CrossFit: The Secret to Progress

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Measurement of Progress in CrossFit

How do you know if you’re progressing in the sport of CrossFit?  Are you getting faster? Can you lift heavier? Are you starting to beat others that you couldn’t before?

All of these are excellent indicators that you’re progressing and improving. But is one thing the gold standard above all else?

Example: You’re in the middle of a workout/WOD. You are doing heavy clean and jerks. But they don’t seem all that heavy compared to a year ago. Your chest-to-bar pull ups come easier. You can do more toes to bar in a row. Even the dreaded assault bike seems effortless (ok, that’s a pipe-dream but you never know!).

CrossFit Benchmark Workouts: The Hallmark of Progress?

In the sport of CrossFit, there are workouts that are repeated (the antithesis of the sport, which thrives on constantly-varied, multi-dimensional movements) so the athlete can gauge their progress.

A lot of these have been around since the beginning of the sport: Fran, Diane, Nancy, Karen, and classic Hero Wods. It’s not uncommon to be asked what your Fran time is or your Grace time.  It’s also a way for athletes to measure themselves against all other CrossFitters.

When performed, the goal is to beat your previous time to see how much you’ve improved in 6 months or a year.

CrossFit Benchmark workouts are a great way to measure your progress. If you’ve shaved off a minute or 30 sec, you’ve gotten faster. If you can now lift more weight and can PR the weight, you’ve gotten stronger.

What CrossFit Means to Me

For me, however, CrossFit and my progress in the sport of CrossFit is not about speed anymore. It’s not even about PR’s.

It’s about what moves are easier now than before. What weights seem lighter. What moves I can do now that I couldn’t do before.

What about you? What’s your indicator of progress not only in CrossFit but also in life?


What is a CrossFit Benchmark and, more importantly, Why Should You Care?

CrossFit is known for constantly-varied, functional exercises in many different time modes and sequences.  There are an infinite number of workouts so odds are you won’t ever do the same one twice–except for Benchmark Workouts.

bcef77c41cc81725d60ba2400bea3b09So what is a Benchmark Workout in CrossFit?   Benchmark workouts are designed to measure improvement through repeated, regular appearance in your medium- and long-term regimen.  They first appeared officially in the CrossFit Journal in September 2003, and that early list included Angie, Elizabeth, Barbara, Chelsea, Diane and Fran.  The motivation for naming them, as Glassman said in December 2009 discussion, was simple: He wanted to be able to explain the workout once to his group, give it a name, and then refer to the name next time the workout came up.  It’s easier to say “Fran” than to say “a front squat into push press followed by pull-ups.”  Why girl names?  Well, think of hurricanes.  Greg Glassman, the founder of CrossFit, has said, “any workout that leaves you flat on your back, staring up at the sky, wondering what the hell happened, deserves a girl’s name.”

Why should you care?  Because these workouts is what tells you you’re improving.  You’re getting stronger.  You’re getting fitter.  Because when you stare at yourself day-in and day-out, you seem the same.  Someone else has to tell you.  Someone else had to tell me I was gaining muscle.  Someone else has to tell me my stomach is leaner (because to me it’s always fat).  Some outside source has to be your guide or you’re stuck in a mindset of uselessness.

Benchmark workouts do just that.  This week we did Helen.  Helen is three rounds for time of 400 m run, 21 kettlebell swings, and 12 pull ups.  I beat my time by almost a minute from just 2 months ago.  I know this is due to the fact I now have butterfly pull-ups; whereas, before I did not.  It makes you feel good when you beat your old time of a timeless workout.

CrossFit works.  You change.  You grow.  You’re stronger.  You’re healthier.  You’re amazing.  And benchmark workouts verify just that.