Zen and the Art of Double Unders

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by LARRY PALAZZOLO 

Zen and the Art of Double Unders

What’s your pace?: [Y]our double under should be a calm, steady zen-like movement. This movement can be an active recovery or a complete gasser.
How you approach the double under is the same for how you approach any metcon in CrossFit. When starting out with double unders, there’s a lot of missed reps and stomping the ground. The body is tense. You forget to breathe. You’re crouched over. Or kicking yourself in the butt. Or piking like a dolphin breaching the surface at Sea World.

Mastering the double under can be a frustrating skill for many, and an even harder one to coach. The setup is similar to a jump shot in basketball. I can show you how to hold a ball. Where to position your hands on the ball. How to position your feet. How to bend your knees and snap your wrist. All the basic mechanics are pretty easy to relay. But shooting a free throw with no one guarding you compared to shooting a fade away 3-pointer with someone in your face are two completely different things. I can’t tell you how high to jump or how hard to snap your wrist. That’s something you need to figure out on your own. You need to develop that touch and that only comes through practice. But once you have that touch it doesn’t leave you. You know from 5, 12, or 23 feet out how hard you need to snap your wrist to make that shot.

Eventually you start stringing a few double unders together, and you’re so excited that you forget to count your reps, or even breathe. It doesn’t matter that you look like a child throwing a temper tantrum; you got three double unders in a row and you should be proud of that accomplishment. But once you’ve moved past that point, your double under should be a calm, steady zen-like movement. This movement can be an active recovery or a complete gasser. That all depends on you.

Remember to calm down, and breathe!

The elite are “maintaining that 85% effort. The difference is that their 85% is a far greater work output than most people’s 100% effort.”
Once the double under has been mastered, you will enter into an age of enlightenment where through dark magic or osmosis, you mysteriously acquire a newfound knowledge of pacing your workouts and becoming more efficient. Prior to that moment of clarity, you probably experienced a lot of what I like to call the First Round Freak Out; where once 3-2-1 GO! is called you black out, forget everything your coach just told you and attack the workout like a rabid animal on a fresh carcass. The problem with that approach is that one minute later, you’re in the classic CrossFit rest position: bent over, hands on your knees, having a sports-induced asthma attack. This is a bad neighborhood to hang out in. This is where stabby meth heads and tranny hookers hang out. Unless that’s your thing (I’m not judging), get the hell out of that neighborhood.

You will come to learn that slow can be fast. Efficiency is key. Maintaining an 85% effort without breaking is faster than going 100%, stop and pant, 100%, stop and pant. Rinse and repeat.

This is evident with most of the top CrossFitters, especially at the Regionals and Games level. Those who make it to the final workouts are not redlining the majority of the time. They’re steady and consistent. They’re not peeling themselves off the floor after each workout. They’re maintaining that 85% effort. The difference is that their 85% is a far greater work output than most people’s 100% effort.

Stay calm. Focus on your breath. Focus on your form. Get into a good position, not a broken one. Stop throwing temper tantrums and going into the first round freak out. Maximize your 85%.

Keep it smooth
Originally posted to the Blog of Larry Palazzolo on 5/15/13.

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