How fast should I go?

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Once of the most common questions I am asked after we finish a warmup is “How fast should I go?” My usual answer is to “go as fast as possible while keeping proper form intact.” CrossFit Montgomery County has an excellent article on this topic.

Fast=Good. Too Fast=Bad
There comes a point in every CrossFitter’s career where technique begins to break down in order to shave a few more seconds off the time. This OK to a certain extent, but the breakdown needs to be more carefully monitored. Let me explain…

Let’s say you’re learning how to type. You place your fingers on the home keys (I’m amazed I remember that term from my middle school typing class) and carefully begin sounding out the words as you type them letter-by-letter, sounding like an old LP record player that’s been slowed *way* down. This is great – you’re learning where your fingers need to go to hit the right letters and all, but you need to push the limits of your newly acquired abilities and hit some wrong keys once in awhile or you’ll always be typing at the speed of a snail on quaaludes.

The flip side of this is trying to go too fast before you’re ready. If all you know are the home keys and you start banging away at the keyboard as if you’re trying to type the complete works of William Shakespeare in less than an hour, you’re going to end up with a lot of unintelligible crap that means nothing. You’re also not going to be improving your typing skills at all; in fact you’ll be severely stunting them.

Both of these are easy problems to identify and fix when we’re talking about typing, but oddly enough people don’t seem to be able to recognize it (much less fix it) in the gym. That’s ok, that’s what the coaches are for – you just have to trust us if we say you’re going too slow or (more likely) too fast. Remember, we’re here to help you get better, and if slowing you the hell down is what the doctor orders, then follow the orders and do it right.

In the case of typing too fast before you know how to do it, you end up with a bunch of random letters that you can erase with a couple clicks of the mouse. If you go too fast with the barbells, kettlebells or any movements where technique is important, you end up with bad habits that are hard to break, plateaus in your gains, and quite likely severe injury. In the words Dave ‘Chef’ Wallach, “For the love of all things athletic, DO IT RIGHT or PUT DOWN THE BAR, pause, focus and LEARN HOW TO DO IT RIGHT!! … and don’t say, ‘but that will make me slower’… don’t. Just don’t. Please. Don’t be a ‘clock weenie’.”

Being fast and right is cool. Being fast and stupid is not.

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