Must read article: Why Can’t I PR Every Day?

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By Jay Rhodes

When you train consistently for upwards of a few years you get to know yourself very well as an athlete.

When getting into CrossFit back in 2009, I had a decent understanding of myself as an athlete. I knew from the start that being able to casually run under 60 seconds for 400m was going to serve me well. I also knew doing over 20 handstand pushups in a row was a good thing. On the other hand I couldn’t do a full overhead squat with more than about 75 lbs, and more than 5 toes to bar or knees to elbows would leave me gasping for air.

With every workout I would learn about where my threshold was, how hard to push for a given workout, where to push and where to hold back.

With every competition I picked up a few valuable pieces of knowledge. Many times from making mistakes, but sometimes from watching what worked for others.

Over the last 2 years especially, I have noticed that my training goes through what I like to call “waves”. Essentially, the ups and downs of training. One week I will end up setting PR’s on anything I touch, then next I may struggle to hit 85-90% of those numbers, maybe less! It’s not planned, it’s not intentional, it’s not accounted for in programming, and it can be very tough mentally and downright annoying when you hit that low point. Sometimes it lasts a couple days. My most recent one lasted nearly 3 weeks.

I am never worried when those low points come, because often times they are followed by a string of PR’s. However, as a trainer and now gym owner, I have seen a lot of frustration from athletes who aren’t able to work up to their PR in any given lift on any given day.

Keep in mind the standard that you’re holding yourself to there. You’re BEST day you’ve ever had; a stat or number you’d been trying to reach for MONTHS, should now be routine?! You crazy? Improvement is going to happen at different rates depending on how long you have been training for. The longer you have been training the closer you are to reaching your potential (though I’m a firm believer that it will never be reached), and the harder it will be to keep improving at rapid rates.

Case in point. My Clean & Jerk.

Aug 2010 PR – 230 lbs Aug 2011 PR – 290 lbs May 2012 PR – 310 lbs Current – 311 lbs Sure, those numbers may seem huge to some people reading this, but to keep things in perspective I have increased my Clean & Jerk by 0.3% in 7 months. In the time since that 290 lb PR – which was done in running shoes the morning after a cross country flight on minimal sleep – I can probably count on both hands (maybe with an extra finger or two) the number of times I’ve been able to work above that weight. The number of times I’ve attempted to is more than I’d care to count. But I was able to do it under less-than-perfect circumstances? And I’m stronger now? And better at the lifts? What’s wrong with me?

Nothing. Sometimes things just come together.

Here’s the thing. If you can work up to your maximum weights on any given lift on any given day- you probably suck at hitting maximum lifts. It’s not realistic to be the exact same every day. The more I pay attention to my training the more I realize that my body isn’t going to be performing at 100% at all times. I’m going to do my damnedest to try to make it happen but sometimes it’s just not happening.

I recently had the opportunity to ask American Open Champion Jon North and his renowned Coach Glenn Pendlay if they find that their athletes see the same type of waves in terms of their abilities. Glenn’s comment was that if you do have ups and downs in training, you’re doing it right.

I think we’ll leave it there.



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