The Crossfit Orchestra

Aug 6, 2013

I realize some members of 8th Day are happy to come each day, be led through a workout, and go home. That's awesome. But more and more, I see there's a growing number of you who want to know the why...and the how. To understand not only because it helps you improve, but also because of pure curiosity and enjoyment. The following is my attempt to begin that education process for those interested. I'll simplify it as best I can, but there will be some big words and a dash science nevertheless. It can't always be baby food...sometimes you have to chew.

First lets step back and get a big picture view. What do we do at 8th Day? I've explained many times to many people that in essence we're a movement science business, of which we teach three types:

  1. how to move your own body
    (airsquats, pushups, running)
  2. how to move objects around your body
    (olympic lifts, medballs, kettlebells)
  3. how to move your body around objects
    (pullups, box jumps, muscle ups)

Sometimes this movement is under load...sometimes at high velocity...sometimes both. Point is...there's no such thing as fitness without movement. Honestly, there's no such thing as LIFE without movement. (My fellow Dork Jocks can ponder absolute zero and how that relates) But why move correctly? What's the big deal? Well...

  1. because it's safe and helps avoid injury and, how cool is this...
  2. safe movement also results in better performance

The best of both worlds! You don't often get to have your cake and eat it too! A double edged sword. Killing two birds with one stone. Ok...you get my point.

Refining and improving movement will always be at the center of your 8th Day journey. However, once we've nailed the basics we’ll progress to other ways of utilizing movement to develop capacity. Namely, increased weight, increased speed, and increased skill. There's a key word used above that's important to note. That word is PROGRESS. One of the many factors that separates us from globogyms or the latest fitness fad is that we're collectively, as a community, attempting to develop and improve. To move forward. So how does 8th Day Gym cultivate and nurture this environment? The answer can be found through an understanding of Training Theory. It's like your physical fitness philosophy. Your workout worldview. Training theories can be right or wrong, good or bad, better or worse.

8th Day's training theory holds that you cannot improve indefinitely on a straight line. Proceeding this way inevitably leads to a plateau...and subsequent overtraining. We might be led to believe that the harder and longer we plug away at our jobs, the better an employee we will be, but this facade simply doesn't hold up in the workplace of human physiology and performance. Enter Periodization.

First let's define some terms. This will only hurt for a second. Homeostasis is our current ability to perform. Periodization utilizes the principles of stimulus, fatigue, recovery, and supercompensation to create a cyclical (not straightline) pathway to long term improvement of our homeostasis. Each time you workout, a stimulus (stress) is placed on the body. This causes fatigue (breakdown), and the body is forced to respond. The body's response is known as recovery. Recovery leads to supercompensation, which is essentially a limited period of time where our homeostasis is nudged up a notch. Rinse and repeat.

Homeostasis - how good am I now 
Stimulus - the workout
Fatigue - the resulting "breakdown"
Recovery - repairs and modifications done by the body to prepare for another stimulus
Supercompensation - a period of heightened homeostasis

Here's where it gets interesting. When a stimulus creates fatigue, you MUST allow enough time for recovery/supercompensation to occur. Place another stimulus on the body too soon and you'll eventually get negative effects. But wait too long and you'll lose the supercompensation effect (involution). A veritable window of opportunity and a quintessential conundrum! How do you know when it's time to apply stimulus again? Wait, it gets worse (or better depending on your awe of the amazingly created human being). The body has all kinds of systems (muscular, energy, fascial, nervous etc.) that are fatigued in different ways by a given training stimulus, and require varying amounts of time for recovery to occur. Periodization for a sprinter is like a duet, the decathlon is a quartet, but CrossFit...it’s a full orchestra! So what's the solution? How does one know what to do? The answer is the same that's been true for over a century...find a good coach and trust the training system.

This coach will use periodization to manage his/her training theory. Periodization is all about time, and understanding the effects of training under different amounts of it. The breakdown is logical. You have days, weeks, months, and years. These are called blocks. The grouping of these different blocks are called cycles. Let me give you the BIG picture example of an Olympian's periodization perspective. Most will have eight years of productive potential. So an ultimate training objective (make the Olympic team) will be made based on this largest block. Next it will be broken into four year cycles, then single years, then months, then weeks...and finally days. It's very much like nested Russian dolls. What you do today fits neatly within the days around it to create a week of training. Every four weeks of training fit together to create a month. Every four months form a phase (preseason, precomp, comp). Three phases form a year. And the years create a career.

One of the reasons I love what I do is because it’s overwhelmingly complex. Choosing the right training theory, and guiding such a large group on their periodized fitness journey isn’t easy. I love the challenge and know I’ll never get bored. You and the 8th Day community at large ensure that I’ll have years of questions, discovery, growth, and creative application to keep me occupied! Doesn’t hurt that you’re all really cool people too! I’ll stop here and let you digest this article. It's more of a primer. Explains the "what", but not so much the "how" and "why". Look for more essays to come as we dive into specifics of the 8th Day Gym training philosophy and try to answer these questions. Until then, train smart and have fun!