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July 1, 2013

Tips on Training for the Open

Written by Damect Dominguez

How do you train and what do you eat?

Those are the most commonly asked questions of CrossFit Games competitors.
From almond butter to post workout supplements, the dilemma of 1-a-days versus 2-a-days, no one games competitor is alike. However, there are some similarities and general advice that many agree on.

In light of the upcoming Open this March, Cheryl Brost, Jaime Gold, Aja Barto, Phillip Kniep and Scott Panchik share their experiences and coaching secrets for training to be the best.

Aja prowler2Aja Barto,

21st place 2012 CrossFit Games

How are you preparing for the 2013 Games season?

AB: I’m basically doing something daily, usually twice a day except for my rest days: Wednesday and Sunday. I do a lot of Olympic work throughout the week, with some sort of heavy snatch, clean and jerk and squats. I’ve cut back my conditioning to about 2-4 WODs a week, knowing that this is not a priority as of now. I have also incorporated more sports into my routine: sand volleyball, squash, trail riding, running, etc.

What training advice would you give an athlete who is eager to compete?

AB: Honestly, I think there should be a lot of time spent developing and executing skills efficiently and moving well, rather than just met-conning oneself to death. Putting movements into a fatigued state when there is little foundation of proper mechanics can lead to a shortened career in CrossFit, regardless of whether you CrossFit for fun, for health or for sport. I think newer athletes are quick to add volume, thinking it will do the trick, but sometimes they end up hurting themselves more than helping. I’d go down the road of working smarter rather than harder.

What’s your advice for the average CrossFitter who is thinking of increasing their volume?

AB: It’s OK, but this goes back to listening to your body. If you are overdoing it and feeling a little beat up, back off for a day or so and incorporate some active recovery or skill building days rather than just “WODing.” Take your recovery seriously if you are an avid CrossFitter and have fun with it.

jamie1Jaime Gold,

31st place 2012 CrossFit Games

What is your training schedule like right now?

JG: I train five days a week, typically strength or Oly followed by some sort of met-con or explosive work. The workouts are usually all two-a-days and are meant to be done within a three-hour break between the strength and workout, but that never happens because I’m a crazy student and have to cram it all in one session!

What advice would you give an athlete wanting to compete?

JG: Adopt some sort of strength program into the daily routine. Talk to your coaches and let them guide you, they can be a huge help! The met-con is definitely important, but it seems to be the trend to keep increasing the weight for competitions. Increases in training volume are also beneficial for competition because it almost mimics that environment, if you have never done a two-a-day and show up to a competition with three WODs, you are in for a rude awakening.

What does overtraining mean to you?

JG: One of the first signs of overtraining is a decrease in the enjoyment of CrossFit. Typically by the time you start seeing a decline in performance you are already overtrained. Listening to your body is key. When you’re injured, it is imperative that you seek the right attention and listen to what you are being asked to do.

scot p2Scott Panchik,

4th place 2012 CrossFit Games

What training advice would you give an athlete who is eager to compete?

SP: The first thing I would recommend is to find an Olympic lifting coach, and become more technically sound in all areas of Olympic lifting. Also, working out at a CrossFit affiliate and competing on a regular basis is going to make you a better CrossFitter. Programming is key to success. Most individuals who program for themselves have a tendency to favor movements and workouts that they are good at. Find a coach or a knowledgeable athlete to do your programming for you.

What separates a competitive athlete from an average CrossFitter?

SP: I think that all CrossFitters share the same excitement for fitness. What separates competitive athletes from the average CrossFitters is simply their goals. Some CrossFitters are training to win the CrossFit Games, while others are training for life. Either way I think they are more alike than different. Competition is everywhere in life and I believe CrossFit teaches us all how to become winners.

cheryl12Cheryl Brost,

15th place 2012 CrossFit Games

What’s your training schedule leading up to the Open?

CB: In the off-season, I typically train five days a week with Thursday and Sunday as rest days. However, during the Games season, my rest days are Mondays and Thursdays. This allows my body to get used to training heavy on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays. On a rest day, I may do some swimming or light running.

What advice would you give an athlete who wants to compete, even at the local level.

CB: I would suggest to get plugged in with a class at your box that is going to provide you with the best competitive environment for your situation. Surround yourself with individuals that you can learn from and will push you day in and day out. The first two years of competing I basically followed our general programming at Eugene CrossFit, and it worked pretty darn well for me. I would add some Wendler strength cycles and skill work but that was about it. I think for the most part, one can just do CrossFit and it’s going to do a great job of preparing them extremely well for any local competition and the Open.

Any “been there, done that” lessons you’ve learned the hard way from training incorrectly, overtraining, or from not training hard enough?

CB: Most definitely. For instance back in January 2012, I was feeling great and was beginning to amp up my training volume for the Games season. Before I knew it, I had gone nine days straight without taking a rest day. I found myself amidst a benchmark workout, “Barbara”, and I can distinctly recall my shoulder hurting and I was having a difficult time finding a comfortable position for my hands on the hand-release pushups. In hindsight, I would have never gone that many days without a rest; and secondly, I should have stopped and listened to my body that day.

phillip clean2Phillip Kniep,

28th place 2012 CrossFit Games

How have you trained in preparation for the 2013 Open?

PK: Currently I follow a 3 on 1 off, 2 on 1 off cycle. Everyday I’ll work on Oly lifting followed by strength work, which primarily includes back squats, front squats, etc., with a conditioning workout that doesn’t normally go over 15 minutes. I will increase the volume and the number of WODs during the week when we draw closer to competition time.

How does an athlete get better at CrossFit in order to compete?

PK: I would advise strength work at least four times per week. If their goal is to get stronger, I would recommend NOT doing two-a-days. It is very difficult to build strength when you’re doing a lot of met-cons. It’s not impossible, but it’s tough. I’d tell them to focus on strength/skill work for most of the off-season. Then I would increase the number of WODs per week about 4-6 weeks out from a big competition.

Some may call CrossFit an “addiction”—training is fun. How much should an athlete train?

PK: We all need to remember that 99% of the population is not Rich Froning. His volume would kill most people. Literally. Rich has been given a gift to be able to handle a ton of workouts in a day. Overtraining will depend on the person. Generally, the ‘average’ CrossFitter does not need to do more than one workout session per day. That may include strength, skill, and conditioning within an hour and a half time frame. The CrossFitter interested in competition may want to split that into two sessions. Strength and skill work in the morning (maybe a short met-con once or twice a week), then a longer conditioning WOD in the afternoon.

Feeling inspired yet? Check out this training session featuring Aja Barto:

About Damect Dominguez

Co-founder of BoxLife Magazine. Author: Training Day: 400+ Workouts to Incorporate in Your Training.

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