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Crossfit Motivation

Crossfit motivation seems to have gone gangbusters over the past few years. What do I mean by crossfit motivation? I mean the motivation for people to exercise and to maintain a programme of high intensity. This is great in one way, because people are training harder, they are getting more athletic and a percentage of the population is getting healthier and leaner.

So what has taken so long? Why have we delayed our broad motivation to exercise until this cult-like fitness movement hit the headlines? It could be any number of reasons, but I like to think it was because fitness has been viewed in the abstract by the masses. Think about it, those with a sport to train for, such as a pole vaulter for instance, has sufficient motivation to train. The pole vaulter has the next record to break, the next championship to win. But what about average Johnny Six-Tooth? What’s his motivation to train hard?

You see, until crossfit came along, the only motivation for the average person to train was simply a better looking body, increased health, loss of body fat etc. You may think these are motivation enough, but they’re not. Exercise for the individual wanting to lose weight has simply become punishment for being fat. Well that’s how they sub-consciously see it anyway. It is also seen as a negative activity because it is seen as fixing a problem, rather than striving towards something great.

So crossfit motivation has spread, mostly due to their philosophy of “the sport of fitness”. What is that? It is simply the measuring and quantifying of workouts completed and matching it to the performance of others. It is not a specific sport in the sense that it is varied and every WOD (workout of the day) is different. So with crossfit you’re constantly striving to better your fitness in every single area simply because you have no idea what is coming tomorrow. For those that compete, they need to be on top of their game for sprints, distance runs, heavy lifts for low reps, fast lifts for many reps, climbing, throwing, lifting and jumping.

I love the idea of crossfit motivation, in that it has inspired many people to train consistently that would not have stuck to an exercise programme otherwise. But to a certain degree it has gotten a little out of hand. This is not crossfit itself, but the manifestation of many varied “experts” in the crossfit stratosphere. Crossfit is a great methodology in itself, but then there are those that have bastardised the CrossFit name by calling themselves a CrossFit coach without adequate experience. This results in athletes (and the general population) doing sloppy workouts that cause them injury simply in the name of competition and beating the times and results of others and themselves.

Let me put this in perspective. I can’t do 100 cleans in a row, or even 50 deadlifts for that matter, my lower back won’t take it due to some previous sports injuries. But this contraindication is ignored by some of the coaches that claim the CrossFit title without having earned it. Now I can deadlift 225kg at a bodyweight of 80kg, which means I am no slouch when it comes to barbell work. But my back just won’t cope with such high volume all in one go, it will cause me damage, so I don’t do it. As a coach and the founder of Unleashed Training I have taken this into account. Everything I do is individualised and optimised for the individual for their chosen task. This does not mean that I am not equipped to develop all ten domains of fitness, it just means that I change my approach from one person to the next. That's what a good CrossFit coach does.

I love crossfit at its core level. It is a methodology that has inspired millions of people worldwide to get in the best shape of their life. Many of these people would be suffering diabetes and would probably be obese, but instead they are now fitness demons that can perform a broad range of physical tasks at an optimal level. It’s not crossfit’s fault that there are coaches out there that fail to realise individualism, it is some individual coaches themselves.

So I’m really not bashing crossfit for this, I am congratulating the concept for turning sloths into athletes. But the approach needs some work on a number of areas. Personally, I am not a crossfit coach, even though much of what I do was inspired by crossfit. What I am is a performance coach, that’s probably the best word for it. Much of what people will experience when they train with Unleashed Training and use our core methodologies is somewhat similar in nature to crossfit. But there are as many differences as there are similarities. My point is, crossfit is a catalyst for great athletic development. However it should be used as a springboard to change the meaning of the fitness industry and educate people on how to truly get fit and develop athleticism. It should NOT be something blindly followed and treated like a cult. There is potential for CrossFit to literally change the meaning of fitness for the average Joe.

So I have compiled a few key points on what Unleashed Training is all about, what we have taken from crossfit and what we have discarded.

1. First and foremost we train athletes. This is what crossfit is also all about. By athletes I don’t just mean professional track stars and the like, I mean both the elite level athlete right down to the stay at home mother of three that wants to be fitter, healthier and a greater role model for her kids.

2. General physical preparedness (GPP) right down to specificity. You see crossfit is all about GPP and developing a broad range of domains. We like to do that too, but I believe in specificity. There are certain roles and sports that need a different focus than others. So for every athlete, every person, there is a difference in their training regime, even though they follow many of the same core principles. What I mean is, there is always a bias towards the goal they are looking to achieve while also still allowing for all other domains. In other words, a marathon runner will develop GPP and learn to deadlift a heavy weight, but their training will always be centred around endurance. By the same token, a sprinter will do metcons, but their training will always focus on strength, speed and power and will avoid that which compromises that.

3. Training science and the development of systems. What we do is develop systems, that is, there are certain things that work and things that don’t, there is no need to completely reinvent the wheel, just to redecorate it. Everything is done to elite and individual standards. If it works for an elite athlete it will work in a modified format for the average person. Everything is created according to science and practice, nothing is guesswork. If we find something does or does not work after many times repeated, then we will take the appropriate action and either add it to our systems or discard it with the rest.

4. Quality over quantity is always the best policy, and this is something we share with crossfit. I don’t believe in doing more and more of something just because it is good or effective. For instance, a heavy back squat for three reps is very effective for developing maximum strength, however doing 10 sets and having to reduce the weight by set number seven is not effective. That’s because maximum strength development is best done when muscles are fresh, as soon as fatigue sets in then you cease to develop what was intended by the workout and you start training for something else. Volume just for the sake of volume is not effective.

5. The final point I want to make is that I believe in periodisation as opposed to eternal lateral progression. Think about it, if we could keep improving in a linear fashion then people would be able to bench press a bus eventually. Unfortunately this is not the case and we reach points at which we cease to progress. This is combated through periodisation. But I want to make it perfectly clear that I don’t believe it needs to be as complex as some of the strength training systems of eastern European Olympic weightlifting teams. There is a simpler way, and that is how I look at it. There are times when you should train hard and focus on max strength, other times you should focus on speed and power, while other times are reserved for recovery and unloading. Fairly simple concept. We go from foundations to specific and then back to working on foundations in a cyclical pattern that ensures continued develop over the long term.

Well that’s my rant on crossfit motivation, the good, the bad and the ugly of it all. But in a nutshell, crossfit is great, but it is not everything. For those in the know, it is used as a catalyst for elite physical development, while recognising the adjustments and individualisation that needs to be put into it. Don’t be a monkey, put some thought into it, get the advice of great CrossFit coaches and sport scientists and do your research.


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Chris Lyons is an experienced strength and conditioning coach, having trained athletes of all ages and levels since 2002. Chris specialises in coaching athletes for speed and power specific to fast-moving sports such as rugby league, rugby union, soccer, Aussie rules football etc. Since 2002 Chris has conducted close to 15,000 hours of training and coaching directly with athletes and members of the general population. From this experience comes Sprint Ninja, based on tried and tested training methods combined with up to date research. Chris continues to challenge himself not only as a coach, but also as an athlete, competing in sprinting events, strongman and Olympic-style weightlifting.

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