Volume- When and How to Add to Your Training
by Seamus Keating, CrossFit Shatter Coach
As CrossFit evolves, we see many people seriously upping the volume of their workouts. Many professional CrossFitters are working out 6 hours a day, five or six days a week. These athletes have rest days and warm-ups that include weights and an intensity some of us only dream of. However, these athletes are also sleeping 8-10 hours a night, have professional nutrition coaches and plans, and are regularly getting bodywork done. Their lives are structured to focus entirely on working out and recovering properly in order to maintain the volume and intensity that they have.
But what about us regular everyday people that do CrossFit for health, hold down normal jobs, have people we love that roll their eyes when we talk about working out, who don’t always sleep 8+ hours, can’t afford regular bodywork, and don’t have lives focused exclusively on physical performance?
No, not the band. First and foremost, for most people there is no need to increase your volume of training. Workout five or six times a week, for about an hour at a high intensity. If you have not been doing that consistently for at least six months with little to no trouble, then you should not be considering adding additional workouts or volume to your training just yet. If regular programming has you barely able to move and struggling to maintain intensity by Wednesday or Thursday (or Tuesday, when Shane is channeling his inner Punisher), then you should continue to focus on hitting the regular WODs as hard as you can. If you’ve got a handle on it and you’re a consistent athlete, then you can consider adding some additional work to your programming.
This is really the most important question- Why are you adding more volume to your training?
If you are upping your volume in order to lose weight, or improve your health, I would encourage you to look at other aspects of your overall well-being first. If you spend 4 hours at the gym and then order take-out, you have wasted a huge amount of time. It’s more than just the hour(s) spent in the gym. That extra class could be spent grocery shopping and meal prepping instead, which will pay huge dividends in your training. Or, perhaps you can get more sleep, which also promotes muscle growth, and overall recovery. Try adding meditation or yoga; the stretching will help improve your mobility and calm your mind.
But let’s say you’re looking to increase volume for a very specific reason. For example, I run long, hard, endurance-based obstacle course races that require skill specific grip and strength work that are not often covered in a regular CrossFit class. I want to continue to perform well, and qualify for some of the Championship races. I also want to continue to perform well in CrossFit, because I really, really enjoy it, and Shatter’s Summer Slam is coming. In order to balance these things, and also build my base of endurance, my volume needs to go up. This is my why.
Maybe for you, it’s more CrossFit-style competitions and podium dreams. Maybe you want to crush The Open, or qualify the Granite Games or WODapalooza. Maybe you have a marathon you’d like to do, sport specific tryouts coming up, or plan to tackle the all 46 Adirondack High Peaks in one summer. There are any number of reasons, but they need to be compelling to you. Because the additional volume is often done alone, without a coach or fellow Shatter peeps next to you, your why has to be louder than the voices telling you to relax.
Upping your volume does not mean taking the CrossFit classes twice in the same day, especially twice in a row. Doing the same workout twice in the same day serves very, very little purpose in terms of making you a better athlete. It is what they refer to in the running world as “junk miles.” Instead, hit the workout once, as hard as you possibly can. Volume can come in many forms- additional workouts, more specific strength training, additional aerobic work (rowing, running, Assault Bike), accessory work, etc. A lot of this is going to be based on your Why. You need to have your goals set out and know what your weaknesses are. Write. It. Down. Figure out what you suck at and practice those things.
If you’re looking outside of the CrossFit domain, then your increase in volume should look like what you are training for. If it is a marathon, then your increased volume should come in the form of running workouts. A triathlon would add swimming and biking to the mix. If it is a sport like football or field hockey, then it should be drills and strength work that improve your capacity in that sport. CrossFit is a core strength and conditioning program. It gives you a damn good baseline; a core amount of fitness that you get to work from. But to get better at your sport you have to do that sport, whatever that means.
When should you do extra workouts? Generally, depending on what it is, it is helpful to break up your sessions into two separate groups. Your run will probably go better with a couple hours between it and the super intense CrossFit workout you just did. The same may be true for any strength-based work you might be doing. Two-a-days or heavy volume days should be limited to two to at most four times a week. They will catch up. Also, it is often helpful to have them bookend a rest or active recovery day in order to maximize your output and intensity. Space these workouts so that you get the most out of them, are able to bring the requisite amount of intensity, and also based on what your CrossFit training may have looked like.
The When will also tie into what we did in class that day. The great thing about CrossFit is that we never know what’s coming down the pipe. Don’t be afraid to shuffle the extra work around based on what else you are doing.
So, how does one actually go about doing this? Well, as with most things, it really helps to have a plan. Actually, it is 100% necessary to have a plan. A plan will hold you accountable, and will allow you to train without thinking too much about it on any given day. Get in, and get it done! Talk to a specialist in your sport, talk to Shane, talk to me, or any of the other coaches to help put together a plan. Even if you have something, feel free to come to any of the coaches and ask them what they think. We’re here to help.
Increasing your volume should also mean increasing your recovery. Thank me later. Make sure you are eating well, eating enough, and sleeping enough. Make sure that you are stretching, mobilizing and hydrating. As my running is picking up, I’ve gotten ROMWOD and try to do it most nights. Our friends at the Hot Yoga Spot are dope and have a ton of basic classes that can help you. You can also consider the occasional massage, physical therapy, or chiropractic work to get you into tip top shape (check out Dr. Nick with Dig Deep Chiropractic & Massage). An increase in volume could lead to an injury quickly if you don’t take care of your body. Don’t ignore the mental side either, as weird and new-agey as it is, meditation has helped to increase performance for many athletes. This stuff isn’t sexy, it may not be as fun, but it is 100% necessary to take care of your body and mind as you are pushing yourself to new and undiscovered limits.