Input & Output

Input & Output

For anyone of us who can claim to be among the converted, CrossFit has redefined the way we look at “fitness” with a relatively straightforward approach. The founder of CrossFit, Coach Greg Glassman, was one of the first personal trainers to employ the collection of data to track performance changes in workouts, even though collegiate & Olympic athletes had been doing this for decades.

It is because of Coach Glassman that our focus now is to seek after results we can continually measure, observe and repeat. If you try and remember back to 6th grade science class, we referred to this as The Scientific Method.


Whether you recognize it or not, you are performing a scientific experiment every time you conduct a workout and record your results. And as with any experiment, the better the collection of data, the more accurate our interpretations will be.

In my opinion, if there’s anything you must understand about the methodology behind CrossFit, it’s that “Intensity” must be the most monitored variable in any effective fitness regimen. And when referring to Intensity, I don’t mean how mean you can get your face to look in the mirrors, Intensity is the measure of Power – and Power can be quantified.

In fact, Power (Intensity) = (Force x Distance) / Time

Let’s take our member Paul Whaley for example – Paul started out with close to a 17 minute “Fran” time (Fran is 21-15-9 reps of both Thrusters at 95lbs. & Pull-ups for time). The reason Paul is a perfect example is that he’s one of the only members we’ve had who could do a prescribed (Rx’d) WOD right out of the gate.

After several months of training, he came back to try out Fran again and his time dropped considerably. I believe at his second attempt he was around the 11-minute mark. Subsequent attempts left him with a Fran right below 8-minutes.

Because the weight Paul was moving and the distance he was moving was constant (still 95lbs. on the bar, roughly the same bodyweight for pull-ups, probably close to the same height & distance the bar/body has to travel), when Paul’s time dropped below 8-minutes, roughly half the time of his original effort, he had effectively doubled his fitness in this particular domain.

By making an effective observation that doing the first set of 21 Thrusters & Pull-ups unbroken was fatiguing him too much, Paul made a hypothesis that dropping the weight and coming off the bar to rest for a few seconds after the 11 rep mark would help his time improve even more. And he was right – his latest crack at Fran left him with a very respectable time of 6:02… 2 seconds from breaking under 6 minutes. I have little doubt that his next attempt will be in the 5:30 range or below.

It’s the same concept when anyone in the gym doubles the rounds of “Cindy” they can perform from 5 rounds to 10 rounds two months, they have doubled their fitness in that particular domain. This can be applied and measured with any task.

The whole point of CrossFit is to increase our fitness along broad time and modal domain. We will only consider ourselves as fit as the weakest chink in our armor. If you can back squat 600 lbs., but it takes you 10 minutes to run a mile, by my standards you are not fit. You may be strong, but you aren’t fit. Likewise, if you can run a 5-minute mile, but you can’t back squat at least your bodyweight, you are not fit.

There are so many measures of fitness around that sometimes it can seem more than a little confusing. And frankly, that’s why so many gyms can get away with charging a criminal amount for personal training.

They’ll convince you that it’s a good idea to get hooked up to the latest VO2max device and will want to monitor your anaerobic threshold. Some trainers may even try convincing you that maintaining a lower heart rate during your workout means you’re getting in elite shape and having it raise to high at any point in time means you’re deconditioned.

I have heard Coach Glassman say many times over, and I agree with him wholeheartedly – I would never take an improvement in any other measure of fitness or health, from heart rate to blood pressure to lactate threshold, for a reduction in my performance across broad time and modal domain.

And oh by the way, the guys & gals doing Fran in under 3 minutes still feel like their heart is about to beat through their chests – I’d love to meet anyone who argues that they’re not in good shape.

Kyle Maynard