So What Can an Average CrossFitter Do?

I was watching the highlights from the Regionals with a friend when he popped a question that I didn’t have a good answer for: “Every sport has elite players, but what can the average CrossFitter do?”. With millions entering the sport and hundreds of thousands participating in the Open – it is hard to have an exact answer. Each box tracks their own members’ performance but what is the average across regions, ages and experience levels?

Until we find the perfect answer I found an imperfect one that could serve as a good proxy. I looked at key movements in Beyond the Whiteboard where at least 10,000 athletes posted to get a better statistical distribution. Again, no science here as we cannot control the demographics of submissions but the results are still quite insightful. Recognizing that no single person is equally strong or weak in both gymnastics, weightlifting and monostructural movements (meaning the average Joe/Jane may not exist), still here is the

Profile of the Average CrossFitter:

Weightlifting maxes of 50th percentile Crossfitter (male/female)

  • Power Clean:  205 / 121 lbs
  • Bench Press 230 / 110 lbs
  • Back Squat  293 / 174 lbs
  • Deadlift    365 / 220 lbs

Gymnastic maxes of 50th percentile Crossfitter (male/female)

  • Max unbroken pullups   25  / 13

Monostructural maxes of 50th percentile Crossfitter (male/female)

  • Row 500m     1:36 / 1:57
  • Row 2000m    7:44 / 8:57
  • Run 1 mile    6:56 / 8:14

Benchmarks of 50th percentile Crossfitter (male/female)

  • Fran   5:51 / 7:00
  • Grace   3:48 / 4:27

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Top 4 Lessons from 4 Years of CrossFit

I reflected on what made CrossFit such a great experience for me for the last 4 years considering I’m not a competitive athlete and certainly not #gamesbound. There are these 4 lessons I found made this sport better than anything I have experienced before:

1. Try different coaches and many boxes

For most of us our local box becomes like second family. What I learned though that for my athletic development different coaches and gyms could provide new and refreshing perspective and coaching. CFKOP and CFDV gave me a great foundation. CF Central London fixed my muscle up, CF Thames worked on my overhead squats and introduced me to competitor training, CF Munich made sprinting central to my training, Paul Bunyan reconstructed my olympic lifts, CF Beijing gave me the best ever mobility routine. The point is, the more varied expert perspective you get on your training, the better you will become.

2. Keep a training log and celebrate progress

I’m always amazed when athletes do not keep logs. Keeping score not only makes us improve our skills, it also reminds us how much CrossFit actually improves fitness. When I was running long distance my 10K splits barely got better in 10 years. In CrossFit all my metrics are moving up constantly. It is such a confidence boost to look at my Oly lifts or Hero WOD scores from 4 years ago vs today. Who was that person back then? If anyone asks why Crossfit, I show them my PR chart going back for years.

3. Surround yourself with high performers

A lesson that is true as much in CrossFit as it is in life. If your friends become people who do not give up, do not complain, set goals and reach them – you will be challenged to never give up either. As you step out from your normal group of friends and colleagues and know people from all walks of life who are as dedicated and passionate about self improvement as you are – you actually change the way you look at the world.

4. There is more to life than CrossFit

It is easy to be caught up in talking, drinking and dreaming CF all the time (and a sure way to turn off non-Crossfitters). The best way to be a CrossFitter is to transcend the WOD and bring the attitude, determination and passion to new sports, activities and other aspects of our lives. Tackling our todo list, personal challenges and our job as a WOD will benefit us way beyond the Box walls.

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The Disappearing Open Gym Drop-in

As boxes get larger and busier efficiency dictates that the coaches focus more on standardizing the WODs and have less time for individual programming. While this is relatively easy to address in your local box – working post-WOD on a few skills – but when traveling extensively it becomes quite hard.

Years ago I could just drop in a box for a WOD in a city like New York and hang around for a few sets of whatever goat I was working on (HSPU, pistols or some lifts at the time). This week I tried this with several NYC boxes and they simply could not accommodate this Open Gym-time any more due to their immense traffic. And I do not blame them. With class sizes reaching 20+ and sessions in peak times running in parallel, it is hard enough to pay attention to the proper form of your athletes.

The irony of it all became that after an outstanding WOD at CFNYC I walked over to a nearby globo gym to finish my prescribed Catalyst skill training for the day. In the process I found a great service called FitDayPass that allows -wait for it – drop-ins at dozens of traditional gyms in Manhattan.

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Three Great Dropins in Asia

We all know why dropins are good. They are a way to do WODs while away from our home box and they keep us away from hotel gyms that, well, do not have pullup bars, kettlebells and wallballs. Or if they actually have barbells, you can’t drop them.

But what makes dropins great? Recently I was reminded of why I really love visiting boxes on my travels: very different structure and programming than what I’m used to.

On a recent trip to Asia I was hosted by 3 very different gyms. Let me highlight one thing from each that was amazing:

  • Middle Kingdom Fitness, in Beijing, China where the owner, Tim has more focus on WOD-specific mobility than anyone I’ve ever seen (short of K-Star). We didn’t just do the same bear-crawls, inchworms and dislocates as always. He meticulously designed targeted extensions, contractions for the specific muscles in the workout. I learned so much there. And to boot, this is the only box I’ve seen with an aerialist training as an option.
  • CrossFit Bangkok – has the most breathtaking setup. The box is an open air gym on top of a building overlooking Bangkok. You get to do your pullups, muscleups and wallballs while enjoying the great view. What was great here is their Sunday in the Park routine, going for an outdoor WOD and nice run on a 2-mile loop around a lake.
  • CrossFit Fire City, Sam Lim’s great box in Singapore has one of the toughest programming out there. In one hour in a typical day they managed to fit in a heavy deadlift session paired with EMOM snatches, a full metcon with pullups and box jumps and a short benchmark like Fran. A rare gem.

What I learned from years of dropins is the following:
– look for experienced coaches with great teams and preferably more than CF experience
– seek out different programming than what you’re used to (boxing, strongman, etc)
– get out your comfort zone – your usual friends are not around, so try new things

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Tabata Ski – Downhill CrossFit Style

Most people seek fun and relaxation in an alpine vacation instead of a workout and that is maybe where it should be. However, unleashing some crossfitters on a mountain will inevitably turn the environment into some high intensity WOD. From an intensity perspective, a typical downhill run resembles a neighborhood jog especially with the speed limits set by ski patrol. Downhill simply becomes a fun but slow long distance endurance run. Heart rate rarely creeps up above 50-60% and even that may be more due to lack of oxygen and not effort. Competitive skiers and riders know this of course and their training is of a much higher intensity than vacation warriors like us. But there is hope.

One great way to get into HIIT territory is through more intense terrain. Tabata moguls may be the toughest workout you can get on a mountain. 8-12 rounds of 20 seconds moguls with a 10 second rest. Repeat a few times every hour. The same could be accomplished in a forest run, though the trees and cliffs may dictate a different work/rest pattern than prescribed.

Despite the burn we all feel in our legs after a day in the snow, there is surprisingly small portion of the total day is spent actually working out. If we take out the queues, lift rides, traverses and lunch breaks maybe 30% of the time is actually skiing. Most of it is like jogging. Let’s get some tabata intensity back into this vacation sport.

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