One thing I really love about Crossfit is its “constantly varied” and extremely modifiable way of approaching fitness as a whole. Just about everyone at our box has either been next to me during a workout (I am the one that is usually yelling, groaning or cursing very loud), or has been coached by me at some point in the time that I have been a member and coach at 727. But lets start by giving you a bit more background about my personal CrossFit journey.

My CrossFit beginnings and 1st RX WOD

I started at another box in the area several years ago, and boy do I remember what it feels like to be the “new guy” or the “always scaled” name on the white board. Looking back I definitely remember feeling a little shame when that stupid *asterisk* was put next to my time/score due to the simple fact that I had to use a band to assist with my pull-ups, or I couldn’t lift 65# over my head.

So this brings me to my first completed “RX” workout. “Helen”

3 Rounds:
400m Run
21 KBS
12 Pull-ups.

I had been regularly attending Crossfit classes for almost a year. To this day every time I even hear the name “Helen” I cringe. Whether its a person I meet on the streets while running 911 calls at work, or at the gym and someone begins naming the always popular “Girls” WODs. (I’m not going to deny that I have cherry picked a few times since then, and not gone into the gym because “Helen” was the bitch I would be facing if I did).  Anyway, back to my story, my first time completing “Helen” RX’d took me over 30 min! I ripped my hands, cried, screamed and even begged my coach to allow me to use a band to help assist with the final 12 pull-ups. He said “No”, of course. At the time I didn’t understand that my coach was holding me responsible for raising my own personal fitness bar level. I had always been a part of a team and counted on the other “links” in the chain to help my personal gain. I will always remember this milestone, and thank him so much for this moment. It is with this confession that I will take the focus off of me for the rest of this blog

Scaling is NOT an apology

Now that you have some background, let’s get into discuss why it should be an absolute FALSE feeling if intimidation or even an urge to apologize when a workout is posted that will require someone to “scale” or “modify” a movement due to their personal fitness level or strength (for lack of a better term) happens.

Photo by Lisbeth Darsh

Having the ability to scale and modify movements is the most beautiful benefit of “functional fitness.” We are all built differently. Some people have long ass legs/femurs and can row 15M with just one simple pull of the row handle. Others are petite and can throw themselves through the rings or over a pull-up bar without even a second thought. As a coach, it is important to know how to adjust for all of these differences. But as an athlete (YES YOU ARE ALL ATHLETES!) it is just as important for you to know when and when NOT to allow for these adjustments. Sure, nobody wants to finish dead last during a workout and have everyone yelling at them to “pick up the damn bar” or “stop resting and sipping water…finish strong!” But that’s life! Someone finishes first, and someone finishes last. One of my favorite quotes I have heard at Crossfit is: “Don’t wish it was easier…wish you were better!” I believe it is even written on the back of one of my old competition shirts.

There are some athletes who will forever scale and modify their workouts. I don’t personally see any problem with this. If that individual wants to maintain an average fitness level then *High Five!* Who am I as a coach or peer to tell someone who they should and shouldn’t be? However, there are also some athletes who could finish a WOD like “Helen” as prescribed (RX), but will use a band to assist with their pull-ups or scale the kettle bell down to a smaller weight… because it may take them twice as long if they don’t?? So what?! This is where personal accountability takes place. All I can say to you is that you are only hurting yourself. It does not affect my personal goals in the gym. The same as an athlete who “cheats” reps or purposely “mis-counts” their reps in order to keep up with the majority of the pack. I wont lie to you and say that I have ALWAYS DONE EVERY REP EVERY TIME, we have all lost count when the oxygen in our brains is depleted and we can hardly spell our names let alone count above 10! Shit happens. Honest mistakes are just that…honest mistakes.

Check your ego – ask for help!

From a coaches perspective, I don’t feel that it is entirely my responsibility to tell someone when they should and shouldn’t scale a movement. As an athlete, I would not expect every single coach at the gym to remember my exact level of fitness either. Every coach is different. I will say that as a coach it IS COMPLETELY my responsibility to be able to assist an athlete chose HOW to scale or modify a movement if they need help. So with that said…CHECK YOUR EGOS AT THE DOOR! Ask for assistance if you forgot what a “snatch” is! There is no shame in forgetting what the word “Power” means in front of a lift. If you are feeling sick or extra sore and need to just push a little less today than usual (as long as laziness isn’t the reason). All of these are OK! Part of being a member at our amazing box is that you get every coach and athletes support no matter the issue. Nutrition question? ASK! Have a previous injury and don’t know what you should and shouldn’t feel pain/soreness wise? ASK! None of us are perfect. And because every coach has their own little way of doing things…it may take a second or third opinion or different technique explanation/demonstration for you to understand (or to have that “light bulb” effect) a movement. Unsure if you look like you should while doing a movement? Have a coach record you on their cell phones or YOUR cell phone! Even if you have no intention on competing in a local competition, or being the next “fittest on earth” athlete, remember that no one wants for you to get hurt…or to leave wondering if you were doing that lift correct. We are all here for each other to succeed…so again…CHECK YOUR EGO AT THE DOOR as they say, and lets build together…individually.

Practice and come to open gym

Hopefully my ranting will help you all walk a little taller at the gym no matter how good or bad you feel on any given day about your performance. Everyday wont be a PR day! You will not be able to perform at 110% every single day. If you can?? You are not human. Weaknesses and strengths are found with practice, and introduction of new movements. We have recently added more “open gym” hours. Open gym is meant for you as an athlete to take your own fitness into your own hands, and work on lifts or movements you may not have that extra time to work on during a regularly scheduled 1 hour class. Or maybe you didn’t quite “feel” what the coach meant when he/she said “hit your pockets” or “open your hips.” Its not often that a gym can offer you an opportunity to have one-on-one coaching that you may not get when there’s 10 – 15 people in the gym for that post-work day WOD. We want you to succeed and be confident in yourselves. CrossFit is a community and we are all family. So in the words of coach Ryan….”Relax. Have fun. Work out.”


For further reading of the topic, here is another great post:


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