Just Because You Can Doesn’t Mean You Should
Just because you are an adult and you CAN eat an entire cake for breakfast doesn’t mean you should. Just because you CAN wear Crocs out in public doesn’t mean you should (even though you probably should). And just because you CAN do a workout prescribed doesn’t mean you should.
If somebody were to ask me what the best and worst piece of equipment is in the CrossFit gym I would immediately tell you, without hesitation, that I love and hate the whiteboard equally.
The whiteboard results in friendly competition, which leads to athletes pushing themselves harder than they would push themselves. At the same time it also breeds rep cutting, a dangerous lack of scaling and so many athletes missing the intended stimulus of the workout.
I’ll talk about rep cutting later (but knock that shit off…you know who you are). Dangerous lack of scaling is obvious.
My focus here is going to how a workout should be accomplished which dictates how a workout should feel. I know how good having an RX on the board feels no matter how long you have been doing CrossFit for. I know how good having an RXADV on the board feels. There is value in the RX and the RXADV and I’m not minimizing that whatsoever. But when is the last time you scaled a workout down so that you could go faster, unbroken, etc. which you knew was going to make the workout feel significantly harder? If you went RX or RXADV but took twice as long or did half as many reps as the average score you messed up.
I have been doing CrossFit for over 9 years now. I know every excuse in the books. I know that sometimes you push for RX or even go up to RXADV which gives you the built in excuse to go slower. I’ve done it for years.
Let’s consider the benchmark workout ‘Helen’; 3 rounds for time: 400m run, 21 KB swings, 12 pull-ups. If I were coaching this workout, I would explain it this way:
“This workout should be done under 10 minutes so you will need to push the pace of the runs and go unbroken on both the kettlebell swings and the pull-ups. Your last run should feel like your hamstrings are about to fall off and you shouldn’t be able to make a fist for 20 minutes after the workout because your grip is so shot.”
Sounds fun right? I know some people in class would roll their eyes and laugh when I say sub 10 minutes and unbroken. But how different is that workout when you do a casual jog, split your kettlebell swings into 2 sets and do single pull-ups?
I want to challenge everybody to spend the rest of October really listening to whoever is explaining the workout to you and scale if you should. When we say “you need to be able to do your wallballs unbroken” – do them unbroken. Either gut it out and try harder, or scale down to a weight that will be a challenge but still unbroken. If we say your set of 15 cleans should be in no more than 3 sets, scale it appropriately. Doing 15 singles is way different than doing 3 sets of 5. Make it harder by making it “easier”.
If you don’t currently follow him or know who he is please follow @sherwood215 on Instagram. He has been doing CrossFit since it started and is very high up in CrossFit HQ. His page isn’t glamorous at all but typically a picture of the workout he did, his time and then a caption of how he scaled it. His most recent post has the sentence “…and of course I used a rack.” He followed this up with the hashtag #FitnessWasAchieved. The post before that is a workout he programmed for himself and scaled and added the #ScalingIsCool. Pat Sherwood gets it.
Greg Glassman, the creator of CrossFit has an awesome quote that has resonated with me for a long time: “Be impressed by intensity, not volume.” When is the last time that you were going so hard on a set of wallballs that your shoulders went numb and your hands stopped working? Have you ever pushed so hard on a 400m run to finish a workout that you had the squints and started drooling? I would rather see you go to a very dark place in an 8-minute workout than for you to tell me about the 28-part hero workout you did that took 17 hours and 48 minutes. If you can push yourself so hard that you are on the ground for twice as long as your workout I will be impressed.
*Disclaimer: there is a time and a place for volume. I’ll talk about that in the next post.*
Just because you can go RX doesn’t mean you should.