A few months back, we posted an article about the difference between “fitness” and “performance” in our CrossFit gym’s programming. We also touched on the purpose of “competition programming”. In this week’s blog, we will break down the major differences in training for health and fitness versus training for sport and competition.

Training for health and fitness might look like an individual attending regular CrossFit classes anywhere from 2-5 days a week, for the duration of the one hour class session. Most of those who are looking to improve their health and fitness attend group fitness classes for the purpose of increasing physical activity, supporting or aiming to achieve a healthy body weight and composition, or simply to have “me time” and de-stress.

Training for sport and competition might look like an individual training outside of the regular classes somewhere between 5-6 days a week, for the duration of 1.5-3 hours on some days. They may also take 1-2 days of active recovery sessions where they are still participating in physical activity, at a lower intensity than regular training days. Many of these individuals are looking to improve their performance in the sport of CrossFit, with intentions to compete, whether locally or within the CrossFit Games series (Open, Regionals, Games).

Aside from clocked hours, there are also a few lifestyle shifts that arise with the transition from training for health and fitness versus training for sport in competition. Here’s a glimpse:

For health and fitness: Focus on whole, unprocessed foods, balancing plate with lean protein, vegetables, occasional starches, and healthy fats. Avoiding “hunger spells” by implementing healthy snacks and proper hydration. Supplementing with a multivitamin and possibly whey protein powder supplements.

For sport/competition: Focus on quality foods, with emphasis on nutrient timing for muscle recovery (e.g., implementing nutrients during workouts, structuring meals around training sessions). Timing of nutrients prioritizes actual hunger–this might mean eating when not hungry, in order to meet daily nutrient goals. Meals are often weighed and/or measured for the purpose of meeting nutrient goals. Supplementation can include a wide array depending on athlete needs–mid-workout carbohydrates, multivitamins, fish oil, casein protein before bed, and so on.

Body Composition
For health and fitness: Paying attention to a range of healthy body weight and body fat percentage. Ideal lean body mass (including skeletal muscle mass) is sufficient to support body weight and daily activity. May aim to change body weight or composition based on health risks or preventive measures. Sometimes may temporarily change body composition for a “special occasion”.

For sport/competition: Focusing on maintaining a lean/athletic body composition while being able to increase lean muscle mass in order to support training volume. Oftentimes, this may diverge from “ideals” of society for body composition or body image, within reason.

For health and fitness: Recovery may look like taking “rest days” from the gym 2-3 days a week, and being able to participate in daily activity without feeling over-strained from regularly physical activity. Sleep allows muscle repair and proper rest for the next day’s activity. May try to “catch up” on sleep when time allows. May partake in occasional stretching, foam rolling or other recovery methods outside of class time.

For sport/competition: Recovery is placed as a high priority, but does not often appear as several rest days per week. Individuals may partake in recovery methods (in addition to proper nutrition) such as muscle stimulation therapy, specialist care for maintenance or injury prevention, and by simply aiming to achieve over 7.5-8 hours of sleep per night. In addition, on extra-strenuous training days, individuals may benefit from a 20-30 minute nap for resetting and re-charging the central nervous system from distress. Most looking to train for sport and competition try to minimize other life stressors in order to optimize training and recovery periods, in order to continue training the following session or day.

Are you interested in learning more about differences in training for health versus for sport? Talk to one of your coaches regarding the topic. Sometimes we may lose sight of our goals in training, and being able to discuss them with someone else can help re-establish the purpose behind our daily actions.

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