Monday, March 10, 2008

Training Frequency - a natural precription

The other day I pointed to the Crossfit "World Class Fitness in 100 Words" as a good summary of where I am getting to in my thoughts about training and diet. I noted that there are some modifications that I might make but overall it is an excellent précis.

One of the things that I think is not that well developed in the Crossfit manifesto is the idea of training frequency and indeed the relationship between frequency and intensity. All their statement says is :

Five or six days per week mix these elements in as many combinations and patterns as creativity will allow. Routine is the enemy. Keep workouts short and intense.

Fair enough, but from my own training experience, the research and the ability to live a normal life, I think that training hard and intensely "5 or 6 days" a week is not the best solution.

This is where I think the thoughts of Art Devany are useful. One of the ideas that he proposes in his essay "Evolutionary Fitness" is that we would do well to look at optimal human activity patterns in terms of a "power law" distribution. This is a concept that he develops more in a post on his blog today:

Power Laws in Nature

The idea - in a simplified form - is that as the intensity of your exercise increases, its frequency should fall. You will get lots of rest, lots of easy low intensity movement and a few random bursts of hard, high intensity exercise.

Combine brief, but intense, work outs in a gym (the FT zone) with a wide variety of activities that mix intensity and duration randomly (mixing the IT and ST zones with brief spurts into the FT zone). Roller blading, bicycling, walking, sprinting, tennis, basketball, power walking, hitting softballs and so on are the sorts of activities that mix IT and ST fibers with intermittent FT action.

There is no hard and fast prescription to all this - it is about randomness, intermittency, a routine lack of routine. I try to put this into practice through lots of walking, daily balance exercises and a couple of gym/weight sessions a week, one interval based trying to work on VO2 max, one strength/power focussed. Always using "functional" movements - basically what Chek describes as primal patterns:

I’ve proposed that any primal man or woman who could not perform any of the primal patterns (squat, lunge, bend, push, pull, twist and gait) from a standing position, would have perished.

Read the post and the essay. Interesting and thought provoking.

Back to the Crossfit statement - "Routine is the enemy" needs to apply to intensity as well as other parameters.


Anonymous said...

Nicely put.

I have to say that, although I'm impressed with many aspects of CrossFit, there is a cultlike vibe to the whole thing that I find extremely off-putting. They don't seem to be very strong in the self-criticism department.

Last night, I watched a CrossFit video where one of their star trainers, Nicole Carroll, addressed the issue of nutrition. She mentioned the phenomenon of CrossFitters whose performance improves for a while and then falters, which she blamed on their failure to follow CrossFit's dietary recommendations.

She didn't seem to be open to the idea that what they were seeing was good old-fashioned overtraining. Sure, the genetically gifted can push themselves that hard fix or six days a week. But for the other 99.8% of us, that's a recipe for overtraining.

Anyway, good point.

Chris said...

Thanks for the comment. Good point about the dangers of overtraining if you just do the Crossfit WOD as written.

Dave Clary said...

I don't think you can decide upon a training regimen without taking into account the purpose of that training. If the training is a means to an end such as a sport requiring extreme endurance, or many short bursts of intense activity, then that might require different training than someone who is just looking for a lifetime of functional strength. I'm definitely in the latter category which is why my program is based primarily on Art's program, but borrows form Crossfit and Gym Jones. It's a good way to keep the variety going.


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