Scaled Competition

We competed (with another amazing Declaration CrossFit athlete) in a two-day CrossFit competition this weekend. There were 15 scaled women’s teams and no more than 10 of any other division. Thus a LOT of women are doing CrossFit and are doing it scaled. And judging by our competition, are really quite good at that level!

A small part of me would really like to be able to participate in the Rx division, but I am generally 99% perfectly fine with scaling for the rest of my competitive life if need be. Here’s why:

  1. I’m not out to become a “Games” athlete; I just like the mental difference a competition adds to the mix.
  2. I do CrossFit to stay healthy and to be able to move/function for another 40+ years not to win.
  3. While I’m willing to push beyond my physical and mental comfort zone, I am well aware that staying there too long risks injuries that could dampen my professional life and that’s just not worth it.
  4. As we are constantly telling folks, scaling is perfectly acceptable and there should be no shame in scaling.

Here’s a few things I learned competing over 2 days:

  1. I really need to work more on my cardio; this has always been my downfall.
  2. Two-day competitions are really hard on the knees.
  3. Competing in the rain is far better than competing in 90 degree sunlight.
  4. I have yet to fully understand how to fuel a body during these types of events.
  5. Competing with friends is a lot of fun!

So my advise to all of you is: compete! Compete as often as you like, or even just once to see how different it feels. Compete at whatever level you need and don’t worry where you place!





A new word – CrossFat

CrossFit – the official definition is “constantly varied functional movements performed at relatively high intensity”. What is CrossFit  And my guess is that anyone who has tried CrossFit for any length of time will be able to tell you what it is to them and what it has done for them. These folks will come from all walks of life and of all kinds of varying ages.

Seriously…go to and you will find all kinds of videos from all kinds of boxes telling you what it is to them. Here is one of them.

But I woke up from a CrossFit induced coma (nap) the other day with the word CrossFat stuck in my head; and, I cannot shake the feeling that it describes me to a ‘T’. I’m thinking it might describe a lot of people. And before you get on me about being negative, or body shaming, let me into the secret workings of my brain.

I’ve been doing CrossFit for a little over 2 years now. I’ve gained: strength, stamina and new skills. I’ve been introduced to Olympic lifting and Powerlifting, not just as something done in the gym, but as sports. I found a community; a community that encourages me, empowers me, cheers me on, even as I STILL often come in dead last. I’ve found inner strength to finish even when I thought I couldn’t. I’ve found friends; folks I now hang out with, play games with, compete with, train with, discuss all things related to life, kids, adulting and the like with.

It’s possible that I’m in far better shape than I was as a varsity athlete.

But I don’t necessarily LOOK like I’m in better shape and that’s where CrossFat comes into my mind. Have I lost weight? Some, a couple of pounds. Have I lost inches? Most definitely! But I still have what I lovingly term “my jelly rolls”. If I look at pictures of myself, pre- and during- CrossFit, I don’t really notice a lot of differences.

I know why this is happening, or at least I think I do because I read and that obviously makes me an expert (haha). I’m female, I’m over 40 and well … I love food/drink! I know that if I reign in my food choices that might make a difference. I’m probably 80% ‘clean’. Perhaps I really should be closer to 90% to start to notice a difference. Maybe I’m one of those who really shouldn’t indulge at all, but seriously, where is the fun in THAT? I have a life. I’m not a professional athlete. Plus I have a family, one that would probably disown me if I made them go down that road with me.

So I’m CrossFat. I’m a much healthier, happier, slightly thinner version of myself who either refuses, or is unable, to give up certain indulgences, and that means I still have jelly rolls and a “mommy-pooch”. I’m (mostly) okay with this. Yes, I am jealous of women with abs and those who’ve had kids and managed to get their body back. But I’m also not quite ready to dedicate more of my life to rigorous food restrictions.  Am I striving for a fitter me? Of course I am. But in the mean time, I’m CrossFat and I’m perfectly okay with this. If this is you, welcome to the club; we have (Paleo) cookies and aren’t afraid to share.

Scaling After Baby

Guys, I had a baby last year.  I never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever thought I would have kids #truestory.  I had just started doing CrossFit, I was seeing results, I loved it and BOOM!  Pregnant.  Of my first year of CrossFit, I did 9 months of it pregnant.  I told my coaches and they worked with me 110% to scale each workout so I could safely and effectively make it through (guys, I also let my doctor know what I was doing….he was cool with it but you should always check.  His nurse freaked out when I showed her a picture of me PR’ing my push press at 36 weeks).

I ended up having a C-Section (as if the baby wasn’t enough “adieu” to my hopes of ever having abs ever) and I lost my core.  Post-op was devastating!  For a week or two afterwards, moving was pure misery.  Horrible.  I’m not a lay still and take it kind of person.  I had it in my mind that I would be back to the gym in two weeks….killing it.  Boy, was I way wrong.  The best thing that happened to me on maternity leave was when I discovered Breaking Muscle’s C-Section Recovery.  Gentle exercises to regain that core and re-establish a workout routine.  Perhaps the most important part of the routine was just the mental part of accepting that you had a c-section; the meditations included in the C-Section Recovery series helped me TREMENDOUSLY.  To me, this was as scaled as CrossFit could possibly be for my post C-Section self.  Highly recommend!  Here’s the start of the series: Breaking Muscle C-Section Recovery. I hope it helps you as much as it helped me – both physically and mentally.

It took me about 12 months to feel back to normal…like I could attack WODs again.  I think it’s possible that you could feel normal faster but once we started daycare it seemed like every day I had a cold and I had to rest and recover from that instead of going to the gym.  I think that set me back a lot longer than I was anticipating.

Anyway, enjoy that Breaking Muscle series of articles.  It was a huge help to me.  Remember that there is no shame in scaling to where you need to be…I felt so silly just doing leg raises and I was really discouraged about how hard those leg raises were.  But that work paid off in the end and I’m finally starting to see and feel that effort.

Second CrossFit competition coming up Saturday (the first I did about 4 months after having that C-Section #killingit!)



Anything Worth Doing is Worth Scaling – Angie

Angie, Fran, Helen, Karen. Any CrossFitter knows these names and they can inspire dread. I did a little research (of course) and according to the National Weather Service, storms have short, distinctive names because they are less “prone to error” than other systems. The most destructive storms leave an impact and their names shall be forever remembered. Do many people remember the 1938 hurricane that devastated Connecticut, or the 1900 hurricane that nearly wiped out Galveston, TX? Probably not unless they are sciency, geeky types. They occurred before the modern naming system (The system started in 1953 with female names, added male names in 1978 for Pacific storms with the male names added to the Atlantic storms in 1979.) I would bet you can find a lot of people who know Hurricane Andrew, Superstorm Sandy, and Hurricane Katrina. You might find folks who know of Hurricane Camille, despite the passage of time. Why are they easier to remember? They wiped out a lot; AND, they have names.

Aside: for you geeky types, Andrew was 1992, Sandy 2012, Katrina 2005 and Camille was 1969. Look them up, they are all in the top 10 worst hurricanes in the United States ever.

I found an article by Greg Glassman from 2003, when the first Benchmark workouts were being created (Benchmark Workouts) and he said, “… anything that leaves you flat on your back and incapacitated only to lure you back at a later date certainly deserved naming” (Glassman, 2003).

When athletes look at these workouts they can certainly be intimidating! Anyone who has spent more than 2 minutes in a CrossFit box notices the leaderboard with these benchmark names and impressive looking times next to them. For us, when a woman’s name shows up on the WOD, we know we will be left a puddle of sweat, barely capable of movement in the classic ‘CrossFit Recovery Position’ crossfit recovery

But CrossFit is all about making everyone the best they can be. So we are going to show you how to scale these workouts (not all at once…don’t panic) so anyone can do them. And since we are also about data, science and classification, we will do them alphabetically! We’d also like to remind you that we are NOT coaches, these are just things our coaches have said in our box, either to us, or to other athletes.

Let’s start with Angie.

Angie was one of a group of the first named WOD’s. The link mentioned above provides a great explanation as to WHY they were created and how they are supposed to work your various muscle, aerobic and nervous systems, so there is no need to rehash that here. Seriously, go read the article. It’s good and explains a lot (just finish this first).

Angie is 100 pull-ups, 100 push-ups, 100 sit-ups, 100 squats all for time. Even the strongest, fastest folks around will probably have to break that up into various sets. (The Guinness Book of World Records has 232 consecutive pull-ups as the most and 7306 as the most in a 24 hour period.) So one way to “scale” this workout would be to do each move in sets of 5 or 10 or whatever number you could handle.

How to scale pull-ups: kipping, using various bands to remove some of the bodyweight, using multiple bands, jumping from boxes of various sizes and ring rows (move the rings closer to perpendicular to the floor to make them harder, move them to various angles to scale them).

How to scale push-ups: doing them on your toes, but not to full depth, on your knees, on your knees to less than full depth, putting your hands on a box, putting your hands on a wall.

How to scale sit-ups: less range of motion (hands to tops of knees). Your coach probably has some great ideas here!

How to scale squats: go to the depth the athlete is capable of doing, utilize a box to decrease range of motion, use a wall ball to help the athlete learn depth and keep good form.

Depending on the size of the class and the facilities of the box, one could break up the rounds into sets, 10 sets of 10 of each move. You could even do a “half Angie”, or a “partner Angie” utilizing the variations listed above for different athletes (we’ve seen this at our box with the Hero WOD Murph). You should do the scaling that works for YOUR abilities and above all, do what your COACH tells you to do. They are the experts, not us!

The point is, this is a benchmark workout, and if performed scaled, should still leave the athlete in a puddle on the floor, AND give them a point from which to know where to improve so the next time, they get faster, or perhaps do half the push-ups on their toes before going to their knees!

But I Can’t….

Ever look at the WOD and think, “Great…I (still) can’t do X”. It’s disheartening after 2 years of CrossFit to realize that I still can’t do pull-ups, toes-to-bar, rope climbs, double unders, hand stand push-ups, much less the elite moves of chest to bar or muscle ups. It can be a source of frustration watching newer athletes attain, and then master these moves, leaving me still doing knee-ups, jumping pull-ups, and four times the number of singles. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very, very happy for my fellow athletes when they are able to do one of these moves, but I would be lying if I also didn’t admit a twinge of jealousy, quickly followed by the thought, “what the heck is wrong with me”?

Here’s the thing that often keeps me lying awake when I know those moves are coming up during the week. What if I NEVER get them? What if, at some future point, say 5 years from now, I’ve been doing CrossFit for 7 years and I STILL can’t do those moves? Does that make me any less of an athlete? Does that mean my coaches should give up on me, or that I should find some other workout?

I seriously don’t have the answer to these questions and they can haunt me. I’m well aware that perhaps my age (48) might play a role here (though I watched the Master’s Athletes at the CrossFit Games do these moves). I am also well aware that there are lots of things I’m quite good at: the powerlifting moves, almost any strength related move and I’m really improving at the Olympic lifts; my cardio is slowly getting better. I’m also one that WANTS to get better and have gone in for extra sessions, attending workshops and I spend countless hours watching videos and reading about the mechanics of the various moves.

The questions posed above are metaphysical in nature, but I want data to help me understand. Some basic Google searching and I can come up with a wide range of hours it takes to master something. Malcolm Gladwell theorizes in his outstanding book “Outliers”, that it takes 10,000 hours, or about 10 years to master something. If you read the book, it takes that long to get to the elite performance level of that something. Josh Kaufman, in his outstanding book “20 Hours: How to Learn Anything Fast”, postulates that it really takes about 2o hours of DEDICATED study to a skill to learn proficiency in that particular skill. That’s a huge difference, so who is correct? Probably both, because we, as regular folks in the world, would have to decide AT WHAT LEVEL DO WE WISH TO PERFORM?

Am I doing CrossFit to be an elite athlete and thus need a huge number of hours of practice? Or am I doing CrossFit to be a better me, a me that can bend down and pick something up without fear of falling 20+ years from now? Am I doing CrossFit to hopefully drop a few pounds, gain some muscle, or even to ensure that I can have that occasional nice meal without fear that it will immediately go to my hips?

Let’s further assume that I’m simply not at all athletic and that it will take me 50 hours to begin to get good at some of the more difficult moves (say the double under, because the strength to lift one’s body weight isn’t required here). How long would it take me to learn that move by only attending my M-F scheduled CrossFit classes?

Assume the move is scheduled once per week and we are given 15 minutes to practice that move; it would take one month to get one hour in and that’s only 12 hours per year. Even if I could master the move in 20 hours, it would take a year and a half to get that move down. If I’m not all that athletic, it would take me more than FOUR YEARS of 15 minutes per week to master the move. This assumes that move is scheduled for practice once per week, which the moves rarely are.

So I start to see in my mind that for me, someone for whom these moves are not coming easily, someone for whom the weight has yet to come off (yes, two years of CrossFit and I weigh exactly the same. I feel I look exactly the same; though I know that isn’t quite true), I will need to find time to do dedicated practice to even get the 20 hours in.

Sigh….this isn’t going to be easy is it? But I will also refuse to let it define me as an athlete or a human being. My lack of ability to do double unders (or any of the other moves) means nothing more than I don’t have that skill, nothing more.

We get burpee penalties in our box for saying “I can’t”. The reality is that I can’t do those moves. I could hang on that bar for days and sill would not be able to do one pull-up. But “I can’t” doesn’t mean “I will never”. But even if it does, I’m not going to stop trying.

The Scale

All this talk of scaling got me thinking about the other scale in my life. This particular scale has ranged from a piece of equipment just calmly sitting in my bathroom gathering dog fur to the bane of my very existence with me cursing at it regularly to a tool that can supply some type of data on this journey to health.

In my (sordid) youth, the scale was generally a piece of equipment that calmly sat in my bathroom. I purchased one when I first moved out on my own because … well …. it seemed an adult thing to have in the bathroom. I would occasionally step on it, note the number for approximately 0.06 seconds and move on with my life. I don’t remember ever being concerned with the number. That number started to have meaning in ROTC because at that point, I was lifting weights and the Army told me that for my height (5’3.5″ – the half is important, but that is another story), I should weigh no more than 127 pounds. So the fact that I was muscular was somewhat concerning because my weight was going UP and when I hit 125, I really had to worry about what I had to eat or drink before going in for official weigh-in’s.

Fast forward a few years to marriage, kids, graduate school, new career and not exercising and the scale became the bane of my very existence. I stepped on it every morning and every night. If the number fluctuated (Hello! I’m a woman…of COURSE the number fluctuated), I would curse, scream, cry, cajole, and plead for the number to go down. Which it rarely did (cookies, ice cream and beer were not helping matters). The scale became the a$$hole in my bathroom who wasn’t my friend at all! In fact, I felt it was especially mean to me.

Enter P90X and more mindful eating. I started losing weight and the scale became my friend again, but only because it was doing what I wanted it to do, namely … go down. Enter plateau and CrossFit. I have finally come to the realization that the scale is a number. That number will go up and down, depending on the day, what I’ve eaten, my water intake etc etc. For me, that number can fluctuate 10+ pounds between any two given days. But being a data-driven, sciency geeky type, I have learned the value of paying attention to that number and the general trend it represents.

And I think there’s the rub that many people (women especially) don’t get. Your value isn’t that number. It’s just a number. A snapshot of one measure at one point time. One data point. Any scientist will tell you that one data point means nothing. Data requires a SET of points, and the larger the set, the better. Besides, it’s also just one type of data when it comes to health. One of the things that CrossFit has taught me is that how I feel about what I can do is far more important than this one particular type of data. Throw away the scale if you want to; but, for me, the scale is back to being this piece of equipment in the bathroom. I step on it occasionally, note the number for the general trend that is happening and move on with my life.

I’m no longer concerned with getting my body weight to 120 pounds, but getting my clean and jerk ABOVE 120 pounds!

They Do Exist!

I have been doing CrossFit for three years.  For the first two years, I did 3 workouts a week times about 45 weeks per year (I’m giving myself a cushion for those days I just couldn’t even); that equals out to about 270 WODs. The third year is kind of a write off for me because of a baby, surgery, and germs… But I’ll guesstimate that I made it to about 70 WODs bringing my grand total to about 340.  Of those, 340ish WODs I have RX’d 2.  Yes, 2.  I’m really proud of those 2 but I’m also proud of my scaled performances during the 338 other WODs I made it to.  People, burpees 38 weeks pregnant are no laughing matter and neither are barbell core roller exercises 6 weeks after a csection…. but I was there and I was doing what I could and, in the end, that’s all that matters.  (Side note: that whole thing about an easier labor if you exercise during pregnancy…. I call shenanigans!! But it is good to stay active so you have the energy to deal with the new human you created.)

So, my RX to WOD ratio is pretty dismal but I’m calling on the CrossFit community to recognize the beauty and importance of scaling.  So, I raise the challenge to northeast Ohio for a CrossFit affiliate to host a scaled ONLY competition.  No overshadowing by the RX and RX+ divisions.  No pull ups, double unders, or toes to bar.  No 200 pound weights, no handstand walks.  I did a really quick Google search to see if such a competition existed out in the wild and, sure enough, it does!  The affiliate has the competitors complete a skills assessment and then determines if they do indeed meet the scaled criteria.  They even mention that they will check in with your coaches if they have additional questions about your CrossFit skills.  How awesome is that thought?  Not an approach of “to compete in this competition level you must be able to do the following..” but a buck against the trend that says ” you shouldn’t be able to do the following…” A competition that highlights the level of skill that, I would dare to say, a good percentage of CrossFit athletes operate at day in and day out.

So, I have thrown down the gauntlet.  If I hear news of a scaled only competition, I will be the first in line to sign up!  Let’s promote the scalability of CrossFit and show that it’s not only for athletic, super muscular people but also for the average person.  Bring it on!