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Old 05-18-2009, 07:51 AM   #1
Scott Robison
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New guy with an endurance background... again

So I'm sure this has been discussed ad nauseam, but I haven't been able to find my answer, so here goes.

I'm coming to CrossFit with a strong background as a middle-distance runner. I love the workouts and exercises, and I want to improve my overall fitness, but I am not strong enough to get taxed during the metcon workouts if I use the appropriate weight scalings (from BrandX).

I guess I see a few options here. First, I could go do a SS block and try again in a couple of months. Second, I could try some variation on CFSB or CFFB which includes a strength component and a metcon component that I might be able to scale to my abilities. Third, I could stick with the BrandX scalings and either do them as written, or use Puppy weights and Pack reps (or similar).

What do you guys think would be the best option, or is there a fourth that I haven't thought of. Thanks for your input.
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Old 05-18-2009, 08:34 AM   #2
Eric Montgomery
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Re: New guy with an endurance background... again

Depends what your goals are. If you do SS, be prepared to lose a lot of your metcon ability. Granted, you'll probably add 50+lbs to all your slow lifts in a month, but your metcon capacity will drop significantly. CFSB and CFFB are geared towards more experienced CFers who want to get better at moving heavy weights while maintaining metcon capacity, so I wouldn't push a beginning CFer in that direction.

Your experience level isn't totally clear, but it looks like you're fairly new to strength work. That means your learning curve and gains will be very steep just by doing the mainpage WODs and scaling with BrandX as necessary. Scale the workouts as necessary so you still get a metcon smoking from them...i.e. rather than doing Fran or Grace as Rx'd in 20 minutes, reduce the weight so you're in the 6-10 minute range on them. Being smart with the weights you use will also help prevent injury.

If you can find an affiliate nearby, I'd recommend working out with them so you can get another set of eyes on your technique...it'll really be helpful if you can do that before you start to develop any bad habits on your own. If you can't find (or afford) an affiliate, watch all the videos you can off Exercises and Demos (WFS), buy and read Starting Strength (for the technique, not necessarily the programming), and post videos of yourself to the Digital Coaching forum.
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Old 05-18-2009, 11:05 AM   #3
Scott Robison
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Re: New guy with an endurance background... again

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Your experience level isn't totally clear, but it looks like you're fairly new to strength work.
Good point. How about this: Press 85, all rounds for Tabata squats 16+, I do 3 rounds of the CFWU with 10 kipping pull-ups unbroken, 3:05 Grace with an empty bar, and 15 rounds of Cindy with a 1-4-7 scaling, and the push-ups were the limiter. It's not much, but it's what I've got to go by. Does that help?

As for goals, I'm not sure I have anything specific other than improve the other 8 or 9 areas of fitness that I've not been training. I know that when I am running a lot, my back feels better if I have been deadlifting regularly, but I guess I don't have anything well defined. I am moving out to Portland, OR this summer and I want to get back into climbing which I haven't done in almost a year, so maybe 5.10d/V4 is are good goals?
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Old 05-18-2009, 11:24 AM   #4
Eric Montgomery
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Re: New guy with an endurance background... again

I didn't notice your height and weight the first time--at 5'10" and 140lbs, your weight is going to limit your strength gains significantly. Unless you're looking to be an elite mid-distance runner, I'd recommend gaining 20-30lbs as a start. Extra mass will help you improve your work capacity and the other 9 measures of fitness. Check out the Nutrition board for information on diet--given your current numbers your best bet is to eat as much quality food as you can handle without even thinking about macronutrient ratios for now. Go Paleo first with lots of meat, eggs, and fat, then Zone later if at all. The weight you put on isn't going to be 100% lean but that's ok...it's nearly impossible to gain weight without putting on a little fat, and the fat isn't going to hurt your performance on anything other than maybe a 10K. Once you get some weight on you can tweak your diet a little to lean out if that's what you want.

If you hope to be an above-average distance runner and get stronger for climbing, I'd stick to doing BrandX WODs scaled to your level for 3-4 days per week and maybe throwing in 1-2 CFE WODs per week.

Keep a log of all your WODs--I'm thinking you'll see pretty drastic improvements over your first few months.
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Old 05-18-2009, 12:59 PM   #5
Scott Robison
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Re: New guy with an endurance background... again

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I didn't notice your height and weight the first time--at 5'10" and 140lbs, your weight is going to limit your strength gains significantly. Unless you're looking to be an elite mid-distance runner, I'd recommend gaining 20-30lbs as a start. Extra mass will help you improve your work capacity and the other 9 measures of fitness.
I'm still on the fence about this. To me, functional strength means the strength to do the things I want to do, and right now that still includes running fast. I'm sure some gain will be generally beneficial without hurting my running, but I don't think I'm willing to trade a 5 min Fran as Rx'd for a 1:58 800. On the other hand, if I do this right, maybe the two aren't mutually exclusive.
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Old 05-18-2009, 01:43 PM   #6
Eric Montgomery
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Re: New guy with an endurance background... again

It all depends on your goals--once you have them set, then your workouts are just a means to that end.

But I'd say a 5 min Fran and a 1:58 800m aren't mutually exclusive in the way that a 4 min mile and 600lb deadlift would be--Fran is pretty much a suckfest of a sprint and the leg strength and metcon capacity to finish her quickly would transfer nicely over to an 800m. I'm sure the Josh Everett/Speal types could run an 800 in that neighborhood, and their Frans are pushing 2 minutes. I'm far from a firebreather myself and haven't run an 800 for time lately, but can turn a 4 min Fran and 5ish-min mile without doing any running aside from the 400s and 800s that pop up on WODs.

I think all the squats, deadlifts, rowing, KB swings, C&J, box jumps, etc. that you'll do on a daily basis with the WODs will help your running in any distance from a 100 to a mile, and you'll see quick strength gains in most of your lifts given your limited experience. Gaining mass will be a function of how much you eat--but I think even an extra 10lbs would be a big boost for all your power-related numbers without hurting your distance running too bad.

Granted, a world record holder in the 800 (WFS) is pretty waifish looking given that he's a specialist, but an amazingly fast 400 runner (WFS) can be built like a tank and still probably run a sub 2:00 800. I'd wager a paycheck that the 400 runner has a higher work capacity than the 800 runner and would wipe the floor with him on any physical task other than an 800+ run.
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Old 05-19-2009, 09:40 AM   #7
Jared Ashley
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Re: New guy with an endurance background... again

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Originally Posted by Scott Robison View Post
I'm still on the fence about this. To me, functional strength means the strength to do the things I want to do, and right now that still includes running fast. I'm sure some gain will be generally beneficial without hurting my running, but I don't think I'm willing to trade a 5 min Fran as Rx'd for a 1:58 800. On the other hand, if I do this right, maybe the two aren't mutually exclusive.
Hmm... you said in an earlier post that you're "not strong enough to be taxed during a metcon". I'm trying to understand what you mean. Are you saying that the (scaled) Rx'd weight is high enough that you are very quickly forced to do singles and doubles, so the rest time between reps prevents you from gassing your cardiovascular system?

If that's the case, I suspect you've got plenty of strength to gain without adding all that much mass. You seem to be built like me, just slightly taller... I used to be 125 and 5'7". The truth about guys like us is that the idea of "adding 20-30 lbs right from the start" is absurd... the body won't do it without a massive over-consumption of food (like GOMAD). I've added a whopping 10 lbs through various strength-biased approaches to CF, but have easily doubled or tripled my major lifts. I can do almost every WOD without scaling, usually coming out somewhere in the middle of the posted times.

My advice is to scale the metcon weights to something you can manage and gasses the hell out of you. Keep a workout log, and whenever a WOD repeats, add weight; your time will probably increase, don't worry about it. You will start a slow crawl toward Rx'd weights. If you're eating enough, you'll probably add a few lbs early on, but it'll level out quickly unless you start eating even more... use your diet to moderate weight gain. I suspect (though perhaps I'm wrong) that you can handle another 5-10 lbs of muscle without harming your running times. If you were posting 1:45 800's it probably wouldn't be true, but at 1:58 I think you can. Just make sure you continue to train your sprints; in the beginning especially, you'll probably have to skip some of the daily WOD's in favor of sprint training, rather than trying to do both at the same time.
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Old 05-19-2009, 04:30 PM   #8
Júlíus Magnússon
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Re: New guy with an endurance background... again

85lb press?

In the long run, you're better off doing an SS cycle for several months before turning to something more CrossFitesque.

Or if you really enjoy running, you could subscribe to the CrossFit Journal, read the CrossFit Strength Bias article and do something similar to that with 50-400m intervals being some of your short metcons. It probably won't pay off as well in the long run, but you'll probably enjoy it more.

In either case, you should read the Starting Strength book by Rippetoe and Kilgore at least a couple of times. The foundation it builds for the basic barbell exercises is invaluable to a newbie.

Which is another reason why the Starting Strength cycle is a good choice for a newbie, it gives you a lot of time to work on the basic lifts and nail your form down which has a great carry over to most of the CrossFit movements.
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Old 05-20-2009, 07:54 PM   #9
Scott Robison
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Re: New guy with an endurance background... again

So in the spirit of scaling things so that I'm totally gased, I did Fran tonight, 12-9-6 with an empty bar in 2:41. That sure did the trick. I took a couple of 5 breath pauses so I could keep moving, but I was working pretty hard the whole but still felt like I could finish.

The next time this workout comes up, would it make more sense to keep the rep scheme and up the weight, or keep the weight and up the reps to something like 15-12-9?
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Old 05-21-2009, 07:19 AM   #10
Jared Ashley
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Re: New guy with an endurance background... again

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So in the spirit of scaling things so that I'm totally gased, I did Fran tonight, 12-9-6 with an empty bar in 2:41. That sure did the trick. I took a couple of 5 breath pauses so I could keep moving, but I was working pretty hard the whole but still felt like I could finish.

The next time this workout comes up, would it make more sense to keep the rep scheme and up the weight, or keep the weight and up the reps to something like 15-12-9?
Sounds like fun!

Since your ultimate goals are more sprint/metcon related then pure strength related, I would opt to bump reps before weight. Once you get to 21-15-9 start adding weight, maybe 10 lbs at a time.

Even if all your workouts are in the light/puppy range like this for now, you should be adding strength at a pretty good clip. There are, after all, about 5-6 pure strength days a month, plus you can practice form on the heavy lifts within a warm-up. Other non-traditional strength work like planche/lever progressions, handstand practice, TGU's, OHS, ect can be part of a warm-up too.
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