‘Triage’ your training!


Triage your training... What does it mean?

'Triage is the process of determining the priority of patients' treatments based on the severity of their condition. This rations patient treatment efficiently when resources are insufficient for all to be treated immediately'.

In short triage is a principle of care developed to prioritise how to best use resources in battlefield emergency hospitals and casualty situations. It is a clinical and emotionless way of analysing and assessing the injured and likelihood of survival based on available medical support. The most demanding cases receive attention first were it is deemed help will have a favourable impact. 

Triage can be grouped into three categories:

  1. Those who are likely to live, regardless of what care they receive
  2. Those who are unlikely to live, regardless of what care they receive
  3. Those for whom immediate care might make a positive difference in outcome

Well I believe training can be catergorised in a similar way

  1. Areas of training likely to improve with no special attention – I classify this as things such as burpees, box jumps, kb swings, general work capacity and core strength, things in this category will naturally improve over time with regular well programmed CrossFit. 
  2. Areas of training that are not likely to improve regardless of how much attention we give.  In this category I would factor in movements that are limited by factors such as absolute strength and mobility. Movements such as the snatch and kipping pull ups.  Snatch, were people want to spend all their time snatching and maxing out rather than working on mobility. Or spending hours practicing kipping pull ups when the easiest way to improve them is to get better at strict pull ups.
  3. Areas of training that when focused on will create improvements and have benefit elsewhere – in this category I place strict gymnastics, sand bag squats, strongman movements and power lifts.

So what has this got to do with CrossFit and my training? 

In a world full of Instagram and Facebook the  social media platforms where everyone can see what everyone else is doing in training… or at least, what they like you to think they are doing. It becomes very easy to lose focus on your own goals. 

People become obsessed spending time trying to learn some obscure movement and go down a rabbit hole trying to replicate some amazing feat they saw another person do on Instagram. 

The problem is that most people who have jobs, social lives and other commitments fall in the category of 'limited time and resources'. This is why you must apply the principle of triage to your training with your overall goal determining what's worth doing.  You must critically assess yourself without emotional bias.

Whether we are training for health and fitness or CrossFit competitions what we are striving for is balance in all areas of fitness. We can’t afford in life or competition to be deficient in one or multiple areas or we will get found out through sickness, injury or poor performances in competition.  

We need to take these strengths and weaknesses and apply the principle of triage. Are we injured, are we overweight, or do we have a glaring deficiency in one or more areas of fitness, yet continue to devote time and resources to things we are good at? 

This is something I have done myself recently, I sat back and analysed my fitness and health.  I asked myself the question:  Where are the biggest weaknesses in my health and fitness? I came up with 3 areas that I needed to work on - body composition, recovery and aerobic capacity.  It's not surprising to me that all three are linked and have a synergistic relationship with each other. These are all very basic and foundational areas of fitness.

How can I, as a coach have neglected them?

Well sometimes when you’re in the trenches and you’re so focused and so busy u don't see the simple problems right in front of you.  I spent so much time and energy training strength, weightlifting, gymnastics and working that I completely ignored some very simple fundamental areas. In the past 6 months I have taken steps to correct this.  I’m still weightlifting and doing strength training and gymnastics but I always, in a given day or week, prioritize my nutrition recovery and aerobic capacity training. 

The phrase 'you’re only as strong as your weakest link' couldn't be truer. The amazing thing is that by focusing on these weak links all other areas of my training have improved.  My gymnastics have improved because I have lower body fat and I’m lighter. My metcon times have improved because my aerobic capacity has increased and I'm able to find a better work life balance because I am not exhausted all the time due to my focus on sleep and recovery. 

So final thoughts to take away is to sit back and take a long hard look at yourself.  Are you on the right path? Are you prioritising time and energy on the things you need to work on? 

Nobody cares if you can deadlift 200kg but can't run a mile under 7mins. Likewise nobody cares if you can run a sub 6min mile and can't deadlift 1.5 times your body weight! 

If you can’t do 1 pull up! STOP and do everything in your power to get that first pull up. Get stronger, lose body fat. Whatever it takes. 

We are CrossFitters, what is sexy and appealing in our world is someone who can run, row, lift, jump, climb, throw and look good naked. So find out which one you can't do and give it all your extra time and energy and resources.

CrossFit Seattle (North) was the very first CrossFit affiliate and those guys learned directly from CrossFit founder Greg Glassman himself. They sought out to define the areas of fitness and define levels and standards for the beginner, intermediate, advanced and elite athlete.

Now before you look at this table and fall into the pits of depression and despair a little context is in order. I consider myself on most of this criteria to be level 3.   On a few things I am level 4 but on some I am level 2. Let’s remember I have been playing sport for 20+ years, weight training for 15 years and crossfitting for over 5 years.  So if you have been training CrossFit for 2 years with no real prior experience then you’re probably level 1. The reason I attached this diagram is not to destroy your confidence but to highlight what a broad and inclusive fitness should look like. This table can be a great tool to measure your training and allow you to Triage your efforts in areas where you are lacking. It’s safe to say I will be working on those weaknesses of mine after class every week.

Stay Fit, Stay Strong, Stay Healthy


Thoughts, questions and comments welcome!

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