Category Archives: CrossFit

Should I Scale

It’s “Open Season!” The CrossFit Games Open: The five weeks from February through March where CrossFitters all over the World compete with each other to see how they stack up. It is an amazing and stressful time of year for athletes and affiliate gym owners. For the affiliate owners, it throws a wrench into your regular flow of classes and programming because you have to clear out at least one day per week to run the weekly workout as well as time for people to make it up if they miss it or want to repeat it. You are also stressed because you have no idea what the workout is every Thursday night when it is announced. You do not know in advance what equipment or space or time requirements you will need for the weekly workout. The workouts have ranged from 4 minutes to 20 minutes and have required multiple pieces of equipment and space requirements that can tax the resources of smaller boxes.

On the other end, the athletes are faced with a new challenge each week that they are expected to give their all to. This means that between each weeks challenge the athlete has to continue to train but also recover enough to be prepared for the next challenge. Program has to be potent enough to keep athletes progressing and getting fitter throughout the five weeks, but also forgiving enough to allow athletes to be fresh each weekend to perform the workout once (or possibly more times).

The biggest question for most athletes is whether they should scale the workouts. For many athletes, the Open presents an opportunity to try going Rx’d for the first time and getting a personal record (PR). It might be some athlete’s first double under or pull-up or an opportunity to lift more weight than they ever have before. It’s this aspect of the Open that is the most inspiring across the community. Watching people dig deeper and expect more of themselves and those around them is the best. That being said, scaling is still a great choice for a lot of people. Take a realistic look at where you are at with respect to what is asked of you in the workout. If you cannot do a pull-up or a dip, then spending 14 minutes trying muscle ups is pretty pointless. Scale it so you can workout hard. If you’re close to a skill and have never had success previously, then the Open might be the right time to go Rx’d and see if you can get a PR.

However, if you really are going to sit around for most of the workout practicing, then maybe you should allocate that time to practice, but then do the workout scaled and get a good workout. Here is what most people forget about a properly scaled workout: it’s still a hard workout. You’ve simply taken what is an impossible workout and made it possible. If you think your scaled workout is too easy: you either did not scale it correctly or you were not trying hard enough. I recommend most people work on their movement first and their intensity second and then worry about the weights. People are eager to master more complicated skills and add more weight and that’s great but, in the meantime, work on getting the most out of the lighter weights and easier variations but being able to work at intensity. It’s the intensity that is going to get you results.

The workout this weekend (18.3) was a long one and I scaled it. I feel good about my choice, because it became a good workout for me. None of the moves or reps or weights in the scaled version by themselves were a challenge to me: single unders, overhead squats at 45lbs, dumbbell snatches at 35lbs and pullups. However, the challenge was to move as fast possible through the 928 reps. My goal was to keep moving and rest as little as possible. I finished the workout in 12:26 and I only had very small breaks in the transitions or when I tripped on the jump rope or could no longer hold on to the pull-up bar. Certainly there is room for improvement. It was a good test of my fitness and let me know that while I have some capacity in one gear, I need to find another gear and work on going faster still. My goal was to finish in around 11 minutes, so I missed the mark by about 90 seconds. The althernative was doing a bunch of double unders and overhead squats and then spending the remaining time trying to eek out a couple of muscle ups. Sure that would be fine but not much of workout. It would be a different kind of victory to get some muscle ups and feel good in that regard. However, the workout of 200 double unders and 20 overhead squats would just be an appetizer to the main dish of muscle up practice for 10 minutes. Whereas, by scaling I got to just push myself 14 minutes and get a fun and challenging workout.

There’s not one right way to do things, but choosing your adventure can change the outcome so think about what you want. And there is no rule that says you can’t do both.