Live & Learn

No Jedi Master can replace the invaluable lessons we learn through EXPERIENCE herself.

Experience is the best teacher.

In CrossFit, we must give ourselves the opportunity to experience something new each and every WOD. Only through trial and error can we really get to know ourselves and how to properly scale the workouts to meet the demands and expectations of each day’s intentions.

So, what does this look like? Let’s use “Johnny” as our example - Johnny has been CrossFitting for about two years now, does most workouts “Rx,” and is your everyday, full-time job, and daddy of three guy. Although he can do most of the WOD’s “Rx,” he doesn’t hit the target time domains very often. His “Fran” time is currently 12:46, and his “Murph” time is 1:03:34. His coach sat down with him and asked Johnny to consider scaling the workouts for the next few months and focus on hitting the targets, whether it’s for rounds and reps, or for time.

Johnny did not like this idea, and understandably so, but the coach was able to convince him to try it out for the first week, and then they could reassess.

So, lo and behold, on the Monday the workout just happened to be “Fran.” Now, although Johnny can technically do this workout “Rx,” his coach encouraged him to try it today @ 75# thrusters, but go for unbroken sets or cut it in half (11-10, 8-7, and 5-4). Johnny normally does the thrusters in sets of 3’s. The coach also suggested Johnny do the first 21 pull ups as 21 unbroken ring rows, and then the 15 and 9 he can do pull ups. This is because Johnny cannot do large volume of pull ups quickly, and his coach wants him to feel what it’s like to go big and unbroken in a workout (Johnny is used to doing everything in small sets with a lot of rest).

Johnny, admittedly, is not excited, and is very nervous and outside his comfort zone. He doesn’t quite know what to expect of himself.

The WOD happens.

Johnny ends up doing the first 21 thrusters unbroken, and he was completely surprised by himself. Filled with a newfound excitement, he did all 21 ring rows unbroken, and was shocked to see the time at only 1:36. Although he was breathing heavier than he was used to, he did try to pick up the barbell and do the next 15 unbroken. However, at the 9th rep, his body quit on him and he had to drop it. The coach yelled out to take three deep breaths and then go. Johnny obeyed, and was able to get the last 6 reps done. Now for the pull ups. Johnny has never really done more than 5 at a time. Today, though, he knew he had to TRY. So, he just went for it to see how far he could go, and he ended up getting 14 before having to drop, but then got the last rep. By now, Johnny was heaving hard and hating all of his decisions today. He stood over his bar, not wanting to pick it up. His coach came over and started yelling in his ear. Begrudgingly, Johnny picked up the barbell and decided to try all 9 reps just so he could be done with it. He got through 4 reps, and then dumped it. He was hurting everywhere. The coach counted him down, and then Johnny went again. Two more reps done. Johnny was deep in that tunnel. One more rep. He wondered why he couldn’t do more than one rep. One more rep done. Just one more to go. Johnny held the barbell in the front rack position, took a deep breath, and then did the last rep. He knew he couldn’t do 9 pull ups unbroken, let alone one right now. So, instead, he walked over to the rings and did 5, then 4 reps to finish, and fell to the ground.


Johnny now realized what his coach was talking about. This was definitely THE HARDEST workout he’s ever done in the two years he’s been here.

Each day, Johnny discussed with his coach how they best think he should tackle the workout to hit the target intensity and score range. And, each day, Johnny learned something else new about himself and where his holes were in his training.

There were a lot of misses in the beginning of this new adventure. Many days, he miscalculated something and either had to take weight off in the middle of the workout, or went too fast and realized he could have gone heavier.

After about 5 months, though, Johnny was really dialed into himself, and most workouts were scaled appropriately for himself.

A year later, after the initial start to this adventure, Johnny re-tested his “Fran,” and went “Rx.”

Johnny was happy to report that he went unbroken in all sets, and nailed a time of 3:45.

Live and learn, folks.

Be like Johnny.

Scale it back and really try to hit the target for the day. If you’re not sure how, ASK THE COACH! ;-)

Scaling is NOT cheating, and it definitely is NOT making anything “easier.” Scaling is how ALL OF US, including us coaches and competitors, adapt the day’s workout to meet our own needs and abilities so that we can achieve the day’s intentions and outcomes.



Kara PurvesComment