The Art of Pacing

We often design pacing drills so that you can get comfortable determining different levels of effort. Pacing on a machine is easy, as you have the monitor to guide you (paying attention to speed or calories per hour). But, oftentimes, when athletes get into one of our “test” workouts, any sense of pacing goes out the window. So, here are some pointers:

When presented with a workout for time, take a look at the movements and possible time domain. If it’s a short workout, you know you can push the pace early on. Our Wednesday tests are a good example. Say you are performing three rounds of 15 calorie air bike, 5 clean & jerk and 10 burpees over the bar. Looks simple, but you know these movements will be taxing. So, you cruise on the bike at about 80%, do fast singles to keep your heart rate somewhat under control and, for the first two rounds you are methodical about your burpees. At the end, you leave something in the tank for round three.

Now, if this workout was five rounds or an AMRAP in 20, you’d significantly slow down in order to keep moving for the longer duration. So, the point is to calculate how long you think a workout should take and adjust your pace accordingly – don’t just go into it blind, shoot out of the gates, hold on for dear life and pray you survive.

Another tip is to not get in the “danger zone” by simply capitalizing on your strengths. Say, in the same workout example given above, you are awesome on the air bike. So, you get the idea of crushing that every round. Now, when presented with other movements, you have to take more breaks because your heart rate is so high. Note: your weaknesses will become even more pronounced here. A better plan would be to be moderate on the bike so that you have the energy to be as efficient as possible on the things you aren’t as good at.

Break up movements before you go to failure. Toes-to-bar is a great example, as they break down quickly when you are under fatigue. If you must perform, say 20 reps, it’s usually more efficient to do smaller sets with short breaks that do for a big set of 10 and then struggle with singles and lots of rest for the second half. Same with barbell movements. Fast singles are typically more efficient than a big set of touch-and-go where the athlete then bends over trying to recover from that strain.

All this said, pacing is very “personal.” Know yourself as an athlete. You’ve heard the phrase, “slow is smooth and smooth is fast.” So, have a plan to be smooth and controlled. Leave something for the end. Notice that the best athletes don’t get caught up in being first at the beginning of the workout, but they usually maintain their pace, use great movement mechanics and end up cruising past everyone midway through. They also look rather “fresh” at the end as opposed to a stunned animal about to be eaten by prey!


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