Happy Saturday, everyone! I’m hanging with some family in Tuscon, Arizona, and as I sit by the pool I’m going to hop on my soap box for a minute. Since workout 18.4 of the CrossFit Games Open was released this week, I’ve seen more freak outs than I did when the 16th seed UMBC upset #1 UVA in the March Madness tournament last night!

The commentary I’m referring to, specifically, is the reaction to Dave Castro programming such heavy deadlifts in an Open workout. I’ve read that it’s “not inclusive,” that it’s too much volume at those weights, and there are a lot of claims that it’s simply irresponsible programming. I’ll hop on the “Dave Castro Sucks” bandwagon just as fast as the next person, mostly because it’s fun to do. But what I think people seem to forget is that the CrossFit Games Open is the first step to trying to identify the fittest humans on Earth. Not in your gym, not in your state… on the planet. To suggest that the Open workouts should be all inclusive is absurd to me.

First, let’s go back a little bit and talk about what the “sport” of CrossFit has done for fitness. It introduced a training program, allowed anyone to practice it at their own ability levels, and then showed the world what the best of the best are capable of doing. When I watch the Super Bowl on TV, I can cheer and yell and scream all I want, but know that I’ve never put on a pair of football pads in my life. When I watch the CrossFit Games, I know that I’ve done almost every single movement those athletes are doing, just with a lot less weight, and a lot slower. That ability to identify with, and relate, to these “superheros” is pretty cool. In order to identify who the fittest people are, the tests of fitness need to be effective enough to separate the cream from the rest of the crop. If Castro programmed 135lb deadlifts, that wouldn’t be a test of who has the most capacity, and we all know it.

Now, picture a random workout programmed at your box. If it calls for 225lb squat cleans for men, most of us would look at that and think, “Ok, that’s too heavy for me. I’m just going to scale the weight down.” I don’t understand why it’s so hard for people to approach Open workouts the same way. CrossFit even provides scaled versions of every workout for the over 440,000 people registered. I don’t think it’s irresponsible to say, “Here are the workouts we wrote to identify the fittest humans on the planet. And for those of you who aren’t able to do those yet, here is a modified version that we hope you can do.”

If that same athlete who always tries to go Rx’d on workouts (when you know they shouldn’t) tries to on this workout, I feel it’s our job as coaches to stop them just like we would any other day. Yes, there is a worldwide leaderboard associated with this competition, but if I get hurt rounding my back during 18.4, or if it happens on a random Tuesday in November, I’m still going to be a hurt athlete. In my opinion, there are so few people who should ever intentionally put themselves in a position to get hurt in the gym. If the weight for the Rx is too heavy for you, work until you can’t anymore, take your tiebreak time, and get ready for next week. If you can’t do it Rx’d at all, complete the scaled version and keep yourself moving. It’d still be a 7+ minute workout for most athletes! If you’re bummed, embarrassed, or frustrated that you don’t have the strength or skill to do something yet, turn that energy around! Instead of being down on yourself, make a commitment to improve those skills so that you’ll have them next year!

I’m a coach, and what I love most is helping people make that shift in their mindset. Saying “I can’t do” something to me is completely justifiable… as long as you end that sentence with “yet.” Find people out there who can teach you the fundamental movements, prescribe appropriate progressions, and monitor your progress along the way. It’s amazing what 20 minutes of focused skill work per day, a few days per week, can help you accomplish in a matter of months!

To me, programming 315lb. deadlifts in a workout is not irresponsible. What’s irresponsible is trying them if you’re too tired to lift the bar properly, or attempting to pick it up if you’re simply not strong enough to do so safely. Know when it makes sense to just take your tie break time and walk away on your own terms.

Alright, it’s time to go get in the pool. Take care of yourselves out there. Remember, it’s only competitive exercising, please try not to get hurt. Have a great weekend, everyone!

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