an ode to rx

Prescription. In CrossFit, workouts have prescribed weights and standards of movement. For Fran, one of the most popular workouts, the 21-15-9 thrusters have a prescribed (or Rx) weight of 95# for men and 65# for women. For athletes who cannot do a workout as Rx’ed, or as prescribed, they scale the workouts: use less weight, use mechanisms of assist (like the famous enormous rubber bands we use for pull-ups), or substitute movements (tuck jumps instead of double-unders on the jump rope).

This is what makes CrossFit versatile and appealing (and completely awesome). With a little creativity, ANYONE can complete the workouts. I’ve heard our fearless leader, Rusty, talk about scaling pistols (the oft-dreaded one-legged squat) for people by having them sit in a chair and stand up on one leg.

But Rx offers something else: another way of thinking about the workout. The workout is a prescription. It is medicine. It is the thing that you need. It will FIX WHAT AILS YOU. It is also pre-scribed — it is written before you arrive. It is written by someone else. It will remain written that way, no matter who is attempting the workout. The pre-scription doesn’t change.

The Rx doesn’t care who you are, what you can do, how fast you can go. The Rx is the standard. You do what you can, measure yourself against what you did before, against what your fellow CrossFitter has done. The Rx is unforgiving. Your score on an Rx’ed workout is what it is. Rx levels the playing field — everyone else did it the same as you did. If they finished first, if they did more rounds, then they are faster or stronger or pushed harder.

We typically don’t like Rx in other parts of our lives. We create our own personal rules and standards for judgement of values. What’s better, asparagus or broccoli? (Brussels sprouts. No contest.) Who’s hotter, Tatum Channing or Mark Wahlberg? (Oh, don’t make me pick. I can’t. Gimmee both.) There’s no prescription for judging such things.

CrossFit, while it makes ample space for you to make the workouts your own, also doesn’t shy away from putting its foot down. It offers us CRITERIA on which we make judgments about strength, endurance, and capacity. It changes our questions about value to include that criteria, removing personal preference and the blur of relativity. Which veggie is better based on vitamin C content? Broccoli, easily. Which hot dude is hotter based on the prominence of his latissimus dorsi? …

Huh. A very thorough Google image search, which took a good while, there, has yielded me no conclusive results. The research, however, was worth it, I promise. Ahem.

For many of us, Rx means heavy or hard. It also often means SLOW. Sometimes Rx is what we’re working toward or looking forward to. I have yet to post an Rx’ed Grace workout, which was the very first workout I did over a year ago. Grace, which is 30 clean and jerks for time, has an Rx weight for women of 95#. When I first did it, I used 45#, and I woke up the next day and couldn’t move my arms (well, right away). I’m not sure if, when Grace comes around again, if I’ll manage the Rx. but I’m excited to see if I can.

Rx if we can. Scale if we must.


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