadily completing the task. Sometimes I feel that everytime I stop and breathe it becomes harder to get back in.

    I found for myself in 11.5 (20 min) my pace was too slow in the beginning and my breaks were too long - which served to "remind" my body that taking breaks feels better than staying in the muck... leading to a psychological crumbling that resulted in a "less than ideal" score (285 vs goal of 11rds+).

    Agreed in that minimal gains in fitness absolutes (V02, anaerobic power & cap, max strength) can be expected in the next few weeks but double agreed that targeted "sharpening" work can improve our expression of those absolutes in competition format... thus the importance of programming for refinement of accuracy, power, and pace.

    Thanks for everything


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    8. Christopher D. said over 2 years ago

    took friday, saturday, and sunday off.

    mashup this morning,
    short rest DL: 465
    1-5 squat clean ladder: 1 at 175# (did touch and go instead of hang)
    MU: 9 (pr)
    flight sim: 8:47

    Been pretty wrecked for a few days after each open wod. Really wanted to qualify an affiliate team, and now need to decide on continuing as an individual.

    i look forward to another rest day.

  9. 72d27af1675f8d669b0668a211ccefe4
    9. Lisa M said over 2 years ago

    Did a modified version of some of the weekends workouts

    15 one legged burpees (ouch these were hard)
    row for cal (one legged)
    cal 11/10/10

    AMRAP strict pullups in 5 min with about 10 pounds cast included
    25 very weak!!

    AMRAP sitting push press with 70# in 3 min
    AMRAP situps 1 min = 45

    My right leg is going to be Jacked after this 3 months and my left a little chicken leg.

    Felt good, think I will alternate metcon modified workouts with strenght stuff - the limited amount that i can do anyways.

  10. 4a925e2f4289d27095a95aa3f7659fab
    10. James F. said over 2 years ago

    cam, there is something to be said for "running your own race"...once thought of as an old man's version of knowing oneself, makes total sense in a competition format, for CF and all other sports...if the training was done appropriately to define one's own engine, there should be no guess work on the "pacing"...
    "pacing" is not slowing down, pacing is breath control, high speed with control but knowing when to say when as opposed to being stuck in a blood bath for 8 min, when you could have been 1-2% in PRE lower if you knew how to do that...

    planned breaks can be counterproductive for sure, my context was on as you mentioned knowing one's own abililty...and when you do, you basically go until the brain gives signs saying.."errr...wait now, one more rep Sunny and i'll take a little away from you"...this comes from training at the right amounts...your gut instinct says so as well with your comment on "knowing one's own body"...

    as for me, I'm a good candidate for sure to look at how to do that wod, i prepared last year to be healthy, not CrossFit fit...I knew how it was going to go, knew my limitations, and did as was planned..i knew every 135# snatch for me for reps would be deadly so i paced and did 1 rep at a i could have pulled out the old adage of "go get 'em buddy" in my less mature years (just go all out)...but that would have left me there with the cleaners for the Home Depot grounds crew counting my final reps..therefore I just let it play out and did OK, as expected..where was it in relation to others???...just where it should have been b/c i was more healthy and arguably just as fit as the rest of them, but not as Cross"fit"...and so I get what i deserve.

    breaks can provide a release from the discomfort for sure...i'm not saying that one is not uncomfortable in a workout, look at Chris Spealler do the 1st set of snatches again...he is in discomfort but takes a break...albeit 2 sec, but a that's all it takes for the phosphagens to recharge a small %...
    you mentioned when you stop and breathe you find it hard to get back in...question is then, when do you breathe?...
    i do understand your point and is a good and interesting thing...but training yields the ability to put up with a tolerance of pain, NOT only "will" Rich Froning on the games site on the 15 min DL, BJ his belly in b/t the jumps and DL and push and out, in and out...high rate of breathing with lots of O2 getting in...these are breathing breaks but when the tolerance is high, they are so small of breaks in our eyes b/c we cannot fathom that output..

    you make some good points and i'm intrigued,,,

  11. 4a925e2f4289d27095a95aa3f7659fab
    11. James F. said over 2 years ago

    ...and i have to make the note Cam that your score in 11.5 is the reason why i'm doing peeps aren't so frickin' emotionally lost in comparison of themselves to others...and why you might not have paced correctly for the 11.5 workout...but this is the's biggie, learn from it and move on...
    the thing is, the more experience you get, the better you will know how to do it right based on how your engine rolls, and pacing too slow at the beginning means that you just don't know your engine well enough at that time on that day for that workout...oh well, move on...

    as well, whenever you set up "goals" for the workout and once in there, you cannot be mature enough to "let go" of those goals and change things as planned, that'll come as well as you mature as an athlete

    thank you for your insight
    onward and upward!

  12. Db1c5e31bd4b44f63f3dd59b034c34f8
    12. Nik Werre said over 2 years ago

    Thanks for everything you do. Going above and beyond what anyone here would expect you to do, this is greatly appreciated!!

    To those continuing on, I wish you all the best of luck!


  13. Af12d6daf0dd92dec5423185df1ef4af
    13. Bear said over 2 years ago

    Wow, 5 groups, that´s crazy! :)

    I would very much like my fitness and health to improve the coming weeks so right now I´m doing some awesome stuff from Matt Wichlinski. But if you are competing, trust this programming, OPT is the man!

  14. 7383445664f7ee9cd679c864df12495e
    14. cam birtwell said over 2 years ago


    Thanks for your responses - a lot of what you are saying resonates with me in terms of preparation for myself, my crossfit competitive athletes, and athletes in other disciplines.

    I have prided myself on being good at pacing (and pacing - agreed - meaning the ideal balance of work and rest to achieve the optimum result) but was disappointed in my mistake on 11.5.

    That being said, the heart rate data from that wod shows the right trend - multiple peaks pushing up to 95% max, back to ~90% and oscillating there until the final 5 min where it was a slow steady increase towards max.

    Anyway, enough about me - more maturity needed as a result of greater experience :)

    I like your comments regarding your experience in the Amanda - and the distinction between "healthy-fit" and "Crossfit-fit" - admirable that while emphasizing the former, a great deal of the latter was displayed.


  15. 36a64ad123ef0bbb4942e461c3901f61
    15. Terry said over 2 years ago

    Awesome stuff, so if you were a Master who will be competing at the Games (no regionals for us), would you follow the off season for a then start on the group 4 program 7 or so weeks out? I followed you stuff last year and made some huge improvements. Thanks!

  16. 82785ea7bda768235145efed0763f8e2
    16. Eric Montgomery said over 2 years ago


    I'm consistently amazed at the level of thought that goes into the training you post here on a daily basis. While my attempt at the Games Open didn't go as well as I would have liked, I know those failings were on me and that this blog gave me the best preparation I could have hoped for.

    Now that the Open is over with I'm going to be departing the Big Dawgs fold. I'm planning on playing rugby when I start up grad school this fall so I want to do a program that will focus on getting me bigger/stronger/faster in preparation for that. I'll still check this blog on a regular basis for information like this post.

    Thanks again for all you've done.


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    17. Marshall said over 2 years ago

    I've been having similar thoughts after completing the last wod next to ROBO. I'm not convinced that our engines are that dissimilar but doing 11.6 next to him was a lesson in "knowing thyself". We yo-yo'd around each other the whole wod, he would crush me in the thrusters and then I'd catch him in the cu's, over and over.
    First time competing in the games- learned a lot. I'm not as good as I thought at some of my strengths and not nearly as bad as I thought at some of my weaker movements. The business of knowing your engine comes down to some real specifics, not just "I'm good at aerobic workouts". Definitely requires some close attention, I'll be taking some better notes over the next year for sure.

    thanks coach!

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    18. RichJ said over 2 years ago

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    19. James F. said over 2 years ago

    terry, do off season work until mid june, then welcome into the fold for the Games work, congrats on your effortds

  20. Bfa76324a780690ff8cc83a0ce5b7cda
    20. Brent Maier said over 2 years ago


    I believe we all have our limitations and the sooner we realize it, the quicker we can fix it or learn to manage it. There is a lot to process there and I'm sure everyone will take a little something different away than the other person. Specifically I had a similar incident on my 11.6 which played a major role in me better understanding my engine. The first time I did it, I got 113 reps and nearly put myself into a coma afterwards. Delirious and pounding head afterwards. Haven't felt that bad in a while but I crossed a major line at 5:00 and continued to push with everything I had until I collapsed. My second attempt wasn't to better the score but to give myself a piece of mind that I won't fear another workout like this. I was searching for a different result. Few tweaks and 3 days later, I finished with 122 and walked around with a smile on my face. Training and coaching is one key, the other is experience and I believe there are only some answers that only we can answer.


  21. A5f3d0d66392d8907c48a750f6904935
    21. Kyle Boyer said over 2 years ago

    I agree man. It's about knowing yourself as an athlete and knowing you're limitations. I did that same thing to myself on 11.3 and it mentally messed me up for 11.4 a week later cause mentally I didnt want to take my body to that hurt again.

    Thanks for this awesome site that not only prepares us physically but mentally too. Thanks coach. Good luck to all moving on

  22. Bef936b322284b80b84adb4250659449
    22. Matt Baird said over 2 years ago


    As we move forward, I have to echo the sentiments of everyone above. It is work, but more importantly passion that seems to drive this blog. I have learned more about my engine in the past 3 1/2 months following the Big Dawgs, then I had my entire athletic career. Bottom-line, thank you for doing what you do, and I AM READY TO WORK. Good luck Dawgs as we move forward individually, yet we represent as a unit.

    Respect is earned, not given!

  23. 2e71a4e50d8fa970b26b0a0c970e1c9c
    23. brian h said over 2 years ago

    I had a similar experience (and score) as you in 11.6. I pushed for unbroken sets on the thrusters, and blew up at minutes 5, and scored 114. One my second go I broke all my sets, doing no more than 6 thrusters, and got 122. Minimal score difference, but I felt so much better.

    Such great insight. I picked up your blog over 18 months ago, and although I don't follow your daily programming, your ideas have completely alter my training methodologies. Pacing, rest, planning, recovery, mindset, more... And posts like today are exactly why! Thank you.

    As a side note, I finished 60th in my sectional this year, and this year I finished 28th in my regional, earning a spot in the next level. My concern is that the format played to my "old dawg" skills. I'm 34 and I know my body and limitations. I was able to squeeze extra work into every WOD on multiple attempts. I have a fear that my "first shot" may not always be my best. I totally agree with your insight that we will not get any fitter in 4 weeks, it will be mastering pacing.

  24. Caaf9b04f2e695e609b637cac350c19b
    24. David X said over 2 years ago

    Congrats to all the Big Dawgs who competed this year and were able to move on to the next round. I haven't been over to the new site very often, but as a former Big Dawg, I'm proud of everyone here who gave it everything they had for as long as they could.

    Full effort = full victory.


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