Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Odds and Ends

A month or so ago we did a Mountain Movement course here in Canmore, which was a lot of fun, and I learned a lot. One of the participants wrote up a really funny report on the experience, love it! "Gravel Boarding," ha ha! Can't wait to build the "Playground" up again, I have some new ideas for torture...

I'm playing with some new ideas in climbing training. I've spent 25+ years climbing, so my movement patterns are half decent I think. Unfortunately, due to a few injuries, other sports, etc., my climbing fitness is pretty weak right now. Normally I start with a very high volume base cycle, but I have limited time right now as well as some decent base fitness from other sports, time for a plan B. I've been doing relatively short but higher intensity sessions in the climbing gym, trying to pack larger volumes of movement into shorter periods. The classic version of this type of exercise is the 4x4, but my goals involve longer days on terrain up to 5.12, I don't think I need more power endurance than I have right now, just more endurance and the ability to absolutely blast pitches. What I really is another gear, another way to put out more watts faster in a shorter time period.

My experiences with both Crossfit and training "long-interval" style for the dZi Foundation 24-hour climb have led me toward trying to do bigger sets of fast intervals and then adding a "big gear" load on the end of each total interval. I really felt this gave me one hell of a base for the 24-hour climb, and that's sort of (no more 24-hour stuff though!) where my head is at. So 4x4s with heavy kettlebell swings as the fifth station to totally fry my system, or a long traverse with thrusters at the end to mess me up. One thing I've noticed with doing intervals is that the ability to handle that kind of "Now we're going to gasp for three minutes!!!" load responds much better to training than I used to think, and unlike many forms of training the response isn't sports specific. Putting out at an anaerobic level is a skill, whether it's racing up a pitch or doing thrusters. Anyhow, it's an idea, we'll see how it goes...

I'm also not happy with my definition of fitness from the last post. I think I missed a few things, namely that there is a sort of "base" fitness level where the participant is fully functional, meaning not grossly overweight, can move up stairs quickly without gasping, etc. My definition is more based around athletic expression, which is a narrower definition. I'll keep working on my definition, but it's not as good as it should be yet.

Time to go get after it!


Anonymous said...

I think you kind of touched on the definition of fitness in this article, but missed it a little bit in your last post. There is a base fitness, that allows you be be as functional in the most disciplines as possible. If you are a single sport athlete, I think you have sport specific fitness goals, and you train for those goals to maximize your performance in that sport. But, I think where CrossFit does nail the definitiion of fitness is the ability to do any number of things better than average. Maybe the CrossFit games don't capture this, but the foundation of their workout programming and philosophy does. That kind of programming, might not make you the best sprinter, the best swimmer, the best climber, the strongest lifter etc. etc. But I could easily go run 10 miles, do a long day of moderate multi-pitch climbing, spend an afternoon kayaking, or just go lift heavy without having to train specifically for those events. And it's because of a base level of non-sport specific fitness. The trade-off is you will never be elite at anything, but will be the better than average jack-of-all-trades at most things. I think CF described it once as having 20 exercises in the hopper, and the sprinter is hoping you pull out that one ball that says run 400m. I am hoping you pull any of the other 19 balls.

Will Gadd said...

Anon, why do individual Crossfitters always think they are the first and only people to ever read the Crossfit Journal or touch a bumper plate? If you actually read what I wrote I think you'll see that I've put a lot of effort into doing, reading and actively engaging with CF, comments regurgitating the journal completely misses what I'm writing about.

CF is hands-down the best general training regime I've ever seen, and I think the average "gym" is a waste of space in comparison, OK? Trying to move to a deeper understand of CF and sports training is not a critique of CF for Christ's sake, it's high praise. Don't parrot the gospel like some backwoods bible beater, THINK.

Having only 20 skills is a pretty slim quantity compared to the several thousand or hundreds of thousands of potential options out there. But, compared to the average human, the CFer will be fitter than the average dough boy on the street, fair enough.

As for being above average at everything, no, you get to be above average by training a sport, not general training. Anyone who can't understand that is not using his or her head.

I'm going to give one final example to make this point clear: There's a local gymnastics club in my town. The average skinny little kid there would absolutely destroy the average CFer in gymnastics movements. Take any sport you want to and put a CF developed athlete into it and he or she is unlikely to be "average." But, as you say, that athlete will do OK at a lot of stuff, and that's cool. Let CF be what it is, which is a great base for a lot of sports, or a sport in its own right, cool!

Ryan said...

As the previous anon poster (the name is Ryan, and my wife just showed me how to not publish as anonymous). I don't disagree with anything you said, and was not intending to advocate/defend CrossFit as the end all be all, or even regurgitate their doctrine. I don't think individual CF's are the only people to read the journal, and knowing your support of the general programming is why I wanted to hear more of your thoughts on the topic. To be honest, I would agree with your past critiques of it. (I constantly have to supplement CF with running and other activities) Although, I do think that their basic concept is solid, and having read most of your blogs over the year, think you agree.

That's why I wanted to engage in your ongoing discussion, and see what you thought is a possible way to define or measure fitness, especially separate from a specific skill set or sport (if possible), whether that be running, climbing, CrossFit or golf.

I simply think the concept of what defines fitness is an interesting problem, and it's difficult to grasp. For example, is a top tier golfer considered fit because he does his sport/skill better than anyone? It seems fitness is situational, but it shouldn't's just difficult to measure. (That's why I even bring up CF as an example...they have a definition of fitness as GPP.)

There has to be some type of universal/generally accepted idea what what constitutes fitness. I think we would agree to some extent it has to do with general concepts like muscle strength, muscle endurance, aerobic capacity, etc. etc. But how do you measure that, without making it skill or situational specific (like the CrossFit games has).

And once you are able to measure and define it, is it possible to train general fitness without being sport specific?

Most of these are rhetorical questions, but I think your last few blogs on what is fitness, how do you measure, and train it are very interesting and thought provoking on the theoretical questioning of what is fitness.

Thanks for the response.


Anonymous said...

The idea "there has to be some type of universal/generally accepted idea what what constitutes fitness" is is getting old. Sure, it's pretty easy to define fitness on a basic level, such as comparing a fat couch potato to somebody who can walk across town. But trying to define, at the elite level, who's the "fittest athlete" is simply never going to work because there simply too many different criteria--many of which are in opposition to each other. For example, a fit climber needs to be relatively light, while a fit swimmer needs to somewhat heavy. The climber will have buff calves, the swimmer not so much.

The whole CF "fittest athlete" concept is nothing more than a bunch of self-congratulatory fluff and marketing hype.

When I can do the things that I want to, I'm fit. When I can't, I'm not. There's no point in comparing my fitness level to people in other disciplines.

olddude said...

It's one of those questions that is only useful in the context of contemplating it and not the answer you come up with.The question of what are the components is useful to answer.What tools should I have in my tool box?Answerable.What is the best one? Depends on what your building.Beyond that,demanding an answer with all the specifics laid out leads to religious warfare and genocide.Having said that,if you have to come up with a definition because you are writing a book,anything you(WIL) come up with will be better than 99% of the rest of us and God will forgive you.