A coach at MadLab HQ asked five clients what “giving it 100 percent”
in a conditioning workout looks like to them.
They received these five answers:
- When I’m left feeling nauseous.
- When I barf afterward.
- When I hate my life by round 2…out of 10.
- When I dread the pain I’m going to be in all day at work.
- When it takes me all day to feel useful again.
You might feel like one of the above happening means you gave 100 percent effort.
You might also assume that effort means you maxed out your performance abilities.
I would argue against that. If you’re thoroughly miserable the entire time,
you probably could have performed better AND suffered less in the process.
(Unless it’s “Kalsu.” That $#*&% workout…)
What do you mean?
Doesn’t pushing 100 percent to the edge of death mean you went
as fast as you could?
Performed as well as you could?
No, it doesn’t.
Truly maxing our your performance—for our purposes, getting the best time or completing the most amount of work in any given workout—usually looks and feels like a sub-maximal effort, at least for most of the duration.
Because it probably means you paced the workout perfectly,
which means you never have to reach that horrible, horrible place
until the very end of the workout—when you’re attacking your sprint finish.
Think of it this way:
Getting to that awful-feeling redline means you’re immediately going to have to slow down.
But staying below that threshold means keeping a more consistent (and faster overall) pace.
A good analogy: Get high but don’t overdose!
I’ll give you an example from my high school track days, when I ran the mile.
If you started out in a “dead sprint,” you generally just ended up “dead” after the first lap.
You pace yourself so that all 4 laps are about the same, including an all-out sprint finish.
So remember, if any of the below situations have ever happened to you,
it does NOT necessarily mean you’re a stud who has the mental tenacity and
physical prowess to push through pain.
It probably just means you were less-than-smart when deciding how fast to go that day.
5. Tunnel vision/world goes dark
As a rule, if there isn’t enough oxygen in your brain to process what’s going on around you,
and it’s not the very end of the workout, you went out too hard.
4. You might fail a burpee
If you’re mid-workout and there’s a chance you’d be a candidate for Life Alert
(“I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!”), something has gone wrong with your pacing.
Throwing up has somehow become a badge of honor among competitive exercisers.
But usually it means you ate too close to working out, or you misjudged your abilities.
Or you were drunk. That’s the only time I’ve barfed post-workout.
2. Lip quiver
If your lip starts to quiver, or your face goes numb, you just redlined yourself to the point
where your performance will definitely be below your best today.
If it persists, maybe make sure you’re not having a stroke?
1. Scared to drive
If you need a solid 45 minutes to sit and stare off into space before you feel like you
won’t commit vehicular manslaughter, you probably didn’t pace yourself optimally.
Alas, all is not lost.
We have all made the mistake of going out too hard at some point.
Pacing is something that can be learned.
Here’s what a conditioning workout should feel like when you’re truly
going “100 percent” and maximizing your performance score:
Let’s say it’s a 5-round conditioning workout of rowing, KB swings and pull-ups:
- Each round should be approximately the same speed, with the first and last rounds being slightly faster than the middle three rounds.
- You should break the reps up in the same way in virtually all 5 rounds.
Again, during the first and fifth round, you might go for slightly bigger sets.
In other words, don’t go unbroken the first round if it means breaking up the other four.
- You should feel like you’re physically holding back in round 1 and maybe even round 2—
like you have more in the tank.
- Round 3 and 4 should feel more difficult than round 1 and 2, as you’re starting to fatigue,
but not so difficult that your pace slows down.
- Round 5 should be very hard because you’re pushing faster than the previous rounds.
This is the time to try to go unbroken—to leave it all on the floor, if you can.
Ideally, your fifth round is slightly faster than the rest, but not too much faster as that probably means you went too conservatively.
- To bring it back to my track analogy, my best mile ever was 4:58 in 2005.
That’s an average of 74.5 seconds per lap.
As for my split times? All 4 laps were within 5% of the average.
Practice, Practice, Practice
A good way to practice this is to pay attention to your split times, just like I did in track.
In a 5-round workout, check your split each round and see if your pace drops off the first to fifth round.
Similarly, during an AMRAP (as many reps/rounds as possible), check to see
how much work you complete in the first half compared to the second half.