You know the drill. You walk into the CrossFit gym and the first thing you want to know is what your buddy’s time was on the workout. I get it, everyone gets competitive and it motivates us to push harder than we usually would alone.
Most of the time this is healthy, but often times it can create some problems with technique and increasing the likelihood of injuries. I can go on and on about why “whiteboard chasing” is an inherently bad idea to begin with, but I’ll save that for another article.
This article is meant to help when your buddy slept in and you no longer have someone’s time to chase. Or, for the person who doesn’t have someone equal in athletic ability at the gym to compare themselves to. Or if you’re training alone. What happens then?
How do you motivate yourself to push hard with no “time to beat”? What is your goal time and how do you come to that conclusion? This guide will help you figure out what you should be striving for, using a very simple and effective formula.
KNOW YOUR LIMITATIONS
The first step in this process is figuring out whether you are going to do the workout as prescribed (Rx’d) or scaled. This is imperative for all athletes to be brutally honest with themself. If you don’t know, ask the coach for guidance.
If this is a timed workout, ask for a time frame that it should be completed in. For workouts that involve “as many rounds as possible” (AMRAP) in a certain time frame, ask how many rounds you should be striving for. Here are some further guidelines on how to decide what is right for you.
SCALED OR “RX’D”?
Scaled – If you think you cannot complete the workout within the guidelines the coach gave you, then start thinking about scaling the reps, weight, etc. This is especially applicable for someone who has been doing CrossFit for less than 6 months. You are still getting comfortable with the movements and blending all of the different modalities together.
Even an advanced athlete from a different sport needs time to adjust to understanding how their body works when you throw all the stuff CrossFit has to offer at them. When going scaled, focus on technique and good quality movement.
Rx’d – If you normally scale a workout and think you are going to do much BETTER than the guidelines the coach gave you, start thinking about increasing the reps, load, etc. This is reserved for those who have been doing CrossFit for anywhere between 6-18 months, and need the extra push to go as prescribed. Sometimes it takes time for our mind to catch up to what our bodies are capable of.
If adding 20 pounds to the barbell sounds intimidating, add 5 pounds. The 2.5 pound plates seem cute and unassuming, but they can really make a difference. Plus, it’s a good way to SLOWLY increase intensity for someone making the transition from scaled to Rx’d.
This also applies to gymnastics movements. An option to consider is doing half of the gymnastics portion of the workout Rx’d while you are fresh and your form is solid, then do the second half of the workout scaled. I like this for any gymnastics movement or high volume workout.
Scaling Up – When do you scale up? Meaning, when do you substitute a more advanced movement or a heavier weight for the prescribed movements? My general rule of thumb here is you can scale up when you are consistently (6 months or longer) able to keep up with CrossFit Games level athletes in workouts.
If you don’t have anyone to compare yourself to, perform a CrossFit Open workout from the year before. Any workout will do. See where you stack up. If it’s in the top 100 in your region, I would be comfortable exploring the idea of scaling up.
Scaling up should not slow you down from the rest of the group. If you scale up, you should still be finishing ahead of the rest of the general CrossFit class, no matter what the workout is. Nothing bothers me more than someone who scales up during a workout, finishes slower than the rest of the pack, then uses that as an excuse for why they went so slow. Scaling up is not a reason to decrease your pace.
CALCULATING AN ESTIMATED “TIME TO BEAT”
Here are my tips on how to break down a workout, piece by piece, so that you know what is a realistic target goal for you in that particular workout. You may need your calculator on your phone to figure out some simple math, but I promise, it is simple math.
5 rounds for time:
- 10 Wall Balls (regular weight/height)
- 10 Box Jumps (regular height)
- 10 Pull Ups (chin to bar)
First, find out how long it takes for you to perform one rep of every movement in the workout. In the example above, I know one Wall Ball takes me about 2 seconds to complete, one Box Jump takes about 2 seconds to complete, and one (butterfly) Pull Up takes about 1 second to complete.
Next, multiply the seconds it takes to perform one rep by the total reps per movement. In this example, I would multiply 50 (wall balls) x 2, 50 (box jumps) x 2, and 50 (pull ups) x 1. So, this is what you have:
- 50 x 2 = 100, 50 x 2 = 100, 50 x 1 = 50
- 100 + 100 + 50 = 250 seconds of total working time
Now you know that you will be working for a total of 250 seconds during this workout.
Lastly, you must factor in fatigue, transition time, and proper pacing. You could get very geeked out at this stage in the game, which would be appropriate if you were competing in the sport of CrossFit. This would also require a ton of specific information regarding the individual circumstances.
To simplify these complex factors, I add 20% to the total working time of the workout. This is usually very accurate for most athletes. For deconditioned athletes, you may want to add 25%. For highly conditioned athletes, you may want to add only 10-15%.
Start with 20% and see where you land. Then ask yourself, could you have pushed harder? If the answer is yes, then you can start using 10-15% to this equation. If you didn’t make the mark, set the percentage to 25% and watch your improvement from there. *Note that the longer the workout, the more you should add, and the shorter the workout, the less you should add.
In this example, you would take 250 x .2, which equals 50. Then take 250 + 50, which now equals 300 seconds to complete the workout. 300 ÷ 60 (seconds in a minute) and voila, you have 5 minutes flat. Now you have your own “time to beat”, which in this case is very realistic and doable for me.
WHAT ABOUT AMRAP’S?
You can also apply this to AMRAP workouts. Lets use the same movements and rep scheme in the previous workout and apply it to a 12 minute AMRAP. Take the movements and start adding them up.
How long will it take to do ONE round? 10 x 2 = 20, 10 x 2 = 20, 10 x 1 = 10. Add it all up and you have 50 seconds total, divide that by 20% and you add 10 more seconds. You should be able to do 1 round per minute, which makes your “time to beat” 12 rounds. No need to chase anyone else in the room, you’re now chasing YOURSELF!
IT’S YOU VS YOU
I have used this multiple times throughout my time doing CrossFit workouts, and it works very well. The only negative that I have found, is that I start to OVER pace myself based on how fast I “should” be moving. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, just something to consider when you are redlining. Your body is capable of more than you know.
The more you do this, the better you will get at pacing and knowing what YOU are capable of. You’ll also find that something interesting starts to happen. You will stop chasing other people. You will start to do this because you know how fast YOU can go and what pace YOU can sustain. Now go out there and be the best YOU!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
My name is Danny Burde and I am a Level 2 CrossFit Coach with 25 years in the fitness industry. From 2018 – 2020, I was the head coach at one of the world’s premier CrossFit gyms, NC Fit in Redwood City (California), where I trained the trainers. During this time I prided myself in mentoring, guiding, and teaching other coaches on how to be the best they can be.
If you are a coach and want any information on what I’ve learned throughout my time as a functional fitness specialist, do not hesitate to reach out. I’d love to hear from you!
If you are an athlete, gym goer, or someone new to fitness and want to work with me remotely, check out my services!
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