Work Capacity – Our Queen
Ugh…I think I just threw up in my mouth. What round are we on? Wait how many more? What the hell is that bald guy yelling about in the corner, something about mental toughness and fighting through? I’m not in a fight, I’m playing with a big bag full of rocks and rubber mulch. This isn’t “functional.” Why would I ever be carrying around an 80lb sandbag? I’m a 36 year old young professional, what the hell am I doing here………
We’ve all been there, that magical moment in a work capacity session that makes us question the decision to drive 20 minutes up to some dank garage without AC, or heat, and put ourselves through what can sometimes be the most challenging physical experience we’ve ever had. We feel nauseous, weak, helpless then angry. We’re angry at ourselves for not only putting our bodies through such an awful ordeal but our egos on the line for judgment. We suddenly realize that no one is judging us, they are too busy experiencing the same thing regardless of how fit they are. The next thing you know we are all lying in a puddle of sweat panting and thanking the gods that it is over. At least for today.
If strength is our king then work Capacity is our queen. She can be an ugly, or beautiful queen depending on your attitude towards her. If you come in timid, unprepared, with your tail between your legs then she will make you her bitch and you’ll be dancing around the around the throne room naked and humiliated. If you come to her with your head held high and ready to face whatever she puts before you than she will reward you with an experience that will not only improve your physical armor but you will build the mental armor that is so prized among elite level athletes and warriors. Regardless of your performance you will walk away with the pride of knowing that you gave it your best, and that the next time you’ll do better, the time after that - even better.
Work Capacity is where all our fitness attributes come together – Our raw strength, strength endurance, aerobic base, sprint cardio and mental toughness. These multi-modal, short, anaerobic, high intensity sessions train the body to do more work in less time. They effectively increase the athletes “horsepower.”
If training strength gives us a bigger engine then work capacity allows us to do more work with that engine.
Work capacity sessions push the muscles and lungs to failure simultaneously. They are designed to be hard. We’ve found that one of the most transferable benefits from this training is the mental toughness that one acquires from these sessions. We want our athletes to have their worst days in the gym so they can have their best days on the race course, battlefield, or cage.
Mental toughness is something that can and should be trained, because it is a trainable attribute we choose to call it mental fitness. Just like your physical fitness it has its good days and its bad days. Everyone has their strong points. It’s a cruel trick to your body and ego to only train your strengths. A true athlete seeks out their weaknesses, trains them harder than anything else, and turns them into a strength. He takes his weak link and makes it the strongest.
How do we train it?
1) Don't take it to failure - leave a few reps in the tank. Pacing is very important in any sport - fighting, climbing, running - you name it. We've all seen it before, someone goes balls out in the first round then they just crumble. Always have a little juice left - stop 2-3 reps before you hit that wall and rest.
2) When you do rest limit it to 5 breaths - that's all you need to get a short recovery. Take 5 breaths, do a few reps, take 5 breaths, do a few reps. You'll be amazed at how much rest you can get in that short amount of time.
3) Never rest in transition - this circuits are multi modal and designed in a specific way. Each exercise taxes the body in a different way, move quickly from exercise to exercise. If you are coming close to the wall get at least 1 rep in before resting. It's hard but it works.
Our athletes have said that one of the most transferable factors during their training in the gym is their mental fitness and how they are able to push further and harder – the mental armor forged from hours of suffering in the gym now allows them to perform at levels beyond what they ever expected. They’re accustomed to the panicked breathing, the heart pounding, the muscles burning, the sweat dripping in their eyes, it’s all normal for them. It’s part of their everyday routine. It no longer becomes an agonizing distraction. It’s just another Tuesday. They are free to focus on things that are more important in their discipline – they do not let their body distract their minds.
With this enhanced mental edge the soccer player is now focused on the ball and it’s trajectory to the goal, not the raging fire in his legs, to him that feels normal. The fighter who needs to pass his opponent’s guard can worry about posturing up and not about the fact his heart rate is pinging at 165 bpm, he can hold that for 20 minutes, he’s done it dozens of times. The climber at the crux of a 5.13 route can worry about setting the anchor properly, not the pump, last week his coach made him spend 40 minutes in the cave on ice axes and he is only 12 minutes into this climb.
The physical and mental attributes acquired during intense work capacity sessions give you so much than a good time to be posted on the board in the dusty gym. Those are just numbers. They aren’t the same as breaking trail in 3 feet of snow in sub zero temperatures or carrying out an injured climbing partner.
People commonly ask me why I train. I train for the day when all the time in the gym, on the mats, and on the range will be tested. It will be fast, violent, and most likely there will be more than one of them and it won’t be just me I am worried about. I will be required to be fast, strong, explosive, and think clearly under huge amounts of physical and mental stress. I want to feel confident that I did all I could to prepare. I want to know that what I am about to face will not be as bad as the 100x Curtis P’s I did with Tod and Jevon the week before.
Hopefully such a day will never come but if it does I want my sword sharp and my armor hard.