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Fitness Theory and Practice. CrossFit's rationale & foundations. Who is fit? What is fitness?

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Old 10-21-2008, 08:16 PM   #1
Christopher Day
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Defining personal fitness

Since discovering crossfit about 2 years ago I have variously been a practitioner, advocate, and critic of its methodology. This same statement applies to several other training protocols (perhaps not all as well defined and transparent as Crossfit). I am more or less exhaustively aware of the information available on this site and on performance menu.

I want to state my performance goals related issue as a choice of lifestyle problem. I struggle to define my personal fitness objectives.

I have no serious fitness needs in my life. Though I once played many sports, my training is currently the only seriously athletic pursuit in my life. When I first began experimenting with crossfit, I was far too weak to pursue it as RX'ed. After I increased my strength somewhat and returned to training WODs with some improved success, I felt again later that I was still not strong enough in certain areas (this sequence over about 2 years time). I still feel this way and perhaps I always will. I don't know either 1) how strong I want to be or 2) how strong I need to be. It leaves both my training and my nutrition aimless.

Here is my primary question: for those of you who do not have clearly defined fitness needs according to your lifestyle or career, what are your training objectives and how do you determine them?

Let me flesh this out a little bit. In my mind, goals have to be achievement specific and not vague aims. They also must be broken down using an attainable periodization schedule. When these goals cannot be trained for in a parallel fashion, how am I to prioritize them? Let's assume some goals are skill based and others are pure strength feats.

I am moderately conditioned with about 3 years of training at age 25. I am 5'11" and 170 lbs. (To be more specific: my 5RM back squat is 225; 1RM deadlift is 370; 1RM clean is 190; and 5RM press is 125.)
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Old 10-21-2008, 08:39 PM   #2
Brandon Oto
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Re: Defining personal fitness

1. Decide why you're training. (Not your "training goals," just the literal question -- why are you waking up to go to the gym? For what purpose?)

2. Decide what goals are necessary to fulfill this need

3. Decide what methods are most efficient and appropriate to fulfill these goals

4. Do them.

5. Monitor, test, loop.


Example:

1. You want to look ripped to get laid
2. You need a high level lean mass, in aesthetically pleasing proportions, combined with a low level of bodyfat.
3. You'll use the Hyperteknik Hypertrophic Lipidbolic Cyclical program or whatever.
4. Go to the gym, lift, run, whatever.
5. See how it's going. Adjust the schedule to fit your work shifts. Adjust the reps to improve your recovery. Add bent rows to bring up your lagging lats. Whatever.


Another example:

1. You want to have the best appearance, health, physical athleticism (10 traits, maybe), and longevity you can without devoting too much of your life to fitness.
2. You need a fair amount of lean mass and a tolerably low bodyfat, a robust metabolism, good energy and other physical markers, and competent strength, endurance, power, bodily control, and other abilities.
3. You'll lift cows and drink wheat grass, or whatever.
4. Go, do it.
5. You're not lifting heavy enough cows and you want to go whitewater rafting; you'll add more partial bovine pulls and paddle technique work. But your wheatgrass drinking is too much of a pain in the ***, so you'll try subbing in Tabata grass chugs and see how that goes.


And so on.


Edit: I should probably add one more example:

1. You like curling and doing blindfolded pistols.
2. You need to curl and do blindfolded pistols.
3. You'll curl and do blindfolded pistols.
4. Curl and do blindfolded pistols.
5. Do you still like curling and doing blindfolded pistols? If so, continue. If not, reexamine.
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Old 10-21-2008, 08:48 PM   #3
Jonathon Brown
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Re: Defining personal fitness

I'm in a similar boat as you. I have no real need to for the level of fitness which is acquired/required by Crossfit. I could just do some running, some bodyweight exercises, and be done with it.

My long term goal is to be as strong and as fit as my sanity will allow. I transfer this into short-term goals such as my shoulder press is currently 135. Next CFT, make that number bigger. My mile time is around 7:30. Next time I do a mile for time, be faster. Stuff like that.

There's more that goes into it, but that's basically how I approach it. I know it's a little vague as to methodology, but I wanted to explain my thought process about it. Plus Brandon kinda nailed the methodology part of it.

Hope this helps.
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Old 10-22-2008, 12:02 AM   #4
Christopher Day
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Re: Defining personal fitness

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brandon Oto View Post
1. Decide why you're training. (Not your "training goals," just the literal question -- why are you waking up to go to the gym? For what purpose?)

2. Decide what goals are necessary to fulfill this need

3. Decide what methods are most efficient and appropriate to fulfill these goals

4. Do them.

5. Monitor, test, loop.


Example:

1. You want to look ripped to get laid
2. You need a high level lean mass, in aesthetically pleasing proportions, combined with a low level of bodyfat.
3. You'll use the Hyperteknik Hypertrophic Lipidbolic Cyclical program or whatever.
4. Go to the gym, lift, run, whatever.
5. See how it's going. Adjust the schedule to fit your work shifts. Adjust the reps to improve your recovery. Add bent rows to bring up your lagging lats. Whatever.


Another example:

1. You want to have the best appearance, health, physical athleticism (10 traits, maybe), and longevity you can without devoting too much of your life to fitness.
2. You need a fair amount of lean mass and a tolerably low bodyfat, a robust metabolism, good energy and other physical markers, and competent strength, endurance, power, bodily control, and other abilities.
3. You'll lift cows and drink wheat grass, or whatever.
4. Go, do it.
5. You're not lifting heavy enough cows and you want to go whitewater rafting; you'll add more partial bovine pulls and paddle technique work. But your wheatgrass drinking is too much of a pain in the ***, so you'll try subbing in Tabata grass chugs and see how that goes.


And so on.


Edit: I should probably add one more example:

1. You like curling and doing blindfolded pistols.
2. You need to curl and do blindfolded pistols.
3. You'll curl and do blindfolded pistols.
4. Curl and do blindfolded pistols.
5. Do you still like curling and doing blindfolded pistols? If so, continue. If not, reexamine.
Thanks for the great response. Your method is rational and deductive and I do think about my training in this way. Where I get hung up is in defining the goals to fit the needs determined by the objective of my training (your step 2).

The examples you provide actually all overlook the same difficulty. They identify the "need" but don't actually supply the goals that your step 2 requires.

Let's use your second example. We identify that the ultimate purpose of this individual's training is to pursue the ten elements of fitness with an emphasis on living a sustainable lifestyle. We then identify that this individual needs a high level of lean mass, relatively low bodyfat, good strength and endurance, etc. However, we have not actually defined any performance goals (long or short term) that will lead to progress towards these results. We also haven't addressed the issue of prioritization of these needs.

Let me add some specifics to your step two that might help us come up with some achievable (i.e. tangible) goals. The athlete defines strong as 30% improvement in squat strength and a 20% improvement in deadlift strength; endurance is a 15% improvement to her 5k run time; power is a 20% improvement of her max clean; bodily control is the ability to do a free-standing hspu (she currently performs 5 wall assisted hspus); and etc. How do we numerically (of course we are approximating) attack these needs in the short and long term, and how do we prioritize the potentially conflicting need to gain some mass for strength and power with need to improve body composition for endurance and gymastic skills?

In my opinion, this last question is the most difficult and important part of the process. We all already know we want to be fitter, stronger, healthier, sexier, etc.
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Old 10-22-2008, 12:13 AM   #5
Brandon Oto
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Re: Defining personal fitness

Obviously, you can further quantify those goals, and I agree that it's a good thing; I don't think I'd quite say that it's required, but to some extent the more clear, the better.

If you have the goals you stated and NO other drives -- for instance, no reason to prioritize one over the others -- then it makes absolutely no difference which you focus on. If you just have a big bucket of goals like "handstand pushups" and "deadlifts," you can pull out one now and the other later or vice versa, doesn't matter (or both together, depending on how you're organizing it).

The question of how to actually program this sort of thing is a more concrete one. The camps basically range from maximal everything-together (more or less CrossFit) to maximal everything-apart (long-term periodization), with various compromises in between like concurrent and block training.

People are probably tired of hearing me talk about this, though, so I'll stick a sock in it.
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Old 10-22-2008, 07:19 AM   #6
Andrew Christopher Woloszyn
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Re: Defining personal fitness

Hi Christopher

I am in a similar position to you - doing Crossfit for general fitness, as opposed to for my job. In answer to your question:
for those of you who do not have clearly defined fitness needs according to your lifestyle or career, what are your training objectives and how do you determine them?

I follow the WODs (a year behind - to help with planning) and simply try and improve on the performance measures for the types of exercises - e.g. increase rep maximums, increase rounds compeleted/allowed time, decrease time to complete set rounds etc. Generally, still improving.

I personally do not see any point in defining specific targets, because -

a) There is little point if I am not using said target to contribute towards a specific goal e.g. max lift in a weightlifting meet or other sport competition. In your everyday life/job, what difference does it make if you can squat an extra 20kg?

b) Without fairly strict control of diet / rest (mainly diet), it is difficult to continuously improve performance. I would like to be able to lift 2.5xbw (at the moment its just over 2x), I would like to generally be stronger/faster, but I really cannot be arsed drinking a gallon of milk a day, or ensuring that I eat 4-5 blocks consistently.

You have to ask yourself, just how much to you want to be that much better at certain elements of your performance? I've spent over 15 years doing all manner of weight based training, with only the last 2 on crossfit; and aside from realising that this is the best program for overall fitness, it has also taken me a long time accept that my performance will only be as good as diet and rest allows. Honestly, I'd rather be less fast/strong than constantly clock watching, food weighing and force feeding - as it is, one of the most common things I hear in the office is 'are you eating again!?'

bw 70kg, DL 155kg, SQ 105kg, press 60kg, 5km 22min, Linda 25min, Fran 6min
this with a Zone-ish diet, with constant lapses for chocolate, cereals and all those 'bad' carbs - and that's just fine with me.
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Old 10-22-2008, 07:24 AM   #7
Michael Bell
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Re: Defining personal fitness

Quote:
Originally Posted by Christopher Day View Post
Here is my primary question: for those of you who do not have clearly defined fitness needs according to your lifestyle or career, what are your training objectives and how do you determine them?

In my mind, goals have to be achievement specific and not vague aims. They also must be broken down using an attainable periodization schedule. When these goals cannot be trained for in a parallel fashion, how am I to prioritize them? Let's assume some goals are skill based and others are pure strength feats.
I have no clearly defined need according to my lifestyle or career, though my objectives are clear enough in my mind. I don't agree, however, that fitness goals must be broken down using a periodization schedule. Also, people with no lifestyle or career need for fitness wouldn't create goals that couldn't be trained for in a parallel fashion, so there's no need to prioritize. The objectives of someone who has no apparent lifestyle need for fitness actually fall perfectly into the question "why crossfit?" Crossfit trains people for the unexpected, which is why I do it. If the need ever arose to fireman carry a family member out of a burning building, I'd be able to do it. If I ever had to get away from someone wielding a knife, I'd be confident that I could outrun 99% of the general public. etc. etc. Aside from that, working out makes me more confident and gives me more energy throughout the day.

Crossfit is the best way to train for all of my objectives concurrently, and my schedule is to get to all of my goals ASAP.

My Fitness Goals
1. Hit my target body weight of 175.
2. Be able to run 1/4 in under 1 min. 1/2 mile in under 2:20 and 1 mile in under 5:30 (back to high school numbers - haha) I am not too far off on this one.
3. Work on all weaknesses, in particular be able to do 5 freestanding handstand pushups and 5 consecutive muscle-ups.
4. Do a 2x body weight squat and deadlift.

Hitting these goals, along with a proficient level of kickboxing, I'd feel confident in my day to day life that I would be able to outrun, outlast, fend off, or neutralize any 'bad guy' who came my way.
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Old 10-22-2008, 08:24 AM   #8
Brian Reckdenwald
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Re: Defining personal fitness

I don't really have a specific reason to work out anymore, either. I used to play college lacrosse for two years and then decided to quit...basically to do crossfit. I'm still in college and my internship with a construction company never requires that I can do a muscle up unless I find something fun to climb on (safely of course). While I do often find myself missing the competitive nature of organized sports, I periodically try to find new reasons to bust my *** five days a week. Sometimes this means making goals, sometimes it's watching videos, and sometimes it's just climbing onto things I wouldn't have been able to years ago. About 8 months ago, I became smitten with olympic lifting and I decided I wanted to snatch my bodyweight. Now that it is under my belt, I'm focused on getting my metcon back to the way it was a while ago. The lustre from that will likely wear off in a few months and then who knows what it will be.

Maybe you can join a softball league, soccer team, hell even a darts team. I think that one can find years of reasons to work out by following the crossfit prescription of 'regularly learn[ing] and play[ing] new sports.' I find a lot of satisfaction in seeing kids gasp for breath during flag football games when I feel just dandy.

If worst comes to worst, find satisfaction in the fact that you are doing everything you can to do what humans are genetically programmed to to: survive.
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Old 10-22-2008, 09:26 AM   #9
Raymond Popham
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Re: Defining personal fitness

I also don't have a specific need to Crossfit except to merely stay fit. That doesn't mean I put any less intensity to my workouts. Believe me, I'm a shaking, sweating mess when I'm done with a WOD, I just don't have a specific sport or goal that I'm working out for. Well, I guess i could say that my goal is to do all the WODs as prescribed because that's what I work toward by keeping tabs of the weights and times of all the workouts I do.

I eventually want to practice Muay Thai but that's going to be at least three years from now when I won't be so busy with a wife, kids and college. If anything, me busting out WODs 5 days a week will at least get my basic conditioning to a point where it won't be such a culture shock physically when I start practicing Muay Thai.
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Old 10-22-2008, 10:18 AM   #10
Tom Woodward
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Re: Defining personal fitness

Quote:
Originally Posted by Christopher Day View Post
I have no serious fitness needs in my life. Though I once played many sports, my training is currently the only seriously athletic pursuit in my life.
Hey Chris - Do you have any aspirations to take up new sports? The part of the CrossFit prescription that advises us to regularly learn and play new sports is vastly underrated in my opinion. When you really think about it, CrossFit training puts you in a prime position to learn just about ANYTHING in the sporting world. Cleans, snatches, gymnastics, overhead squats, and deadlifts tune up your body for BJJ, white water kayaking, climbing, surfing, skiing, parkour, football, soccer, tennis, boxing, whatever. You may never become world class, but you'll have a hell of a lot of fun learning them with a background in CF. And in my experience, learning new athletic skills is one of the more enjoyable things about life.

I mention this only because I feel like we're in very similar situations. I'm 25, played sports in high school and college. And for about a year and a half after college, i basically did zero fitness-wise except for working out. No sports at all. I became kind of frustrated and could not really define my goals well since I had nothing on the horizon to train for. Since getting into CrossFit, I've been picking some sports back up. Let me tell you, it's really cool to apply strength, skills and conditioning I've gained through CrossFit to other sports. I joined a tennis league, play pick up basketball, boulder at a climbing gym, and have been going to a gymnastics class. And my golf game, skiing, and swimming has improved a ton. Anyway, this may not answer your question but I wanted to share my .02 since we're kind of in the same boat.
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