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“Hey Coach, why is this workout so short?”

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For those of you who don’t know, Coach Raul and I used to program on a weekly basis with a general guide to how we wanted the month to look. This took about an hour per week for both of us, but it was scattered. After Coach Matt and I took our Level 2 Certification Course we decided it was better for our members to program an entire month in advance. So now we have a DETAILED guide to how the month will shake out…and we do it by Raul and I both spending 6+ hours a month in one to two sittings.

Programming for CrossFit Barrie

Recently, we have had a few members ask our coaches why the workouts were sometimes short. They were concerned that they weren’t getting enough “cardio”. I thought this would be a great opportunity to explain how, and of course why, we think it is beneficial to have a wide variety of WODs for our members.

While we love each and every one of our members, many of you came to us because you found that going to the gym on your own did very little for your fitness. So our short answer to the question above would be, “because we are trying to make you more fit!” I will break this down into a few buckets below.

1. What is CrossFit?

According to “We offer the world’s most useful definition of fitness: increased work capacity across broad time and modal domains.”

One of the keys to the above is “BROAD TIME.” Life isn’t one long, low-intensity run on a treadmill. Sometimes you need to run fast, work hard or get through something in a short time period! Think of a firefighter running up stairs, downhill skiing in our Canadian winters, or racing your friend in a pool. Exclusively doing 20+ minute workouts are not going to help you as much as varied programming, sorry.

This comes right from our Level 2 guide:

“Variance is the intended variation of functional movements, loads, repetition schemes, and time durations, within a single workout and across a series of workouts, to best maximize one’s fitness. The variation of workout variables across months and years determines how well one is prepared for any conceivable test of fitness. A program with a narrow focus may show great results in one area but have little impact on another.”

2. Science (don’t worry – I’ll keep this short)

Studies have shown that High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) results in more fat loss than long, slow exercises like long distance jogging. It’s also quite beneficial for your heart.

Google “marathoner vs. sprinter” and click on images (we’d add it here, but copyright issues are a nuisance). You will see a very skinny, almost unhealthy person, compared to someone that looks strong and capable of any physical task. Now, maybe your goals are different…totally fair…if that’s the case then feel free to talk to Ashley, Raul or me and we can recommend some alternative programming for you.

Real quick, here is some science for you. There are three metabolic pathways: the phosphagen pathway, the glycolytic pathway, and the oxidative pathway. Check out this chart to see how long each of these last and when they kick in. Note that two of them are for shorter duration workouts/sports/life events.

For those of you who want to dig deeper, we would highly recommend you read one of the first journals the founder of CrossFit, Greg Glassman, wrote, titled What is Fitness.

Check out the final chart in that link and see what percent of activities we all participate in are in the Oxidative pathway. You’ll see that these first two pathways are extremely important and used often…these are the ones we are hitting with shorter workouts.

We promise to spare you any further scientific information for the balance of this blog. 😉

3. Short workouts are high intensity workouts.

Ever wondered why you’re so sore after a CrossFit workout? Say hello to intensity! We have seen countless runners in our gym who tell us that they are more sore from one of our workouts than running a half marathon! We aren’t saying soreness is the end all be all, but it’s proving that your body is changing (muscles repairing and forming) and isn’t that what you came to us for!?

Recently we programmed a 6-minute AMRAP that most people got about 6-7 rounds of. Nice work! However, Coach Dylan got over 12 rounds using the men’s weight! So when you get yourself to someone like Dylan’s level, then we can talk about workout durations and relative intensity. I did it right beside her and can tell you she had nothing left after those six minutes.

To stick with Dylan here…since she performed these exercises at a very high intensity, her body had to work much harder to keep it up. This caused her heart to pump fast and her metabolism to jump (which you want if you are planning on losing fat). Her metabolism remained elevated up to 24 hours after the workout as well! This means that her body will be burning fat even the next day! Thanks Dylan. 😉

As Coach Glassman asserted, “Be impressed by intensity, not volume.” More on this in the future, as Coach Matt will be writing about this.

4. Benchmarks, The Hopper & How to get a fast Fran time?

Hopefully by now you realize that this Greg Glassman guy is pretty damn smart! Take a look at the “Girls” (benchmark workouts created by Glassman). For those who don’t know, check out this link or recall workout names like Fran, Cindy, Helen, etc. Scroll to the bottom and notice that of the 14 original “Girls” three of them can be easily completed by one of our great athletes, Justin, in less than 2.5 minutes! Amazing, right!?

Anyone reading this have a goal of cracking a 5-minute Fran or a 3-minute Grace? If so, don’t you think you need to work on short duration workouts in order to make this happen!? If not, good luck getting your body and lungs to be ready for it!

Keep in mind, we only program “short” workouts (those under 5-6 minutes) about 3-5 classes per month. That’s three to five workouts in a 30-day program. Our shorter workouts are usually programmed on tougher strength days, which allows us to balance conditioning and strength building. And BTW, we’re not saying we don’t like long workouts! We program those lots too.

If you want to be fit, then you need to be able to take on anything that’s thrown at you. Our view of fitness is about performing well at any and every imaginable task. From CrossFit again:

“Picture a hopper loaded with an infinite number of physical challenges where no selective mechanism is operative, and being asked to perform feats randomly drawn from the hopper. This model suggests that your fitness can be measured by your capacity to perform well at these tasks in relation to other individuals.”


The next time a member asks why a workout is so short, we will politely refer them to this post and then casually tell them that we want to hear from themwhen the workout is complete. If they did what they were supposed to, theyshould be absolutely drained…heart racing, blood pumping and muscles on fire. Then we know we’ve both done our job and they can come do a longer workout each of the other days that week.

Happy WODding!

Coach Joe