Working Out More: Is it Worth it?

A few months ago we released an article about how long it takes to improve in CrossFit. Using “Fitness Level“, our robust measure of an athlete’s physical capacity, we looked at improvement rates across all levels and abilities. We found that on average it takes about 5-6 months to improve your overall Fitness Level by 10 Levels (e.g. going from a level 60 to a level 70).

In this article we will be exploring whether working out additional days per week is worth the extra effort. For years, many prospective crossfitters have wondered if working out five times a week was worth the time commitment. Is three days a week enough to see good improvement? What about two days?

Fitness Level Overview

Findings

Working out 5 days per week week produced 27% faster improvement than 3 days per week.

After analyzing the data, we found that working out 5 days per week week produced 27% faster improvement than 3 days per week. Even increasing from 3 to 4 days per week is associated with 10% faster improvement. We’ve often heard people discount the value of only working out 2 days per week, but the data shows that those athletes only progressed 7.5% slower than their 3 day per week counterparts.

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So is it worth it? Well, that depends.

Clearly there is a substantial performance benefit to working out 5 day a week. But there may be some downsides as well. For one, many gyms charge more for 5 times a week vs. 3 times a week. If that’s how it works at your gym, the additional cost is something to consider. If your gym only offers unlimited memberships, then coming 5 times a week gives you more for your money.

Also, the additional workout time is a factor to consider. Working out 5 times a weeks requires 66% more time than 3 times a week, for only 27% faster results. If you’re already strapped for time in your weekly schedule, this tradeoff may not be worth it for you.

Another issue is recovery and injury risk. The more days you workout, the less your body gets to recover. This can set you up for endless days of soreness and could possibly put you at a higher risk for injury. As always, listen to your body and rest when you need it.

Ultimately, the answer to the question depends on your goals. Are you just trying to stay healthy? Or are you trying to make Regionals this year? If improving as fast as possible is your number one priority, then you should strongly consider increasing your workout days to 5 (or more). If you’re just doing it for fun and health, then there is no need to push your luck. Pick the numbers of days that fit in your lifestyle and that allow for recovery, and you’ll be well on your way to improving your fitness for the long haul.

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The Easiest Fitness Level Workouts

Last year we released “Fitness Level“, which will tell you your overall Fitness Level in a number from 1-99. To calculate your Fitness Level, we look at 8 different categories of workouts. The more of these workouts that you have completed, the more confident we are in the accuracy of your Fitness Level.

Fitness Level Overview

You can browse through all of the Fitness Level workouts by going to “Explore” > “Workouts” on beyondthewhiteboard.com and selecting the filter for “Fitness Level” > “All”.

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In order for a workout result to be considered for Fitness Level, it must be done “As Rx’d” (as prescribed). If a Fitness Level workout contains movements (e.g. Pull-ups, Muscle-ups, etc.) or weights that you can’t complete without scaling, then we won’t be able to use that workout as part of your calculation. Fortunately, there are workouts in each category that almost everyone can do as prescribed. Below is a list of those Fitness Level workouts.  Use them to gauge/track your Fitness Level while you inch closer and closer to performing the more difficult ones without requiring modifications.

If a Fitness Level workout contains movements (e.g. Pull-ups, Muscle-ups, etc.) or weights that you can’t complete without scaling, then we won’t be able to use that workout as part of your calculation. Fortunately, there are workouts in each category that almost everyone can do as prescribed. Below is a list of those Fitness Level workouts.

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Affiliate R&D: The Coffee Box

coffee paleo grind

It never ceases to amaze me at how much ingenuity box clienteles have to offer.  If I’ve learned anything over the years it’s that you’ll want to regularly pick the brains of your members for ideas on how to improve the gym experience you offer. After all, nobody knows what to look for in a gym more than the ones actually paying the big bucks to attend.  Every once in a while you’ll come across a gem of an idea that will become part of the inner workings of your box for a long time.

Introducing The Paleo Grind, a coffee shop created and operated out of Reebok CrossFit Cardiff in Cardiff, Wales. No doubt, countless other gyms offer coffee to their members. Where Reebok CrossFit Cardiff goes above and beyond is by experimenting with bringing the actual coffee shop experience, the social congregation, the relaxed ambiance, the amazing aromas, directly to its members.  CrossFitters’ love of coffee is well documented. Perhaps combining the two, literally, is just what your gym needs? The project is still in its infancy and its success, so far, undetermined, but we were so intrigued with the idea that we couldn’t wait to share it with the rest of the world.

How It All Began
The Paleo Grind is the brainchild of James Henderson, a long-time, loyal member of Reebok CrossFit Cardiff. He loved the gym and his experience so much that he began thinking of ways to give back.

“[My motivation], primarily, was to make the box better. Whilst I am not the box owner, I feel passionately about it and what it has done for me, so it is only natural that I want to improve it.”

The fact that James feels so strongly about his gym is testament to the work they are doing over there at Reebok CrossFit Cardiff. James long observed the lingering habits of himself and fellow members, both pre and post WOD, and quickly realized that the gym could benefit from a designated gathering spot. He initially experimented (with the approval of the owner) by placing a couch in a dark corner of the gym near a small store room to see if people would take the bait. Sure enough, people began choosing the couch as their hangout area of choice. The addition of a small light was the icing on the cake. Before long James realized the potential of the space. For him, it was only natural that the area also served coffee.

You see, James is pretty passionate about coffee too (as I suspect many CrossFitters to be). He’d long investigated and observed the health and performance benefits coffee has to offer. His goal was to pass on that knowledge to his fellow CrossFitters. As the spot became more and more popular, James approached the affiliate owner and, ultimately, came to an agreement regarding the creation, ownership, and operation of an officially licensed coffee shop. Alas, The Paleo Grind was born.

“I have come to a sensible arrangement with the box owners that balances the benefits of the coffee shop for members, with the [utilization] of the space and facilities.”

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Affiliate R&D: July Guests Experiment

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In the last seven years I have learned a lot about starting, operating, and training at a CrossFit affiliate. My knowledge, like many other affiliate owners, has come via experimenting with offering different programs and projects that we’ve either come up with on our own, or ones we’ve borrowed from others. In addition, the Beyond The Whiteboard team has always viewed the CrossFit affiliate model as a sort of research and development program for running a gym. The hands-off approach of CrossFit HQ gives every affiliate a chance to experiment and share (via the journal or their own blog) their findings. Different approaches to programming, nutrition, class structure, etc are forged from this concept. There is a ton of great information out there for affiliate owners just waiting to be discovered; we want to help organize it, as well as contribute to it. We also want it to be data driven. Our plan is to analyze experiments that are happening at affiliates around the country each and every day. Some will work, some won’t, but the goal is to always learn something new. I’ll go ahead and kickstart things with an experiment we recently did at my affiliate.

The Experiment

In February of 2014 we opened our second location.  We were looking for ways to fill the doors faster than we managed with our first. We decided to give existing members at the new location the option to bring 1 “guest” to the gym, for free…for the entire month of July. We called the initiative “July Guests”. In our experience, often times a single intro class, or drop-in, just isn’t enough for new, prospective members to fully grasp the programming, community, and results our box has to offer. Surely, a month-long trial would do the trick.

To fully test this idea we had to drop our on-ramp/beginner classes. On-ramp/beginner programs allow affiliates more time to educate members on the principles/philosophies of the CrossFit program, introduce specific nutrition concepts, and help familiarize newbies with group style training methods, but they still fall short of the complete CrossFit box experience, and that’s what we were after. Although on-ramp classes certainly have their advantages, nothing beats the atmosphere, camaraderie, and intensity of a full blown, jam packed group class. Here’s how it worked:

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