Scaling For Success


I know I’ve written a post on this subject a few times already but it looks like I may have to touch on it again.

There’s no bigger motivator than progress. When you get that first pull up, you want to do a hundred of them. You PRd your deadlift and now you want to challenge Coach Nick in a Deadlift WOD. You finally get a double under so you spend 20 minutes doing a single-single-double “Annie“.

Well, just because you can doesn’t mean you should. As we drill into you everyday, Intensity is the key. How intense is your workout if you’re staring up at your pull up bar longer than you’re actually doing pull ups. Have your band ready to roll so you can keep moving. That’s the only way you’ll get better. Do yourself a favor tomorrow; as you’re walking up to the door, drop your ego off in the grass. I promise it’ll still be there when you head back to your car.

TODAY: FRI, JULY 26, 2013




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5 Responses to Scaling For Success

  1. Sarah R. says:

    The Internet!! Must share my opinion!! ☺

    This post has been tweaking my brain since I read it the instant I was notified on Facebook it was posted. I want to provide a differing perspective on some of the statements in it and maybe a discussion can start and we will all learn something.

    My brain-tweaking is wrapped around these two statements: “Intensity is the key” and “That’s the only way you’ll get better”. I can only agree with the first if I assume the definition of ‘intensity’ is ‘focus and effort’ instead of ‘constant movement without regard to form so I can end up in that coveted sweat puddle on the gym floor’. If we reference the CFW post from July 20 in the definition of “Hard Work” I think the important part to improving performance is ‘practice…thousands of successful reps…and persistence.’ But assuming you are there for only your hour class, how can you get all the practice and thousands of reps needed? I would argue that the most effective way to achieve that is to use the warm-ups and WOD (at least part of the time) as your movement practice. Let’s use the “Annie” example: yeah, Annie might take you 20 minutes but you just did 150 double-unders mixed in with all those singles, which is 150 more than you did that morning and your body is that much further along in gaining movement muscle memory. Maybe in a pull-up WOD you stared at the bar longer than if you just ripped and prayed, but were your pull-ups technically proficient? Do you understand the technique of the kip and how to transfer it to other movements, or how the band is helping and/or hindering your progression? The difference between a four-minute Annie and a 20-minute single-single-double Annie is like the difference between a 400m vice the half marathon in terms of time domain, working heart rate and which ‘system’ is trained—both have value and should be trained in accordance with your larger goals.

    Let’s take a common movement with more injury risk involved: the deadlift. Maybe the rx’d weights/reps are out of your league so you scale the weight to something where you can keep up the ‘keep moving future sweat puddle’ intensity. In warm-ups your form is pristine, but then that clock starts and form goes out the window of getting a faster time. Suddenly a ‘five-round 20 deadlift + other stuff’ workout has now instilled 100 reps of poor form muscle memory. Are you better? Let’s say you finally pull that coveted (pick a number)-pound deadlift, but everyone in the gym cringed and breathed a sigh of relief when you didn’t slip a disk—are you better? This same idea can be applied to any movement—snatches, pull-ups, lunges, anything: did all those reps I just did teach my body the right/safe/efficient way of doing things or do I now have dozens and hundreds of ‘mistake’ reps my body is ingraining? Do I even know the difference?

    All that said, there are many times when ‘sweat puddle floor’ intensity is absolutely the right thing. Frequency depends on you and your goals. You are the athlete here, don’t be afraid to take responsibility for what you want out of your training session and thinking about the posted workout beyond ‘it is written so I must do’. Ask a coach about the intended goal of a workout. Decide to put the pedal to the metal, or to use the WOD as practice, or what feels right for your body/mind that day, and use it to create progress towards your main fitness goals. With clear goals, coach’s input, and the appropriate ratio of ‘sweat puddle floor’ intensity to ‘effort and focus’ intensity hopefully we can all become the proverbial ‘better’.

  2. tassha says:

    Really well written Sara and I think I get your point. Don’t let intensity take you away from bad form. Don’t let a goal of a faster time lead to poor form. Right? Am I picking up what you are putting down? That is one of the things I truly do ‘love’ and ‘hate’ about crossfit, the atmosphere. Thanks to crossfit I no longer take really long breaks between set, or lift a lot lighter than I actually could. Why is that? Because people are all around me doing the same exercise, and I simply CANNOT be last…or can I? Mind you, the people I am trying to keep up with are either in better shape than I am, or their form sucks too. But as I try to keep up, I feel my form slipping. It took awhile, but I finally started to teach myself to slow down on WOD’s I need form work (snatches, jerks), recognizing my strengths and weaknesses. Yes, even I do really well on some WOD’s, if they are not very technical.

    I honestly feel like no one knows how intense you are actually working out, so no one should be able to tell you to speed up. I mean if you are looking at that bar while breathing heavily and dripping sweat, you are still getting a good work out, right? So who cares if you are slower and didnt scale those pullups. You got your workout and feel stronger for completing a WOD, without scaling. It’s when you are standing there, not really sweating, because you cant even get your chest to that bar, thats when scaling becomes a factor. But if you can do 5 or so at a time, you are doing great, dont scale! Just dont get flustered with being a slower finisher.

    I think sometimes the thing that gets lost is some of us are just there for a great work out that is a lot of fun. Obviously form is important, to prevent injuries, but not all of us have dreams and aspirations to compete or whatever. So if Annie takes you 20 minutes, sure you arent going to compete, but did you get a good workout and keep reletively good form? Are you sweating, tired, sore? Good, you got what you paid for.

    Remember, at the end of the day your workouts are for you, not the coaches or fellow members. You only have to feel satisfied with what you did that day. So the moral is, in my humble opinion, form is the most important thing, fast times or a lot of rounds is nice, but not necessary, and quit worrying about what others are doing, do you.

  3. Jeremy says:

    Funny enough but Sara’s story is pretty much how I learned double unders. I was getting them better in practice but was never wodding them because I was taking to long and didn’t want to look bad on the board. Long story short, I made myself do the entire workout with them, finished last, but that workout jumpstarted my double unders. Now they still aren’t good, but I don’t fear them as much.

  4. CFW Lloyd says:

    These are some very thoughtful comments, everyone! Thank you for generating the conversation. The idea of having a different post every night is to get everyone thinking (and talking) about how CrossFit affects their life and to get everyone to share their experiences.

    To add some ingredients to the pot, when I say “As we drill into you everyday”, the order goes: Mechanics, Consistency, Intensity. There is no way around that as far as CFW (or CrossFit) is concerned. You must be able to complete a movement soundly, consistently, before adding intensity. That is the “practice” Sarah mentioned. Intensity is indeed the key to reaching your fitness goals. It’s one of Crossfit’s principles. But, intensity is relative. A 7-Minute RX Annie is intense to me but it would be a leisure pace for Speal in the video above. Like Sarah mentioned, there is a goal for every workout so please ask a coach what that goal is (if it’s not mentioned in the brief) and ask how to scale to reach that goal.

    @Sarah R – Your link was great! The internet – Gotta love it. I’m still trying to figure out which one I am. I think we’re describing the same side of the coin. Your summary at the end (along with Tassha’s) hit it right on the head. Bottom line, it is your workout. Your coaches are here to guide you. If you take responsibility for how you attack what’s on the whiteboard, you’ll reach your goals faster. But, without getting trapped in the wordplay game, I think the biggest hang up would be the statement “only way to get better”. I’m not sure if it came out clearly but the message is: scaling is the “only way to get better” at maintaining Intensity. “Sweat Puddle Floor” and “Focus and Effort”, as far as Intensity is concerned, should be the same thing. I would never want someone to move “without regard to form”. Proper mechanics is a prerequisite to Intensity. If they can’t maintain form while “doing more work quickly”, scale. If they can maintain the scale option, shoot for the moon.

    @Jeremy – I had a huge breakthrough with my doubles by forcing myself to only do doubles in a workout. I often recommend that to people who are on the cusp of consistent doubles. However, it was at the expense of an “intense” workout and a “reputable” score on the board. But, like everyone has said on this discussion so far, it depends on your goals. Do I want to challenge myself metabolically or do I want to get better at double unders? It is possible to do both but you have to make a conscious decision where you put most of your chips.

    -CFW Lloyd

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