Let’s face it. When we get to class, the first thing we do when we walk out onto the mat is look at the workout. And not just the WOD but the prescribed weight. Our mind flutters back and forth as we weigh the weight against our ability. “Can I do that? Should I do that? I’ll try that.” And we often make up our minds about how we are going to perform the workout before we even warm up.
But RX shouldn’t be chosen so nonchalantly. The prescribed weight is the given measurement for the intended stimulus of an upper echelon athlete who can perform all movements while maintaining form AND intensity. So, before we jump to include ourselves in the Rich Fronings of athletes, we must do three things before choosing RX:
1. Accurately calculate our ability.
Often, we see the RX weight on the board and measure it against our own PRs. If we have a 185# thruster PR, we can surely do 155# for 12 reps in a WOD, right? What we may not consider is the breakdown of form and, more importantly, intensity, in the middle of the metcon. Listen to the coaches’ cues, “Pick a weight where you can do x number unbroken when you’re fresh. Perform at x% of today’s heavy strength.” Use this to gauge your weight.
2. Use metcons for conditioning, not strength.
There is a reason strength is programmed into the daily workout. This is the time to push heavier and make gains. But often, we go light on the strength portion to save our lifting capacity for the metcon. Metcons are for high intensity. If you are pausing every other rep to catch your breath because you picked a heavy weight, you aren’t working at the desired stimulus level and your fitness will be limited.
3. Get past our egos.
We consider RX to be the gold standard for each workout and, if we can perform at that level, we’ve somehow arrived. That R-X after our names on the whiteboard gives us a sense of pride. But our bodies don’t know we are doing it RX. It just cares about the intensity. It is our brains — our mental associations with RX — that keeps us from succeeding because we don’t look at our weaknesses and limitations. As much as we’d like to include ourselves the top tier of CrossFit, we need to be real.
Once we’ve assessed our starting point and, after warming up and lifting heavy in the strength, we can make a more astute judgement on our RX choice. Because, being wise with your metcon weight can be the difference between spinning your wheels and actually moving forward.