For all of its virtues, there’s one definition of the CrossFit community that seems to be true: “Constantly varied non-functional beliefs changed at a high frequency.”
When the Outlaw Way was the “thing”, people spent two hours working on weightlifting and 8-12 minutes on conditioning because “being good at weightlifting made you good at CrossFit”/testosterone/conjugate/endurance is just like sprinting but slower. Outlaw Athletes went to competitions and got demolished because it turns out being good at CrossFit is the thing that makes you good at CrossFit. A mass exodus of “big-name” athletes ensued. (Also, Rudy cheating on and then assaulting his wife who had recently given birth to their son didn’t help things, but that’s neither here nor there.)
Then Invictus won a bunch of stuff, and the ascendance of CJ followed. He introduced split sessions and high volume to the masses and people who should be training for one good hour started training for five crappy hours instead. Invictus was the “go to” programming philosophy for people who considered themselves to be serious competitors, but became the victim of athletes from other gyms winning the Games and many different shiny things distracting would-be Invictus followers. He also bro-repped Josh Bridges into Regionals last year, which was stupid.
Misfit catches people’s attention because they get to undergo a constant assault of metcon-y things that come in “cycles”. We ran a cycle to test out the programming and I watched my athletes get slower and less intense, even though they felt they were giving their best effort. People became indifferent to training instead of enthusiastic. Shortly after, Misfit posted what to me sounded like an apology for their programming and that they were going to “bring the intensity back with old fashioned couplets and triplets” in the coming year. I see they sell a lot of clothes now.
“What’s Rich doing?” and other superstar athlete programs are a big thing now. It doesn’t matter that you’re scaling that, and that, and that, and skipping that piece because you don’t have the time, and your shoulder hurts. It also doesn’t matter that he is a superhuman and has won the Games four times and you’re still struggling to podium at the local Babes, Bros, and Barbells Throwdown, but galdangit, you’re training like the champ!
Programming not Principles
If you’re letting programming dictate your principles, then you, your coach, and your gym is screwed. You’ll believe whatever anyone tells you, what looks like is working at the Games/Regionals/Open, and the programming you write for yourself or your athletes will be complete and utter garbage. You’re going to chase the wrong things at the wrong time in the wrong amounts,
How do you know when this is happening?
Your coach is going to give you a bunch of “stuff” and will make you do “stuff” and there’s going to be an idea (or a bunch of ideas) behind “the stuff” but you don’t know what that is and it doesn’t quite seem to fit with other ideas and you don’t enjoy it and you’re not making great progress….
Trust me. I’m the coach.
You’ll try mixing this program and that program and doing a lot of this with a lot of that because all those ideas make sense so combining them should make even more sense…
It’ll work. I know what I’m doing.
But it turns out that these two situations are only two people looking for programming without thinking about principle. It’s just people in the gym doing….stuff.
No focus, no philosophy. It stops becoming training and becomes just physical activity.
Principles then Programming
Principles are important because they are proven-to-be true things. And they don’t have to be fancy sports-science words or concepts, they just have to be principles that if followed, ensure the success of a training program. To make it even simpler, frame them as questions:
What is the goal of the training and does it support the goal you have for yourself?
Does the training support the achievement goal?
Does it provide the right amount of intensity and volume for you as an athlete?
Is it enjoyable?
Is it organized over the week, month/cycle, and year to ensure long-term progress?
Do you understand why you’re doing what you’re doing/what you’re not doing?
Does your coach understand it?
Can principles change? Yes, but only because something more true comes along. Principles are unwavering in the face of fads. Resist the urge to chase shiny things, the fads in training. Programming changes, principles don’t.