TL; DR: Our “Lifestyle” programming track is written as the most intense version of the WOD, the Development is written as the least intense, and the Strength Track written as the most intense FOR REGIONALS ATHLETES, but most of our athletes land somewhere between Lifestyle and Development.
Intensity Drives Results
The “performed at a relatively high intensity” piece of the CrossFit methodology is referring to the longest standing principle in strength and conditioning — the SAID principle. Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands. In layperson’s terms, the SAID principle means that, in order to increase your 1-mile run time, you must run differently. Add sprints, run 2 miles, run a mile backwards, do some jumping — the world is your oyster.
The definition of SAID and the definition of insanity are somewhat similar: repeatedly doing the same thing and expecting different results.
Scaling should make things MORE difficult, not less.
We often confuse complexity with difficulty. Let me give you an example. “Fran” is written as 21-15-9 reps of 95 /65 pound thrusters & pull-ups. The workout should be finished in about 2-5 minutes. If I saw that workout on the whiteboard, I’d be much more nervous than if I saw 21-15-9 reps of 155 / 105 pound thrusters and ring muscle ups. Why? The second workout is clearly more difficult.
I would argue that — for me — the second workout is actually less difficult. But, why? Well, first off, I can’t cycle 155 pound thrusters. So, those would be single repetitions done about once every 10-15 seconds. Compare that to the roughly 8 repetitions I would complete of the 95 pound version in the same amount of time. Secondly, I could probably push myself to do all the pull ups relatively unbroken in “Fran.” I would probably need to do my muscle ups in workout #2 in sets of 2-3 with about 10-15 seconds rest between each set. Workout 2 would take me in the neighborhood of 16-18 minutes whereas it would take an elite CrossFit Athlete about 7 minutes.
Believe it or not, my “Fran” would probably feel — to me — similar to how workout #2 would feel to Mat Fraser. This is the point of the Lifestyle track.
I’d be lying if I said I haven’t considered changing the name of the Lifestyle track to “Intensity” to trick you into achieving the desired stimulus. You’re an intelligent adult who can handle unbranded science. I know there’s a human tendency to create hierarchy. So, I understand why you’ve (incorrectly) felt Lifestyle = chill, gonna just get in a sweat and not push it and Strength = the most advanced, intense, athletic thing that I’ll never attain. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Since no one in our gym is on the cusp of a Regionals appearance, the truth is actually the other way around.
Lifestyle – the most intense track.
With the Lifestyle track we’re trying to adjust load, repetitions, and range of motion to achieve a stimulus. The question we’re asking ourselves is: How can we make the Lifestyle version of this workout FEEL like the strength track would feel for an elite, regionals-caliber athlete? YouTube 2018’s Regionals and ask yourself is that how I felt after yesterday’s WOD?
Development – the least intense track.
You want to learn new skills – climbing a rope, doing a muscle up, learning a more efficient jerk. When acquiring a new skill, you’ll need to pump the brakes a little bit. This means dialing down the intensity to make room for some more focused practice work. For most of us, this means gymnastics and high-skill barbell movements.
So we dial down the load, decrease the reps, and create a little space for some intentional practice within the day’s WODs. Personally, I will opt for a Development version of the day’s workout during times when I have a little more mental energy and time in the day to focus on getting better at certain skills. If I want a “good, hard workout” I’m always doing the Lifestyle version.
“But Scanny… what if I can do Strength Track weights but not gymnastics?” Well, athlete, if you don’t want to get better at gymnastics, stay the course. If you want to get better — do what’s written. That may have come off as sarcastic, but I truly mean it. It is your hour. If that’s where you are in your training it’s all good! Your coaches are here with a roadmap – you’re behind the wheel.
The Development track shouldn’t leave you writhing on the floor in a heap of your own sweat and tears. That’s Lifestyle’s job.
Strength track – Lifestyle intensity for Regionals athletes (or somewhere between the two for you)
Strength Track is where it all comes together for regionals-level athletes. The intensity of Lifestyle combined with the complexity of Development. Notice I said Regionals Level Athletes. Strength Track is written in such a way that — if you achieve the intent with every workout in a given 4-week bloc of programming, you’ll likely make it to Regionals as a Masters Athlete (by Masters, I’m not referring to age per se but rather that you’re not a complete genetic mutant who is a full-time exerciser).
For most of us “normies”, Strength Track will be slightly less intense or difficult than Lifestyle. Remember, the point of scaling is to make the workout less complex, but more difficult.
So where do you fall? Are you guilty of Lifestyle = Easy track?
Here’s a good self test: Think about a “Strength” athlete in the gym. Next time you’re in class with him or her, take a look at them after a tough workout and ask yourself “do I feel how they look?” That’ll be your indicator of whether or not you’re meeting the stimulus of the day.