When I first started CrossFit, I watched the other girls at my box in awe as they RXed workouts. I wanted nothing more than to see those two letters on the whiteboard, next to my name and time. This was a good thing – it gave me the drive and motivation to improve. I trained hard, and turned up at the box consistently to work my way towards the holy grail: performing the workouts as prescribed. I still remember my very first RX workout. It was a variation of the benchmark Nancy workout, with back squats instead of overhead squats. I felt so proud of myself!
Today, I have the strength and ability to RX the majority of workouts in our box, but should I? Many CrossFitters are of the opinion that, if you can, you should RX every workout. I disagree. Unless you’re an elite, competitive athlete, I think that scaling can be beneficial. Here are a few reasons to consider scaling your next workout:
1. Avoid Injury
This goes without saying, and I’d like to think that most CrossFitters would use this one. If I know that my technique is likely to go out of the window (e.g. heavy/high rep snatch workouts), I’ll always scale to maintain form as much as possible. Following a minor injury, kettlebell swings also cause me issues with my shoulder from time to time, with my form breaking down as I get tired. If I feel this happening, I’ll switch to heavy kettlebell deadlifts part way through the workout. It’s all about using your common sense, and understanding your own body. We all have different levels of ability and weaknesses, and we shouldn’t risk injury for the sake of RXing a workout. What would be the point in that?!
2. Maintain Intensity
All workouts are programmed with a particular intensity in mind. This can be illustrated using everyone’s favourite workout, Fran. Elite athletes will typically complete this workout in under three minutes. It’s designed to be a relatively short, intense workout. The first time I ever completed it as prescribed, it took me around 13 minutes. It was tough, it was character building, but it wasn’t as intense as it should have been. I needed to rest. I had to put the bar down. That’s not what Fran is about… With this in mind, I decided to scale the weight of the thrusters. The next time I did it, at 25kg, it took me six minutes. I was ruined. Fran lung and everything! That is exactly how Fran should make you feel – totally destroyed! Ensuring that the intensity of the workout is as prescribed, rather than the load, will get results.
If I look at a workout and I’m unsure, I ask my coach. A good coach will be able to give you advice to help you scale appropriately, such as, “it should take you between 3 and 5 minutes” or “I want you to complete the front squats unbroken”.
3. Target Your Weaknesses
Doing lots of heavy workouts hasn’t helped me to get better at the light ones. I discovered this during the open, whilst completing the first workout, and again at the Rainhill Trials earlier in the month. My preference for strength work might mean that I can move the weight quickly, but I burn out easily and tend to rest far too much. The end result is slow!
I’m competing in the European Inferno this summer, and I refuse to be caught out by this type of workout again! The only way for me to get better at light, fast, intense workouts is to do more of them. Therefore, I’ve been scaling some of the heavier WODs in order to put this into practice and get out of my comfort zone. It seems counterintuitive but, for me, scaling the workout can sometimes make it seem harder. I have issues pacing myself, and the increased rest means that it can end up taking me longer to complete the workout.
In summary, aside from the obvious (to maintain form and prevent injury), the decision to scale or RX a workout could be determined by two factors: the intended intensity of the workout and/or your own, personal goals. Of course, there are plenty of reasons to RX your workouts too – I’ll save those for another day!