By Solace Head Coach, Hayden-William Courtland
In the first part of this 3-part series I discussed the core of Solace’s fitness model, CrossFit, and my current approach to programming these classes for our diverse member base. In part 2 I highlighted the additional offerings that allow members to focus on their weaknesses or expedite the process of reaching their goals. In this final installment of the Made By Solace series, I discuss ways to safely and effectively use the combined resources of Solace New York to personalize your programming and achieve your health and fitness goals.
Start With A Strong Foundation
The first step towards optimizing your fitness is to lay a strong foundation. There are several factors that are crucial in this regard: 1) nutrition, 2) sleep, 3) stress levels, and 4) tracking your workouts. If you are not fueling your body properly with food, not sleeping enough, experiencing chronically high levels of stress, and/or not keeping track of what you are doing or how you are performing each day, it will be harder to reach your goals. No amount of quality programming or dedication to training will overcome deficiencies in these areas. Becoming fitter requires that your body adapt to new training experiences and this won’t happen if the right resources aren’t available. It also won’t happen if you don’t create the right training experience (i.e., you don’t keep track of what you are lifting each day and then wind up repeating weights week after week). Speak to one of our Coaches if you feel one or more of these factors may be affecting your training experience or goals.
You Must Rest
There is a reason CrossFit recommends and programs (on the main site) rest days. They are important. At least 2 days per week are required. Sometimes more days are needed. You must listen to your body, but you need to also think beyond that. Yes, you may be run down after 2-3 days of training and recognize the need for rest. But your body may need rest without your knowing it. In addition, taking two rest days enables your body to perform better (at higher intensity) on the days you do train. Remember, high intensity is the key to improving your fitness
Don’t Train More Than Once A Day
Unless you are a competitive athlete or have been training for a very long time (many years), taking more than one class a day isn’t necessary. It puts you at risk of overtraining which can lead to injury if your body is unable to recover from the stress you’ve placed on it. If you feel a workout is too easy or not enough, talk to your Coach – the likely reason is that you were not operating at a high enough intensity.
Now that the above points are out of the way, we can address the bigger picture of personalized programming. At Solace, CrossFit is intended to be the core of your training program. As I continue in this article you may see the opportunity to specialize (to be only a weightlifter, only a powerlifter, etc). While you can certainly do this at Solace, that’s not the intent; at Solace we want you to be well rounded. If you focus in one area and therefore do not make CrossFit your base, you will see notable drops in your fitness as measured by the 10 major skill sets (see part 2 of this series). For this reason we encourage all of our members to make CrossFit the base of their fitness program – it’s measurable, all-encompassing and fun.
To begin personalizing your training schedule, note that we release the CrossFit programming in advance so members can make informed choices about recovery and goal setting. I must emphasize that the programming is not released in advance so members can cherry pick what they find easy or fun. With this in mind, here are some examples of customized programming to meet your personal goals (all programs assume 5 days of training and 2 days of rest, except when taking a strength cycle, which requires 3 days of training and 4 days of rest).
Strength Focus – For those wanting to build strength, a larger plan should be adopted. Take a strength cycle at least twice a year and take CrossFit classes in between. Everyone, no matter how strong they are will see notable strength gains in our Solace Strong cycles unless they happen to have conducted a linear progression strength training program in the past (unlikely). If you plan to compete in the CrossFit Open, stagger your cycles so that they give you time to re-condition (i.e., take a cycle no later than the fall and then another right after the Open). When between cycles, CrossFit classes will keep you strong and give you different types of strength gains. In addition, you can target the strength days in CrossFit class. For example, there is normally a squatting, pulling and pressing day each week and the days rotate each week. So, if you have flexibility in your schedule, you can choose to take CrossFit classes on the days they appear. I generally take two strength cycles a year and the structure works very well.
Conditioning Focus – For those that want better conditioning and/or want to drop fat at an accelerated rate, a weekly program of 3 CrossFit classes and 2 Body classes works well. Note, this does not mean that Body conditions you better than CrossFit. Conditioning requires that intensity be high and in certain CrossFit classes, members don’t reach a high enough level of intensity. Body class creates an environment where it is a bit easier to push yourself, so it can be easier to keep your intensity high. Nevertheless, while on this program you should talk to your CrossFit Coach about your intensity in CrossFit classes. There are numerous reasons why your intensity level might not be as high as it needs to be and you must be able to raise it appropriately in all classes in order to reap the benefits of this program.
Weightlifting Focus – For a focus on Weightlifting, a fair bit of flexibility is offered week to week. The starting point would be planning to take Solace Barbell Club Technique class Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. In addition, every other week all CrossFit classes on one of Monday, Wednesday, or Friday are a Barbell Class. So, on any given week you can take either 3 or 4 dedicated barbell classes. To get your remaining 1-2 classes per week, you would look to CrossFit. Depending on your schedule, you might not have a lot of flexibility for choosing classes given that you need to take rest days and many of your days are fixed with Barbell. So, depending on how many Barbell classes you can attend each week, you might want to target your CrossFit classes. For example, if you are able to take most or all of the Barbell classes, then just take whatever CrossFit classes fill in your schedule to stay well-rounded. If you can’t take as many Barbell classes as you would like (i.e., only 1 per week), try and target CrossFit classes that have a Weightlifting component (classes with the Snatch, Clean & Jerk, etc).
Gymnastics Focus – On a yearly plan, you should take our 5-week gymnastics cycles when they are offered. In between cycles, you should plan to take Gymnastics classes on Tuesday and Thursday nights, representing 2 of your 5 training days. The other 3 days should be chosen to support your gymnastics goals. For example, if there is a Handstand or Muscle-Up day in CrossFit class, those days should be chosen, if possible. If training days are needed and no pure gymnastics movements are found in classes, a choice can be made based what days will have the best carry over. For example, if you are weak in handstand push-ups, then a CrossFit day with pressing, push pressing, or ring dips would be an assist towards improving that movement.
Endurance Focus – We will eventually launch an Endurance cycle at Solace. In the meantime, you are encouraged to contact Coach Greg for program customization. He’ll tell you that there is no need to completely switch gears from CrossFit to 100% running. The benefits of strength training coupled with running are well documented. It will make you faster and keep you safe. Greg coaches our members towards their endurance goals while incorporating the regular CrossFit WODs. The combination of targeted running WODS coupled with CrossFit WODs equals PR’s. To contact Greg, send him an email.
Conditioning & Stamina Focus – This is an example of a very customized program, one that I often use between strength cycles. I want to maintain my CrossFit skill sets and general strength, so I take CrossFit 3 times each week. I add 1 Body class each week to improve conditioning and help keep fat levels low. I then finish out my last training day of the week with a Sculpt class so that I can work on one of my major weaknesses, muscular stamina (my leg muscles in particular are not well adapted to high repetition movements and Sculpt is perfect for targeting this weakness).
The above programs are just a few of the many possible customizations members at Solace can make. The above scenarios are in some cases idealized in that you may not always be able to train on the days that would be best for meeting your program goal, but don’t let this discourage you. You may just need some objective insight, suggestions for accessory work, or a private training session to set you on your way. Talk to one of your Coaches and they will be more than happy to help you. But remember, if you’re not tracking your progress, this entire process will be that much more difficult. So, get a WOD book, sign up for Beyond the Whiteboard and talk to a Coach.