How many rounds? How many reps?
One of the many reasons I love the CrossFit training method is how inclusive it is. In more ways than one. It’s inclusive from the perspective of the community but for the purposes of this post, I wanted to focus on how the WOD (workout of the day) can be modified or scaled to include all levels of athletes.
The 5:30 am class I attend at SchuBox Athletics is a good mix of absolute beginners, people who have been training for less than a year, some between 1-4 years and a few for even longer. Within each of those groups there is a good mix of abilities as well. Some beginners are comfortable doing movements like pull-ups and toes-to-bar, while some more experienced members are still working towards those goals. Others are beasts on the airbike and can bench big weight but are unable to perform an overhead squat due to range-of-motion or mobility restrictions. There are those with engines that just won’t quit. There are those who thrive in the pain cave. And there are those who maintain a steady pace, pushing hard and upping their intensity a little bit each week. Some are nursing injuries and some are still trying to shake the effects of the festive season. We even have an inspirational member who is expecting her first child in the coming months yet continues showing up for class.
Despite all these differences in skills and abilities and fitness level, the programming at our gym allows every one of us to enjoy a tough and challenging workout. Those who are consistent are able to improve week-after-week and achieve visible gains. Our coach is adept at finding modifications and progressions for movements people have not yet mastered. He is also incredibly accurate when it comes to advising on the right weight to use for a workout so that you are able to achieve the desired stimulus.
Many people see CrossFit on television or they see Instagram posts from professional athletes and they feel intimidated. They feel they are not fit enough to join a CrossFit gym. I understand that completely. I was one of those people. I didn’t think I’d manage. I thought I’d need to train on my own for 6 months in order to be able to start CrossFit. Thankfully, I was wrong. Because of the modifications and scaling options for every single exercise, anybody at any fitness level is able to join in and change their lives. The right coach will be able to ensure you are included in every workout.
There is also the flip side to this. There are some people who feel that scaling means they are not actually doing the workout properly. Some people would rather miss a class than scale. I went through this too and used to feel that any workout that I didn’t perform as prescribed or Rx, was a workout I had to put a disclaimer on. People would high five me on a good performance and I’d say, “Thanks, but I scaled, so it wasn’t that good.” Again, I was wrong. There is always someone who is able to lift more weight, do more reps with a strict movement rather than kipping, or cycle the barbell better. When you start doing Rx, there is someone doing Rx plus. Compared to them, you’ve scaled. Some gyms even have competition teams that do their own programming and who are probably Rx plus plus plus compared to the average Janes and Joes. Measuring yourself against these criteria can lead you to becoming discouraged and demoralized. It’s better to ask your coach what the intended goal or stimulus is for the workout. Are you trying to up the intensity? Is this a WOD where the weight is important but there are movements designed to fatigue you so that you’re lifting the weight while barely able to breath? Is this a race against your previous fastest time? Is this a WOD where you just need to keep moving? Is it for practicing a skill? So many possibilities and there’s even the possibility that different people will chase a different stimulus or goal for the same workout. Isn’t that awesome? All doing the same class but everyone able to find a unique, personal take to maximize the benefits for themselves. If you’re training for a competition you may scale up. If you’re injured you may scale down. If you’ve just learned a new skill you may Rx for the first time. The main measure of progress should be how you’re faring now vs how you were faring yesterday, last week, last month, last year.
My experience has been that, by-and-large, most other people in the class are supportive of your journey. The cliche that the person finishing last in a CrossFit workout is the one who is cheered on the most, is true. Of course there are some who may judge you based on their idea of how you should be performing. Luckily those are few and far between. And, usually, you’re so focused and exhausted during the workout that you can ignore them. These people usually don’t have any clue what you’re trying to accomplish, how you’re feeling on a given day, whether you had a good night’s sleep or if you’re still sore from the workout from the previous day. All sorts of things affect your approach to the day’s training and only you know for sure how best to proceed. Don’t let these negative people influence your plan of attack. Your coach knows best. Eventually you’re going to do what they told you to do in the first place. You may as well just start out listening.
If you haven’t tried CrossFit yet because you were hesitant about being ready, please find a gym near you and give it a go. You won’t regret it! And come back and let me know how it went.