Sport, Life and Scaling CrossFit Workouts

By Ken Andrukow, Two-Brain Mentor

In 2015, Reebok CrossFit Ramsay introduced two streams of prescribed WODs – “Life” and “Sport.” There are very few athletes at RCR who can complete every WOD, every day, as Rx’d in the Sport program. Those who do are the competitive athletes  training for local competitions, the Open, and perhaps a trip to Regionals (and beyond). The vast majority of our athletes fall into the “Life” stream, which anyone will tell you, is no walk in the park. I think it’s very cool that all RCR athletes are on a program that is designed to prepare for high-level CrossFit competition – but that everyone completes it at their own level.

This scalability is something that is a hallmark of CrossFit, so it’s important to remember that athletes can also still scale either stream to their personal level or to accommodate physical limitations. Like many of the athletes at RCR, I often find myself somewhere between “Sport” and “Life” when looking at a WOD. For example, I can often handle the Sport Rx’d weights for barbell movements, but cannot complete a WOD that has a high number of muscle-ups (I might be able to complete it eventually, but they do need to lock up the gym at some point for the night!).  It is acceptable to take the pieces that I could do from Sport and go with Life for those that I couldn’t.

And that leads to my next point: every WOD has a desired stimulus or “dose” for the athlete. When choosing between Life and Sport, or when scaling either stream, you need to consider what the intended stimuli is and make sure your version of the workout matches up. When choosing your weight, if you go too light you’ll finish the workout wondering what all the fuss was about. Too heavy and you’ll still be working when everyone else is finished.

Scaling also applies to gymnastics movements. For example, many athletes choose to do ring-rows in place of pull-ups. So how should you approach scaling if you’re starting to make progress on a movement and what to incorporate it into your WODs? Let’s say you’ve been working on your pull-ups and you’re at the point where you can consistently nail two or three in a row. But let’s say the WOD calls for five sets of 30 pull-ups, and suddenly you’re thinking you should go back to your ring-rows. Well, why not break the 30 reps into a combination of the two movements? In this instance, I’d suggest that the athlete start each set of 30 with one minute on the pull-up bar to get as many pull-ups as they can. After that they can move on to ring-rows to complete the 30 reps. Over time the ratio of pull-ups to ring-rows will shift until one day the athlete will be a pull-up machine.

The Life and Sport streams provide flexibility and the good news is that you don’t need to feel trapped in either one. The goal is to keep making progress, so if you find yourself in between life and sport, or between scaled and life, use some creativity, talk to your coaches, and find the workout of the day that’s right for you. When you hit that sweet spot, and get the right level of challenge, while preserving the intended stimulus…that’s where the magic happens!

Ken Andrukow
Reebok CrossFit Ramsay
Owner Head Coach
Level 3 CrossFit Trainer
Certified Nutrition Coach
CrossFit Weightlifting Staff
Reebok CrossFit Ramsay
2010 2600 Portland St SE
Calgary, Alberta

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