Timing Workouts Are Useful

For most things in my life, I don’t want to stress about time. I don’t want to know I only have an hour left to finish a proposal. I don’t want to think about getting stuck in traffic for an extra 45 minutes. In life, time is usually not our friend.

But there is something about doing a workout for time. Sometimes we do it for running. It drives us to work harder to get a new PR (personal record) for a 5K. But for your average gym person, you wonder "is timing workouts really for me?"

So this is where the anti-HIIT/anti-CrossFit crowd starts to scream bloody mercy! Go ahead, get it out of your system. And then sit down and have a rational conversation.

Let’s say you want to see how many burpees you can do in a minute. Maybe you start out with 20. Over time, you find yourself doing 40 or 50. Regardless of what you think about that, progress has been made. You find yourself with a greater work capacity. It is clear evidence of progress, just like a blood test would test cholesterol or glucose levels.

Now, you might say that you don’t go to a Box or Gym that is conducive to timed workouts. I think you should figure it out for yourself because you’d be surprised. And you don’t need a fancy timer, though a fancy one is nice. You can use a stopwatch. I use the 4Time app on my iphone, but there are many on the market. It can act like a regular timer, a countdown timer, or an interval timer. It even has a countdown time to your start. I set mine at 12 seconds, but you can set it for whatever length.

I workout on my own. I used to go to a CrossFit Box years ago, but I have all the equipment at home. So my investment is in that and not on a membership somewhere. Plus, I can play my own music, which is HUGE for me. And I can wear what I want, which is usually not much (haha!).

What is amazing is that I’m not competing with anyone but myself. If you are competitive and you workout alone, you can still be competitive. There are online groups that prescribe workouts, so you do the workout and compare it with the group. And for free, you can go on CrossFit.com and do the workout of the day (WOD) and then post your time. You can look at what others did as well.

But the crux of it all is getting a better workout. Yes, I may pace myself early in a WOD. But no matter what, I start picking up the pace toward the last round or the last minute. When I might normally take a breath or chalk up in between exercises, I just crank right through non-stop at the end.

When I was doing my Ph.D. research, my colleague once said something super profound to me. He said "you never know when one small batch of data elucidates all we know about something". That always stuck with me. What if one clairvoyant thought changes the whole scheme of something? That’s what I feel about workouts. The 9 sets you did before were the grunt work. But what counts most is that last set, that last lap, that last climb to the summit. That’s when the real champion comes out. Its what defines not only our physical ability, but our mental fortitude.

Timing your workouts can do miracles for you. And if you keep a good logbook, you can look back and see your progress. It keeps you in the game and makes you a winner.

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