Training vs. Testing
By Kevin Agbulos
As a coach—and athlete—I always look forward to testing: the act of achieving PRs, or personal records. While it’s exciting to watch athletes set and achieve these PRs, it’s actually the “daily process”—a.k.a. “the training”—that I’m genuinely passionate about. Training deserves more attention, particularly in the CrossFit world and at CFD. And more often than not, the ideas behind training and testing become blurred—and for no good reason. So let’s clear things up…
• Training: Training is something you do to get better at something else. It’s the day-to-day sessions. It means showing up for a good workout, achieving the desired stimulus, and working on things that require a little more attention. Then, you go home and recover. You work hard, but it’s not necessary to peel yourself off the floor after every session. That’s not the goal nor is it productive month after month.
• Testing: Testing is something you do to see if you have achieved a specific goal. It requires that you push yourself mentally and physically to maximal effort. Most importantly, it should come at the end of a particular program and will require multiple days of rest and recovery afterward. We test to check our progress, evaluate the effectiveness of our training, and to adjust training protocol to continue progressing in the right direction. It might mean doing a benchmark Workout—Girl WOD or Hero WOD—for the 2nd, 3rd, 5th, or 50th time in hopes of improving on your previous best attempts. It can also be applied toward strength lifts (i.e. attempting rep or load maxes).
So what’s the takeaway? Don’t feel like you have to kill yourself in the gym every day in order to move the needle. I’m not saying “never”, but be mindful of “going all out” all the time, always lifting close to failure, doing long fire-breathing WODs too often, or doing 2-3 classes back-to-back. You can’t max out every day. And sometimes, less really is more.
Lifting sub-maximally (a.k.a. training) will allow you to improve your mechanics, technique, build speed and strength, and increase confidence. Conditioning sub-maximally with appropriate effort levels and work-to-rest ratios will develop your aerobic system, build a better foundation for overall work capacity, impose less stress on your body, facilitate recovery, and build consistency in stamina and endurance. And eventually, this will lead to more definitive PRs in the future.
Work hard, but be smart. Understand and educate yourself on what the goal for the day is: perfect your craft, trust the process, and enjoy the “process.” Whatever your overall goal may be, always remember to keep a training—not testing—focus, as this sort of mentality will go a long way in helping you become a better, more capable athlete.