Aerobic Capacity Explained…

As CrossFitters, we all know and understand the concept of ‘constantly varied’, and have come to embrace it in our daily training. We understand that in CrossFit, we specialize in not specializing…and we aspire to become well-rounded and conditioned athletes by way of this philosophy.

At CrossFit Endurance, we aim to bridge your ability to perform at your maximum potential–on and off the gym floor. Your intent focus on PR’ing your lifts on the gym floor involves attention to detail–mechanics, technique, and drills. The same can be said on the back lot, where the same attention to detail vastly improves your capacity to run (and WOD) harder and smarter! Combining your weekly CrossFit WODs with weekly CrossFit Endurance programming maximizes your potential in both realms.

Therefore, it comes as no surprise that in the past couple of years, many CrossFit Games competitors have sought to increase their aerobic capacity and overall performance by way of incorporating CrossFit Endurance into their training plans. Many of them have turned to no other, than Chris Hinshaw–an experienced, accomplished triathlete who himself is a CrossFitter. Hinshaw has recently developed a new CrossFit Specialty Course entitled ‘Aerobic Capacity’ and coaches Endurance for Norcal CrossFit, as well as individual athletes including Jason Khalipa, Rich Froning, Julie Foucher, and Camille LeBlanc-Bazinet among others.

Here’s a review, from Chris Hinshaw’s website, http://www.aerobiccapacity.com

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Determining Your Sustainable Pace

We’re aiming to get away from a couple of things here. First, the athlete that claims, ” I only have one pace.” Second, the athlete that comes out to run (awesome), but with no discernable goal or ballpark idea as to the pace they are capable of achieving and/or maintaining in any given workout (less awesome). We need to know a couple of things about ourselves–what is the maximal amount of oxygen we can bring in through the atmosphere and push through our muscles (VO2 Max), and what percentage of that becomes our sustainable pace? In other words, how close can we come–and stay–to the “red line” before we cross it?

The answer is, of course, different for each of us. We as coaches, however, are challenged to find for each of you just exactly what it is you need to increase your overall aerobic capacity. You should think about this, too! Consider this:  at what point during a 15-minute metcon, or a one-mile run, do you “give up?” Do you barrel out guns a-blazin’ and by the 3/4 mark, are envisioning your certain demise? Are you a “pacemaster?” Do you start out maybe a bit slower than others, but do so in knowing that you will still be going strong in the end? Do you do that to a fault, and end up with a slower time than you’re likely capable of because you held back for fear you’d red-line too soon? Or at all? Are you afraid of the red line?? Be honest! The red line is a frightful place! That’s no joke! So again, we need to figure out where your quitting point is–be it mental or physical, or both. We need to figure out how to obliterate that quitting point. The variation in workouts we’re throwing your way in this cycle are already beginning to reveal some of that in many of you.:)

Some people underestimate the taxing nature of the work they will do in a metcon, chipper, or endurance WOD…before they get to the part they’re “good at.” When they come to that place, and don’t do as well as they’d expected to do–they feel as though they’ve failed. When, in fact, they simply underestimated the work that would come prior, and failed to pace in such a way that would keep them prepared to accomplish the work ahead.

For example…Chris Hinshaw discussed the ‘Triple Three’ workout at the CrossFit Games in a recent podcast. If you remember, even the Fittest Man on Earth ended up walking during the run portion of that workout! He explained that many of the athletes failed to consider the amount of work they’d do prior to the run, then errantly expected to match their known performance on a 3-mile run. They went all out from ‘3-2-1 GO’ and found that left them ill-equipped for the run. He mentioned a similar thought process in relation to the ‘Muscle-Up Biathlon.’ He explained that the run was intended to be a recovery pace, not a sprint. What happened? Suddenly, athletes who are super efficient and strong in the muscle-up department, are failing reps due to fatigue–spent aerobic capacity.

We can fix this in a variety of ways. First, we program workouts that address that “quitting point”, by tasking you with aggressive goals paired with small amounts of rest, right at the point you’d be focused on quitting–rather than kicking a$$. We will make you kick a$$! Ha! For example, here’s a workout Hinshaw might program to challenge the athlete that gives up at the 3/4 way mark of any given workout…

1 x 800, 1 x 800, 5 x 200 (aggressive, with small amounts of rest in between), 1 x 800

He creates a stimulus at your weak point, to make it a strength instead.

How do I fix the fact that I’m reluctant to embrace my sustainable pace?

Quit being stubborn.:) Look at the big picture! The fact is, if you continue to seek out and find that juuuust below red-line, lactate threshold and dance all around it–under/over/right at–you’re gonna increase your capacity to do EVERYTHING. The ultimate goal, is that you will increase your speed at VO2 Max. That is what we’re trying to help you do, and that is why we’ve introduced you to this methodology.

How do I know what I need to work on?

Here’s something else super science-y and cool! Consider your recently-tested 400m and 1600m PRs. Elite runners will typically grow 6% slower for every doubling of the distance that they run. So between 400 to 800 and 800 to 1 mile–6%. A well-rounded CrossFitter, who is clearly not a “specialist” (as intended by Mr. Glassman), should ideally grow around 20% slower for every doubling of the distance that they run.

When Chris Hinshaw began training Rich Froning, his PRs for the same distances were 60 seconds and 6:00–each respectable times in their own right. However, the percentage slowed between those distances was 28%–less than ideal. What this meant, was that Rich’s weakness was in his ability to efficiently use oxygen over the longer distance–in other words, his aerobic capacity needed work.

Now just for fun, I thought I’d see where my own times fell. My 400m and 1600m PRs are 1:40 and 8:18, respectively. That works out to be a 13% percentage change. For me, this means I’m actually doing pretty well where consumption and efficient use of oxygen are concerned! But? If I map it out–it means my mile PR should be around 7:14. So what do I need?? More strength, speed and power. Rich has strength, speed, and power all day long (and most of the next day). His need was for work at aerobic threshold. I need to be stronger in the gym, to be faster on the back lot. I already guessed that–but now its science, sooo…

Where do you stand?? Here’s how to figure it out.

Runner’s Pace <<Use this hyperlink:)

Enter your 400m pace, hit ‘calc’, then scroll down to look at your 1-mile RIEGAL projection.

Then, divide your 1600m RIEGAL projection time (in seconds) by your actual 1600m PR time (in seconds).

Then, take 1 minus (this number) to equal your percentage ratio.

For example:  my actual 1600m time 8:18 (498 seconds) works out to a RIEGAL 1600m projection of 7:14 (434 seconds).

Therefore: 434/498 = 0.87

Finally: 1 – 0.87 = 0.128 or 13% (my percentage value)

Isn’t that exciting??? #goalzzz

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28 thoughts on “Aerobic Capacity Explained…

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