Every now and then I’ll hear a horror story about a gym that never modifies workouts. At gyms like these, scaling is viewed as a sign of weakness and CrossFit is portrayed as a hardcore, underground movement performed only by those brave enough. It’s absolutely awful that a handful of gym owners haven’t a clue about the program they are selling, but it’s even more terrifying that they are glorifying, in each of their members, the idea of Rx’d workouts above all else. For them, if a workout can’t be performed Rx’d there’s no point in doing it at all. It’s an environment that fosters feelings of embarrassment and inferiority when having to modify something. They couldn’t be further from the actual CrossFit methodology.
I thank my lucky stars to be surrounded by a staff of CrossFit purists through and through. We also get the occasional member eager to hit workouts beyond their limits, but we work hard to instill values in those members that paint fitness as a journey rather than a destination. The truth of the matter is that not everybody is going to the Games…and that’s okay. And if you are, it certainly isn’t going to happen over night. It takes time and patience to achieve goals, especially elite fitness. A mentality of “Rx’d or nothing” will only hinder someone’s progress, not improve upon it. “Wow, Jake, those gyms you mentioned above only program Rx’d workouts for their members. That’s hardcore!” The only thing that tells me is that they probably have a ton of athletes that are really good at moving heavy loads, slowly. That isn’t CrossFit and that isn’t fitness.
The moral of the story is: Don’t be so hung up on performing Rx’d workouts. They won’t make you better. Hard work will.
Technique + Consistency + Intensity = Results
I know, I know. I’m ramming this equation down your throat, but that’s because it’s vital to your progress. Nowhere in the equation will you find the term “Rx’d”. In fact, what does Rx’d even mean? The sooner you realize the truth, the sooner you can rearrange your priorities. Rx’d is arbitrary. I can make a Rx’d workout. You can make a Rx’d workout. Anyone can make a Rx’d workout. Wanna see? Try this. Close your eyes and think of 3 movements. If they are weighted movements give them male and female weights. Next, give them all reps. Finally, decide how many rounds you would like to do. Viola! A Rx’d CrossFit workout. Now do you get my point? It is simply the figment of the imagination of the person creating the workout. Please don’t get me wrong here, I don’t mean to destroy, at all, the value of the idea of “Rx’d”. In terms of measuring progress and comparing results with other CrossFitters, Rx’d is absolute necessary and amazing. Nobody would know where they stood, or have goals to shoot for, without Rx’d. At the same time, if you aren’t ready, then you aren’t ready. There’s no rush.
Performance Gauge vs Training Tool
The problem arises when Rx’d changes from a performance gauge into a tool used to make oneself better. If you aren’t prepared for Rx’d weights, reps, and distances, then no amount of Rx’d workouts in the world will make you better. Each workout is designed to be performed within a certain/particular time frame. That is, a specified intensity level is sought. Going beyond your abilities and performing a Rx’d WOD in 15 minutes, when it should take someone less than 5 minutes, is only hindering progress. It doesn’t matter how great your technique is or how consistent you’ve been, you’re still missing a critical part of the CrossFit methodology…high intensity. Performing workouts beyond your means will only get you in the habit of moving slowly, and that’s a difficult habit to break. The path to a sub 3 minute Fran isn’t a bunch of 10+ minute Frans. It’s repeated sub 5 min Frans at scaled weights until 95/65 can be performed at that same intensity level.
The most frustrating part about the whole Rx’d concept is how it tends to make people completely forget about the universal scalability aspect of CrossFit. CrossFit is the most amazing thing in the world because, aside from the fact that it gets people in ridiculously good shape, anyone can do it! Literally anyone. Substitutions exist for every exercise that keep the integrity of the workout (muscle groups, intensity levels, etc) in tact. That means that I can do Fran, right next to my mom doing Fran, right next to my grandmother doing Fran. It’s a beautiful thing. However, when people get hung up on the whole Rx’d concept it makes the idea of scaling back a workout a negative thing. This is completely counterintuitive to the idea of universal scalability. Yes, performing workouts Rx’d is the end goal. The key word there being “end”. For most people it won’t be happening for a while, and, again, that’s okay. Scaled/modified workouts are where athletes learn to ramp up intensity levels. They are also where fledgling CrossFitters learn to become comfortable with being uncomfortable, an essential step to progressing towards being a top athlete. The next time one of your friends from a different gym asks you why you modify be sure to let them know it’s because you CrossFit.
But It’s Embarrassing!
Many of the issues with Rx’d workouts have to do with people feeling embarrassed that they have to scale down while their neighbors crush heavy weights. Newsflash! That same neighbor has probably been at our gyms for months, if not years, now. I’ll tell you guys the same thing I tell all of my intro classes when talking about modifying workouts: the only difference between them (pointing to people working out in class) and you is time. Our veteran members went through the same struggles and scaled workouts as everyone else. The difference? They kept working hard and now they’re at the point where Rx’d workouts are, for the most part, doable. The sooner members embrace the process, the sooner the embarrassment factor goes away. When both of those things happen, everyone gets to be exactly where they want to be.
DISCLAIMER! Gentleman, you will get beat by girls every now and then. Get over it. Strong is beautiful 😉
Performing a Rx’d workout is an exciting thing. Even more so if you’ve been scaling down for months/years. This article isn’t meant to undermine that accomplishment. Quite the opposite actually. I want everyone thinking more about the bigger picture so that Rx’d workouts may happen sooner for you. Don’t worry too much about the day-to-day details of the workouts you’ll be performing. Your trainers will guide you on proper scaling and will also let you know when you’re ready for Rx’d. In the mean time, learn to go hard and to improve your discomfort threshold. Learn to maintain proper technique under increasing fatigue. Those are the keys to progressing as an athlete, not jumping into Rx’d workouts before you’re ready. At CrossFit Kinnick we encourage scaling for the sake of technique and intensity. It’s a necessary step to elite fitness for everyone, regardless of background.