The Top 4 Metrics for Tracking Fitness in CrossFit

4 Metrics for Fitness in CrossFit

In the sport of CrossFit, the pursuit of excellence is a relentless quest for self-improvement in many domains, each of which can be objectively measured but where do you start and what should you focus on? The path to mastery is not merely a matter of lifting heavier or moving faster; it’s a scientific endeavor that requires precise understanding and application of specific metrics. The issue faced by many athletes is how to differentiate and utilize aerobic and anaerobic fitness metrics in a sport as complex as CrossFit.

Having studied health science, I was able to take some of the knowledge gained during our lab classes at Massey University, being strapped into a breath-by-breath analysis machine for a VO2max test or jumping on force plates to measure lower body power production. I could then (eventually) apply those lessons to create a pacing plan for 23.1 that makes sense both strategically and physiologically. But you don’t need a degree to be good at CrossFit, you just need to know what numbers to track and how they can help you in your training and competitive pursuits.

The challenge is akin to navigating a complex labyrinth; one must have a map and compass to find the way. In CrossFit, the map is the understanding of specific exercises, and the compass is the metrics that guide performance. This article will serve as both, elucidating the key metrics such as the 1-mile run, 2km row, Assault Bike watt test, and 1-minute max burpees, and how they can be harnessed to enhance pacing within actual workouts.

The Confusion Between Aerobic and Anaerobic Training

  • Aerobic Training: This is the endurance aspect of fitness, where the body uses oxygen to fuel the muscles over a more extended period. Metrics like the 1-mile run and 2km row fall into this category.
    • 1-mile run: A classic test of aerobic endurance, the 1-mile run can be a gauge for pacing longer CrossFit workouts. For example, understanding your 1-mile pace can help you manage your energy in workouts like “Murph,” ensuring you don’t burn out too quickly. Your 1-mile pace should also dictate your upper limits for 400m repeats in workouts like Helen or Nancy.
    • 2km row: This metric is a blend of endurance and power. Knowing your 2km row time can guide your pacing in workouts like “Jackie,” allowing you to transition smoothly from rowing to other exercises. The best thing about the rower is that you don’t need to “feel” your pace, it’s right in front of your face the whole time. When performing longer workouts your 2km pace can be the upper limit – do not go faster than this. But if it’s shorter bursts or an all-out sprint it may be your lower limit: don’t go slower than your 2km pace.
  • Anaerobic Training: This involves short, intense bursts of activity where the body relies on energy stored in the muscles. Metrics like the Assault Bike Watt test and 1-minute max burpees are prime examples.
    • Assault Bike watt test: This test measures your maximum power output in a short burst. This is obviously a great way to understand your maximum speed on the assault bike but understanding this metric can also help you gauge your intensity in workouts like “Fran,” ensuring you push hard without overextending. The difference between an all-out effort and a controlled sprint can be the difference between finishing a workout in first place and absolutely blowing up and getting time capped because your legs decided to stop working.
    • 1-minute max burpees: A true test of anaerobic capacity with everybody’s favorite CrossFit movement, this metric can guide your pacing in high-intensity workouts allowing you to maintain a consistent pace throughout. Knowing how many burpees within a minute that you can do at full speed will guide you with realistic pacing on burpee workouts. Improving this metric can come as much from improvements in efficiency as it will from fitness gains.
CrossFit Metrics for tracking fitness

The Difficulty in Tracking Progress

The art of tracking progress is akin to a master painter’s delicate brush strokes. It requires finesse, understanding, and the right tools.

  • Tools and Methods: Utilizing tools like fitness trackers, journals, or coaching feedback can provide insights into performance.
  • Real-life Examples: Consider the CrossFit Open that occurs every year. There is a retest for a reason, we want to see how everyone has improved. By performing the same test and tracking improvements we can measure changes in fitness. The same can be done with any simple fitness test or benchmark workout.

Protocols for Each Test and Measuring Progress

1. 1-Mile Run


  • Warm-up: 10-15 minutes of light jogging and stretching.
  • Test: From a standing start, run 1 mile on a track or flat surface as fast as possible. Record time to complete.
  • Cool Down: 5-10 minutes of light jogging or walking.

Measuring Progress:

  • Baseline: Establish a baseline time for the 1-mile run.
  • Regular Testing: Repeat the test in 6-8 weeks to allow enough time for adaptation.
  • Analysis: Compare times and analyze improvements or areas for focus. Use this pace as a guide for your 400m splits in workouts like Helen.

2. 2km Row


  • Warm-up: 10 minutes of light rowing and stretching.
  • Test: From a stationary start, row 2 kilometers on a (Concept2) rowing machine at maximum effort. Ideally, use the 2000m preset workout to get an exact split time.
  • Cool Down: 5 minutes of light rowing.

Measuring Progress:

  • Baseline: Record your 2km row total time and average 500m split pace.
  • Regular Testing: Repeat the test at least 6 weeks later to allow enough time for adaptation.
  • Analysis: Track improvements in time and analyze stroke efficiency. Use the per 500m splits in rowing workouts to determine what pace you can sustain in workouts.

3. Assault Bike Watt Test


  • Warm-up: 5-10 minutes of light biking at an increasing pace followed by some dynamic stretching.
  • Test: With a rolling start, perform a 30-second all-out sprint on the Assault Bike, measuring peak wattage. This can be set up on the Assault Bike using the “Target Time” function and setting it to 30 seconds.
  • Cool Down: 5 minutes of light biking.

Measuring Progress:

  • Baseline: Establish peak and average wattage during the initial test. If you use the ‘Target Time’ function it will flash the peak Watts and average Watts for a few seconds after the completion of the test. You may need to get someone else to record this as you roll around on the ground trying to recover.
  • Regular Testing: Repeat the test in 3-4 weeks to allow enough time for adaptation.
  • Analysis: Monitor increases in peak wattage and sustained wattage (increasing the average). As power production increases sub-maximal effort will become easier.

4. 1-Minute Max Burpees


  • Warm-up: 5-10 minutes of light cardio and stretching. Perform a few short sets of increasing pace to get comfortable with your target pace.
  • Test: Perform as many burpees as possible in 1 minute. Use the CrossFit Open standard or something similar that can be retested and compared at a later date.
  • Cool Down: 5 minutes of stretching.

Measuring Progress:

  • Baseline: Record the initial number of burpees completed in 1 minute. Make sure to note the burpee standard used (e.g. CrossFit Open, Over the Bar, To a 6″ target, etc.).
  • Regular Testing: Repeat the test in 4-6 weeks to allow enough time for adaptation.
  • Analysis: Track the increase in repetitions and analyze form and efficiency. Pay close attention to mechanics and breathing to find efficiency gains without any extra exertion.

Using these tests you will be able to have clear direction to help you navigate the landscape of CrossFit-fitness. Understanding and applying specific metrics like the 1-mile run, 2km row, Assault Bike watt test, and 1-minute max burpees can guide pacing, and enhance performance in workouts and competition by giving your measurable and objective feedback. Rather than relying on feeling or comparison with others, you will know definitively whether or not you’re making progress.

Helpful Tip: Start with one or two key metrics and track them diligently. Like a scientist in a lab, observe, analyze, and adjust.

1 mile run fitness metric

Ready to Take Your Training to the Next Level?

Understanding and applying these metrics is a powerful step in your CrossFit journey. But why navigate this path alone? The Instinct team, with our expertise in CrossFit coaching and sports science, is here to guide you.

Whether you’re a seasoned athlete or just starting your CrossFit adventure, we can tailor a program that fits your unique needs and goals. Let’s unlock your potential together.

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