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Beginners Question: When Is It Time To Rx Workouts?

CrossFit Never Quit Showdown 2013

(Image courtesy of Yavomo Photography)

If you’re new to CrossFit, there’s a whole lot of lingo to learn: WOD, AHAP, AMRAP, Fran, and so on. If you’re like me and just smile and nod in clueless situations, pretending as if you know what the other person is talking about, you could find yourself in a heap of trouble if you start the head bob in response to doing a WOD Rx.

“Rx” is similar to what you see at your pharmacy because in CrossFit it means “prescribed”. WODs — workouts of the day, for the true newbie — are typically defined with set weights to use, or laps to run, reps to complete etc… If you do the workout exactly as it is written on the whiteboard, then you’ve done it Rx. If you’ve had to lower weight amounts, switch out the running for rowing, or decrease reps to finish, then you’ve scaled the WOD, and thus did not do it Rx.

With the language lesson complete, you may be asking, “Should I Rx?” A simple question, but not necessarily one with a simple answer. If you’re trying CrossFit for the first time and have never lifted a weight, run for exercise, or generally just have been spending all your free time on the couch (and I’m not judging!), I’d bet my first child that scaling is in your future. (P.S. Relax, I don’t have kids. And that statement shows it’s for good reason.) The only caveat would be if your Box (CF term for “gym”) has you walking and sitting for time. And if that’s the case, please forward me the contact info, as I might like to buy a membership.

However, my guess is that your life has not been completely devoid of fitness, which makes the Rx question a tad trickier. If so, use these tips to see how best to proceed.

CrossFit Never Quit Showdown 2013

(Image courtesy of Yavomo Photography)

Know Your Strengths… and Weaknesses

If you have a strong (and recent!) gymnastics background, and the WOD is all about handstands and ring work, it’s safe to say that you might be able to Rx it. However, if that same workout includes deadlifts equal to your bodyweight, and you’ve never put your hands on a barbell, scaling is the safest way to continue.

Get Coach Cues

Your coach is there for a reason — use his or her knowledge to help you get the most out of your WOD without hurting yourself in the process. Talk through your past experience and current concerns and follow his or her advice for how to tackle the work.

Coaches are also great for feedback if you’re not great at pushing your own limits (ahem, like myself). WODs are supposed to feel like a kick to the gut. Scaling the workout to make it easier when you can handle it Rx (just with some intensity), is kind of like cheating. And you only cheat yourself.

Try a Test Run

If you’re questioning part of a WOD, give it a test run. For example, if there’s a back squat weight that you’ve done, but maybe not 20 reps as the WOD is calling for, try three or four before the clock starts to see if you think you can handle it. If it seems doable, go for it, remembering that you could always scale midway through if you misjudged. If you can’t, find a weight that is doable, but again, not easy.

Katie Hogan Squat

Swallow Your Pride

I don’t consider myself a sexist beyond the fact that women are better than men (kidding…sort of), but this next tip is probably more geared toward the males.

I don’t know what it is about you boys — testosterone, inner cavemen brought on by Paleo diets, or what — but many of you seem to think you have to do as much as the guy standing next to you. It doesn’t seem to matter that that guy has 50 pounds of muscle on you and has been doing CrossFit for two years versus your two weeks. No, why would it (sarcasm)?

In these situations, I beg of you to suck it up and scale. Even if that guy calls you a “Sally” (and if he does, that’s not very CrossFit of him), do not do Rx just because that’s his WOD plan. When you’re lying in a body cast (exaggeration for a reason), you’ll remember this tip and wonder why you didn’t listen to me (much like how my husband feels every day… and no, he really doesn’t read my writing.)

So,to Rx or Not to Rx? Hopefully it’s no longer a question. Bottom line: Get the most from the workout without getting injured.

Tell us how you make the Rx/scaling call in the comments section below:

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