Using the Context of the Programming for Longevity and Getting out of Ruts

The context is the recommended overall approach to the class that day. Without a planned approach you will likely stick with the same default approach you are comfortable with and you will not get the most out of your training.

Context Overview.png

There are three contexts: “Practice”, “Competition”, and “Mental Toughness.”

With Thrivestry, we balance these three contexts with the right ratios to each other and with an eye toward the lesson plan for the day (as well as the week, the month, and the year!)

The problem with not having a planned approach is that it is likely that you’ll be ‘stuck’ with one approach every day. We have found that varying the approach is one of the keys to long term growth and using our training to improve our lives outside of the gym!

For example, when most people start CrossFit, they tend to be suck in Competition mode. Every day is a battle. Every day they push themselves beyond their normal pace to try to get the best score. They pick heavier loads than they should because it is what is written on the workout. They are more concerned with how they compare to other people rather than if they improved as a human.

It usually isn’t their fault. They are not used to having every one of their workouts scored and compared. They think that the goal is always to get the best score possible every day.

The goal is always to get better overall, not just win the workout that day.

It is like trying to win every battle… but losing the war.

We cannot go as hard as possible every day. We will get injured. We will get frustrated when we under perform according to our expectations. We will start skipping workouts we know we won’t do well on. We may start fudging reps or scores because ‘there is no way so-and-so beat us on that workout’…

In the long run, all of the negatives start to outweigh the benefits of the training. And it is only a matter of time before you need a ‘break’ or you quit outright.

Side Note: Shout out to Kenny Kane at CrossFit LA for pioneering this method of approaching programming and classes. I learned about this at one of his seminars. You should definitely get to one if you get the chance! 

To summarize the problems with getting ‘stuck’ in any one mode:

If you do Competition context all the time you will get hurt.

If you do Mental Toughness all the time you will get burned out.

If you do Practice all the time you will get bored.

The Ratios and Descriptions

We do Practice context 60% of the time. 6 out of 10 workouts. The main focus is learning and getting the quality repetitions in to approach mastery. To learn new movements, progressions, how to move better, how everything fits together, and how our new skills improve our lives outside of the gym.

We do Competition context 30% of the time. 3 out of 10 workouts. The main focus is intensity and getting our best score. These are days when we want people to test themselves (if they are feeling up to it). Generally, we want them to use their best pacing strategy so that their score is a good representation of their capacity for comparison to other 'tests'. It is also a time to compare yourself to your old scores or other people.

We do Mental Toughness 10% of the time. 1 in 10 workouts. The main focus is getting out of our comfort zone and finding where our boundaries truly are. It is a day to not pace at all and see where you really start to fall apart. Or a day to put your ego in check and go lighter so you can do the movements perfect. It could also be a day to try a new variation or load that scares you.

Side Note: Keep in mind that these are the ‘recommended approach’ to the training that day. If you are feeling pretty burned out, maybe take it easy on a Competition day or Mental Toughness day. If you are feeling really good, and maybe you know you’ll be gone from the gym for a few days, go ahead and ‘turn it up to 11’ on a practice day.

Applying This to Your Training

It starts with taking notice as to what the context is for the day, then approaching each part of the class with this mindset.

Pay close attention to the days that aren’t your default mode. If you are someone who always goes as hard as possible, constantly remind yourself on Practice days that the primary focus is quality form, learning, and mastery (not crushing yourself or beating someone else).

If you are someone who is always extremely cautious, someone who always needs the coach to force you to ‘go up’ (in load or skill), be more deliberate on Competition and Mental Toughness days. Push yourself to attempt a heavier load or higher box (with the coach’s agreement). Always record your score on Competition days. Take the time to look up your old score so you have a target to beat. Throw caution to the wind and learn some new skills that might embarrass you on a Mental Toughness day (taking you out of your comfort zone).

Could Your Approach/Context be What is Holding You Back the Most?

There are three main hurdles that we hear about as coaches. Injury, burnout, and boredom.

If you always seem to be going from one tweak and sprain to another, maybe you are stuck in Competition mode. Take the Practice days more seriously and keep your ego in check. Dial everything back so you can focus on form and learning. You should finish your practice days tired, but not completely trashed. You may need to not record a score if it is just too hard for you to pace for practice (vs competition).

If you are feeling burned out, you dread coming to the gym or doing another workout, maybe you are stuck in Mental Toughness mode. Instead of hitting every workout as hard as possible from the beginning, on Practice days relax and focus more on form and having fun. Instead of challenging yourself to the maximum of your ability, play around with new variations or don’t even look at the clock at all.

If you are feeling bored, everything seems monotonous, and you don’t feel like you are making progress, maybe you are stuck in the Practice context. You need to pay attention to Competition and Mental Toughness days to ‘spice things up’. On Comp days, look up your old scores on the workout for the day, go head-to-head with a friend in class, start a minute or two behind the class and try to catch up, pace the workout to get your best score (even if it means you won’t be able to do perfect form the entire time). On Mental Toughness days, challenge yourself to do the harder variation, don’t pace from the beginning and really test your limits, find ways to challenge your ego and get out of your comfort zone. Maybe it is time to sign up for an event or competition to give you motivation because you have something to train for.

Big Picture

In the end, the context is a ‘big picture’ layer that on the micro level keeps us growing, healthy, and involved. On the macro level, it is where we learn lessons about ourselves that apply to our lives outside of the gym.

Are you stuck in Competition mode in your life? Are you always pushing to win and sacrificing other parts of your life?

Are you stuck in Mental Toughness mode? Are you always trying to grind it out and piling on more? Putting off recovery and fun things because you feel guilty if you aren’t constantly busy?

Are you stuck in Practice mode? Are you always playing it safe, planning, and never actually getting out there and doing something new? Are you avoiding the next challenge because you are comfortable where you are, and you don’t want to fail?

Take Your Training to the Next Level

The context has the power to simultaneously take your training to the next level while also increase the sustainability of your training over your lifetime. Pay attention to the context and you will see your training, and your life, improve.

If you want to learn more about the contexts, here are 4 videos explaining each in detail:

Context Overview:


Practice Context:


Competition Context:


Mental Toughness:


I give a note of what to talk about for each day of programming. If you are looking for more videos that talk about these topics individually, I've got playlists for each context. Each one of these playlists has more than 40 videos to check out (one of them has over 60)!

Practice Context Playlist:

Competition Context Playlist: 

Mental Toughness Playlist: 

Thrive on.



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