Tom Barry
Mon Oct 03, 2016

By Alan Sherry

For this week's workout Wednesday we will take a look at a common issue with a lot of CrossFit gyms' programming and something that seems to be a general consensus among fitness coaches: favoring H.I.I.T type protocols and shorter WODs over longer endurance type pieces.

The reason for this seems twofold, and neither of them are positive:

1) First off, this is an easy, and lazy, way of programming. It is much easier for a coach to put together a couplet or triplet of exercises with a short six or eight minute time cap in the name of 'intensity' than to program longer workouts that suit everybody throughout the training cycle.

2) Secondly, and most obviously, is a serious lack of knowledge with regards human physiology and training adaptations. You will generally get two clients in your facility: those after health and longevity goals, who will make up the majority, and those seeking performance benefits for their respective sports', who for the most part, will be in a minority.

Either way for both of these populations you cannot simply program shorter, higher intense anaerobic conditioning pieces and expect them to achieve their goals.

Athlete's seeking performance benefits will suffer in two ways: they can, depending on how much volume is being put into their respective competitive sports, can easily be lead into an overtrained state due to too much unnecessary accumulative fatigue. Some day's exactly what they will need is much lower intensive aerobic work, as either a means of restorative CNS activity, or to increase underlying GPP to be able to handle the higher heart rate competitive workloads.

General clients, leading on from that second point, who are after health and longevity benefits should be doing larger volumes of this type of work and concentrating on higher heart rate work can be missing the point of training completely.

What we are essentially talking about with regards 'health and longevity' from a conditioning perspective is an increase in cardiac function due to positive adaptations in both muscle and peripheral tissues. And these adaptations DO NOT come from higher intense work. You MUST be working at lower intensities here, roughly 70% of your max heart rate, to induce these kind of positive health outcomes. This lower level work directly leads to eccentric cardiac hypertrophy with the supporting vascular network also increasing to support this demand, unlike what happens with anaerobic work.

So think about this: how many workouts at your gym are 30-60mins in length with an emphasis on keeping your heart rate between that sweet spot of 130-150bpm?!

Next time you're doing a twenty or thirty minute 'aerobic session' maybe stick on a heart rate monitor and see, you'll be suprised how quickly your heart rate exceeds these zones.

You should not be solely, or even mostly, training at or above threshold for your weekly conditioning work.

And if you are, ask your coach why, and when they fail to give you an answer that doesn't sound a lot like the two reasons stated above, find a coach and gym that knows better.