A false pinnacle – how chasing the Rx may not improve your performance.

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As part of your initial introduction to CrossFit you pretty quickly hear about the almost mythical Rx. You may not instantly know what it means among all of the abbreviations and acronyms flying around the box, but it becomes pretty clear that the term applies to a high standard of physical exertion.

It is sometimes surprising to then discover that Rx simply means carrying out the workout ‘as prescribed’ in the order it is written in. While the term itself is easy enough to understand, the concept behind it is more complex.

The Rx represents the ideal performance of a WOD – to borrow from the founder of CrossFit, this reflects the notion of virtuosity, or ‘performing the common uncommonly well’.

To borrow from the founder of CrossFit, ‘The Rx represents the ideal performance of a WOD’. It reflects the underpinning notion of virtuosity, or ‘performing the common, uncommonly well’. However, a key underpinning for obtaining virtuosity, is mastering the fundamentals of movement frequently used in CrossFit workouts.

This focus on advancing – either attempting more difficult progressions or the most complex movement – is what drives athletes towards their Rx goals. But a lack of focus on the basics, particularly attempting a full WOD before you are ready, will not necessarily improve your performance and could set you back.

This is where scaling comes in – it helps you achieve the high intensity required during a typical WOD, but allows you to select movements and weights that are suited to your current level of fitness. It also helps you avoid the injuries that can come with attempting prescribed movements before you have reached the required level of proficiency. There is no point struggling through a 25 minute AMRAP just barely completing the Rx movement (and in some cases performing it incorrectly) when you can scale and move as vigorously as the workout demands.

This slavish devotion to Rx at all costs can also put people in a position where they feel compelled to either shave reps in an effort to ‘keep up’ or misrepresent their performance as one that was prescribed. This goes to a wider point about personal integrity – which is a key value at CrossFit Reclaim – but can also have a detrimental impact on your team mates in the gym.

Ultimately, scaling is not a weakness or a cop out – in many cases you can work harder because you are performing moves that are more mechanically accurate and at higher rate of intensity. By gradually increasing your scaling options you will approach the Rx level in a much better position than racing for the top straight away!

Renae Ford
Level 1 CrossFit Coach & Personal Trainer
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