Increased work capacity over broad time and modal domains.
Remember that last Tuesday, we kicked things off by defining and discussing “work capacity.” We now understand that our aim with CrossFit as our training vehicle is to increase this work capacity, both for specific skills but also for a breadth of skills (read here). Ideally, we’re switching up our focus for mastery regularly to continue to push out the walls of our ability bubble. Everything you can do lies within the edges of your bubble - they’re your wheelhouse movements, loads, distances, etc. It’s what you’ve developed so far. It’s at the edges of your bubble that you expand your capacity.
But why do we want to expand our capacity? This brings us to our next focus in the leading phrase above: broad time.
“It’s all downhill from here.” How many 30 year olds have you heard say that? I know I’ve heard a fair few. And quite honestly, from a physiological standpoint, they’re not entirely wrong (sorry!). It is true that our physiology does start to decline after a certain time in our lives (the specific time frame of this is still debatable).
Our goal is to stave off these declines as long as possible by staying healthy. So let’s define health. In order to do this, we’ll go back to our definition of work capacity and fitness. Work capacity is our ability to produce work (force x distance) / time (this is average power). Fitness is our ability to do this work in many different areas - moving ourselves, moving external objects, moving quickly, moving heavy, moving fast, etc.
We can display your work capacity on a graph, where the y-axis is work (average power) done over time on the x-axis (Figure 1). At any particular time in your life (in the figure, age 20), you can see a downward sloping exponential curve, with our power output being higher for shorter duration efforts and decreasing as the time for the task increases. The area under this curve is your work capacity for various tasks, which we know to be fitness.
To determine health, we take the graph from above, taken for a single age, and graph it for the same tasks at multiple ages. We create a three-dimensional graph, a solid, which gives us a picture representing health (Figure 2). Health then is simply fitness over time. Understand that this is one way of defining fitness (work capacity over time) and health (fitness over time). There are obviously other factors that contribute to health and fitness but those are for a future discussion.
Our aim is to maintain fitness in whatever measures we choose - 800m run time, 100m dash, vertical jump, deadlift, snatch, max pull-ups, etc. - for as long as possible. The idea is longevity. It’s having the ability to live independently until you die. Not only that, but to enjoy life and all it has to offer - travel, kids, grandkids, activities, etc. - for as long as possible. By focusing our efforts on our fitness (and nutrition), we actually minimize our chances of dying. The majority of what kills us these days - chronic diseases, cancers, etc. - are mitigated by dedicating time and energy to exercise and eating well.
If we frame our outlook on fitness and health in this way, we start to understand that health is a marathon, not a sprint. Doing all the things at once in an effort to become “fit” fast is not the recipe for success. While some skills do inherently benefit the development of other skills, it is only by directed focus on a given skill that we can truly improve. Trying to become the best 800m runner you can while simultaneously trying to increase your deadlift 1RM is not an approach I’d recommend. At best, you stagnate in both; at worst, you end up injured because you are trying to push in opposing disciplines.
Instead, we can understand that by setting aside specific seasons for maintaining or building specific skills, we increase our work capacity and extend it’s life over broad time. This particular concept in this series will help as we move forward to determine what your training year might look like and how the new offerings we are bringing to Kingfield can help.
Next week, we will wrap it all up by discussing “modal domains.” While we’ve glossed over this concept in both this post and the first in this series, we’ll dive deep into why it might benefit us to expand the breadth of our capacity and how that translates into increased fitness and health for a long time to come.
Metcon - AMRAP 13 minutes:
Build to a 3RM snatch **
** Athletes will follow 1 of 3 options listed below for today’s AMRAP. They should consult their coach is they need advice choosing the best path.
Use the 13 minutes to work on form and technique, focus on sound movement quality and complete multiple rounds at the same weight.
Buy-in prior to each 3RM snatch attempt is 12 wallballs.
Men will start at 55# and the women at 35#. They will build in only 10# increments for the entire AMRAP.
Buy-in prior to each 3RM snatch attempt is 15 wall balls.
Men will start at 115# and women at 85#. They may choose their own path after that round however they should aim to focus on successful reps. Athletes who choose this route should be approaching ~85% in the later minutes of the AMRAP.
Buy-in prior to each 3RM snatch attempt is 18 wall balls.