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Andrew G Parker 05-30-2014 10:58 PM

Prescribed vs. scale/ strength vs. cardio
I have been doing CrossFit for 13 months. Initially, I had to scale everything. At this point I generally do 2/3rds of the WODs or so prescribed. Starting in, I was weak and my cardio was pathetic. I have gained some strength: a 45% improvement in my 3x5 squats (up to 116 kilo/255 lbs), 50% improvement in 5 rep maxes for deadlifts (up to 150 kilo/330 lbs), etc…

Today we did a WOD (as well as some core work, and a rowing tabata) that entailed 3 rounds of 6 deadlifts, 6 high pulls, 6 front squats, 6 push jerks, and 6 back squats. The weight was 60 kilo/132 lbs. I didn’t find the weight to be so much the problem, and my technique was good throughout, but I got so winded that I had to pause often to catch my breath. So I was struggling with failing, not because of muscle fatigue, but for lack of air. It took me almost 15 minutes to complete, while the other guys who did it prescribed were in the 6 ½ to 8 minute range. I find that is often the case. I was happy to do Murph last Saturday, prescribed, but it took me forever (72 min). In all fairness, muscle fatigue played a bit more into Murph.

I find strength still limiting in many movements. I can’t do handstand push ups, unassisted dips, and can do only a limited number of strict pull ups. A muscle up is something I’d like to accomplish by year end. My cardio still seems to hold me back in most WODs. I am seeking opinions. Do I drop weight and go for more reps and better speed? In my mind the purpose of that would be to increase my respiration and heart rate, which should benefit my cardio. On the other hand, doing prescribed WODs when I can, even though slower and with lower reps, I still end up puffing like a steam locomotive and my heart rate does definitely increase, so I don’t know whether it is still a gain. I do seem to recover within a few minutes after ending (cardio, not muscles—they take longer to recover).

I would like to continue to get stronger and have a lot of room to do so, but also need to get my cardio better. Do I stick with what I’m doing? Or, do I scale and go for higher reps and lower times? Your responses will be appreciated.

BTW: I am 50 years old, had a good 15-20 years of sedentary living before starting CrossFit, and at 5’8” and 200 lbs am on the high side of the wrong kind of heavy.

Comments will be appreciated.

Steven Wingo 05-31-2014 02:56 AM

Re: Prescribed vs. scale/ strength vs. cardio
You said the weight wasn't really the problem, you were just too winded throughout. If that is true then it lends me to believe the weight is o.k. for you on that workout and you just need to keep working to improve your cardio fitness. If you were having to stop because the weight was heavy, and you can only do a few reps at a time, then I'd say drop the weight--but that doesn't seem to be the case with this particular workout.

Try going slower next time and just smoothing out the reps so you don't have rest so much. Strategy might help you finish faster. Watch some video of Froning in the regionals and see how he often starts workouts slower than others. He is a master of picking a sustainable pace so that he maintains it when others get too gassed and start to slow down.

Greg Spaight 05-31-2014 05:22 AM

Re: Prescribed vs. scale/ strength vs. cardio
Just because you can lift the rx weight doesn't mean you should flounder around with it during the wod/metcon. WFS

Andrew G Parker 05-31-2014 08:45 AM

Re: Prescribed vs. scale/ strength vs. cardio
Pacing is something I could work on. Because the weight was light for deadlifts and highpulls, I did blast through them very quickly and that left me set up winded for the rest. It is something I run into with box jumps and a number of other movements as well. In some I see I've learned to slow down a bit and more consistently accomplish reps. It is something I obviously need to do with barbell work as well. It is in my nature to try to sprint. I've not the conditioning do do that in most of the WODs.

Greg, if by floundering, you are referencing a compromise of technique, I agree. I'm pretty religious about technique and will stop and drop weight in a workout if I start getting sloppy. We warm up to the WOD weight and then do the full range with that weight. It helps us to know if it is realistic for us. Our coach really won't allow us to mess with this. If we start trying to muscle up our cleans rather than dropping under the bar, for example, he will correct us pretty quickly. Good technique makes it easier (a relative term) anyway. That article does seem to be written for me.

I think you are both right. I need to slow down, and in some workouts, I need to go lighter. We have strength training outside of the WOD, so I may need to adjust my mentality of using the WOD to build strength. It will do that no doubt, but in my case it is not what I should focus on. Much appreciated.

Joe Spinelli 06-01-2014 09:07 PM

Re: Prescribed vs. scale/ strength vs. cardio
I'm curious about your current routine. How many WOD's are you doing per week? What, if any, work are you doing besides the WOD's to work on your wind?

Looking at that workout, there is really no rest. 135 may seem light for the dead lifts, and maybe even for the sumos, but there is NO rest in that WOD. That is where pacing becomes important. You can't get ahead of your wind or it is very difficult to recover.

Tell us a little bit about your 74 minute Murph. How do you break up the sets? I did 5 pull-ups, 10 push-ups and 15 squats for 20 rounds. Did you do all 100 pull-ups first? What were your run times? What took the longest?

I have found that there are somedays where I probably **could** do the prescribed weight, but it might take forever. In these chases, I split it up 50/50. Half the time I do the RX weight and just do it slower. The other half I do a lighter weight but try and really sprint through it. It should be one or the other I think.

Also, I suffered from many of the same problems until I worked up to 5 days a week. Since then, I've really improved a lot.

Good luck!

Andrew G Parker 06-02-2014 11:04 AM

Re: Prescribed vs. scale/ strength vs. cardio
I do three WODs a week. We spend probably 15- 20 minutes on weights as well (usually before the WOD) and may have a tabata, dead bugs, some specific technique work, etc... Last summer and fall, I did extra strength conditioning on a couple of off days. If I can get my insane work schedule tightened down, I will probably go back to it. It made a huge difference in my technique. That contributed to strength, which is good, but not to the cardio.

I've not been doing any cardio outside of the box and no doubt that will have to happen if I am going to really continue to improve like I would like.

I did Murph prescribed. 1 mile run, 100 pull ups, 200 push ups, 300 squats, and another mile. I am not a fast runner, so that no doubt ate up the time. Pull ups: I did a few reps of five and then the lion's share of three pull ups with maybe 5 to 10 seconds rest between sets. My hands tore up a bit at about 80 and the last fourteen I would do one, drop for a couple of seconds and then do another. Push ups, I believe, were what took me the longest. I did them in sets of 5 to 10 at a time, but that was where the muscle fatigue got me the worst. Squats I hammered out at around 30 at a time. I got a pretty good knot in my right glute about half way through those and it took me about a quarter of a mile of the last run for it to workout enough so I could actually run.

That is the only time I've done a hero WOD without some significant scaling and will no doubt continue to be for some time. I did Murph knowing it would take a long time and that it wouldn't give me the best benefits of a workout. Murph is just a personal thing for me. Lt. Michael Murphy's story resonates with me and I just wanted to push my self through it out of respect for that guy and his team. Next year (assuming some improvements) I may even do it with a 20 lb vest to more closely mimic his "body armor" workout. It is my sacrifice workout where I will sacrifice the physical benefits for the mental benefits of pushing through it.

With the input so far on this thread, I am going to start scaling more and I know I have to get some cardio in out of the box. I will also probably add weights back in on off days. I enjoyed it a lot.

Joe Spinelli 06-02-2014 02:39 PM

Re: Prescribed vs. scale/ strength vs. cardio
I agree with you about Murph - it is a total mind game and thinking about the hero's that lost their lives help us all push through when we want to quit.

Unless your box specifically does not allow it, I would do Murph as 20 sets of 5 pull-ups, 10 pushups and 15 squats. We have some guys that do it straight through (all 100 pullups, then all 200 push-ups), but I don't think that is a good idea for me or you. We are trying to get through it and resting your hands while doing squats and your legs while doing pull-ups is a great advantage. Check out the Murph thread in the "workout of the day" section and you will see that most break it up somehow.

Remember to gauge your progress against yourself. You cannot necessarily say "I'm not getting better because I cannot catch Steve." The thing is that Steve is in there making improvements too, so catching someone you use as a benchmark is tough without some extra work outside of the box.

Keep track of your progress in MyWod or with a notebook and I bet you are improving more than you think.

Andrew G Parker 06-02-2014 08:09 PM

Re: Prescribed vs. scale/ strength vs. cardio
We were encouraged to do Murph however we wanted. As I did, as I did but scaled, 20 rounds of Cindy, as partners or team, partial. Just come participate I just wanted to do it as I did. I am getting better at not comparing myself to others. I realize that I'm actually doing pretty decent for my age (given how long I basically sat at a desk and had little activity) compared to the twenty somethings. I have felt that I am plateauing on the cardio so that prompted the original post. I've noticed, tracking my tabatas, that I've not improved in many of those over the past 6 months. And of course, the ever present windedness during the WODs. All of our results are tracked by the box and we can access them through the website. I've gotten some great advice on this thread and think that it lend to more improvements.

Brendan McNamar 06-03-2014 05:20 AM

Re: Prescribed vs. scale/ strength vs. cardio
I know you side work is demanding but mathematically if you go from averaging 3 WODs a week to 4 WODs a week it is a 33% increase. Makes a big difference. Even if you added a day of varied running once a week that would help.

At 5'8" and 200 with your strength numbers I'm guessing there is a fair amount of body fat to drop. Get serious about your diet. At 5'11" and just shy of 200 I'm about #10 heavier then the last time I did Murph. I felt every one of those #10.

The last thought is everyone gets hung up on RX weights but really there are RX times as well. To truly RX a WOD you need three things:

1) Full weight
2) 100% reps with good form
3) Hit the correct time domain range

I would recommend some days go for RX weight and other days go for RX time with less weight.

If you never do a sub 4 minute Grace you will never improve at going all out for 4 minutes.

Train smart and understand time domains.

Miles Roberts 06-03-2014 06:34 AM

Re: Prescribed vs. scale/ strength vs. cardio

Originally Posted by Brendan McNamar (Post 1233054)

Train smart and understand time domains.

If you have some time, I would love to hear a more thorough explanation of this. Not necessarily asking you to type it out, but maybe point me somewhere? Many thanks.

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