In fitness, more is not better.  Especially for masters athletes.  With the CanWest Qualifiers looming, our very competitive team of masters athletes are getting excited.  But increasing training volume and intensity is not always the best answer especially when recovery is challenged.

For masters competitors looking to get an edge on the competition, here’s some performance enhancing hacks that won’t leave you broken and burnt out:

1. Macros
Nutrition matters.  No only for fueling your training and recovery but also for managing your body composition.  You want to be carrying enough energy to fuel your events but not so much that you are carrying unproductive weight.  Our Empower competitors have had great success working with the Power Up Nutrition team who are not just nutritionists but are also elite masters CrossFit competitors themselves.  They know more than a little bit about eating to perform and they don’t just talk about it, they live it.  They’re offering 3 great programs to Empower athletes.

2. Sleep
Forget about steroids, studies on the athletic effects of sleep habits show much bigger performance gains from improved sleep than you could get from using performance enhancing drugs.  It is common for elite athletes to sleep 10-12 hours per night.  If that isn’t an option for you, studies show napping can be effective too.  Sleep is good not just for your physiological recovery but for the neurological recovery required for skill-based training.  Instead of an extra training session, maybe prioritize a little extra sleep.

3. Sauna
Increase endurance with hyperthermic conditioning?  A growing number of studies suggest that saunas do more than just help you relax and recovery from training – though that would be reason enough to make use of them.  Sauna use increases blood volume, blood flow and the release of human growth hormone, thus improving your endurance.  Trainers of elite athletes have been using saunas as a performance hack for some time now.

4. Mindfulness
There are no throw away workouts.  If you want to compete, coming into the gym and just throwing down is not going to help you improve.  You must approach each workout as a practice session and have a plan about how to use the workout to improve your skill.  Instead of racing the clock, set and adhere to very specific performance goals that will help you consolidate skills that you will require to perform better in competition.  Don’t just power through reps, really think about the points of performance on each rep noticing and correcting inefficiencies in your movement patterns.  Training should be a process of continual refinement.  Practice excellence in every movement.  This will keep you safe, reduce wear and tear and train you to do more work with less effort.

5. Creatine
This is one training supplement that everyone seems to agree on.  Since the 90’s it has been very thoroughly studied and appears to be safe and effective.  I’ve been experimenting with this since after the last Open but haven’t personally experienced any quantifiable improvements.  It is possible that I fall within the small percentage of non-responders.  I included it in last place because though it has been proven effective in study after study, the first 4 performance hacks will get you far more mileage.  Optimize those first and only then supplement with creatine like icing on your athletic cake.

The take away is that there are many things you can do to optimize training results besides increasing volume and intensity.  When given the choice, you will be better off training better, not more!