The Rx Fallacy
Before a recent 15-minute AMRAP (As Many Rounds as Possible), I debated several minutes over whether to go “Rx” on the prescribed weight. The choice was between a challenging weight I could handle with passable technique and the “Rx” weight, which I could do if I performed as single reps and sacrificed form—and a hip joint or two. In short, was I willing to risk potential injury for the satisfaction of performing the workout “Rx” and doing the “same” workout as the box’s competitive (and younger) athletes?
I decided –this time — to go with the lighter weight, because 1) I was sure the workout would still be plenty challenging; 2) If it did turn out to be too easy or I completed it too quickly, I could adjust in a subsequent workout; 3) I wanted to come back the next day and work out; and 4) I figured it is wiser physically and psychologically to “master” a lighter weight before taking on an arbitrary Rx designation.
My internal debate got me thinking about the arbitrary nature of “Rx.” In fact, “Rx” is meaningful only as a competition standard, and even then, the standard is constantly changing. In CrossFit competitions, we are now seeing “Heavy Frans,” “Heavy DT’s,” and “Double Grace.” For elite or even highly competitive athletes, the “Fran” “Rx” weight of 95/65 pounds is, de facto, “scaled.” Thus, “Rx” and “scaled” are relative terms and not terribly meaningful for those of us doing CrossFit for fitness’ sake.
As for functional fitness in real life, nature tends not to give us “Rx” obstacles. If you are hiking Old Rag Mountain and a boulder falls on the path, there is not an “Rx” boulder for men and one for women. Nor are there different boulders for beginners and advanced CrossFitters (or hikers). You need to tackle whatever gets thrown your way. I sure hope whatever obstacle I face weighs less than 135 pounds or takes less than 12 minutes of continuous exertion, but one can never tell.
In summary, don’t obsess about getting (or not getting) Rx on a workout. We are all different— age, body type, height, weight, strength, mobility—and need to be kinder to ourselves if we are not “Rx’ing” workouts. By all means, use the Rx weights or movements as a goal or framework within which to measure progress, but don’t believe you are any less an athlete for falling short in one dimension or another. The fact you are CrossFitting at all indicates your commitment to fitness, and I have yet to see one person who has stuck with CrossFit for even a few weeks not improve their fitness immensely. Have a great week!
~Coach Doug Naquin