Load vs Capacity

This week, we’ll be going over the 4 most IMPORTANT training ideas for you to know. If you care about getting fitter, this is where you’ll want to pay attention! We started off with Mechanics, Consistency, and Intensity on Tuesday (link:https://frontrangecrossfit.com/how-to-get-good-at-anything/  . We covered Progressive Overload on Wednesday https://frontrangecrossfit.com/progressive-overload/ . We’ll take a look at Load vs Capacity today, and finish up with Separating Fact and Fiction when it comes to fitness on Friday. 

We only work out to create the opportunity to recover.

I’ll say that again: we only work out to create the opportunity to recover. 

That means that the actual getting fitter doesn’t happen while we work out–it happens in the adaptation that occurs in our body after we’re done working out!

Why is this important? Because it means we can only get fitter from the work we can actually recover from! This means that understanding the relationship between the load we place on our bodies and the capacity we have to recover is vitally important for improving fitness.

If the load we place on our body begins to exceed our capacity to recover from it, then we can actually make ourselves LESS fit by working out. If that’s a hard concept to wrap your head around, then imagine it this way: 

Run a mile for time, as fast as you can.

1 minute later, try to beat that time.

Of course, you would be slower the second time around if you genuinely gave full effort the first mile. Working out past our capacity to recover does the same thing, but on a longer time scale. We recover only partially, leaving ourselves closer to our threshold already, and then repeat that process until either our willingness to push goes down or we get injured.

So–how do we master the load vs capacity conundrum? 

First, we have to look at the load we’re placing on ourselves each day. Some of these things aren’t changeable: 

Non changeable loads

  1. Previous injuries. You can’t go backwards and un-have that surgery from tearing your ACL in college.
  2. Routine life stressors. You have to eat. You have to pay for a place to live. You have to work. While we can change the LEVEL of these stressors, we can’t completely eliminate them. 
  3. Body Anthropomorphics: Basically your bones, and the way your body is put together. If you are 6’5”, then a squat snatch is going to put more stress on your joints than if you were 5’2”. Conversely, if you’re 5’2”, every rowing workout is going to be dozens of extra row strokes compared to your tall friends.

While non changeable loads have to be taken into account (if you fractured an ankle, and it doesn’t move anymore, no amount of mobility is going to fix that) they’re not worth really worrying about–because we can’t do anything about them. So we need to turn our focus and time to the loads we can reduce:

Changeable loads:

  1. Stress, Diet, Sleep. These are the 3 biggest factors in recovery, and they all happen outside of the gym. Eating a nutritious diet, full of real foods, with enough calories to actually promote recovery will massively improve your recovery. Similarly, sleeping 7+ hours/night will allow your body time to rebuild muscles, have a healthy hormone system, and decrease fatigue. Finally, reducing consistent stress will allow your body to get out of fight or flight, and into rest and digest–where the recovery actually happens!
  2. Workout volume and intensity: You can drop one of these, or both of them if need be. We generally recommend dropping volume before we drop intensity–a well executed, intense workout is plenty for the day! 
  3. Workout frequency. Rest days are important. No matter how well designed your workout plan is, working out for more than 3 days in a row will start to build fatigue. You need to clear fatigue in order to be able to recover fully–which means a rest day! 

John–I don’t want to change how I work out, and I already eat, sleep, and manage stress well. How do I improve my capacity, rather than lower my load?

Great question, fictional reader! This one is simple. There are 3 ways to truly increase capacity:

  1. Time. Realistically, it takes time to increase your capacity. Once you’ve got a few years under your belt, we’ll be able to do more, and still recover from it! Like most things, you can’t rush this.
  2. Easy aerobic work. Think–walking for 60 minutes type of work. This will improve blood flow, ability to tolerate volume, and reduce CNS load.
  3. Eat more.  Note–this may cause you to gain weight (a lot of it will be muscle), but if you genuinely enjoy working out, and want to do more of it, you will likely need to increase your caloric intake. Food is fuel, and you can’t put more miles on the car without gas in the tank! 

Raise your  capacity, or lower your load–and watch your fitness skyrocket! 


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