"As prescribed" - what does that mean?

By Wylie Belasik

When CrossFit first started, one of their biggest challenges Greg Glassman has talked about facing was to come up with their definitions: “What is CrossFit”, “What is Fitness”, and so many more, not to mention creating a language of EMOMs (every minute on the minute) and AMRAPs (as many rounds/reps as possible). CrossFit is defined as: constantly varied, high intensity, functional movement across broad time and modal domains. Straightforward, right?

Constantly varied. Easy: Routine is the enemy, change it up-- often.

Functional movements. Cool, things that you do in every-day life. Push things, pull them, squat them. Move from core to extremity. 

Broad Time and Modal Domains: Related to variance-- heavy days, long days, fast days, skill days. A wide collection of tools and movements which should incorporate metabolic conditioning, gymnastics, and weightlifting including the Olympic lifts.

High intensity: Move large loads over long distances quickly.

Wait…what counts as “large”? “Quickly”? For whom? How?

That’s where it gets a little sticky. Why? It’s because intensity for every person reading this is a bit different. We could try to measure it—but if we just strap you to machines, heart-rate monitors and lactate threshold read outs – all we’re really doing is making you dependent on technology to understand your body and build your fitness.

One of the best parts of class is how we all bring different backgrounds to training. Some of us played a sport in college, but maybe that was 10+ years ago and we haven’t done a whole lot since. Some of us were runners or single sport athletes. Some of us thought the gym was for people who were masochists, until you found the community of CrossFit training and realized we’re actually kind people. Regardless, that term “intensity” means different things and these days you may even start to hear an important modifier used in that definition, relative.

How do we accomplish achieving this definition using relative intensity in how we program workouts? Though variety is the spice of CrossFit training, there is a method behind the scenes as we orchestrate load, variance, movement patterns and expected athlete attendance (yes, we notice that if you come Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, you’re a little tired by Thursday…).

When we program a workout, there is a skill portion of the day and typically its purpose is to balance and prepare you for an optional performance in the conditioning piece while providing more in-depth coaching time. The conditioning is purposely kept on the shorter side (i.e. the entire class isn’t spent crushing you for 50 minutes straight through because if we did that every day, well, that’s not the definition of this training) to accommodate your intensity. Workouts use certain movements and then we will “prescribe” weights/movements/rep schemes of those movements. These are there as a reference point to achieve a desired stimulus (read: longer and steady, or sprint).

Here’s where it can go off the rails.

Our goal for your training is for you to achieve the desired stimulus, regardless of the RX designation. Our measure of success for you is increased fitness, not going RX in a workout.

If you’re still reading this (bravo), it means that you probably agree that this whole constantly varied, functional movement performed at (relative) intensity is a good thing and helps you feel better, do more, look better naked and all around kick-ass at life. So, let’s give an example of what this means in class

“Grace” is a CrossFit benchmark workout. 30 clean and jerks for time. Simple. CrossFit has prescribed a weight of 135 pounds for that workout for men and 95 pounds for women. When we program it, we’re doing so to achieve a stimulus where everyone should be done in 3, 4 minutes MAX, ideally 2-3. You could do it “RX” and take 15 minutes, or with terrible form and get an “RX” next to your name. However, here’s the truth: you won’t get as fit as the athlete who scaled and got the appropriate stimulus even though they used less weight. Our programming balances stimulus and movements used and we go to great lengths to make that as effective as possible for you – and you should expect that as a member.

The paradox of CrossFit is that every movement and every workout is infinitely scalable, yet sometimes we don’t care. We want the * on the board and the number next to it—so strap up the lifters, belts and wrist wraps, 3,2,1, damn the torpedoes, tell DMX I brought his dogs and let’s do this shit.

Might you start going “RX” in certain workouts over time? Absolutely! If it’s appropriate to the stimulus, then that’s 100% our goal. However, our goal is NOT to make everyone go “RX” every day. Our goal and commitment to you is to make you as fit as we can through excellence in movement. We’re constantly evaluating your times (we read the whiteboard too you know.) and listening to your feedback to make the programming better (something that we always welcome!). Our goal is that the RX designation should NOT be appropriate for everyone in the gym-- and if that day comes, then we’ll move the goal posts. This might mean that someone who always goes Rx’d suddenly can’t…and that’s also appropriate. That’s how we get better, stronger and look better naked. So ask us for help: we come here every day because we know how much you’re capable of and believe 1000% that this training is how we help you unlock that. Have big goals, take specialty classes, high five and cheer your friends, say hi to Tommy the bulldog and remember you’re more than a number on a board.    

References/further reading...

And if you'd like some further info, check out this great talk from Ben Bergeron - owner of CrossFit New England and coach to CrossFit Games winners on the women's and men's divisions. 

Wylie Belasik