What you should know about Practice, Benchmark & Resilience Days…

The way the programming team set things up at Shapesmiths is very unique to us. The system you workout within has developed, with influence from some pretty amazing people, over the course of the last 20 years in the fitness industry.

Last year all the hard work of the team paid off as we can proudly claim to be the fittest gym in the UK and Fifth fittest in the WORLD, judged by the CrossFit Open rankings for our full roster of members. That’s a sign of some pretty healthy individuals!

Below you will learn a little of the background and the why behind what we do. If you want to delve a little deeper we have a blog series available on our Shapesmiths Members Page on Facebook.


If Shapesmiths are running members, or allowing members to run themselves into the ground with huge amounts of exercise and multiple classes in a day, those members won’t be here in 6-months time for one reason or another. This is meant to be a lifetime relationship that we are developing with you.  We want to teach you principles that will stay with you forever, so that you are alway closer to fitness than to sickness, on the continuum

Fitness is typically described by Greg Glassman’s ‘What is Fitness article’ and by his Fitness Pyramid shown here

The one thing that it does not consider is mental and psychological fitness. This is why we add a final foundation, below nutrition…CONTEXT. 

Context is provided by programming that recognises that as an athlete you can have 90+ movements to learn in the CrossFit world. With that being the case we should learn how to PRACTICE movements some days, compete against the clock on others to test and BENCHMARK some of the movements we have been practicing. Additionally, it is beneficial to test our RESILIENCE once in a while, whilst being open to your coach moderating your session depending on what they see in front of them. This is the artisanship of coaching human beings. Essentially it’s your coach knowing what type of day you have had and adjusting the workout so you can get a little bit better than your yesterday self. 


The programming itself is a MIND over BODY plan. Programming begins Monday to Friday (5days) x 2 weeks. This gives us 10 days or our 100% in this case. Pre-COVID this leaves the weekends open for organic fluctuation such as team workouts, fun challenges, fundraisers, box ‘throw-downs’, BBQs, Track Sessions, Swim days and more.

Prepare for some percentages to be thrown at you below…

How the programming is split up.

P = Practice Days and make up 60% of training days.

B = Benchmark Days and makes up 30% of training days.

R = Resilience Days and makes up 10%

50% of Benchmark days are movements that we are working on as a gym in a particular training cycle (12 weeks). The other 50% are something we are not practicing. This preserves some of the unknown and unknowable philosophy that CrossFit is famous for. 

The above equalises the training exposure and experience. A particular 12-week cycle is broken down further into a 6-week block. Similar themes are repeated or tweaked, depending on how the 6-week block went. Sometimes we will repeat a benchmark to get a test/retest result so we have another metric to show improvement!

P-days are characterised by intervals with in-built rest periods, For Quality WODs and EMOMs. This allows us to prioritise practice and training as we include ample rest periods to repeat skills without significant fatigue. 

B-days prioritise relative-intensity, based on your ability and challenging yourself sometimes to beat a previous record. These days will often have a time cap to help you make great decisions with intensity [KGs/Reps/Sets/Rounds]

Furthermore, in each two week block the three competition days feature one phosphogenic, one glycolytic and one oxidative test. In other words, one test that lasts 0-10 seconds (like lifting a 1-3rep max deadlift), one that lasts for up to several minutes (like the workout Fran or Helen) and one that lasts for longer than several minutes, like Barbara. Reducing benchmark days further, you’ll see short, medium and long tests. 

R-days, more than anything, are opportunities to work on breath and controlling chatter in your mind. The idea is simple yet challenging to master: Control your breath and thoughts. Generally, the clock doesn’t matter for these workouts. If you walk away from the workout with a sense that you were able to calm your mind and negative thoughts through breath, then you’re headed in the right direction. 

Within our R days we would like you all to practice 4 tools to deal with the adversity of the WOD, in the hope, this crosses over to other areas of our lives.

  1. Visualisation: Imagining success, with a lift, a set of thrusters, a set of/your first pull up/s. You can do this before class or simply take a moment to do this during class.
  2. Setting small, achievable goals: This is easy to practice when you see a MT Chipper WOD. Don’t think about the big set of 100 DB squat snatches you have to do, instead break this down into manageable sets of 5-10reps. This success with the little things will add up.
  3. Breathing: One of the most under trained elements of fitness training and in life. Use the MT sessions to practice controlling the way you breathe, deep slow breathing in through the nose (unless your previous rugby/boxing career has left you with a deviated septum) and out through the mouth to reduce tension. Breathing has a two-way relationship with biochemical, biomechanics and psychophysiological systems of the body. Don’t over look this element.
  4. Positive self-talk: Assertive positive statements like: ‘I CAN do this’, reminding yourself to ‘stay calm and keep moving forward’ can be game changers. Turn up the positive chatter in your head when times get uncomfortable during a WOD.

What is the program set up to achieve? What are the main aims and goals?

1)    There are ten recognized general physical skills within CrossFit’s definition of fitness. They are cardiovascular/respiratory endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, coordination, agility, balance, and accuracy. The first aim of the program is to make you competent in each of these ten skills.

2)    Measurable, Repeatable, Observable. The fact that we use WODify to track your fitness data allows us to quantify, to some extent, the 10 physical skills. Furthermore the CrossFit Open is the major test that we program for at Shapesmiths. It brings the worldwide, and local community together. It is a great too to get valuable date and to compare your fitness/work capacity against previous tests and those in your country, Europe and worldwide.

3)  In short by developing the above you will become prepared for the unknown and unknowable things that may come up in your life. We genuinely believe that the CrossFit program is the greatest hedge against disease and metabolic type disorders. 

A quick note on athletic development.

What if you desperately want that elusive muscle up or bodyweight snatch? This is where the context comes in from our coaches. You may hear us say ‘’You’re not there, yet. We have to work the foundational basics to get you there’’ and then we will insert an appropriate scale/modification.

What if you want to go hard every session? Well that’s understandable. The high intensity workouts are what we all fell in love with, but at some point if we are not working the basics, something is going to give and we won’t have you as a member anymore. 

This is the blending of science and art that we look for in all our coaches here.

The neat thing about this is that it means that all our coaches can coach anyone from general populations to games athletes as no one is above doing the basics otherwise known as ‘doing the common, uncommonly well.’