CrossFit: Health Over the Lifespan

by Megan Nolde, staff communications manager for SBP

Health is talked about everywhere it seems, with so many opinions about what it means that it’s easy to get confused as to what we’re discussing. So let’s simplify things a bit, and focus on “CrossFit’s description of ‘health’ [as] your work capacity across broad time, modal, and age domains. Even simpler, It is your fitness measured across your lifetime (” This is helpful because it’s simple, direct, and measurable; three things that are foundational to the CrossFit philosophy.

What does that signify, though? This definition means that our health isn’t static; it’s always changing and being affected by our circumstances. We’ve all experienced this– our sleep patterns, eating habits and schedule, hormones, life events, and stress levels all affect our performance in the gym. This is just a microcosm of what affects our overall health at any given time. We are also subject to genetics, past injuries, and a wide range of other factors. All of this plays into our work capacity at a given time, and all of those days’ and weeks’ work capacity data points add up to an overall picture of health and wellness throughout years and in our lives in general.

This is all relevant to our everyday, in that we can push ourselves and strive, but we also need to cut ourselves some gentle slack when it comes to the areas we just mentioned. If we slept poorly, we shouldn’t expect ourselves to perform as well as we might on a full night’s sleep. If we perform well anyway, all the better, but being reasonable in our expectations while still pushing ourselves is key.

Technique also gets discussed in CrossFit circles in particular, and we’ve all heard the adage (from Coach Ryan of course!) that no one cares how much you lift if the technique is bad. But what exactly IS technique? It’s “the method to success for completion of a movement. For example, if you want to do a full twisting dismount on the rings, the technique would be: pull, let go, look, arm up, turn, shoulder drop, etc. Technique includes head posture and body posture. And there are effective and less effective techniques (Greg Glassman, 2017,” 

But what does technique have to do with health? It can also be affected by our everyday mishaps and experiences – practice makes technique better, of course, so experience with it and time to practice are key. But if you sit at a desk all day, you might be more zoned out and less connected to your body than otherwise – this can affect how effective your technique is. Being overly fatigued can make your form or technique poorer than usual too – so again, keep in mind that a reasonable amount of self-drive is important. Knowing yourself, being self-aware, and being honest with yourself about where you’ve “been” recently is the real key!

Lastly, we want to focus on the concept of threshold. “A threshold is a limit, a point that must be exceeded in order for favorable adaptations to occur. One of the thresholds to consider in fitness is the technique/intensity threshold. When you go beyond that threshold in training, technique diminishes at the expense of power output (intensity) (CrossFit Jozi, blog).” Threshold comes in the form of physical thresholds (your strength or cardio capacity, for example), as well as psychological thresholds (your capacity to withstand discomfort, burning muscles, labored breathing, or mental demons, for example). 

Threshold is also (you guessed it!) affected by our everyday experiences. Stress is a huge factor in psychological threshold. Proper programming by someone like Coach Ryan helps us manage our physical thresholds by understanding the whole macro and micro pictures of a training session and training program over weeks. Without proper programming that takes into account individual needs, you aren’t set up for success. Successful training of threshold is, however, a two-way street. An athlete also needs to learn themselves and listen to their bodies and minds. All the factors that we’ve mentioned already play into your threshold on a given day and week. Being self-aware lets you as the athlete choose the scaling or RX options available to you appropriately and smartly. 

So what is health? Health is fitness over a lifespan, and while it is affected so much by the things that happen to us long term, that long-term is built by the everyday patterns and habits we get into. Self-awareness is as key to health and fitness over the lifespan as is proper programming for physical progress. At Shockoe Bottom Performance, we believe in both aspects of the gym community relationship – the services we provide are paired with the characteristics and practices of our members. We do our best to show how to progress in both areas, because our success is built by the success of our members. We only shine when you do, member athletes! So log those scores, listen to your bodies, and listen to your coaches about the workout’s purpose. We’ll provide the programming, the space, and the mission. Together we’ll all reach a healthier lifespan!