You look at the WOD and you see Clean and Jerks Rx 95/135. The coach says something like “It should be a weight you can do 8-10 reps of when you’re fresh”. You think, “I Clean and Jerked 165 that one time. My PR is PROBABLY 185…I could do this Rx”. 15 Minutes later the rest of class is done, you’re still working, and now your back hurts.
Most, if not all of us have been in this situation. Very common for any member, no matter what their experience level, to not approach the WOD with the right goal and mindset to optimize their health and fitness. Here are a few thoughts on how to scale and pace your workout effectively.
During class even though some of us are lifting more weight, doing more reps, or performing more advanced movements, we all SHOULD feel the same during and after the workout. We should all feel the same type of exhaustion, have the same burning muscles, and feel the same type of discomfort. That is what we mean when we talk about Stimulus. Each workout is designed to elicit a specific response (Test your strength, carry odd objects, spike your heart rate) in order to simulate a real life situation (Picking up something heavy, helping a friend move, being in a fight). When you choose the wrong weight or movement you miss out on that specific stimulus. If you go too heavy, you’re doing a completely different workout with a different stimulus and that is why it’s taking you longer to finish.
In order to see great results each workout needs to have a certain amount of intensity. The key is to find that sweet spot. If you finished first, feel like you barely broke a sweat, and you’re ready for another round, you probably over-scaled. When you start CrossFit, over-scaling is not a bad idea, but as you progress and become more familiar with the movements, the more you can SAFELY push yourself the more results you will get.
On the other hand, If you finish last often, have to take multiple long breaks during the WOD, your form falls apart, and you’re incredibly sore or injured after WODs, you under-scaled. Not only do you not hit the stimulus but now you’re leading yourself to injury. If you are injured or so sore that you have to take multiple days off to recover then you are drastically slowing down your progress.
One of the amazing things about CrossFit is the ability for it to be modified for anyone. You have to pick the right weight or the right movement that works for you. When you see the Rx weight is 95/135, the goal isn’t to simply use that weight, but to do it WELL. To do it with GOOD form, in the recommended TIME, with only having to take the recommended amount of REST. Rx is a goal not only for the weight or the movement but for everything just listed. To improve your fitness in a safe linear path you must pick options that allow you to that.
One of the many factors that separate the Games Athletes from the average CrossFitter is their ability to pace themselves in Workouts. If they are performing multiple rounds in an event they stick to a maintainable pace for ALL the rounds. Often in regular WODs you see most people start off HOT and fast, often with the thought “If I can keep this lead I can win this WOD!” As the rounds add up there comes a drastic drop in performance. The first round took about 2 minutes, the last round took 5. The first round you didn’t rest at all, the last round you had to rest a full minute in between each movement. Learning to pace yourself will lead to better results and performance. You will do the same amount of work, but in less time, with better form. Go a little slower in the beginning, see how each movement or round feels. If after the first round that pace felt too easy then speed up. If it feels too hard it’s not sustainable. Add a few quick breaks early on before you reach complete exhaustion. CHOOSE REST OR REST WILL CHOOSE YOU.
We’re all a little competitive. Some of us more than others. With that we all have people in class that we “chase”. These are people that are either more advanced or at the same level as us, and to beat them in a WOD would validate our perceived level of fitness. On the flip side most people don’t realize they are also being chased by someone. All of us, know matter how fit or unfit we think we are, have someone who is chasing us. If it’s not someone in class, it is a friend outside of CrossFit, or a co-worker, or a stranger off the street. They see how much work you put in and your results and they want it too. We’re all ahead of people who are still stuck on the couch or can’t exercise like we can for a multitude of reasons. Keep that in mind whenever you feel crushed by WOD or you couldn’t make a lift. You’re already doing great just by showing up to the gym with a positive attitude. Then you get the bonus of doing it with a group of like- minded people who are all looking to improve themselves just like you!