Poking around the links from the APFT calculator page, I skimmed the PDF of the suggested training workouts a person should use to improve APFT results or to get ready to take the test. The workout schedule is followed by a list of training principles (page 4), two of which really struck me: “Progression: To achieve a training effect, the intensity and/or time of exercise must gradually increase” and “Regularity: One must exercise consistently. Minimum is three times per week.”
As hard as the boxing and CrossFit workouts can be, I don’t think I’m getting progression and regularity. Boxing was so hard right from the start that it improved my fitness level significantly within the first several months. Then for the next two and a half years, I’ve enjoyed the workouts and stayed fit—but I’ve wondered what, if anything, I should do to get beyond the plateau. That was one reason I practiced doing doubles when jumping rope and got to the point where I could do more of them in a row than anybody else at the gym. (Now I’m convinced I have Achilles tendonitis from all those doubles.)
Wanting to get off the plateau was also one reason I joined CrossFit. I thought it would provide a “training effect” by being more intense. That has happened to a small degree in that I can tell my core is stronger and I can do more push-ups. But long-term, I’m not sure CrossFit is systematic enough to provide progression for a non-elite athlete like myself. A related problem is that I’m only getting the minimum regularity, as I work out at CrossFit twice a week and at boxing once a week.
Suppose I start going to CrossFit three times a week and stay with boxing once a week. What do I need from CrossFit in order to progress? The most obvious need is to have enough training on the barbell weightlifting techniques so that I can lift confidently and explore my maximum lifts. Without consistently exploring the max, I don’t see how I will progress. I haven’t had enough personal training on the barbell lifts.
Additionally, to progress in strength training I also need more frequent dedicated strength workouts (barbells) as opposed to the usual, varied workouts. Those are done for speed and tend to combine combine dynamic weight training (such as kettlebell swings) with cardio and body-weight drills (rowing; push-ups; sit-ups).
The problem I’ve experienced related to weight training is that when they mix some barbell lifts into one of the varied workouts that are done for speed, I’ve needed a full refresher course on whatever barbell lift we’re doing. That interruption takes away from the quality and speed of the overall workout. I want to know exactly how to do whatever each workout calls for so that I can concentrate on the workout instead of on learning the basic skills.
It is possible I need to have patience, ask for the training I need, and expect a longer learning curve before I look for systematic progression. That’s not unreasonable. But I’m concerned also about the scalability of CrossFit to large groups. They tout the workout’s scalability to different ability levels, but I don’t see how they would teach, say, ten people at a time on lifts like the clean and jerk. As it is, the group is usually small and the training is individual, face to face, and as needed. But when the group is bigger, it can be hard to learn or refresh a skill, as I experienced recently.
If CrossFit is going to catch on to a larger market, I think they should offer six- or eight-session classes in lift techniques for a group. They could start with light kettlebells and empty barbells and work everyone up to the confidence to find out how much they can lift. They could finish the course by making sure people feel confident enough to try heavier weights when appropriate to ensure (and test) their progression. The Seattle gym offers kettlebell classes—maybe I should try those. But I think my first step should be to tell one of the coaches that I need more help with learning the lifts thoroughly.