If you stop and think about it, the society in which we live is all about the “quantity perspective.” Altering your body composition is as simple as keeping track of how many calories you do or do not ingest. Social status all depends on the amount of “friends” you have and how far your network reaches. Wealth is measured by the size of your wallet, the number of Versace purses you own, and by how much crap you have piled up in your three-car garage. We are immersed in a society that tells us quantity trumps quality and more is better. We are programmed to shove as much “stuff” into our days as we possibly can, while being constantly reminded that there just aren’t enough hours in the day. So how do we compensate for what we think is lack of time? We sacrifice sleep. In fact, the extent to which a person is willing to sacrifice sleep is often used as an indicator of success in America. We are told that if we give up more hours of sleep, we will be more successful and will accumulate more crap. Keep in mind, however, that we are also told (by the same society) that wheat bread is healthy and thirty minutes per day on the treadmill will keep us trim and lean (Yeah, right….). So, if we CrossFitters are going against the grain (pun intended) when it comes to society’s skewed perspective of nutrition and exercise, why not kick society’s perspective on the importance of sleep to the curb as well? In order to do this, we must first understand how we developed this skewed perspective of sleep.
Our bodies have biological clocks that operate on a roughly 24-hour cycle (hence why there are only 24 hours in a day). This clock controls our body’s circadian rhythms, which are physical, mental and behavioral changes. These rhythms are responses brought on by light and darkness in our environment. For instance, in the absence of light, our body increases the release of a hormone known as melatonin, which causes us to feel sleepy. This explains part of the reason why our caveman ancestors fell asleep when it got dark and woke up when the sun rose. They relied primarily on the presence and absence of the sun. Millions of years later, humans manipulated this natural pattern by creating artificial lighting. I’m sure Thomas Edison had no ill intentions when creating the light bulb, but, just as society perverted our perception of food and exercise, it has perverted our view of sleep. Our bodies are not designed to operate in constant sunlight, and yet, with these fancy new halogens, you can work past sundown and before the sun comes up. Our sleep patterns no longer rely on natural forces. We have the option to accomplish more by fighting our body’s natural rhythms and neglecting our need for sleep. The problem with this way of thinking is that the less amount of time we spend sleeping, the lower the quality is of the time we spend awake. So, yeah, we may have more time to do work, but if we aren’t functioning optimally in either physical or mental capacity because of lack of sleep, then what’s the point of more hours? We should, instead, rely on the quality and quantity of sleep so that we can perform optimally without using stimulants, such as coffee and 5-hour energy shots, as a crutch just to make it through the (long and tiring) day.
Be on the lookout for the next article on this topic, which will cover what happens while we sleep, why it’s beneficial, and how to improve your sleeping habits.
Alright, guys. Let’s discuss threshold training. I’m not talking about practicing romantic, wedding-night partner carries through open doorways. (Although, CrossFit will indefinitely help to prepare any groom for a smooth, picturesque entrance.) No, the threshold I’m talking about is “the magnitude or intensity that must be exceeded for a certain reaction, phenomenon, result, or condition to occur or be manifested.” I’m talking about pushing the envelope. Evading comfort zones. Testing limits.
In CrossFit, we encounter tons of limits. Standard air squat depth, high elbows in the front rack position, sub three-minute Fran time, unassisted pull-ups, Lil’ Dicky songs. Whatever the case may be. We all can only squat so low, get our elbows up so far, thrust 65lbs so fast, kip our little booties up so high, handle so many Jewish references. The funny thing is, limits are essential to our progress. Limits lead to goals and accomplishing goals leads to success. We can only get better by discovering our weaknesses and turning them into strengths. But how, Coach Alex? How do I make such mind-blowing transformations? Threshold training. That’s how.
It is a mechanism we formidable CrossFitters use to Prowler-push those limits. It’s the idea behind performing workouts at (super)high intensity while maintaining control of technique. So, if you’re coming into CFSL on a regular basis and busting your butt throughout the workout, you are training your threshold. Pretty cool, huh? Yeah, I thought so, too.
Only, there’s a problem. Many of us find our limits lurking behind unexpected (or maybe expected) corners and we avoid them like the plague. It’s not hard to understand why we do that, either. There is an inevitable discomfort that comes with these boundaries. So, we stick with the black band for pull-ups because maybe just the green band would be too difficult. We keep the AbMats stacked up high anytime we see those four dirty letters: “HSPU.” We skip out on swinging the 53lb kettlebell because we make that 35lb swing look GOOD. We walk the middle portion of the 400m run because…well, because that’s what we always did. It’s comfortable.
More bad news: This kind of thinking will get you to the corner of stagnant and disappointed. If you want to make any progress, you have to be willing to be uncomfortable. The progress may not be monumental. You may have to collide with barriers and shove them insistently before they budge an inch. But guess what? Eventually, you will extend beyond those boundaries and find new barriers to crush. And you’ll be a better CrossFitter because of it.
Keep in mind, I am NOT giving you permission to sacrifice technique for speed. You need to maintain consistent control of your movements. What I’m saying is that you’ll never know how far you can go until you push yourself. When the load gets too tough and you stop for a break, give yourself an allotted amount of time to get back to work (try to keep it at less than 10 seconds) then GET BACK TO IT. Start before you think you’re ready! Don’t wait until your breathing slows down to a pleasant-enough speed. Don’t wait until enough sweat has evaporated from your hands. We can stare at the bar and think of innumerable excuses not to pick it back up again. But when you do, you are taking “a physiological parameter and stretching it.” You are remodeling your body’s critical tissues, like muscle and bone. You are becoming faster, bigger, stronger. You are increasing your capacity in most or all of the general physical skills of fitness like speed, agility, balance, and coordination. Which, according to the wise Greg Glassman, are “empty words until they mean jump higher, throw farther, hit harder.”
So, consider this an open flame near your rear-end. Go forth and jump higher, throw farther, hit harder. Pay attention to your limits. Assess whether or not your technique will allow for a faster cycle time or heavier weight. Then, make progress.
Let your limits know that you are a force to be reckoned with.