Skip to main content

5 Ways You Know a Workout Went Wrong!

I asked five clients what “giving it 100 percent” in a conditioning workout looks like to them. And received these five answers:

1. When I’m left feeling nauseous.
2. When I post-workout vomit.
3. When I hate my life by round 2.
4. When I dread the pain I’m going to be in all day at work.
5. When it takes me all day to feel useful again.

People often feel like when one of the above happens it means they gave it 100 percent effort. Usually they also assume their effort means they maxed out their performance abilities.

I would argue the opposite: If one of the above happens to you, you probably could have performed better AND suffered less in the process.

What do you mean?

Doesn’t pushing 100 percent to the edge of death mean you went as fast as you could? Performed as well as you could?

No, it doesn’t.

Truly maxing our your performance—for our purposes, meaning getting the best time or completing the most amount of work in any given workout—usually looks and feels like a sub-maximal effort.

Why? Because it probably means you paced the workout perfectly, which means you never have to reach that horrible, horrible place until the very end of the workout—when you’re attacking your sprint finish. Think of it this way: Getting to that horrible redline place means you’re immediately going to have to slow down. But staying below the redline threshold means keeping up a more consistent, and overall faster, pace.

An analogy that I like is: Get high but don’t overdose!

So remember, if any of the below situations have ever happened to you, it does NOT mean you’re a stud who has the mental tenacity and physical prowess to push through pain. It means you lacked intelligence on that day when deciding how fast to go:

5. Temporary deafness or blindness

I have heard many reports of people doing a sprint workout—think 3 to 5-minutes of thrusters and pull-ups—and feeling like they can’t hear out of one or both ears. Same deal, losing sight in one or both eyes = Bad news for the performance score.

4. You might fail a burpee

My 90-year-old Oma failed a burpee a little while ago. She fell and couldn’t get up. If you’re in the middle of a workout and you think there’s a chance you might fail a burpee, something has gone wrong with your pacing.

3. Pukie

Throwing up has somehow become a badge of honour in our community. But usually it means you ate too close to working out, or you misjudged your abilities.

2. Lip quiver

If your lip starts to quiver, or your face goes numb, you just redlined yourself to the point where your performance will definitely be below your best today.

1. Scared to drive

If you’re scared to drive after your workout and need a solid 45 minutes to sit and stare, you certainly didn’t pace yourself properly.

Alas, all is not lost. We have all made the mistake of going out too hard a time or two in our lives. Pacing is something that can be learned.

Here’s what a conditioning workout should feel like when you’re truly going “100 percent” and maximizing your performance score:

Let’s say it’s a 5-round conditioning workout of rowing, KB swings and pull-ups:

• Each round should be approximately the same speed, with the first and last rounds being slightly faster than the middle three rounds.

• You should break the reps up in the same way in virtually all 5 rounds. Again, during the first and fifth round, you might go for slightly bigger sets. In other words, don’t do the first round unbroken if you’re going to break up the other 4 rounds.

• You should feel like you’re physically holding back in round 1 and maybe even round 2—like you have more in the tank.

• Round 3 and 4 should feel more difficult than round 1 and 2, as you’re starting to fatigue, but not so difficult that your pace slows down.

• Round five should be very hard because you’re pushing faster than the previous rounds. This is the time to try to go unbroken—to leave it all on the floor, if you can. Ideally, your fifth round is slightly faster than the rest, but not too much faster as that probably means you went too conservatively.

Practice, Practice, Practice

A good way to practice this is to pay attention to your split times. In a 5-round workout, check your split each round and see if your pace drops off the first to fifth round. Similarly, during an AMRAP (as many reps/rounds as possible), check to see how much work you complete in the first half compared to the second half.

Good luck!

Celebrate the Quiet Personal Bests

“I want to get a pull-up.”

“My goal is to be able to do a muscle-up.”

When it comes to gymnastics, there’s no question getting your first pull-up and your first muscle-up are incredibly rewarding moments.

But sometimes by putting so much emphasis on such tangible milestones, we forget to celebrate the smaller personal bests—and the equally as important milestones—along the way.

Think about your pulling strength—your eventual road to a pull-up and muscle-up— as being on a 100-step staircase. In this way, pull-ups and a muscle-up are simply just two other steps on the staircase, no less, or no more important, than the step before or the step after.

Using this analogy, let’s say a ring row with a perfectly horizontal body is step 25 on the staircase, while a pull-up is step 50, and a muscle-up is step 75.

The pulling strength you gain going from step 49 to step 50 is equivalent to the strength gained moving from step 50 to 51 (where step 51 might mean you can do 2 consecutive pull-ups), yet we’re more likely to celebrate reaching step 50 than 51. I ask why. Why is getting a pull-up somehow more important than being able to do two consecutive pull-ups?

It comes down to ego and our perception of what is important.

But if you change the way you think about your pulling gains—and your fitness in general—to being a staircase where no one step is more important than any other, you will have way more to celebrate along the way. You also won’t get as frustrated and impatient waiting to reach step 50 because you’ll also get enjoyment reaching step 46, 47, 48, and 49, too.

My challenge to you:

Set 5 small goals along the way to your ultimate goal, and remember to pat yourself on the back when you reach them.

Because, gains are gains!

We are doing a testing day this Friday. A great time celebrate those steps!

Reason 2 – Why to remember your numbers

2. For the sake of your happiness!

PRs do two things:

1. They drive people nuts on social media when you constantly post about your #gainz
2. They make you feel warm and fuzzy inside

Let’s focus on the latter…

It’s human nature to be excited about tangible achievements.

There’s nothing like the feeling of doing something you didn’t think you’d ever be able to do, whether this means getting your first pull-up or muscle-up, or hitting a back squat personal best.

Our clients who are in tune with their bodies and their improvements are the ones who are the most likely to continue to commit to a fitness plan month after month, year after year.

Further, once you’ve been training for a while, PRs happen less and less frequently. But even if you’re plateau-ing in one area, you’re probably still improving somewhere else. And being in touch with where you’re at will help you appreciate wherever you’re improving.

If you have no clue where you’re at, and you show up everyday like a blank slate, you’re essentially stripping yourself of many of the joys that go along with working hard on your fitness.

Reason’s why to remember your Numbers

As coaches, we can’t help but get a little heavy-hearted when we ask a client a question such as, ‘What’s your 1RM clean?’ and we are met with a blank stare. Worse still is a confused look followed by, ‘Which one’s the clean again?’

Let me reiterate: WE DO NOT care what your numbers are. And we don’t even particularly care how you go about remembering your numbers—whether your write it down with a pen and paper, whether you keep a spreadsheet on your computer, or whether you download the newest workout tracker of the day. The important thing is that you DO remember your numbers—no matter what fitness level you’re at!

There are 3 reasons Why?

1. For the sake of your fitness!

Being aware of how much you can back squat, front squat, shoulder press and snatch is going to help you continuously make strength gains in the gym.

Let’s say, for example, tomorrow’s lifting session is 5 sets of 3 back squats at 80% of your 1 RM, and you have no idea what a heavy back squat is for you—let alone a 1RM—then you’ll essentially be playing the guessing game during your strength session. You might end up going too heavy, or too light, or wasting valuable time figuring out how heavy you should be lifting that you might even run our of time to finish your working sets. Bottom line: You will not get the most bang for your buck if you don’t have a good understanding of what your body can do.

Similarly, when it comes to the conditioning workout, if you know, for example, exactly how many pull-ups you can do when you’re fresh, or what your best power snatch is, it will allow the coach to help you scale the workout properly so you’re able to preserve the intended stimulus of the day.
What’s the intended stimulus of the day, you ask?

By this, I mean each workout we do has a specific intention. Fran (21-15-9 thrusters and pull-ups), for example, is meant to be a sprint. If done correctly, Fran should challenge your lungs, and maybe your pull-up muscular endurance. If Fran takes you longer than 7 minutes to complete, it isn’t going to do this. In other words, a 15-minute Fran is more of a test of strength than anything, which is fine; however, if tomorrow’s workout is also a strength workout, then you will not reap the benefits of this week’s aerobic capacity threshold test if you don’t scale Fran properly.

To help you scale Fran properly, it’s imperative you know your numbers and skill level: You need to be aware of what a heavy front squat, thruster and press is for you, as well as where you’re pulling strength is at.

In short, knowing your fitness numbers will ensure your fitness is always improving!