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Why Scaling is a Bad Word in CrossFit

By Michael Crespo, Owner Connected Fitness Novato, CF-L2, Personal Trainer

We all see things a bit differently. But have you ever asked yourself why it is that you see something the way you see it? I want to write today on the subject of “scaling” in CrossFit. 

Scaling is this thing that means a lot of things to different people. Depends on who you ask. I mean, we all know it means modifying the workout from its “as written” form, but our beliefs as to whether this is “good” or “bad” can be varied. 

It’s been a discussion amongst us coaches for a long time. When we scale something for a member, it can be life-changing. Finding the right variation/regression or progression of a movement is a skill developed over time by coaches and members who build their repertoire along their fitness journey. 

It’s also a common sentiment across many coaches and members that scaling is a “bad thing”. Wait, let me explain. Scaling is not a bad thing when other people do it, but it is a bad thing if I do it for myself. I’ve talked to a lot of people who have expressed this in some form or another. This sentiment has led me to believe that perhaps scaling is a bad word. 

At Connected Fitness Novato, the home of CrossFit Novato we have always been a different gym than your stereotypical gym, or even compared to other CrossFit Gyms. Two weeks ago we had a staff meeting where we discussed our company/community values and Coach Gillian Boyd named one of our values:

“Uplifting The Individual, Supporting The Community”

This is something that over the years CFN has done in many different ways. Our coaches will never make you do something that you don’t want to do. You never have to do the workout as written, or put more weight on the bar if you want to. There is no pressure to go “Rxd” at least not externally from us.

For a long time, we ran a program with three different tracks, so that an individual could choose what works best for them that day. We also are more detailed with our warmups than most gym because we consider mobility (defined as control of full range of motion of your joints) essential to being able to express yourself physically.

Today we’ve grown to include a FREE movement assessment for all members to offer insights into why certain movements feel the way they do and how you can improve upon them. We also offer Individualized Personal Training with programs that are tailored to you, based on your Assessment. Individualization of anything usually means more money. In the case of Personal Training it certainly does, because it requires coaches to be of a higher skill level (investing in themselves education/time-wise) and takes time to construct the program. So in essence it is a more “valuable service”

Why then, do we not value scaling? Another name for scaling or modifying a workout as written would be individualizing it to fit your needs, your body, your training age, your sleep from the night before, the acute injury you’re working through, your goals, etc. You get the point? It is a more valuable service.

Maybe we should stop using the word “scaled” and start using the word “individualize”  or “personalize” because when you scale that’s actually what you’re doing. You’re making the best use of YOUR time. Getting the most bang for YOUR buck. But maybe you didn’t know that? Maybe no one ever told you, well now you’ve read this so you know. Scaling shouldn’t feel bad, it should feel really freaking good.

I am 31 years of age and a strong bloke if I do say so myself. This week, I did “Cali Bear” Rxd

The workout was:

Every:30 for 20min do a Clean and Jerk @225#s

I did it! And I haven’t cleaned in awhile. That felt great. A total of 40 Jerks. 

So Friday I took the 8:30 AM and the workout was:

7 Snatches @115#s

14 Medball Thrusters (20/14)

21 Cal Row

So yeah I can snatch 195 (on a good day)

And obviously, the thruster weight wasn’t super heavy. 

But I decided to snatch 75#s, and work on my air squats to a target (14# medball) why?

Well I know myself, the workout Wednesday (Cali Bear) was my jam, I am a strong guy (starting to sound narcissistic ay lol) I believe I am predominantly built for the strong stuff.  But when you do strong things, it takes recovery.

So Wednesday was good, but I knew if I did the Snatches Rxd I was going to stare at the bar a few minutes in because I probably still hadn’t recovered from Cali Bear. Also, my squat mobility has not been the best due to lots of office sitting. So I figure why add load? Why not practice a really good squat. So I did that and you know what? It felt great. I was able to keep moving the whole time, and keep the workout cardiovascular in nature and honor the intention of the workout being a steady pacer. 

It has taken me 6 years to figure this out. You can’t go 90-100% every day. You will crash and burn. You can and perhaps even should challenge yourself 1-2x a week max. But think about this. What do you want to be doing when you’re 90 years of age? 

I want to be deadlifting, squatting, running, and doing a lot of the things I do right now. I don’t want to not do CrossFit because I am “too old” I have seen a lot of people come and go at CFN. Perhaps no one ever told them to pace.

Resistance training is important, it’s good for your:






-And much more! 

Not to mention it’s fun! (At least to me 🙂

You should be doing resistance training 3x a week until you die. 

Have you ever done a Metcon that was 20 min long and you tried to go 100% when coach said 3-2-1 Go! And then 5 min in you wanted to quit and you felt like crap and your pace slowed down significantly and then you were lying on the floor for about 20min after?

Think of that experience as a microcosm of life, run yourself into a wall every day, and eventually you won’t be doing this stuff. 

I have learned a lot from watching Jane McClure, Julie Moyer, Ruth Ann Newberry, Nessa Champagne and more. 

Consistency trumps intensity any day. Individualize your WODs and make the most of your membership.

Think about how you slept the night before, what you ate, and what else you have to do that day in addition to your workout.

Remember that the only reason we workout is to create the opportunity to recover, that’s where adaptation happens and we get stronger, fitter, better.

If you ever don’t know how to individualize, don’t despair. Ask your coach. That’s why we are here.

“To Uplift The Individual, And Support The Community”

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Connected Fitness Novato - Downtown

Address: 7427 Redwood Blvd
Novato, CA 94945

Phone: (707) 534-3713
Email: michael@crossfitnovato.com

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