• Karla Wolford

Considerations for a Master's Athlete- Practice vs. Training vs. Competing

First off, let's begin by establishing what a Master's Athlete is. In the sport of CrossFit, it is anyone ages 35+. So let's just say these people have more life experience than your freshly out of college athlete. Their bodies have seen some w

ear and tear throughout their life.

Every quarter we host a Master's WOD at EHP Performance and discuss some important factors about what it means to be a Masters' athlete.

August's Workout had the following highlights.

What percentage of time do you spend doing the following?




Many people answered that they practice as little as 10% of the time and compete upwards to 60% of the time. Although there is no exact correct number for everyone, you need to pay attention to this much more as you age... so you stay injury free and age gracefully. A rough estimate of the percentage you want to be in those categories is 40-50% practice, 40% train and 10% compete.

Here are some great examples of what we describe as practice, training and competing. Credit is given to Ben Bergeron for defining these items for our purpose.

Practicing- This is where you are making a conscious effort to perform the movement perfectly. This is usually done with very light weights (under 60% of your max) or with a PVC. If practicing body weight movement, the focus here is getting your form as perfect as it can be.

In practice, you are working skills, timing and movement patterns. Practice should not be done at max cardiovascular or muscular efforts. It is best performed at low heart rates, low weights, and controlled environments.

Training- Training is what we do in most of our metcons. This is the most effective way to train for physical adaptions and improve your fitness capacities: such as your engine or strength. It is performed at high heart rates, heavier weights, and maximizing intensity.

You should be focusing on the quality of the movement and at the same time pushing that intensity to be better for tomorrow. At the end of a workout, you should feel like you moved well and were able to maintain a relatively high intensity.

This is not the time for practice. This is where you scale the movements or weights that you are giving you trouble. If you are struggling with toes to bar, you should not go into a workout with 10+ toes to bar in each round and do singles or toes to bar with a terrible kip. Not only is this a recipe for injury, but you’re also losing the intention of the workout, which is intensity!


This is where you just go and try to finish first. Things can get a little sloppy, your technique may break down a little. Your main goal here is to win. As long as the rep counts, you’re good. When you’re competing, it is a completely different mindset. You want to see how hard you can push yourself physically and mentally. Competition does have its place from time to time: you can be testing a max lift (when programmed), you can be testing a benchmark workout, or literally participating in a competition. This is a great time to see what you are really capable of when you put your mind to it.

That being said, you should not be “competing” more than a few times a month. Competition does not encourage positive training adaptions, it can actually be detrimental to your progress. It drains you physically, emotionally, and mentally.

Unfortunately, a lot of CrossFitters fall into this category instead of training or practice.

If you’re looking at the leaderboard and trying to beat them by several seconds in a workout, you are competing. If you are using weights too heavy for you, just to put RX or RX+ on the leaderboard, you are competing. If you are rushing to pass someone else in a class, you are competing. If you are doing higher skill gymnastics movements as single reps in a workout just to get that RX, you are competing.

Yes, competing is fun. That’s part of what makes CrossFit so appealing, especially for competitive people. Pick a few workouts a month, and push your limits there. Benchmark workouts or repeat workouts are a great time to do so. Otherwise, you should be focusing on practicing and training. If you are wondering why your toes to bar, handstand pushups, or pull-ups aren’t getting better after years of CrossFit, it’s time to reevaluate how you train. If you’re wondering why you aren’t getting any stronger in your lifts, it’s time to reevaluate. This is why we started adding time caps to workouts, to give you an idea of the intention of the workout. If you are being time capped with 1/4 of the workout still remaining, you scaled incorrectly (weight, movements, or the rep scheme itself).

Our coaches advise what your intention should be before any given workout. To practice excellent movement at low heart rate, to push yourself, or to compete and try to get the best possible time. If you’re unsure of how to approach a workout, always ask a Coach and we will be more than happy to help!

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