Pacing Well is a Game Changer For CrossFit Masters

How average CrossFit Masters can disproportionately improve their scores by making small changes.

Perhaps you've noticed that some Crossfitters end up top of the leaderboard despite not being exceptional at anything? If you have then it's possible they may be harnessing the strategy that I'm about to show you here


We all know that crossfit workouts are intense and demand high levels of energy and focus. 
Imagine your ‘WOD’ is about to begin.
The timer counts down and you can feel your heartbeat begin to pound louder in your chest, your mouth goes dry and the nervous anticipation reaches a crescendo.
‘Beep, Beep, Beep’ the timer sounds off the last three seconds and you’re off!
The first few reps are performed in a haze of adrenaline fuelled frenzy.
But then things begin to settle down as you focus on the job at hand.
This, you may have guessed is a form of pacing. A much undervalued strategy in your Crossfit arsenal but one that can make all the difference.
Pacing well, is deceptive as it appears that you are moving slowly yet surprisingly you finish faster than others who appear to be killing it. 


For example in a workout that leads with a 500m row or similar distance run followed by a barbell movement I want to be able to transition from one to the next without any break for the entire workout if possible. Yet I see many athletes bust themselves on the row or run gaining 10 or 15 seconds advantage only to squander those hard earned seconds bent over the barbell gasping for breath.

This is not an efficient way to move during a workout not to mention the fact that watching others who’ve paced optimally stroll from one movement to the next without stopping is demoralising. 


Here are some reasons why learning to pace yourself is worthwhile

  • Avoid blowing up in the first few minutes
  • Better technique
  • Mental clarity
  • Manage fatigue
  • Win!

As a CrossFit Master these benefits maybe crucial to your longevity in the sport. They enable you to participate at a higher level without potentially suffering an injury. The mental clarity allows you to manage fatigue which in turn facilitates better movement technique. All of this without blowing up within the first round too!

Moreover it is going to put you in the best position possible to win if that's your goal or at least help you complete the workout without feeling like you've just been ten rounds with Mike Tyson.

How to pace

The theory of pacing can be understood by reading something like this but to truly master it you've got to experience it. This means performing many different types of CrossFit workouts in many different time domains. You need the fast sprint workouts such as Fran to see just how fast you can move. The longer 'Hero' type WODs are great for helping you stretch the aerobic capacity. Everything in between helps you figure out how close you can get to redline without blowing up. I generally try to avoid redlining at least early on in the workouts. There's plenty of time for that when the finish line is in sight. Here are some factors that can help you avoid redlining to early.

Heart Rate and Breathing

We'll talk about Heart Rate Monitors shortly but first I want to show you the importance of getting in touch with your heart rate and feeling what's going on. This is largely determined by how heavy your breathing is at any stage during the workout.

Managing your breathing helps you to regulate your heart rate. If you create too much of an oxygen debt at any stage in the workout it can have a detrimental effect. And yes I know that this is easier said than done but it really does mean slowing down in many cases to go faster. Moving methodically and purposefully is the antidote to rushing in all guns blazing!


Another element that enables better pacing is honing your technique. When I'm coaching it is very easy to see that those who struggle with technique and form are going to struggle with pacing. Movements take longer than expected and drain more energy than they should. A typical example of this is double unders. If you're struggling with technique here it's likely you'll tense up and this really affects pacing.

For a long time I really hated seeing these in workouts as they spiked my heart rate so much that I couldn't control my breathing and recover enough to perform optimally. By learning to relax a little more this has enabled me to perform more reps unbroken and what previously caused me anxiety no longer had the same effect.

Being moderately nervous before a WOD may be normal but being anxious is a step too far as it may stifle performance. One of the best ways to mitigate this is by doing your due diligence ie honing your skills. If you are confident in your skill and technique this will help to moderate feelings of anxiety or being overly nervous. I'm ok with the workout spiking my heart rate but I don't want the anticipation of it to have the same effect.


Heart rate monitors play a crucial role in helping individuals pace themselves during exercise or physical activities. By providing real-time heart rate data, these monitors allow users to gauge their exertion levels and adjust their intensity accordingly. By staying within target heart rate zones, individuals can ensure they are exerting themselves at an appropriate level for their goals, whether it be fat burning, endurance training, or cardiovascular fitness.

Heart rate monitors enable users to find the optimal balance between pushing themselves and avoiding overexertion, helping them maintain a sustainable pace throughout their workouts and ultimately enhancing performance and progress.

Watch me get far too excited talking about a Heart Rate Monitor chest strap...


Are you a CrossFit Master who wants to figure out where you sit currently with your CrossFit game? If so check out this resource below. It takes 2 mins to complete and gives you personal report highlighting what to prioritise in order to make meaningful, fast improvements. Improvements that will see you rise on the leaderboard at your box and be amongst the contenders to be reckoned with.


RATE PLATE™ is a powerful yet simple tool that allows you to visualise all areas CrossFit, so you can quickly see if there are important areas that you’ve neglected or things you’ve been giving too much of yourself to. The questions only take a couple of minutes for you to complete. You’ll get your unique analysis instantly. It’s free and completely confidential.

If you need a little more help then message me at stephendevinept@gmail.com

About the Author Stephen Devine

Steve not just a skilled Crossfit Coach, but a top-tier CrossFit Competitor who's ranked in the top 1% worldwide in the 2023 Crossfit Open! And this is despite spending six weeks on crutches following surgery to fix a broken ankle just a year ago. He's Qualified as a Crossfit L1 Coach, Crossfit Gymnastics, and is also a qualified Olympic Weightlifting Coach.

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CrossFit Masters: Direct your focus – double your progress. | I Am Devine - Tunbridge Wells PT says June 5, 2023

[…] of both your metrics for timed single cardio events and various time domain workouts. See my previous post for tips on how to improve performance in cardio heavy […]

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