Stop Guessing: Ways to Take Control of your Training

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One of the controversies of CrossFit is the ‘random’ programming that is/was entailed in the original version of the system. By now it should be clear that most top-level CrossFit athletes no longer train by an “accidental” scheme. They all have the advantage of having professional coaches monitor their training, or they are themselves experienced in planning training. The rest of us that are not so fortunate, are left with options such as following the programming on an online site (many sites like Outlaw and CompetitorsWod have boomed in popularity and rightfully so) or relying on the programming in a box. These are fine options, but no matter how great a program is, there’s rarely a “one size fits all” solution. This problem is emphasized by the complexity of CrossFit and the comprehensive and ever-growing list of skills that the athlete needs to master.

This article is meant as an inspiration for intermediate level Crossfitters that want to take the step from good to great, starting with a more thorough understanding of training programming. The following is inspired by the Swedish weightlifting coach, Anders Lindsjö, whom Sarah and I had the pleasure to spend a day with at Eleiko HQ last weekend. If you ever get the chance to attend any of his courses at Eleiko or elsewhere, don’t hesitate!

In essence, good programming is about finding your unique “code”. What works for YOU? The only way to find out is by constantly monitoring your training and the progress that it does or does not yield. The more information you can give yourself, the better. Keeping a traditional training log is a start, but it’s not enough to just scribble down the workout…

For EVERY session and EVERY week try summarizing the following:


– Overall purpose of the training session/sessions: Technique, competition preparation, strength, endurance, speed, recovery etc.

– Content of training: Weightlifting, Powerlifting, CrossFit workouts, Gymnastics, Skills practice etc.

– Total number of sets and reps

– Total tonnage (number of kg lifted – for instance 3 x 3 reps of push press with 50 kg yields a tonnage of 450 kg). I recommend excel for this part ☺

– Number of PR’s

– Number of missed lifts

– Average duration of CrossFit workouts (you can also have some pre-defined categories like <2 min, < 5 min, < 12 min, < 20 min, >20 min).


– How was your MUSCLE power on a scale from 1-5?

– How was your TECHNIQUE on a scale from 1-5?

– How was your MOTIVATION on a scale from 1-5?

– You can also include factors like appetite, quality of sleep etc. Anything that you find useful.

So what now?

If you manage to keep this kind of record for just 4 weeks – I’m impressed! It takes a lot of time and persistence, but it is the key to taking the guesswork out of training. The next step is to analyze your data. This is the tricky part and it might take you a long time to see a pattern. You might find these keywords inspiring:

No PR’s:

You might train too much in your comfort zone. For the next training period, try pushing the percentages a little more.

A lot of missed lifts:

You might have an under-developed technique. Try asking yourself this: Does my snatch look the same regardless of the load on the bar? Ideally, a snatch should look the same with 80, 90 and 100 kg on the bar (and even in your warm-up sets). If your technique deviates a lot, you need to spend more time working on your timing and technique, for instance by working around 70-80% of your max. To quote Anders: “mistakes made with less than 80% of your max is not worth correcting, because the load is simply too easy”. Try finding a nice ‘practice zone’ and work on making your lifts consistent. Remember the 3 keys to good weightlifting technique:

– Close to the body

– Fast and explosive

– Full range of motion and always catch the bar ‘ass to ankles’.

If you already have a steady technique, another possible explanation for the missed lifts could be that you are over-trained. I often use other parameters to help assess this (for instance sleep quality and motivation).

Remember, these are just keywords. The goal is not to get zero missed lifts, because then you haven’t attempted anything new.

You get good at what you train:

Use the summaries to find out what you are actually doing in your training sessions. Most of us know the ugly face of self-deception. Want to get better at long workouts? Try calculating the % of workouts in the >20 min category – and afterwards try to increase that number 5-10% in your next training period.

To sum up …

Always remember the purpose of your training session and keep your eyes on the ultimate prize: evolving into a better athlete. To finish off, I’ll leave you with my favorite Anders Lindsjö quote: “Good training is not fun. It’s good.”

– Ditte

Photo by Johan Stephan (c)


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