The Prioritization Pyramid
When I speak to each member of our community about the primary goals they want to accomplish using CrossFit as their tool, the overwhelming response relates to the desire to live a healthier, more active life. CrossFit makes us feel better, stronger, and more capable. In addition, it comes with some awesome internal and external byproducts. For 95% of us, 1 workout a day, 4-5x a week, is the ideal amount of time to spend in order to achieve the long-term results we are looking for. For others, there are loftier goals in mind which require a heightened level of activity. These may include increased strength gain, gymnastics and/or Olympic weightlifting prowess, increased metcon performance, all geared towards either wanting faster results in the gym or towards becoming a competitor. Whether these goals are loose or firm, if you identify yourself in this category it is very important that you have a solid gameplan to your heightened activity level.
All houses require a solid foundation, and each subsequent floor requires a stronger floor beneath it. Whether your goal is improved quality of life through CrossFit, to compete at the highest levels in CrossFit, to compete in another sport using CrossFit as your primary training regimen, or anywhere in the middle, the CrossFit Pyramid shows you how you should prioritize the categories of your fitness. Here is a breakdown, most important to least, of how we all should prioritize our health and CrossFit.
Number one, NUTRITION. Nutrition is the key to maximizing performance, recovery, and all body-related result metrics. Your machine will only run as well as the quality of fuel that you put inside of it. If you want to lose weight, the food you eat is the answer. If you want to gain muscle, the food you eat is the answer. If you want to improve your performance, the food you eat will either fuel you or break you down. If you feel terrible the next day after workouts, how did you eat after your last workout? If your plan is to increase your activity level, what is your plan for properly fueling that activity? This is an important one, especially for those of you who like to add in additional work every once in awhile, or hop in on what your buddy is doing. If you aren’t one, fueling, and two, recovering properly from the additional work, you may be breaking your body down instead of building it up. If you do not have a gameplan for your nutritional needs, get one set up as soon as possible.
Number two, METABOLIC CONDITIONING. This is our Workout of the Day or METCON. Prioritizing your conditioning is crucial for building capacity across all 3 metabolic pathways, phosphagen (anaerobic), glycolytic (anaerobic), and oxidative (aerobic). Broken down further, CrossFit relates this to simultaneous efficiency in short, medium, and long distances. Using the word “distances”, leads me to believe that they are directly referring to monostructural conditioning. This means that, yes, capacity in running, rowing, biking, and jumping is crucial for the development of your energy systems and in turn is foundational for the proper development of capacity at the levels to come next. Do not skip these movements. And if you do, do not wonder why your results come slowly in comparison to others.
Number three, GYMNASTICS. In CrossFit we refer to gymnastics as anything calisthenics/bodyweight related. Traditional gymnastics like muscle ups to non-traditional like air squats and box jumps. Body weight movements teach us how to control and stabilize our own body in space. They help us build awareness and accuracy. Moving our own body is foundational to weightlifting where we’d be moving an external load and our body with it. Twice as difficult. If you want to lift more weights, you should also plan on improving your gymnastics capabilities, simply because we can not control a weight if we can not control ourselves.
Number four, WEIGHTLIFTING. Weightlifting teaches us to control external objects and create more power. Weightlifting training is crucial to any conditioning program as it strengthens our joints so that they can handle the rigors of CrossFit and life. Building strength will allow you to improve metcon performances in the future simply by way of reducing the percentage of 1 rep max related to the RX’d weight for that day’s movements. If you want to move on to the final tier of the pyramid, competency at weightlifting is crucial for your safety.
Number five, SPORT. Sport can encompass anything from competing with your friends each day at the gym during one workout, doing extra “workouts,” competing for fun or for prize in CrossFit competitions, or competing at anything else athletics related. Sport is any time when we give away our “training” focus and switch to a “competition” focus. You can further define the two items as “building our body up” and the other “testing our body.” There are no other floors on the pyramid and if you categorize yourself as Crossfitting for SPORT, you absolutely need to carefully develop each floor below, in order. Otherwise, you may not find yourself doing this for very long.
The key takeaways today are that we need more focus. We need to prioritize. If your plan is to CrossFit for the rest of your life, then please take a look at the Pyramid, and then make a plan to prioritize your development up the ladder. If our nutrition is not on point, we will always be frustrated with our results. If our metabolic conditioning suffers, so will the more complicated movements up the ladder as our heart rate rises. If we can not control our own body in space, how can we expect to control it as well as an external object? If our competence with lifting weights is sub par, should we be exposing our body to the endless number of risks involved with competing, or adding additional weightlifting metcons, where the scenario calls for moving fast and with less regard for our body? It is clear that the pyramid is on point and I’d bet that if you have frustrations with your CrossFit, we could take a quick look at the pyramid and find our culprit. Think about this. Think about where you need to refocus. Get some help. Make a plan. Execute. See you all at the PR Board!!!