Are you pacing yourself properly?
One of the biggest mistakes athletes make—especially inexperienced ones—is mis-pacing their conditioning workouts. They go out too hard and hit a wall. Crash and burn. It’s painful for the athlete, and almost as painful for the coach to watch.
On the other side of the spectrum, some athletes will 'over' pace their workout, typically paired with choosing movements or weights that aren't challenging them in the way the workout is prescribed. Correcting this is as simple as gaining experience and confidence in your movements and trusting that your body is able to handle the workload.
But it recently occurred to me that many athletes don’t even realize how much they mis-pace a workout. They just chalk it up to: “That workout crushed me.”
Listen up: It doesn’t have to crush you that much!
And in fact, if you’re in a lot of pain in the first half of any given conditioning workout, then you’ve probably done something wrong. In other words, a perfectly-paced workout is usually less painful than an improperly paced one. And on top of that, your final time will likely be faster when you execute a pacing strategy that’s appropriate for your fitness level.
What does a well-paced workout look like?
Think of it like a 1-mile run. You’d never go out at a full sprint in the first 200 meters of a 1-mile run. More likely, you’d pick a steady pace and try to hold onto it throughout the course of the mile. The same is true of what we do: Each round of a 5-round workout, or a 10-minute workout where you’re trying to do as many repetitions as possible, for example, should be completed at a consistent speed and possibly with a bit of a 'push' during the last round or last minute to shave off some seconds or add a few extra reps. If you don't have any extra gas in the tank for a hard push at the end, it's likely you mis-judged your workout. Or you need to take a look at your nutrition...but that's a whole other topic!
3 Tips to a Perfect Pace
- Go into each workout with a plan:
Before each workout, take a moment to examine what you’re about to do, and then predict how fast, or how many rounds, you think you will be able to complete.
Many athletes just wait for the ‘3, 2, 1 Go,’ and then start moving aimlessly without a clue how long they’ll be conditioning for. How do you know how fast to move, or how hard to go, when you have no idea if you’ll be working out for 7 minutes or 20 minutes?
The more you practice assessing how your body will react to different types of movements and time domains—how you’ll break up the reps and the sets and how much you need to rest—the better you’ll get at properly predicting your perfect pace.
- Break things up early:
‘Going unbroken’—glamorous as it might seem—isn’t always the best way to move the fastest, or the most consistently over the course of a workout. Take a look at the famous Rich Froning, in most workouts with a clean or a snatch it's a rare occasion to see him hold onto the bar. Typically performing single repetitions at a time, proving it can be just as fast with less effort.
Let’s say the workout is Grace—30 clean and jerks for time
Many people are determined to bust out a big set off the top because they’re fresh, but often this just means the second half of Grace takes three times as long as the first.
Don’t do 10 reps unbroken in your first set, for example, unless you plan to hold 3 sets of 10 at a consistent pace. In other words, if you bust out 10 reps really quickly, but then you have to move to singles, you probably went out too hard. I’ve seen people complete a workout like Grace faster doing singles the entire time than someone else who did a set of 15 off the top and then 15 slow, sloppy, painful-looking singles to complete the workout.
- Keep track of your scores and write notes:
Keeping track of your numbers goes a long way in helping you figure out your pace. The more data you know about your fitness level, the easier it will be to apply this data even to workouts you’ve never done before.
For example, let’s say you’re doing something like 100 wallballs for time and you know last week you did a workout with 50 wallballs and found yourself doing sets of 3 or 5 by the end. Remembering how those 50 wallballs went will allow you to come up with a plan of attack for 100 wallballs for time—how to break them up, how much to rest etc…
These aren’t foolproof tips, of course. Sometimes you’ll still get your pacing wrong. But the more you practice calculated pacing, the more you pay attention to your body and your scores, the easier it will be to perfectly pace a workout, so when a five-round workout like Kelly comes up, your first and fifth round will take you virtually the same amount of time. And you’ll probably end up with a better score, too!