In Athletes, Videos

June 30, 2010

Video Article

Dave Castro is back with a group of top CrossFit athletes for a round-table discussion of training methodologies. Many of the athletes are preparing for the 2010 CrossFit Games.

In Part 1, the conversation turns toward the elusive subject of training volume, which proves to be a hot topic. Pat Barber defends the low-volume approach with a focus on intensity, while others in the crowd seem convinced that a strength-biased program is the best system. Chris Spealler, on the other hand, favors attacking his weaknesses as the best approach for rounding out his physical package.

In Part 2, the firebreathers talk about the people they choose to spend their gym time with. Some have regular workout partners, while others have small groups that get together to motivate each other.

In Part 3, the athletes discuss the desire to get in the gym and hit a workout hard. Every athlete involved in the discussion has occasional trouble with motivation, and each approach to that situation is as different as the athletes themselves. Many find the pressure of constant improvement crushing, while some find the repetition of testing and re-testing mundane. Find out how Rob Orlando keeps things fresh and what stresses out Chris Spealler.

Part 1: 9min 10sec
Part 2: 6min 38sec
Part 3: 9min 40sec

Additional reading: Balancing Act by Andy Petranek, published May 1, 2008.

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Part 1:
Part 2:
Part 3:


34 Comments on “Secrets of the Elite”


wrote …

Excellent series


Chris Sinagoga wrote …

loved the videos. in response to Speal's comments about "not touching" certain workouts again, i completely understand where he is coming from. for me, however, i love seeing the "compare to" link. this is my 5th year following the main site and that is what keeps me coming back for more. seeing a workout that i did a year ago come up gets me in the mood to compete.

but on the other hand, similar to what Speal said, i'll probably never do Fight Gone Bad again. i pr'd by 3 reps last summer and the pain and agony it caused me to get those 3 extra reps is almost not worth it.

but yeah, great video and hopefully there's more to come


wrote …

Last time I did grace on the main site WOD I felt that dread the whole day, couldn't work, couldn't think about anything else. And then I "only" PR'd by like 25 seconds and felt terrible about it. Now I just try and keep perspective; I probably won't do benchmarks less than a year apart anymore.


wrote …

Great discussion. However the camerawork of the video makes me dizzy! Like the Blair witch project.


wrote …

Great series. Thanks for posting these. Always interesting to hear what is going through their heads.


wrote …

After watching this and getting ready for my workout, I said to myself "I don't feel like working out today, f-it, I'll take a day off."

I wish I never watched this.


wrote …

Water, water, coffee, water and a beer? Anybody else catch that?


wrote …

WARNING: This video might make you sick. I could only listen to it, not watch it. Crazy production. Good idea, but bad, bad production execution. More than one camera and a few mics next time. This is good info and we need to see it (and hear it).


wrote …

who is the girl with the long pink shirt on? i don't recognize her.


wrote …

I was psyched to watch this video, but I quit about a minute in. Camera spinning around is crazy, and I couldn't make out half of what was being said. Great idea for a video, but not the quality I've come to expect


wrote …

Great couple of videos - very interesting content.
The note to the cameraman bears repeating: constant panning is not good and really DOES make the viewer dizzy. Painful at best.


wrote …

Poor guys, look like they're waiting for the school bell to ring! More coffee?


wrote …

Fascinating how the one consistent theme is each one of them is VERY in touch with what works for them. I think that's a hugely important aspect to what I've learned Crossfitting. Knowing yourself is powerful.

As for the "can't touch this" workouts. At an elite level I can see how a poor transition ruining a score would be a disincentive. Sometimes I know a workout is going to be beneficial to my growth/development, but on that particular day my sleep, work schedule, diet or maybe just motivation aren't there... so I won't track my score. It's my way of putting another penny in the jar, without the mental anguish. I wonder how often this group tracks their scores, and do they ever just do a workout "for fun" or "for its own sake" and not worry about the score.

Crossfit is my release and my passion. Work is stressful. Don't get me wrong, I get worked up over scores and get nauseous in expectation of some workouts but I wouldn't want to ruin it by obsessing. Is that the difference between me and what it takes to be "elite"? I hope not, for their sake.


wrote …

Would love to see a standard benchmark that all have likely done make an appearance in the Games programming. If only to test the mental aspect of the competitors to have to re-test something that is "known and knowable". Based on the discussion it's obvious many of them prefer the unknown.


wrote …

Like what Spealer said about repeating a WOD, that if you don't beat your previous time don't think you are less fit...As an affiliate owner I think it is important to convey that message to your athletes, people can freak out if they lose a second and ignore the fact that they have gained a lot more strength, flexibility, or anything else in the time frame. Odds are the last time they did that WOD they were either cheating reps or maybe just didn't have it they day they repeated it.

Also, not attacking Barber here, but I would do a little more research before you make a statement like doing a strength then a met-con for programming purposes in your box is "bullshit". A lot of boxes do it as do ours and have had great success with it, and ran properly can easily fit in the hour time frame.


Chad I've seen this form of programming at various boxes. It is much like Mountain Athlete has been doing for some time now.

Can you give me an idea as to why you do this, how often and why? I'm not disagreeing with you by any means. At face value I'd agree more with Pat but I haven't really programmed enough of this to understand its value.

On one hand I get why Chris does it and on the other I get why Rob does it. However, I wonder if that isn't just specific programming for those athletes? I'm just curious if you don't mind sharing your thoughts? Thanks


wrote …

Love this series.

The spinning of the camera doesn't bother me as much as it does other people, but it would be nice if Dave was wearing a mic. It's hard to here his questions most of the time. Multiple cameras would be nice as well, but it's not that big of a deal for me personally.


wrote …

I found Dave's swimming question interesting. I wonder if that might come up at the games. It's certainly less random than that sledgehammer event.


wrote …

Today was a day when I went to the gym and my trainer and I knew I couldn't WOD. I go six days a week and train all seven. So today was exceptional for the both of us. So what I took from this is that it is OK to go and do something else for a change. I went to a Hot Yoga class so that I could lubricate my joints and loosen up some tight muscles. Then I went and did some laps in the pool. It was so nice to feel how much stronger I am when doing other exercises. I love how doing CrossFit makes me awesome at other workouts. So for the days when I know that a WOD just isn't going to happen, I am going to find a climbing wall to conquer so that I can reap the benefits of all my hard work.

P.S. Dan, just WOD in the morning so that you won't have to dread it all day:)


wrote …

Saw the beer, not very professional IMO.


wrote …

I think programming strength at the beginning of a session or before a metcon would work for most (especially newcomers) because it helps to develop not only strength but helps forge improvement in the neural pathways, coordination, and technique, which will help them down the road for when they really up the intensity and hit a strength wod like the cleans from two days ago.

As you become a more developed athlete you may not get the same result from combining your strength and your metcon (depending on your goal of course, i.e. physical fatigue prior to metcon or mental training in a fatigued state) in the same hour block because your more attuned to various factors that affect your workout and as an athletes "ability" goes up there is not necessarily a corresponding linear increase in volume and intensity (basically quality of training vs. quantity.

The newbie can asborb everything like a sponge and see gains but that seasoned athlete will need a more precise or dialed in approach that's why it is all in the programming.


replied to comment from Chad Hobbs

chad, it seemed to me like pat was under the impression that when everyone else was talking about doing a strength workout, they meant working toward a strength pr, and that he was saying that to follow that immediately with a really hard met-con would be devastating.

it also seemed to me that the response was that the others were talking about combined workouts in which both the strength and met-con components were toned down a bit, and that that kind of training had worked well for them.

both points are valid, no?


wrote …

one of the points that i found most interesting came at the end of the first clip, in the discussion of the "willingness to suffer."

when speal and david talked about their willingness to suffer, they were referring to endurance training, which doesn't appeal much to most of the group -- or, frankly, to most crossfitters. that crowd would rather do a shorter, more intense workout.

that's interesting because, i think, the opposite is usually true. meaning, most people would rather train for endurance and push themselves to run farther, for longer, than to consistently go through the mental and physical fatigue of a 5-rep max deadlift or a fran or a helen. in the faster workout, the pain is shorter in duration, but it's much higher in intensity.

i think most people have an easier time building up their tolerance for low-intensity suffering than they do in trying to train themselves to push really, really hard for just a few minutes. but i also think that, once someone makes that adjustment, the longer, lower-intensity efforts simply become boring. the challenge of pushing on for another hour of running or whatever just isn't as exciting as grinding out a few more muscle-ups or struggling through some more HSPUs while trying to shave a few seconds off your previous best.


wrote …

This video takes a potentially interesting topic and makes it completely unwatchable. It was like watching a home movie filmed by a 10 year old with a camcorder.


wrote …

The coolest thing about this video is knowing the fire breathers feel a lot of the same feelings I feel about my workouts. Sure they are much stronger and do it much faster, but at their core, they are nervous about getting PRs, dreading some WODs, and some days just don't want to. I guess it is part of the common bond we all feel, but it is refreshing to see their honesty about it...except when they WOD, they do it better! BTW, I like the feel of the "home video" camera work.


wrote …

haha, i thought i was the only one who took multiple craps before wods.


replied to comment from Sam Ser

Maybe he was misunderstanding it...but he did say he sees people programing a strength and a met-con in an hour class period and said it was bullshit....So all I was saying is if he is reffering to the number of gyms that do that he should take a good look at how they are actually ran. I'm really not one to raise a fuss on a message board and maybe I misunderstood what he meant, I just don't want the average Crossfitter to look at that and say "wait a sec, that gym that I was thinking about going to programs a strength and a met-con, that can't be done." I understand it might be an extreme situation or way of looking at it, but you never know....

P.S. who cares if castro is drinking a beer, he's legal right?


replied to comment from Rob Barrese


We program a Strength 2 to 3 times a week depending on the cycle we are in. We have done 3, for example squat, deadlift, and press. Using the Wendler 5/3/1 method has been awesome for our gym. We will do it in 8-week programs then take 2-weeks of no specific strength concentration then go back to on for another 8-weeks such as front squat, push press and powerclean. We are currently doing an 8-week program with just the back squat and deadlift...So 2 days a week let's say Monday we squat and Wednesday we deadlift we then will do usually a sub 10ish min wod. Then on let's say Tues/Thurs we will do a skill before a the wod such as handstands, ring work, sand bag drills, whatever... and then our wods will be a lil longer on just skill days possibly in the 15 to 20 ish min range. Fridays tend to be just a wod with no skill or strength before it....Hope this helps I'd be happy to share any info you would like, thanks for your interest.


wrote …

The discussion concerning bettering times on the benchmark WODs made me think of an article I read recently on South Baltimore CrossFit's website. (SFW). If performance is charted over time there are always going to be small changes positively and negatively when comparing two single efforts. Instead look at the average or trend of multiple sessions. If the average is moving in the right direction it shows improvement. Statistics can be very useful in evaluating performance. This is a subject I need to learn more about.


wrote …

i love this...but man, i got nauseas every time Dave Castro had people raised their hand. Cameraman should have stepped out of the circle.


wrote …

I'm in the same boat as Barber on the whole dreading wods all day thing. Dreading my afternoon as we speak! for some reason i always go anyway but certain workouts just ruin my day. not because I'm afraid not to PR but just because i know they will hurt. I don't get a pr in workouts all the time so I'm used to it I guess haha


Daniel Pfiefer wrote …

Excellent conversation but I think I may vomit.


wrote …

turned it off after 30 seconds would have loved to watch this, but almost lost it.


wrote …

Don't like the camera work? So just listen... I'd rather get to benefit from this discussion than have them decide to not film something because they don't have a whole film crew on hand when the opportunity arises.

Thanks for the insights, it's great to hear these perspectives. I don't mind retesting benchmarks like Fran yet, because last time I redid Fran I PRed by 5 minutes (12:57 to 8:57). Long way to go, but it's good to have hard chargers like these to look up to.

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