A Word On Open, Performance, & Fitness. - And What Happened To Rx?

What is Rx?

            Before I talk about scaling, I think it is best to clear up what “Rx” is exactly.  In CrossFit the term “Rx” means to complete a workout using the prescribed standards set by the person programming the workout.  The prescribed standards are not random but are used to achieve a very specific stimulus intended by the person creating the workout.  I am going to use Fran (21-15-9: thrusters 95/65, pull-ups, for time) as the example.  This workout is designed to be completed in under 5 minutes and preferably in unbroken sets.  The programmer of this workout has prescribed 95 pounds for men and 65 pounds for women, which indicates that the intension is not to struggle with heavy weights but to move quickly and without rest.  Intensity is the point, not the weight.  It is up to the athlete (and the coach) to confirm if this weight is appropriate for the athlete or to find a lesser weight that will achieve the intended stimulus.  It is usually at this moment that I see a lot of athletes go wrong, and a mistake that I have made myself in the past.  We see specific numbers on the board and think that our goal is now to get as close to that weight as possible no matter what.  By making the weight our goal and not the stimulus, we miss the point of the workout completely.  We should be scaling the workout to get as close as possible to the intended stimulus that is prescribed, not the weight.  Someone who completes the workout with 95 lbs and gets a time of 15:36, missed the point.  It is likely that they dropped the bar a couple times, rested between sets, came down from their pull ups, etc.  If that person had used 55 pounds instead and finished at 3:31, it would have resulted in a completely different workout and they would be a better athlete for it. 

            The concept of scaling a workout to achieve the intended stimulus instead of checking the Rx weights and movements, is something I struggled with for a good portion of my CrossFit career.  I spent most of my time doing Rx workouts for the sake of doing Rx and missing the point of the workout.  I did this because I desperately wanted to Rx every workout because I believed that doing Rx made me a better athlete, and that if I scaled workouts, I would never get where I wanted to be.  By making those choices, I likely stifled my growth as an athlete.  

            Rx, while completely necessary, has been hijacked by the idea of CrossFit as a sport instead of CrossFit as a training methodology.  The two, are actually very different in a big way.  The goal of CrossFit as a training methodology is NOT to make you a better CrossFitter (aka a Games athlete) and it is not to help you Rx every workout.  It is about providing a broad, general and inclusive fitness that meets the goals of any individual.  What your goals are will determine how you scale each workout.  That being said please know that I am not demonizing the desire to want to Rx every workout or train for CrossFit on a competitive level because for some people, like myself, those are the goals.  However, recognize those goals are not superior to any others and that CrossFit is adaptable to all fitness goals.

So why did Crossfit Bangor move away from the Rx, L2, and L1 system?  The purpose of our new tracks Open, Performance, and Fitness, is to take away the power, distracting, and stifling effects of the Rx button.  The original system encourages the mentality that the sole objective is to make your way up the levels until you have reach “Rx status”.  Our hope is that the new system will create an environment where we can instead focus on more individualized ambitions, mechanics, consistency, and intensity. 

Open

            This track is for those whose goals are specifically related to the Crossfit Open.  The prescribed weight in this category will be heavier and the skills will be more difficult with the intension of preparing athletes for what will be asked of them during the Open.

Performance

            This track is for those who compete in a sport other than CrossFit and whose goals are specifically about performing better in that sport.  This is also a great track for more experienced members who are looking for something a little more challenging.  Expect the weights to be heavier and the gymnastic skills to be a little more demanding. 

Fitness

            This is CrossFit at its purest: uncomplicated and straightforward.  This track is for those who are looking to become more active, get fit, and live longer and healthier lives.

The goal of CrossFit as a training methodology is NOT to make you a better CrossFitter

Rx Never Left

            We did not eliminate Rx, it is still there, only now it will vary depending on which track you have chosen.  However, know that no matter which track you are on, you may still need to scale.  Scaling appropriately is still very important.  Below are a couple key items to consider when making scaling decisions:   

What is the stimulus?  Make sure, above all else, that you understand what the intended stimulus is for the workout.  Is it supposed to be fast and unbroken?  Or heavy and slow?  Once you understand the desired stimulus you will have a better idea of what direction you should go in with weights and level of gymnastic skill.  Nine times out of ten you are better off going a little lighter than you think you should.  If you go back to our Fran example, the more you drop the barbell or break up the pull-ups, the more the intensity decreases.  Intensity is the fastest way to results so keep it light! 

·      Quick side note on intensity:  Intensity in this context does not mean chaotic movement at the expense of technique and safety.  It also does not mean doing a lot of work across a long period of time.  Intensity in this context, is “Force x Distance/Time”.  This basically translates to more work done in less time.  The longer the time it takes, the lower the intensity. 

What is the goal of the workout for me?  This is another important question to ask when scaling a workout.  To explain what I mean by this, I am going to use Grace (30 clean and jerks for time at 135/95#).  Imagine that 6 months ago an athlete got a 5-minute Grace time and is now about to retest the same workout.  Last time, this athlete scaled the weight to 85 pounds and did singles (dropping the bar between each rep).  This time, she has the choice to either use the prescribed weight of 95 pounds or she could use the same weight as before, cycle the clean and jerks and maybe beat her old time.  The decision should be made based what her personal goal is for the workout.  Is it to get comfortable moving standard Crossfit weights?  Is the goal to get sweaty and have a more intense workout?  Is the goal to improve the speed of her clean and jerks?  This is how workouts can be scaled to fit each person individually.  A good rule of thumb is to identify your weaknesses and attack them head on.

Final Take Away

            The most important point that I hope you can take away from this, is to not let intimidating workouts or the Rx button distance you from your reasons for doing CrossFit in the first place.  The effectiveness of your workout has nothing to do with whether you scaled or Rx’d it.  The effectiveness of your workout depends on whether you performed the workout as it was intended. Do not belittle or downgrade your workouts and personal achievements because someone next to you did it differently.  Similarly, if you are the first one to finish, it does not mean that you “should have gone heavier”, “made it more difficult”, or that you did it wrong.  “Difficult” is subjective.  Even though it seems counterintuitive, scaling your workouts appropriately is the best way to reach your goal no matter if it is to look good on the beach, be a better basketball player, or make it to The CrossFit Games.

Zachary Hamilton
The Mental Side of Fitness

    It is an exciting time to be a CrossFitter.  The CrossFit Games are underway, which gives us all a chance to watch the fittest athletes in our community push the boundaries of what we think is possible.  As of writing this post, we have seen women Snatch above 200 pounds, and men move over 1000 pounds of strongman implements coupled with handstand walks.  What happens in Madison is incredible and really no different from what takes place within the walls of our own gym at home.  You may have forgotten that the average person does not go to the gym and flip upside down on to their hands and proceed to then lift their bodyweight off of the ground.  It is good to have perspective that even though you might not be throwing down with the best in Madison, you do truly amazing things everyday you walk into CrossFit Bangor.  Perspective, while important, is not the theme of this post.  This week’s addition to the CrossFit Bangor journal is about the mental side of fitness. 

    While watching the CrossFit Games, it is easy to see how unbelievable the athletes are on a physical level.  What is not so obvious, is how strong the athletes are mentally.  Just to be able to step out onto the competition floor in front of thousands of people watching in the stands and thousands more watching online, is a outstanding display of mental strength.  Even more impressive are those who are able to stay composed long enough to end up on the podium.  Most likely none of you have the goal of making it to the CrossFit Games, let alone to be one of the top three, but that does not mean there is not something that we can take from that champion mindset and apply it to our own lives, both physically and personally.

    In my opinion, mental strength is a union of courage, patience and confidence.  These three mental components, similar to the physical skills of CrossFit (metabolic conditioning, gymnastics, and weightlifting), work best when we have some capacity in all and not just one.  We will start with the mental skill I think is the most important in getting you started on your path towards whatever goal you may have.

These three mental components, similar to the physical skills of CrossFit (metabolic conditioning, gymnastics, and weightlifting), work best when we have some capacity in all and not just one.

Courage

cour·age

/ˈkərij/

noun

:mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty

 

    Looking back to my first post, “Five Things to Know When Starting CrossFit”, courage is required to execute “Just Start”.  The Merriam-Webster dictionary states that courage is the “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty”, which is something that is asked of CrossFitters every day, regardless of whether it is their first workout or their 100th.  You better believe that the eerie sound of the clock counting down to zero still gives me a rush of anxiety to this day.  

    Courage is a muscle that needs to be built and maintained.  A great way to exercise this muscle is by pushing your limits on a regular basis.  CrossFit and your every day life give you unlimited opportunities to build this skill but most of us choose to avoid them because, well it is hard and scary and we do not like the unknown.  Making the decision to go to the gym instead of heading home after work requires courage.  Or taking the extra step to put your food on a scale before your plate, requires courage.  Pushing yourself a little harder during the last 30 seconds of a workout instead of slowing down, requires courage.  And I say that it requires courage (among other things), because these decisions go against the norm.  How uncomfortable is it to turn down coworkers for after work drinks or tell your spouse that you suddenly want to weigh your food at every meal?  And what about failure?  Some people fear really going for things because of failure and there perceived humiliation.  What if I still miss the lift?  What if other people see me fail?  All of these opportunities to make the above decisions, happen every day.  Courage is about persevering despite uncertainty.  Courage is making healthy (sometimes unpopular) decisions despite what others may think.  Courage is walking across the gym to high five someone you do not know after a workout.  Both CrossFit and your life give you these chances to be courageous.  

    You know what the best part is?  These choices are going to keep coming up, every day, which means that it is never too late to make the right choices for you; you just have to be willing to try and exercise a little courage. 

Patience

pa·tience

/ˈpāSHəns/

noun

:the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.

    I love the definition of patience.  I love it so much that I am going to make you read it again: “the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset”.  Courage is required to start, but patience is crucial to continue down the path.

    I want to start with “delay”Delay is a component of anything that is good in life.  A career, fitness, or skill is not developed without a good amount of delay.  It takes years of work, courage, and patience to end up on the podium of the CrossFit Games or to accomplish a life goal.

    Life is certainly not problem free.  You have likely already (or will) encountered some sort of trouble today whether it be in the form of traffic or the realization that you forgot your gym shoes at home.  On the surface, these are merely inconveniences but when broken down are opportunities to practice patience. 

    Suffering and CrossFit are pretty much best friends.  Yet what many do not realize is that CrossFit is not the one dealing out the suffering, it is you.  When you do a workout, it is not the workout pushing you to your limits or the workout causing you pain because YOU are the one that is in full control.  For example, Fran (a couplet of thrusters and pull ups) can be completed in one hour with plenty of water breaks and rest, or it can be done in three minutes leaving you on the floor while other members mop sweat up off the floor around you.  The intensity is a decision that is entirely up to you.  The difference is having the courage to choose the latter and the patience to work towards carrying it out. 

On the surface, these are merely inconveniences but when broken down are opportunities to practice patience. 

Confidence 

con·fi·dence

\ˈkän-fə-dən(t)s

noun

:a feeling or consciousness of one’s powers or of reliance on one’s circumstances; the quality or state of being certain  

 

    Confidence is the final piece that I believe is involved in a successful and healthy mindset.  Confidence can often be the key component between success and failure.  The problem is that confidence does not come naturally to some of us and is a state of mind that is foreign to many.  I am sure we would all like there to be a switch in our brains that we could just flip and suddenly become confident, and suddenly shed our fears and insecurities.  Unfortunately, it does take some mental effort but you can work on developing confidence right now.  

    I believe that confidence is developed by making the conscious effort to change the way you think about yourself and by how you behave.  Confidence is earned in a way.  I expect that a lot of you think this way too, but you believe that confidence will come in the form of six packs and top spots on leaderboards.  You have attached confidence as a reward for accomplishing a goal, that you will believe in yourself more AFTER you obtain whatever it is your are aiming for.  But real confidence, confidence that is not attached or dependent on anything else, is earned by having the courage to do what frightens you and the patience to put in work everyday regardless of delay, trouble or suffering.  By doing these things and consciously believing in yourself, you will build confidence in yourself that you can persevere and withstand adversaries, that you can count on yourself to do the right thing and make the right decisions at every opportunity that life brings you.  Have confidence in that doing the right thing, is always the right thing.

Putting It All Together

    I am going to end this post with an example of this mindset being put into practice and how it can make the difference between success and failure.  In the CrossFit Documentary, “The Fittest on Earth: A Decade of Fitness”, there was a female athlete who by the third day was slated to win gold.  Tia-Claire Toomey, an athlete from Australia, entered the final day of the competition wearing the Leader’s Jersey, a shirt that indicates that they are currently in first place.  On the final day, she was taking photographs with fans and was filmed stating to her fan, “You’ll probably want to delete that by the end of the day”.  Tia did not believe that she could win gold.  I wanted to point this out specifically because, even the top CrossFit Games athletes struggle with moments of self-doubt and lack of confidence.  The deflated self-confidence became more apparent as that final day went on and Tia went on to win the silver medal instead of gold.  

    Not many of us will know what it feels like to be stopped in the street by a fan asking for a picture, but we all know what it feels like to have that moment of lack of self-confidence that was obvious in her voice that day.  Would the result have been different if Tia had truly believed that she could rely on herself to execute and win?  We cannot really know but it is easy to assume that it could not have hurt.  As I write this, Tia is in a very similar situation; Tia is currently sitting in first place on the last day of the competition.  I believe something has changed for Tia this year and I hope this very talented athlete ends on the podium again, maybe this time on the top.  I also hope that you can take something away from this post that will help you end up on your own personal podium.  Whether in fitness or life I hope you have the courage to act, the patience to keep going, and the confidence to succeed. 

 

Until next week…

 

-Zachary Hamilton

Edited by Sarah Eden

Zachary Hamilton
What Really Matters

You can read a book in one of two ways.  The first, is how I have read books for most of my life (until recently), which is by reading to finish the book as quickly as possible.  As if, just the act of finishing the book was the accomplishment.  Staring at my bookshelf one day, I read the title of each book and tried to think about what I had taken away from each one.  What did I learn?  How am I better now because of reading it?  I was shocked to find that I barely remembered reading some of them or at best, could only come up with one takeaway from the exhaustive list of titles now cluttering up my shelves.  After this realization, I vowed to read books differently.  I wanted to truly enjoy and soak up every chapter, page and letter from what I was reading; this is the second way to read a book. 

The “second way of reading” is a perspective that can be applied again and again towards most of the things we consume.  We play our favorite song repeatedly, memorizing every verse and beat.  The best movies have our full attention, completely absorbed in how the story line unfolds, keeping us entranced and allow us to escaped from the outside world, only to throw us right back out once the credits roll.  As humans, we love or even live to build.  We build families, careers, businesses, and experiences...  the list is endless.  As you read this right now you are in the middle of your own journey, building whatever might be most important to you in this moment.  You might be 25 and just starting to build your career or maybe you are 65, and about to retire and build experiences and relationships with your grandchildren.  No matter who you are or where you are, you are building, growing, and moving forward towards something. 

When you realize that fitness is a lifelong journey and not necessarily a means to an end, you can see how trying to enjoy and appreciate every minute of it would make sense.

    Just like a book, life and fitness can be approached in two ways.  Unfortunately, I think you know which way a lot of people go about each.  As a CrossFit trainer, I spend my days watching people march along their fitness journey.  Each week I meet someone new who is eager to start their journey and each week I see many of these individuals reading to finish the book instead of enjoying every page.  Unfortunately, unlike a book, fitness has no last page. You will (or should) be trying to improve your fitness in some capacity for the rest of your life.  When you realize that fitness is a lifelong journey and not necessarily a means to an end, you can see how trying to enjoy and appreciate every minute of it would make sense.  Imagine for a moment that I handed you a magical book that grew in length every time you read a page.  With no end in sight and no place to rush to, how would you start reading then?

    Fitness as it stands now is plagued with 30 day fixes.  The industry has created this mindset that fitness has an end date.  Once completed, a fitness plaque would arrive in the mail and you could display it proudly in your living room like a high school letterman jacket.  In reality, fitness is never completely achieved and will always require more work to be done.  This may sound defeating but I would argue the opposite.  Humans love and live to build.  That is why video games are so addicting to young people.  It is the thrill of leveling up and the thrill of the journey.  Even mythology is designed around this idea.  It is the hero’s struggle, perseverance, and sometimes unrecognizable progress that enthralls us the most; it is not the end that is the most glorious or riveting to us.  It is the climb.  Humans thrive off of purpose.  Purpose gives us a reason to live, a reason to keep going.  Yet so many people walk through the doors of the gym and immediately feel defeated because they believe that they have yet to reach this mystical state of “fitness”; an industry produced static, devoid of growth, and stagnant place of being that does not exist.  We base our self worth on our position on the leaderboard or the number of abs we see in the mirror when what we should be focusing on is something without a number at all, like heart and hustle. 

What will make this experience the most fulfilling and successful is the realization that it is the climb that is the most enjoyable, not the summit.  This premise, is demonstrated in process and completion of goals.  We spend an exorbitant amount of time trying to reach our goal and when we finally get there, the moment passes by and we quickly have a new goal in our sights.  Often, too little or no credit is given to the growth you just accomplished while obtaining your goal because you have already set your mind on the next goal, the next thing you cannot do, and the place you are not.  If only you realized that all of your days are spent in “the process” of reaching that “place” and more credit was given to that portion of the journey, then maybe you would not be so worried about where you are not, yet. 

You can either do something or you can do nothing, and if you do nothing you will never get anywhere.

    For those that know me well, you have probably heard me say this a hundred times, but I will repeat it again because I believe it will always be relevant; you can either do something or you can do nothing, and if you do nothing you will never get anywhere.  If you are discouraged, angry, pissed off, and disappointed that you are not where you think you should be, please take a second and realize that if you are reading this article then you are in the “doing something camp”.  The important aspect you may be missing, is that your are undervaluing the doing part.  This part is the one you will spend the majority of your life in, so shouldn’t you enjoy it?  Appreciate it? Value the effort you have put into it? 

    You can workout in one of two ways.  The first, is by checking the box.  Working out for the sake of saying that you worked out, like reading to have as big of bookshelf as possible.  The second way is showing up early to “warm up” with friends, giving it your all during the work out, dishing out sweaty high fives and yelps of encouragement to your fellow athletes, and hanging around afterwards because the gym is the best part or your day.  You would not want this part to end and if it did, you would have wished that you enjoyed the part in the middle a little more. 

    So what is the point?  It is simple.  Enjoy the process, because it never ends.  Judge yourself on things that actually matter, like how you treat yourself and other people.  Value effort over your waistline.  Remember why you started CrossFit in the first place and if it was not to win the CrossFit Games, then who cares how much your squat is!  Can you pick up your grandkids when you are 80?  That is something worth caring about!

Until next week… 

-Zachary Hamilton 

Edited by: Sarah Eden

 

Zachary Hamilton