Focus on specific time durations
First, one of the stated goals of CrossFit is to improve fitness across broad time domains. This is a very general prescription for training. It could mean anything from a 10-second sprint to a 17-hour Ironman triathlon. We need a more specific definition. The best way to get that is to view the time durations of Open workouts in previous years.
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The following chart shows the duration of each Open workout in the last five years.1 Each bar represents a past workout, and its height shows how long it took to finish it.
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Note: Some past Open workouts had a time cap, which is not a good indicator of the actual duration, as most athletes finished in a shorter time. In those cases, I chose the median athlete finish time as a more representative time duration. Specifically, I did this for workouts 17.5 (median finish time of 17 min ), 17.3 (8 min.), 16.5 (17 min ), 16.2 (8 min ), 15.5 (13 min.), 15.2 (6 min.), 14.5 (19 min ), 14.2 (5 min ), and 13.5 (4 min ).
As you can see from the chart, almost all workouts for the previous five years have been between 7 and 20 minutes long. This means that the stated broad time domains span only 13 minutes in practice. Each year contains a mix of workouts of all durations, with an average duration of 12 minutes.
The best training plan will prepare you for peak performance within these time durations. You will need the power to work at high intensity in the shorter workouts. And you will need enough endurance to sustain high performance for up to 20 minutes.
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Increase your power
Another way to analyze past workouts is by their goal. The following chart shows a count of past Open workouts, organized by the goal athletes were ranked on.
Interestingly, the goal of every Open workout is to either perform as much work as possible within a specified time frame or finish the required work as quickly as possible. These are actually two sides of the same coin. According to this, every past Open workout has essentially shared the same goal: do the work as fast as you can.
Categorizing the workouts by the type of goal shows us that the Open is a test of how much power we can generate within 7- to 20-minute time frames. In this blog, we define power as the time-rate of work. In other words, power is the amount of work performed within a specified amount of time.2
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