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AFAP! Some Thoughts on Pacing and How to Give it Everything You Got For Each Given Day

August 6, 2012

The dreaded AFAP or “As far as possible” workout – Yikes! They are the Endurance equivalent of the AMRAP – and equally, if not more, difficult to tackle. We’ve had some athletes express frustration after completing these workouts. Some go out too hard and suffer through the final miles. While others leave feeling like they still had a lot left in the tank. Given some of these recent experiences, I thought I would offer a few simple thoughts on what’s really at the heart of the issue, pacing.

For obvious reasons the AFAP is very similar to the Crossfit AMRAP. They seem manageable when the time is 20, 30 or even 40 minutes. However, the concept can be treacherous when we get to the 100, 110 or even 120 minutes range (longest we will do). Allow me to draw a quick parallel to a very common AMRAP – Cindy. A 20 min AMRAP of 5 Pull-ups, 10 Push-ups, 15 squats. In Cindy, pacing is key. If you go out too hard, you’ll suffer through the last several minutes. If you go out too easy, you very well could find yourself trying desperately to cram as many reps in as possible before the buzzer.

Ultimately the goal for many of our Endurance workouts is to find the FASTEST consistent effort across the entire workout on that given day.

As an example, if the workout is 9 x 200, with 60 seconds rest (as it was this past Tuesday). The goal is to maintain the fastest consistent effort for each 200 for the entire workout. If my fastest one-time effort in the 200 meter is 30 seconds, when faced with 9 repeats, I might only be able to maintain 33 seconds per 200 meters. That’s OK as long as I am working to become more and more consistent in my effort. Pacing is a learning process.  You will improve with experience as you learn more about your capacity to run over a distance or time.  Don’t be frustrated if you’re times are all over the board on day one. Crossfit Endurance has a great demo explaining how interval work can help us understand consistency of effort, check it out.

Obviously the ideal in any workout would be to maintain exact splits over a given workout. Whether that workout is 8 x 400’s or a 60 min AFAP, it doesn’t really matter. To be honest, that’s extremely difficult to do for anyone other than a well seasoned athlete/runner. These workouts are designed to help us understand how our own bodies react to distance and effort. You know your body and how it will react.  Our job is to introduce you to different concepts and strategies to test it out.

So, the best strategy is consistency of effort. Here are some tips that might help you along the way:

1. Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) – RPE is a great tool for managing effort. It’s really dependent on the athlete’s ability to understand their own body vs. performance. The concept is to listen to your body and rate your effort on a scale of 1-10 (1 = sitting on the couch, 10 = nearly passing out from exertion). This strategy takes the pressure off the quantitative aspect of the workout and allows you to focus on your effort. RPE allows us to occasionally escape the pressures of time and help us to learn running and pacing based how our body reacts.

2. Break up the time – I will often mentally break up the time into smaller segments. Some days that might mean breaking a 60 min AFAP into 10 mins @ hard effort, followed by eight mins just a little harder yet, then two mins @ slightly less effort – repeated four more times. This might seem complicated, but it works for me. You might just want to break it up into 3 x 20 mins efforts. Whatever mental game works for you is probably best.

If you have some additional tips please feel free to share!

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