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Rest Day

Malcolm does some construction site Deadlifts last January

More work? Or a sip of water?
by Christian Fox
            You’re mid-Helen. You’re finishing your 2nd round of KB swings and the pull-up bar is waiting for you. So what do you do? Place your bell down, grab a sip of water, wipe the sweat from your face, chalk up your hands, and then size up the pull-up bar? Or do you ditch the bell and get on the pull-up bar knowing that you’ve only got one round left and the big rest is coming. Last sprint, last swings, last pull-ups. Forget the chalky feeling on your tongue; you’re getting on the leader board this time.
            In many WODs, a sip of water here and there is totally appropriate. Think Murph, Angie, Barbara (during the rest), or some other 20+minute chipper style WOD. These are designed to be done at a medium to medium-high intensity and take significant time to complete; hence they need to be paced out and can allow for a sip or a break. WODs like Fran, Annie, and the like are meant to be executed at a high intensity throughout, and take a short time to complete. I feel pretty confident saying that you will not dehydrate during 5-10 minutes it takes to complete either of these couplets. Often though, we see athletes stopping mid-WOD to grab a sip or just to put their hands on their hips and rest. Sometimes, sure, this is appropriate. Are you sick, pregnant, injured, or the like? Then yes, you may need to pace even short WODs. But if not, then be honest with yourself about why you’re reaching for your water bottle again or chalking up for the 4th time in 12 pull-ups. It probably isn’t thirst. It’s being uncomfortable with being uncomfortable.
            Let me be clear…I’m not saying not to stay hydrated and on the south-side line of Pukieville, but if this sounds like you then try this trick. BEFORE the clock starts, drink a cup of water. Then put your water bottle away from you and out of reach. Mid-WOD when you start to think how nice a little H20 would feel on your tongue, use that to motivate you to finish faster. The water is the reward. Finish and it’s yours.
Train smart, but train hard. Remember that intensity is what brings results. Increase your pain tolerance. Try getting more comfortable with being uncomfortable.

How would you describe your discomfort tolerance?  Are there types of workouts or specific exercises you find yourself taking lots of breaks from?

Reader Comments (15)


thanks for that! You're right on - everytime i take a drink of water mid WOD, in my head i'm telling myself that i'm drinking b/c i'm stalling and avoiding what's to come...now i just have to get out of my head and face the WOD.
August 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAvi
Dan and I had an interesting conversation about pushing through discomfort after the half-marathon this past weekend. We both deduced that thanks to Crossfit, we were able to continue well past our tolerance zone during the run. For me it was not stopping and skipping the last few hydrate tables because I wanted to just finish the run. (I also had a small hand held water bottle which I saved some h2o for the end - drink on the go!). Another point was that I sprinted the last 400 - again to just get it done, when I could have easily just trotted along through the finish line.

Being mindful of intensity and managing discomfort is important in all physical activity, but it's also knowing your body well enough to know when pushing on through is going to result in injury.

I think there have been plenty of times I've slowed down a "high-intensity" workout not because I can't handle the discomfort, but because I refuse to purposefully allow injury when I know that slowing down a bit will prevent it. Injury just slows down progress. Maybe you take that extra water break because your form is quickly degrading. Im of the mindset that it's more important to do it well and do it properly than to just do it.

Anyhow, I tend to break more with push-ups, pull-ups.. But frankly it's just muscle fatigue due to those movements being a huge weakness.
August 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAsta
another good one. thanks fox.

i drink before and after WODS. i used to drink during, but stopped.i no longer lie down after wods. that definitely helps my recovery.

i do try and push myself harder. not sure if it's the lack of real sleep, or lack of long metcons but they seem harder of late.
August 17, 2010 | Unregistered Commenter.DMG
ooh, this hits home. I do *not* get right on the pullup bar after my swings. I wimp out. I find this to be the most challenging part of the high-intensity met-cons. I am really good at the chipper pacing, and I am good at gritting my teeth and getting through a 500m or 1000m row. But that 7-12 minute range is a real challenge for me. There definitely has to be some pacing involved, and I struggle with how much rest I *really* need. Best example is the 21-15-9 burpee/box jump couplet. For me, cycling box jumps gasses me out really fast, so I have to pause. But for how long? until I really have my breath back? that's too long. So, when? I keep playing with it but it's a constant struggle.

It's why I like workout partners who yell at me.
August 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCharlotte
I have had a lot of issues with this. Lately I have been scaling my hard fast wods to be a little easier so I can keep storming through them and build up the mental hardness. It seems to be working but it is an ego crusher on both sides. This type of intensity makes things much harder but it does seem to also offer huge rewards.
August 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMalcolm
I have a real problem with this one and I don't know how to get around it. I love the strength work. I have done rowing, boxing, wrestling, cross country, loved it all. I hate metcons. I know that my wind is bad now, but I find myself avoiding them. I avoid them to the point that I don't make it in there lately, and that needs to change.

My wind is bad. I thought about doing some runs and cycling to improve it, some of the metcons just leave me toast.

I am guessing that the answer is to stop being such a (insert word of choice here) and just do them, but part of me also seems to feel like I am better suited for performance menu type stuff.

Either way, I really have to get on track and address this pain threshold somehow..thanks for posting on it Fox, some of your posts over the past month have really been awesome.

August 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJim
Fox - These mini-essays are really great. I don't always have something to add in the comments but I always read and appreciate them.

I train 2x/week and I used to only come in on weight training days. As a runner/skinny guy I wanted to challenge myself in what I saw as my biggest area of weakness. Recently I've been changing that and enjoying the challenge of the metcons. I've definitely found myself stopping to take a drink at times and I've been trying to be more conscientious about hydrating more before workouts to take away that temptation.

Despite that, I've definitely found myself drawing on my Crossfit experience in all kinds of situations in life that required toughness and pushing through pain. It has definitely made me a better runner mentally, beyond any physical benefit from training. I moved twice recently and felt the Crossfit push-through-it mentality getting me through it quickly. I even found it helpful when I got a cavity drilled at the dentist and the Novocaine wasn't really working! Just being accustomed to the sense of being in pain but being OK with it because you know that it is temporary and helping you achieve something makes a huge difference.
August 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNick K
Pain is weakness leaving the body.

There's one overriding fact that the Marine Corps drums into trainees' minds during OCS and boot camp: your body is stronger than your brain lets you think it is.

Anyone who sees me resting during a high-intensity WOD is more than welcome to yell at me.
August 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMatt U.
I feel like this post was written with me in mind, as I struggle with this in every WOD, including strength WODs.

To me, the fundamental question is whether it's mental or physical issues that is preventing me from achieving higher intensity. My sense is it's a mix of both.

So the problem I have is how to minimize/eliminate the mental limiters, but not the physical ones...Fox is suggesting that most of this is mental, and he's probably right, but it sure doesn't always feel that way!

Is it as simple as just pushing harder and becoming more comfortable with being uncomfortable?
August 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJason
I think movements involving grip discomfort/grip fatigue are the hardest for me to push through without breaks. Pull-ups, many reps of heavy KB swings, etc. Oh and rowing. For me having someone yelling or counting me back in is key for keeping my head in the game and pushing on.

Great essay Fox!
August 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBethany
Great post Fox. I used to take way too many breaks during workouts, and chalk them up to being strategic. Sometimes you just have to get moving!

One of my favorite tricks is to keep your hands on the barbell while you are resting. You are still a bit uncomfortable, and it really makes you just want to hoist that bar back up and finish off your work. Another trick I like after runs in the middle of a WOD is to keep running right to the bar/bell/box and chip a few away immediately, before my body can even register I'm tired. Both of those have cured some (certainly not all) of my bad rest habits.

I found the same thing true as Asta when I ran the BK Half. The whole time I just found myself thinking "This isn't as bad as Fran" over and over. I could breathe, my heart didn't feel like it was going to explode, I wasn't dizzy...13.1 never seemed like such a bargain!
August 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNoah
Just did Brooklyn Lyceum alone, definitely an exercise in keeping the breaks to a minimum and as short as possible.

One new strategy I was using: I would break things up into mini sets, and for my break would find something about 5 or 10 steps away, walk to it, walk back, and keep chipping away. It helped me keep my breaks regulated, not too long, not too short. Good strategy for "On Your Lonesome" WODs.
August 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNoah
I also really enjoyed this write-up.

Although I haven't been the type to stop and sip water, I often break to readjust my grip or take a million set-up breaths before continuing on. I have yet to redline, and I think it's just because I'm freakin' scared of how that will feel. Honestly, I'm not sure if I've ever redlined at any sport/activity. I've always had a natural athletic ability and have been able to pick up on sports/skills fairly easy...meaning I've never had to try too hard to be good (sorry if that sounds cocky). Crossfit on the otherhand, is loaded with things that I'm not good at so it's not only a physical challenge, but a big mental challenge as well. I clearly do better when I have someone there telling me "don't drop the bar" or "get to 5 reps", but I want to be able to push myself that hard on my own. I need to work on pushing through that uncomfortable phase and just get it done.

Oh, and I totally want to make up the Lyceum wod...maybe Friday morning???
August 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJess
went running on my own today over the brooklyn bridge in the scorching noon heat. stupid idea. thanks fox.

August 17, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterbrian andrew zimbler
Wow, cool to see that website, thanks for the link! And thanks for being informative and interesting. You always inspire me.
August 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRetro Jordans

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