This is a throw back to a blog Lucas wrote a couple of years ago. The message is as meaningful now as it ever was. Give it a read.
The official definition of CrossFit is simply this:
Constantly varied, high-intensity, functional movement
Functional movement refers to the fact that we use movements that simulate real-world activities (e.g. a deadlift, which looks awfully similar to picking something up) and/or produce high power output (moving a large load over a long distance, quickly). Constant variation refers to the fact that our programming is not repetitive (nor is it random).
Today, I want to talk about the “high-intensity” part. In the exercise world, “intensity” is defined as percentage of maximum effort. For example, if a person can sprint 100 meters at a speed of 20 miles per hour, that same person running a 5k at 10 miles per hour would be working at a 50% level of intensity (since 10 mph is 50% of 20 mph).
In CrossFit, we spend most of our time working at the upper end of the intensity scale. This is why we often build to a 1-rep or 3-rep max in our Foundation work, and why most of our WODs typically last less than 15 minutes — these things maximize the time spent in high-intensity work.
(Aside: I don’t want to de-rail this blog post, but the above paragraph is central to our programming. This concept of keeping workouts at a high level of intensity and not wasting time with long “calorie-burning” workouts is hugely important to those of you who are looking to lose weight. There will be a blog post on this topic later this week.)
The important thing to notice here is that intensity will vary from person to person. One person might be able to run a mile in 10 minutes, while another might be able to run a mile in 5 minutes. If each of these people ran a mile in 10 minutes, the 10-minute-miler would be working at the limit of his/her ability, while the 5-minute-miler would basically be taking an easy jog. The exact same workout (running a mile in 10 minutes) represents a 100% effort for one person, and a 50% effort for another.
This is why we scale workouts. “Scaling” refers to the practice of modifying the load, duration, rep count, or pretty much any other aspect of a workout from the prescription that is written on the board in order to ensure that the workout represents a suitable and efficient builder of fitness for each individual in the gym. Since the relative intensity of each workout will vary from person to person, so too will the scalings that each individual uses for each workout vary.
In a typical class at CrossFit Manatee, every member is performing the exact same workout. However, everyone is also scaling the workout to ensure that it is appropriate for their unique needs. Scaling allows us to all do the “same” workout, but to modify the workout so that it is of the appropriate intensity for each of us. Learning how to scale your workouts appropriately for your level of fitness, movement skill, injury history, and goals is essential to your development as a CrossFitter. Your CrossFit Manatee coaches will help you find appropriate scalings and learn how to safely and responsibly modify workouts to help you reach your health and fitness goals. (And you can always use our handy-dandy scaling cheat sheet as a starting point!)