The Art of Pacing

the art of pacing
Reading Time: 4 minutes

In CrossFit we are always doing our best to perform efficiently, get more repetitions and finish WODs as fast as possible. To get the most out of every workout, athletes need to have a plan. A sound strategy ensures great experience and getting the desired stimulus.

Today we are talking about proper pacing of various workout types. This skill requires both practice and learning more about yourself. Understanding how to pace yourself also boosts an athlete’s confidence, they attack WODs like a pro. We gathered handy tips for better pacing from CrossFit coaches below. Here you go!

1. Understand the workout

A short chipper or a 7-minute AMRAP will need a different pace than a 20-minute couplet

Go really fast during short metcons, consider them a sprint. When attacking long WODs, start at an easy pace to have the fuel for the last minutes. If you feel good at the last rounds – speed up. 

Our goal is to maintain the same pace throughout the whole workout. Advanced athletes, performing 10 rounds will have almost identical split times.

2. Practice

the art of pacing

Devote several workouts to check your current capabilities. Try going a bit faster on those burpees next time to see how it feels. 

Sprint or go slower on the row or bike to understand if it allows you to finish the round faster by cutting rest and quick transitioning. 

Go by feel and you’ll learn more about yourself and your engine. It will help in the future when performing similar workouts.

3. Slow down

Most athletes, especially beginners, go too fast at the beginning of a metcon. 

As a result, they burn out in the middle of workout and slow down significantly till the end. Quick unbroken sets of multiple reps and elevated heart rate in the first rounds may fatigue the body so much that it won’t be able to perform at its full potential anymore.

If you face this issue often, try going slower than you think you should at the start of the workout and speed up closer to the finish. Consider doing negative splits, so that your last rounds are faster than the first ones.

Another strategy is the 80% rule for longer workouts that last more than 6 minutes. To pace them properly, perform at 80% of your maximum effort for 80% of the metcon. Go full send in the last 20%. 

If you keep this rule in mind and apply it regularly, you’ll learn how to pace yourself with ease.

4. Sprint

the art of pacing

In shorter workouts you need to start at a fast pace and push hard until the end. 

Sprint during the last minute at your maximum pace. This also needs some practice but teaches a lot about how to put effort into any of the movements.

5. Control your rest

To really pace the workout and use the time effectively, define your rest periods. Often we spend too much of valuable time to get the chalk, drink water and prepare for the movement. Uncontrolled rest periods lower power output and spoil the overall results.

Have a plan for your breaks and define your rest time. 

For example, watch the timer and give yourself 10 seconds to rest. Alternatively, you can choose to perform the movement every 10 seconds. This strategy helps to understand how much time you will need to finish the workout.

If not using the clock, measure your rest with your breaths. 3-5 deep breaths and you are ready to go again. 

6. Don't reach muscle failure

the art of pacing

First round is often deceiving. When you start you might think that going unbroken will save you time and why not if it feels good. You just want to continue. 

This is a very tricky part of strategy and pacing. If an athlete fatigues the muscles too soon, they won’t perform as effectively in the next rounds. As a result – long breaks, staring at the barbell and missed reps.

To prevent this, it’s good to know your max unbroken set of the movement and go for 40-50% of your max every set

For example, if you can do 10 strict push-ups unbroken, and you have 4 rounds with 10 strict HSPUs, don’t make a mistake and don’t do the first round unbroken. Break them into 2 sets from the very first round, it will save your shoulders for the rest of the workout.

Good luck! Join us to receive future updates and become a part of the WodNow community!

Oksana Protsyk

Oksana is a CrossFit Level 1 Trainer and Endurance Coach at an affiliate. 

Currently working on peaking competitors’ and recreational athletes’ performance for the CrossFit Open.

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