Let’s say I want to become a concert violinist (stay with me on this). At my lesson on Monday, my violin teacher gives me my homework. Practice these progressions, scales, fingerings, and pieces.
My Mix-and-Match Violin Playing Plan
On Tuesday, rather than practice what my instructor gave me, I pull out a book of country fiddle pieces and hack away for an hour. Wednesday, I go to another teacher, whom I haven’t met, to see what he can do for me. Not knowing my skill level, he tries to teach me a couple of advanced Fritz Kreisler pieces, which I take home and screech through. On Thursday, I pull up some YouTube videos on “Hendrix for Violin.” By the time I get back to my lesson on the following Monday, I have not progressed one single millimeter on the instrument, and my instructor is flummoxed.
And, while what my violin teacher has assigned to me may be varied – that is, some scales, some drills, and certain pieces that slowly advance my ability – it is by no means random.
CrossFit should be the same way. In fact, CrossFit, Inc. is adamant that the main site programing may be constantly varied, but it is never random. Random gets you nowhere. It gets you plateaued, and it ultimately gets you injured.
When CrossFit Goes Bad on Social Media
Now that I have laid a Stradivarian foundation of this concept, let’s move on. Every so often I run across an absolute monstrosity of a workout on social media. Usually it’s something that some fairly well-known CrossFit celeb has posted and usually it bears a caption such as, “THIS HURT SO GOOD.”
That’s fantastic. Tear yourself up. I have no issue with big names posting their training. However, what is jarring to me is the sheer number of followers who chime in in the comments section with “@Corey_Haim? Monday??” and “Can not WAIT to do this!” or “It’s goin’ down!”
For those of you who regularly read my articles, you know, without a shadow of a doubt, that my ultimate goal is to get you trained, to your goals, without injury. I love CrossFit, health, fitness, coaching, and above all, injury-free CrossFitters who can achieve the fitness goals they set for themselves.
I am also not averse to the occasional off-training play date. Emphasis on occasional. But I also firmly believe that mixing and matching your training and treating your programming like a slot machine is the fastest way to plateau and injury.
It always strikes me as odd, these folks who weigh in on an Instagram post with comments such as “hey @mrquads, me and you tomorrow!” Who are these people who are just randomly picking and choosing workouts? Workouts, for that matter, that appear to be daily horror-fests. Don’t they have a gym whose programming they follow? And if they are box-less freelancers, don’t they still follow a program?
Think about it this way: if you are culling your daily workouts from the latest social media post, you are effectively handing over your training to someone who not only knows nothing about you or your skill level, but you are also trusting that they even know what they are doing to begin with. And if an Instagram WOD comes with the caption “I dare ya!” (I’m not making that up), why would you even think about dipping your toe into that lava?
I will give CFHQ credit in that they insist upon raising a distinction between constantly varied and random. As such, they will insist that CrossFit-the-methodology is not random. Ergo, it holds that the most effective way to see results is with a constantly varied, but not random stimulus that is progressive, if not periodized. Meaning, there has to be logic to your programming. There are lots of possible puzzle pieces that you can swirl around in the pile, but once you start putting them together, you should see a picture begin to develop.
Mixing and matching from boxes and CrossFit celebs is a prescription for failure. Seeking out the most heinous crush-fest is just plain reckless.
How to Find the Right CrossFit Program
As I travel around to various CrossFit gyms doing seminars, I am excited when I see gyms such as CrossFit Tri-Cities in St Charles, Illinois, which is way ahead of the curve with smart, consistent, progressive programming. It’s programming like theirs that will allow clients to get fit, strong, and reach their goals.
If you are lost and seeking a solid consistent program, log in to Tri-Cities and follow their program (but only their program). Or Cincinnati Strength and Conditioning, CrossFit Legitimus, CrossFit New England, OPT, CrossFit Invictus, and so on. There are many gyms whose programming you can follow – and get stronger, fitter, and faster.
CrossFit should be fun. No one disagrees with that. But achieving your goals should slightly nudge out fun, should it not? We can all kick back once in a while and enjoy a ball-busting, shenanigan-based workout with lots of bells and whistles, but most days, you should train.
Don’t mix and match. Find a solid program and stick with it. Resist the urge to succumb to something posted on social media just because it looks epic. And don’t ever do a workout because someone dares you on social media.
Photo 1 courtesy of Shutterstock.