The #Crossfit Rx fallacy and 30 better ways to train

Tyrell mara - crossfit canadan west regionals - crossfit 604

Two letters that hold so much currency in Crossfit.

Rx.

Prescribed standard.

If I don’t Rx it means I’m not a real crossfitter

If I don’t Rx everyone will think I am soft.

I will just suffer through it, I’ll compromise my form and mechanics to get those two letters beside my name. 

If __________ (fill in the blank of role model in gym) is doing it, than I have to too. 

Rx’ing workouts is the best way to get better as a crossfitter

Any of these sound familiar? I know these thoughts have run through my head more than once…

And of course we’ve all seen it , the athlete (sometimes us) who brutally slogs through a workout compromising technique and form, cutting corners, skipping reps, just to get those 2 letters beside their name.

The ultmiate pitfall of the Rx Fallacy is a gym whose culture is driven by these 2 letters. The praised are not those who strive to move well but instead those who do whatever it takes, sacrifice at all costs, to acquire that sacred Rx.

I’ll be honest. I couldn’t care less about ‘Rx’.

As I think back to all of the pieces of the puzzle that have contribued to my development in this sport, Rx’ing workouts is nowhere on the list. There are however, a handful of practices that I see as exponentially more valuable than those two letters, here’s what has worked for me:

  1. Finish every last rep, regardless of your time or placing
  2. practice ‘intentional perfection’
  3. write down each WOD and strength workout and your results
  4. go to that “dark place”
  5. study mobility WOD
  6. foam roll
  7. lacrosse ball
  8. stretch
  9. sleep 8 hours a night
  10. eat breakfast (preferably healthy)
  11. show up early and get a great warmup
  12. hydrate
  13. eat well (whatever this needs to look like and mean to you)
  14. work one on one with a gymnastics coach
  15. study gymnastics WOD
  16. learn proper gymnastics movement progressions
  17. work one on one with an olympic lifting coach
  18. check out Spencer Arnold’s Olympic Lifting Blog
  19. PR your snatch
  20. PR your Clean and Jerk
  21. set SMART goals and write them down!
  22. take an active recovery day
  23. learn burpee mechanics and “skill transfer”
  24. cheer on the athletes better than you
  25. cheer on the newest athletes in the gym
  26. film yourself practicing your weaknesses
  27. know all of your gym’s members names, use them!
  28. practice squatting with vertical torso, hitting full bottom, and activating stretch reflect bounce out of bottom
  29. high five the new person at the gym
  30. HAVE FUN

At the end of the day there is tremendous value in having a prescribed standard for measuring progress and performance across the board. Rx allows athletes to gauge their success against others in their gym, and around the world.

It is our responsibility, as athletes, to make the distinction between a gauge of performance, and putting ourselves in the optimum environment to improve.

Sometimes Rx is the perfect formula. Other times creating that optimum environment will mean checking your (and everyone else’s) ego at the door.

Finally, the list above is meant to be a starting point, not conclusive. What has been your biggest key to success? Please share below with a comment so that others can learn from your experience!

Please feel free to share this with anyone who may appreciate this list OR who could contribute to it!

Join me on the journey to competing at the 2014 Crossfit Games

45 Comments

  1. Terry Peters July 8, 2013 Reply

    Totally agree with this. It is too easy to be seduced by the RX status. Form matters so much more and we need to recognize our weaknesses and be okay with having some. I love to train with athletes who are better than me because they push me to work harder but if the Rx for a particular workout is not right for me I’ve learned to step back and focus on doing what I can. Often those times when I don’t Rx I get a better workout because my form is much better. The goal is steady improvement not a string of workouts that I can say I Rx’d while knowing I performed them poorly.
    Thanks for this post Tyrell

    • Author
      Tyrell Mara July 8, 2013 Reply

      Hi Terry!

      Thank you for this response and for always setting such a great example! You are a role model not only within your gym but the Crossfit community at large, I am glad this message resonates with you and really appreciate your perspective on it!

      Thanks again and look forward to seeing you around!

      Cheers,
      Tyrell

  2. Nic July 8, 2013 Reply

    Rx is the way to go. We all work hard to be able to do Rx WODS, I know I do.

    • Author
      Tyrell Mara July 9, 2013 Reply

      Hey Nic,

      Thanks for taking the time to share your perspective, it is truly appreciated.

      The competitive side of me completely agrees with you. I know as an athlete I have to keep a gauge on that Rx, not only in my gym, but locally, regionally, and around the world. I also know that the term “Rx” is continually being redefined, meaning what was Rx two years ago has been blown out of the water by today’s standard.

      And yet, I know that if that was the only way I attacked workouts and my overall training, striving for the Rx, I would not be the athlete I am today, nor have the potential to be in the future. By letting go of “Rx’ing” every workout, I allow myself to take a step back and look at my development from a bigger picture perspective. This allows me to accept the fact that I will be better by not Rx’ing some days, some movements, and some workouts based on the big picture of where I’m trying to go.

      I’d love to hear more about your opinion, I think it is a really important one in this conversation!

      Thanks again Nic,
      Tyrell

  3. Kelli July 9, 2013 Reply

    I am new to the world of CrossFit and go to a great box in Canberra, Australia. Here the only way I learnt what RX was, was at the end of a workout I looked at the board and noticed against a couple of peoples names. I asked and was told what it was. At no time have the trainers ever pushed an individual to Rx, for them that is not the aim, that is an end result, they want to see us get our technique right to finish our reps and to slowly get better and improve each time we walk in. It is a big family environment, everyone learns your name and encourages you to finish, there are no egos here, just a supportive bunch of people, and who knows maybe one day with enough work I will see an Rx next to my name.

    I liked your article.

    • Author
      Tyrell Mara July 9, 2013 Reply

      Hi Kelli,

      Thank you so much for sharing your Crossfit journey and experience. I am so inspired to hear of your gym and the great coaches and culture it sounds like you are a part of! I also have no doubt that you will reach that Rx level and very likely exceed it based on the great culture and coaching you have. Of course, this is not the end goal but clearly a result of being in a great learning and supportive environment.

      Thanks again Kelli,

      Cheers,
      Tyrell

  4. Kellie July 9, 2013 Reply

    I’m with Kelli on this one… the coaches at my box in London, UK never push anyone to Rx if it’s beyond their abilities (i.e. compromises form/becomes dangerous). In fact they actively encourage scaling.

    I’m clearly no elite athlete, but after crossfitting for a year I’m only now just starting to contemplate the Rx in my WODs… and I can’t imagine I would have gotten to this point if I’d been hounded by Rx purists along the way.

    One of the things I love about CrossFit (well, my experience of it) is its inclusive, supportive and encouraging culture. The guys in my box who are in there 8x per week smashing the Rx and more give me props in the same way they do each other. I hope that never changes.

  5. Author
    Tyrell Mara July 9, 2013 Reply

    I love it Kellie!

    Again, thank you so much for sharing. Your story, like Kellie’s is an inspiring one and I am encouraged to hear it! I wholeheartedly agree with both of your points, that the coaches really are the drivers of the “Rx perception”, meaning that if they encourage scaling, form, technique over prescribed, than that becomes the positive culture of the gym. And, inclusion is what makes it stick. If the coaches are informing the right pieces of the puzzle in the right places, and all of the athletes at the gym (from top athlete to first day’er) are supporting that process, you have a recipe for long term, sustainable success!

    Thanks again for sharing your story, Kellie – I really appreciate your experience!

    Cheers,
    Tyrell

  6. Lindy July 9, 2013 Reply

    I belong to an excellent box, Crossfit Connex out of Madison, Wisconsin. I have seen both of my coaches transform into coaches who care less about their athletes Rxing a workout and putting more focus on form and technique. This philosophy has benefited all of us as athletes. However, my coaches do something that a lot don’t, and that is finding a balance between not caring about RXing, but still pushing each and every athlete to go harder and stronger. If one of my coaches sees an athlete going light and truly believes they can go heavier, they will speak up! That is the magic combination-don’t let athletes go light all the time just because you say you don’t care about RXing a WOD. Create a philosphy of technique first, heavy second, not the other way around.

    Cheers,
    Lindy

    • Author
      Tyrell Mara July 9, 2013 Reply

      Ahhh, great point Lindy! Thanks for sharing.

      What I hear you saying is how valuable the role of a great coach can be. I certainly agree with this and also realize that this is no easy feat for a coach. Being able to intuitively know when an athlete needs to push harder (even, or especially when they don’t think they can), or scale back, is a skill of mastery. It takes years of studying athletes, sports, training, and movement to really understand this – not to mention a deep understanding of each crossfit athlete and their limits and goals.

      Thanks for your fantastic observation Lindy!

      Cheers,
      Tyrell

  7. Aaron July 10, 2013 Reply

    The biggest badass at my box said it best: “everybody scales even me”
    Scale when you need to, and try to Rx more and more over time.

    • Author
      Tyrell Mara July 10, 2013 Reply

      Well said, Aaron.

      Well said.

      Thank you for visiting.

      Ty

  8. Julie C July 11, 2013 Reply

    What a great article! As someone new to Crossfit who often gets frustrated about not doing the Rx WOD, this is very encouraging!

    • Author
      Tyrell Mara July 11, 2013 Reply

      Hi Julie,

      Thank you for your comment.

      There are still days where I have to drop my ego, and remind myself that Rx won’t help me improve on that given day, and in fact doing a different movement, or lesser weight is actually what best ‘prescribed’ for me! It can be a humbling shift in mindset, but one that ultimately I know will have the most long term value.

      Thanks for stopping by, feel free to sign up above to get my next instalment of insights and tips!
      Tyrell

  9. markey July 12, 2013 Reply

    Please fix all the broken links

    • Author
      Tyrell Mara July 12, 2013 Reply

      Hi Markey,

      Thank you very much for the heads up. I have just gone through the post and updated the missing links.

      Cheers,
      Tyrell

  10. svgfit August 5, 2013 Reply

    “Couldn’t care less” about Rx.

    Good on the content, though! I know gyms on both sides of this issue. Some insist their clients go for max and push for that big Rx…and I hate that. Others are very conscious of the needs of their individual clients and their needs; always pushing them, but never going overboard.

    • Author
      Tyrell Mara August 13, 2013 Reply

      Thank you for the edit, that one always seems to throw me through a loop! :) I really appreciate it.

      I’m glad you have seen both ends of the spectrum, in a sport where minimum standards across the board are so hit and miss having perspective of the bigger picture is so valuable.

      Cheers and thank you for stopping by!
      Tyrell

  11. svgfit August 5, 2013 Reply

    In response to Nic – Rx should be a GOAL, not the default expectation when you walk in the door. Not everyone…in fact very FEW people can complete many of the WODs as written. Should it be something to strive for? Absolutely….but obsessing about it is the wrong approach.

  12. Doug August 5, 2013 Reply

    Great article. Joined crossfit 1 1/2 years ago in Searcy Arkansas. Trainers are great and they in courage the members but not push them Big difference. I’ll be 67 this year and am the “OLD MAN” at our box. Actually the others are more like grandkids. Just completed one of my goals: Dead liffted #335. A I d walked away on my own. Ha Ha

    • Author
      Tyrell Mara August 13, 2013 Reply

      I love it Doug! Thank you for stopping by and sharing your story, it is an inspiring one!!

      Congrats on the big deadlift, an amazing feat for anyone, let alone the “old man” at the box! ;)

      Cheers my friend,
      Tyrell

  13. Joe Bragg October 7, 2013 Reply

    At our Box… Rx is meant for our most Elite at our box. It’s taught that reaching and surpassing that is a goal but Rx isn’t the end all. Try to set the new Rx. Only things that you can’t Change Rx wods are for benchmarks

  14. Carol Dunlop February 7, 2014 Reply

    I joined CrossFit about a year ago and I have seen tremendous gains in strength and conditioning. I do strive for RX  but not at the sake of form. My Coach, Shane Bonilla is awesome and s philosophy for his CrossFit III gym in Kennsaw Georgia is form and techique first. That will lead to better gains and fewer injuries. Your points are great and anyone who calls themself a CrossFit athlete should take heed to your advice. 

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