What It Feels Like to Be a Scaled Athlete

I’m a scaled athlete. I love CrossFit, and I’m so grateful that I found it and found a box that’s been nothing but supportive. My coach spends time instructing me in proper form. The people in the gym cheer for me when I’m battling through a WOD. I feel like the box is my second home.

But I’m very much a scaled athlete, as I’m reminded nearly every time I walk into the box and look at the whiteboard. I think I’ve RX’d three workouts the entire time I’ve been CrossFitting (2+ years, and for those that don’t CrossFit, RX is doing the workout as prescribed). One of those workouts had a prescribed weight at a percentage of the athlete’s one-rep max. Another involved running and sandbags. The most recent RX’d workout was one our coach programmed for people who don’t normally RX. It involved a slightly heavier kettlebell than I’d normally pick up and my archenemy, the Assault Bike.

What does it feel like to be a scaled athlete at a CrossFit box? Here's a firsthand account.

Most of the time (i.e., 99 percent of the time), I look at the weights on the whiteboard and ask Holly what percent of my one rep max I should use. I’ll see a movement like handstand pushups and choose an appropriate scaling option. And that’s okay.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with being a scaled athlete. Most of us at the box scale a lot. If you’ve never done CrossFit and think you have to be super-fit and super-strong, that’s a myth. Everything can be scaled and modified, and I tell that to people all the time. If I scale and modify appropriately, I can get better scores than the best athletes at the box.

On the flip side, while I know that I’m the only person judging me for using the training bar during snatch workouts, I still get intimidated by the RX athletes. Part of it is pure envy; I want to be lifting that heavy! I want to do unbroken toes to bar and pull-ups! Yet these are also the people that inspire me so much because they’re not professional athletes. They’re nurses, writers, and teachers. They juggle kids and jobs and responsibility. And they’re the ones cheering the loudest as the rest of us finish.

I’m not ashamed anymore to do jumping pull-ups or handstand pushups on a box. What matters in the box isn’t that I’m a scaled athlete. It’s that I’m willing to come in and put in the work. Progress is progress, no matter how small.

To sum it up: being a scaled athlete is humbling. There are times when I’m angry with myself for not mastering a move so that I can do it in the workout. At the same time, I work hard to improve. That, in itself, is something to be proud of every day.

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  1. I have never tried cross fit before but, I have heard finding the perfect box is key. It sounds like you have found the best box for you that lets you be the best athlete you can be. Totally agree, it is ok to scale something to you.