Last Saturday, we had a partner workout that involved some running and pull-ups, but beforehand we went through a series of running-focused drills. I walked away feeling both ready for the workout AND completely uncoordinated!
“B Skips” was the movement that got me. If you’ve joined one of our running classes before, you know what I’m talking about. It’s a skipping drill, but instead of just driving your knee up like a normal skip, you drive your knee up then extend your leg and sweep it underneath you – think how a Clydesdale prances.
I’ll be the first one to admit (and my dance moves will reinforce) that I’m not exactly the most coordinated person on the planet. I’m reminded of this when we introduce new exercises – single arm KB thruster (recent) and running jump rope come to mind.
When most people think of CrossFit, they think of brutally tough workouts leaving you sprawled on the floor gasping for air. Yes, intensity is definitely part of the game. It’s just a piece though, not the entire puzzle. In one of the most popular essays on the CrossFit Journal, founder Greg Glassman lays out the three standards of fitness in CrossFit:
- Proficiency across the 10 recognized physical skills
- Ability to perform well at tasks, even unfamiliar ones in unique combinations
- Competency in all three energy pathways
Spoiler alert – that whole coordination thing? It’s part of the standard.
The First Fitness Standard in CrossFit
Quick quiz – what are the 10 physical skills recognized in CrossFit? I’ll give you some space.
A few probably came to mind pretty easily. Cardiovascular endurance is an obvious one that pops up every time we have a huge chunk of burpees or a 5k to run. Strength is another skill that seems pretty obvious – we like our athletes to be strong across a variety of movements. Power and explosiveness are skills I’m reminded of every time we have a heavy snatch.
Here’s the full list (pulled from here):
- Cardiovascular / Respiratory Endurance – The ability of body systems to gather, process, and deliver oxygen.
- Stamina – The ability of body systems to process, deliver, store, and utilize energy.
- Strength – The ability of a muscular unit, or combination of muscular units, to apply force.
- Flexibility – The ability to maximize the range of motion at a given joint.
- Power – The ability of a muscular unit, or combination of muscular units, to apply maximum force in minimum time.
- Speed – The ability to minimize the time cycle of a repeated movement.
- Coordination – The ability to combine several distinct movement patterns into a singular distinct movement.
- Agility – The ability to minimize transition time from one movement pattern to another.
- Balance – The ability to control the placement of the bodies center of gravity in relation to its support base.
- Accuracy – The ability to control movement in a given direction or at a given intensity.
The goal is to become proficient in each area. Sure, you might have strengths and weaknesses, but can you perform decently well across all 10? That is fitness.
If I’m being honest, coordination certainly bites me in the rear. Flexibility too.
The Second Fitness Standard in CrossFit
The first element of fitness is about the necessary skills you should have in your repertoire. The second standard is all about how those skills come together in unpredictable ways.
CrossFit is meant to mimic the demands of life, which usually aren’t predictable:
Nature frequently provides largely unforeseeable challenges; train for that by striving to keep the training stimulus broad and constantly varied.
In practice, this means you should be able to perform well as an athlete regardless of the exercise, rep scheme, order of exercises, external conditions, etc. Regardless of the task or combination of exercises, you can survive and even excel in the chaos.
In old school CrossFit videos, you’ll see and hear mentions of “the hopper.” This was a huge metal container they would spin and pull numbers from. The numbers then built the rounds and rep scheme for the upcoming workout. This was the epitome of unpredictable.
We try to train this standard every day you come in the gym. Sure, you might look at the workout the night before so you can mentally prepare, but each workout is designed to provide a unique challenge.
The Third Fitness Standard in CrossFit
The final fitness standard is all about energy. You might have heard of the three energy systems that make up your “metabolic engine.”
- Creatine phosphate – This is an anaerobic (meaning “without oxygen”) pathway you use for short bursts of intensity like max lifts or all out sprints.
- Glycolytic – This is another anaerobic pathway that’s used for short bouts of intensity – think 2-3 minutes of hard work.
- Oxidative – Our aerobic pathway that we use for everything longer than a few minutes in duration. It’s what you use for endurance events and walking around on a daily basis.
Those three pathways work together to fuel your activity.
It’s important to develop all three pathways. You should be able to run a 5k, sprint through Fran, and execute a 1RM Snatch all with some level of proficiency.
Pulling the Three Standards Together
So how do you stack up? If you look at the three standards together – proficiency across all 10 skills, adaptability regardless of rep scheme, exercise order, etc, and efficiency across all three energy pathways – where do you need the most work?
We often chase PRs in the gym trying to PR our Fran time or max out our back squat. It’s important to understand our concept of “fitness” is much broader. It includes things we don’t normally think of like balance, flexibility, and yes, coordination.
I’ll continue to do my B Skips if you promise not to record any videos and post them online. Okay?