Coaching Roundtable: CrossFit Open 15.4 Tips & Advice

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The good news for everyone is that 8 minutes is significantly shorter than 14 minutes, right? Once again, the primary dividing line between Rx and scaled will be a high-level gymnastics movement, but both versions promise to challenge all comers. Good luck to everyone!

Also, based on your feedback, we wanted to make it easier to find advice from your favorite coach. They are listed below by page so you can take note of your preferred words of athletic wisdom.

  • Page 1: Allison Belger, Steph Gaudreau
  • Page 2: Jeremy Jones, Nicole Zapoli
  • Page 3: Cody Burkhart, Wes Piatt
  • Page 4: Diane Fu, Anna Tunnicliffe

Dr. Allison Belger|Licensed Psychologist, PsychologyWOD, TJ’s Gym, and Juggling for Jude

Dr. Allison Belger|Licensed Psychologist, PsychologyWOD, TJ's Gym, and Juggling for Jude

For those of you who possess a basic competency in the two movements included in this workout, your job will be to know how to pace yourself and to be able to fight the urge to go out too quickly or to otherwise mis-pace your reps.
As usual, I will leave the movement, technique, and workout strategy pointers for others. My focus is the mental game and the psychological meaning these workouts can have for Open participants. 15.4 has some elements that fit nicely into psychological territory; many of you tackling this workout will be given an opportunity to test out some mental fortitude and emotional discipline and/or to develop yourself in these areas. Work it.

For those of you who possess a basic competency in the two movements included in this workout, your job will be to know how to pace yourself and to be able to fight the urge to go out too quickly or to otherwise mis-pace your reps. You want avoid failing your handstand pushups earlier than necessary. You will need to have the discipline to slow yourself down from jump street, letting go of worries that you’re wasting time or losing ground. You will need to know your physical limits well and be able to reel yourself in, should you be at risk of reaching those limits prematurely. In some cases, you will need to ignore the cheers of those around you telling you to speed up or the temptation to keep up with the athlete doing the workout next to you.

Ultimately, you will need to have the confidence to be headstrong and stay with a plan. Think of this as analogous to a critical life skill, one that involves the capacity to stay within yourself, do what is working for you, and focus on your own progress, even in the midst of others doing things differently. Maybe that translates into being smart in the gym and not pushing yourself to lift heavier weights or try more advanced movements than for those which you are  ready. Or perhaps it applies to the ways in which you conduct yourself at work and in the social realm (are you true to your own convictions when making decisions and choices?). In my opinion, the workout will be more meaningful than just your final ranking if you put some thought into these applications to life outside the Open.

Keep in mind that plans — rep schemes, strategies, and rest intervals — can go quickly by the wayside once muscle failure kicks in, as it often does when doing high repetitions of handstand pushups. Your mental battle will then become managing your “failure” and keeping your head in the game in a positive way. Pay attention to where your mind starts to wander as soon as you taste the sting of failure. Whose voices do you hear, and what are they telling you? At that point, your number-one goal is to counter negative thinking with positive self-talk. We can only consciously entertain one thought at a time; you’d better make yours something that will inspire and encourage you to keep at it, as opposed to something that makes you want to quit. Stay focused on the task at hand, remind yourself that failed reps were likely to happen, and rely on your mantra or cue phrase to snap you back into a positive mindset. “I’ve got this. It’s ok” or “One rep at a time. No worries.” Say it over and over, rhythmically and reassuringly. If you care about the outcome of your performance, these types of mental techniques can make all the difference. If you’re fighting for a spot at Regionals, keep your eye on the prize and remind yourself why you’re doing this. In that case, it’s worth the battle, but you have to stay in the fight.

For most of you who do end up struggling to get past the very early rounds, it is likely that CrossFit competition is not your life’s work and that this is simply an opportunity to test yourself physically and mentally.
Finally, should you run into stumbling blocks in this workout (and no doubt many of you will), be sure to keep perspective. For most of you who do end up struggling to get past the very early rounds, it is likely that CrossFit competition is not your life’s work and that this is simply an opportunity to test yourself physically and mentally. Take some deep breaths, appreciate the fact that you’re even out there, and do what you can. Thank goodness, your life does not depend on the outcome. Make use of this as a chance to test your psychological fortitude: How do you continue in an endeavor that is either beyond your capacity or that challenges you more than you’d like? What kind of attitude do you find yourself having?  Do you start being critical of the programming and finding other negative, externalizing ways to make yourself feel more adequate? Or are you able to accept your limitations and look forward to the next challenge?

If you’re a Masters athlete over the age of 54, and you’re irritated that you’re forced to scale to push presses, let that go now. For every one of you who is annoyed, there is another who is thrilled. Resist the temptation to publicly bash the programming decision. It has been made, and remember that you just might like the choice next week if it works to your advantage. Take the high road, accept the decision, and give it your all. And while I’m trying to resist inserting my own personal bias here, I simply cannot help myself: you should be rejoicing that your neck and spine will not be as vulnerable as they would be if you were doing handstand pushups. Huge upside. Now go read this article again from the beginning with a different mindset, one unclouded by your frustration at the scaling option!

Steph Gaudreau|Stupid Easy Paleo

Steph Gaudreau|Stupid Easy Paleo
Alright, crew! 15.4 is going to be a fast and furious AMRAP ascending ladder of handstand push-ups and cleans with an 8-minute time cap.

The short time domain here is going to demand you keep moving to get the maximum number of reps in this pretty short workout with the HSPU probably being the limiting factor for some RX athletes as the reps rapidly increase.

You’re really not going to have time to eat or drink anything because this one’s going to be over in a blink.

If you need something extra for rehydration, opt for your favorite electrolyte replacement or something like coconut water with a couple pinches of salt.
So, let’s talk about fueling before. This workout will definitely demand glycogen, so being sure you’re properly topped up before the workout is important.

The day before you attempt the workout, pay attention to your post-workout refuel, getting enough protein and carbohydrate to kickstart recovery. A good ratio to play around with is 2:1 (carb:protein). If you’re taking down 30 grams of lean protein, double it and have about 60 grams of starchy carbohydrate.

If you’re topped up from the day before, and you’re attempting this workout around mid-day or in the evening, you may want to toss in some carbs at breakfast or lunch, respectively, but don’t go crazy and think you need to carb-load.

Make sure you’re adequately rehydrated, too.

If you’re attempting 15.4 in the morning, decide whether or not you’re going in fasted. Since this is primarily a metcon, that could work well for you. If you’re not used to training fasted, I’d take down a snack-sized portion of protein and fat or something like butter coffee with some protein powder mixed in.

So, do you need to do a pre-workout? Totally depends. If it’s been 3-6 hours since you last ate and you’re feeling hungry—or what I describe as “hollow”—you may want to eat some protein and fat about 30-60 minutes beforehand. This might be a protein shake with a bit of coconut milk, a hardboiled egg, or at the least, 5 to 10 grams BCAAs.

What about post-workout? You’re definitely going to want to refuel with protein and carbs in that 2:1 ratio I mentioned above. Think of things like a recovery protein shake that has carbs added into it; a protein shake with something starchy on the side; or a serving of lean protein like chicken or tuna with potatoes, white rice, etc. Don’t skimp out on the post-workout carbs here.

If you need something extra for rehydration, opt for your favorite electrolyte replacement or something like coconut water with a couple pinches of salt. For a little bit of a glucose boost, add some pineapple juice.

Though the time domain is shorter than most of the Open WODs have been, you may be pretty gassed. Relax for a few minutes and let your body come down out of that sympathetic state where you’re making sweat angels on the floor before trying to shove down a post-workout shake or meal.

Ideally, try to eat your post-workout within 15-30 minutes of completing 15.4, so if that means bringing it to the gym with you, plan ahead. Eat your next full meal as normal, potentially adding a bit more carbohydrate than normal, especially if you went particularly hard.

Steph is the author of the newly released, award-winning The Performance Paleo Cookbook and The Paleo Athlete. She’s the nutritionist and recipe writer behind StupidEasyPaleo.com. Steph qualified for the 2014 American Open in Olympic weightlifting, competed at CrossFit Regionals in 2013, and used to race mountain bikes and Xterra.

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