“We’re not going out for second this year. We don’t want to go out and do worse than we did last year, so the only other option is to get first.”
Over the last six months, the competitors who led SPC CrossFit to a second-place finish in the 2012 Reebok CrossFit Games Affiliate Cup have cut out all team workouts.
To do well as a team, they believe they have to independently ratchet up their fitness and train their goats. When the teammates end up in the same class, they treat each other like rivals.
“We do workouts against each other more than with each other (in order) to see where people are struggling,” Julianne Broadbent explains.
With independent training in the off-season, each teammate takes time to address specific weaknesses. By competing as rivals, each teammate sees where they’re lagging. When faced with Regional events, where the slowest teammate can hold up the entire team, it’s essential to fix the weak link.
The strategy isn’t new or untested. It served them well in 2012.
Last year, SPC CrossFit trained independently until after the Open. During the month-and-a-half gap before the 2012 Central East Regional, they added one team workout per week.
While more than half of the team had worked out together at SPC CrossFit for a year or more, teammates Sam Heydlauf and Danielle Sidell were new blood. The purpose of team workouts, Broadbent says, was more to practice being a team than to practice movements.
“When we do team workouts, it's mostly just to work on the chemistry and communication,” she says. “Getting together as a team lets us see how much of the workload each member can handle so we know going into competition where other members will need to pick up the slack for someone.”
The team took first place at the Regional, winning all but two events.
“Everything seemed to happen perfectly for us at Regionals,” Broadbent says. “All workouts went exactly as planned or better, and I don't think there was really an opportunity to learn from that competition because it was such a dominating performance.”
Following such a strong showing, they changed nothing in preparation for the Games. As it turned out, what Regionals didn’t teach them, they learned in Carson, Calif. Despite focusing on team chemistry, a lack of leadership led to confusion, chaos and a 27th-place finish in the Big Bob Event.
To make sure that never happens again, the team now establishes a marching order before every workout.
“We had people pulling when they should have been doing something else, and we needed someone to be the one in charge to say, ‘3, 2, 1, push,’” Broadbent says. “We have talked as a team and decided that when we get into competition this year, we will designate before the workouts who is in charge.”
Other weaknesses showed up individually and strength was an issue.
“Hack’s had a lot stronger guys than we did,” Broadbent says. “The guys even admit they may have dropped the ball a bit.”
Although SPC finished in the top 10 in only four of the 10 events leading up to the final, they managed to finish Saturday within the top six and get invited to the final on Sunday.
Racing through Elizabeth, Fran, Isabel, Grace, Diane and Karen, SPC beat the record set by CrossFit New England in 2011, but still fell nearly two minutes behind Hack’s Pack UTE.
“We’re not going out for second this year,” Broadbent says. “We don’t want to go out and do worse than we did last year, so the only other option is to get first.”
Preparing for 2013
“Right now, we just trust one another to be really working our weaknesses hard,” team captain, Brett Sepi, says.
For Broadbent, that means improving her endurance.
“I’ve been doing a lot of interval training to get my endurance up,” she says. “Things like rowing, running, burpee intervals and double-under intervals, and I’ll start swimming soon.”
Meanwhile, Sepi is trying to develop his strength. Squats are a daily prescription and he tends to go heavy for relatively high reps. He then works on his snatch and clean and jerk. To close out each day, he wraps up for weighted dips and weighted muscle-ups.
While half of the team follows its own programming, the other half — Courtney Baliman, Craig Charton and Heydlauff — follows the programming of former teammate, Joe Weigel.
Weigel’s high-volume workouts contain four to six components each day, touching on all modalities: strength, metabolic conditioning and gymnastics.
Recently, Weigel left the team to train out of CrossFit Cadre in Hudson, Ohio, as an individual competitor.
“There are no hard feelings,” Sepi says. “Some people have really responded to his strength programming and workouts, so we have no problem with doing that as long as everyone’s improving.”
It seems to be working.
“Sam (Heydlauff) has gotten so much stronger,” Broadbent says. “She couldn’t do the (70-lb.) dumbbell snatches at Regionals, and after the Games, we did a WOD with dumbbell snatches and she did it easily.”
Charton and Kyle Kline have improved technique on their handstand push-ups, chest-to-bars, toes-to-bars and pull-ups.
“It’s exciting to see Kyle win a workout Brett would usually win — like a bodyweight workout with pull-ups and push-ups,” Broadbent says.
Building a Team
While SPC is determined to improve their numbers, they know it takes more than good stats to make a great team.
“We try to get together on Sundays, even if it’s not to do a team workout, but just a workout we can all do together to see each other’s weaknesses. So, if we have to come up with a strategy for who’s working with whom in Regionals, we’ll have a good idea,” Sepi says.
It’s not always serious, Broadbent adds. Sometimes team training dissolves into an overly competitive game of kickball.
“We’re like a bunch of kids who just want to work out together,” Broadbent says.
“We spend a lot of time together outside the gym getting comfortable with each other,” she adds. “One of the reasons we work so well together is that we’re such good friends. We know how to push each other in workouts because we know each other so well.”
SPC has kept an eye on the competition, noting Hacks Pack’s recent 22:43 finish at the Big Bob Winter Challenge in Aromas, Calif.
“It doesn’t scare us, it’s motivating,” Broadbent says. “It’s like, ‘Alright, we see what they’re doing, let’s make sure we can do better.’”