Morning Chalk Up

A Letter to RX Athletes from a Scaler

December 13, 2017 BY Lauren Enderlein
A Letter to RX Athletes from a Scaler

For three years, I’ve watched with starry eyes at the RX athletes in my gym as they crush bar muscle ups, deadlift ridiculous amounts of weight, and destroy benchmark workout times. The level of skill and talent never ceases to amaze me, as I watch them string together an ungodly amount of unbroken wallballs or when they snatch 150LBS over their head, all the while thinking, “I really hope I can do that one day.”

Now, don’t get me wrong, I know I’ve come a long way and those accomplishments aren’t lost on me. I’ve lost over 30LBS. I’ve cut a minute and a half off my average run time. I can lift heavier. I started two-a-day workouts, working on skills and strength, and made it up three pegs on the peg board. I competed in my first Festivus Games Competition at the intermediate level. I’ve seen my fair share of 5-10LB PR’s. But as a Crossfit Athlete, I find myself between a scaler and an RX’er: do I RX the workout and be slower or do I scale the weight and move faster? Bar muscle-ups, yeah no. Chest-to-bars, ok, I can do those. Overhead plate lunges, Burpees, and Double-Unders today? Check the RX block for THAT workout, baby! 80LBS thrusters and the assault bike? Um…I’ll do as many rounds as I can at 80LBS, then check that scaled block, because this girl is doing 65LBS!

I find myself between a scaler and an RX’er: do I RX the workout and be slower or do I scale the weight and move faster?

So, when it comes to partner workouts, I’m suddenly that awkward kid at a middle school dance. It’s nerve racking. I don’t want to ask the RX’er to be my partner. I don’t want to slow them down, but at the same time, I want to push myself to go harder to try to keep up. I want to be better. I just don’t want to ask.

But a few weeks ago, sitting on the sidelines of my personal middle school dance floor, awkwardly drinking punch, i.e. my gym and my pre-workout mix, I made a decision:

“Ok. I’m going to do it. Today, I’m going to ask her if she’ll by my partner for the partner workout. 95LBS clean and jerk?? Ah, I know she’ll probably crush that, but that’s really heavy for me since my one rep max is only 107. I’ll be slower. I don’t want to slow her down. She’s just so good at everything! Ok…I’m just going to give it a shot and see what she says.”

And here’s what happened:

“Hey, want to be my partner today?”
“Heck yes I do! Let’s do it. This is going to be a brutal one!”

So, when it comes to partner workouts, I’m suddenly that awkward kid at a middle school dance. It’s nerve racking. I don’t want to ask the RX’er to be my partner. I don’t want to slow them down, but at the same time, I want to push myself to go harder to try to keep up. I want to be better. I just don’t want to ask.

My immediate reaction, however, wasn’t that of relief or elation. It was an apology: “Awesome!  I’m sorry in advance for holding you back. I know I’m going to be slow at those clean and jerks and it will probably hurt your time. Are you sure you want to be my partner?”

She stood there for a moment, then looked at me and said: “If anyone has a bad partner workout, it’s their own fault. The time at the end doesn’t matter. It’s about pushing each other, picking up a few extra reps on the things you’re good at if your partner needs a rest, and getting through the workout together. Of course I still want to be your partner. Now, add the 10’s, we’re doing this at 95LBS.”

But that experience with an athlete I look up to in her level of fitness and capabilities gave me the confidence to continue to partner with other RX athletes at the gym. And with every request, I’ve found their responses to be the same: “Of course I’ll be your partner.

And you know what? I absolutely did slow us down. The 95LBs Clean and Jerks were really hard. For every one I could do, she did two to three. People around us advanced and moved ahead to different stations. We chipped through it together, her picking up the slack when I needed a break. By the end, she had obviously done more reps than me, but she wasn’t mad or upset that we didn’t make it as far as the other teams. She celebrated in my accomplishments of choosing to go at a heavier weight and pushing myself harder to be better, then somehow, successfully talked me into doing even more strength work while I was still hyperventilating on the floor.

But that experience with an athlete I look up to in her level of fitness and capabilities gave me the confidence to continue to partner with other RX athletes at the gym. And with every request, I’ve found their responses to be the same: “Of course I’ll be your partner. Stop apologizing for making us slower. I’m proud of you for the accomplishments you’ve made”.

To the RX athletes who partner with us scalers, thank you. Are we going to hesitate to ask you? Probably. Are we going to apologize to you for slowing you down or holding you back? Most likely. But partnering with you makes us push harder and makes us better.  So, thanks for taking less rounds or more seconds to your final score and for picking up the slack and doing more reps. You’re making us better athletes, not just as a role model for your capabilities, but for taking your time to push and support us in our capabilities and what we’ve accomplished.

And we, the scalers, thank you for that.