There is an epidemic that is sweeping through boxes all across the globe, leaving countless fatalities in its wake. For those foolish enough to incur its wrath, there is no salvation—only great peril in striving to return to the CrossFitting state they once held. Worst of all, this great disease has not been conjured by nature or the CrossFit gods in their infinite power. Oh no, our own hands have forged this monstrosity. I’m talking, of course, about people not knowing their numbers.

The whole concept behind CrossFit—and almost every other training program—is that you can measurably track your progress by recording the amount of weight you lift, how many times you can lift in a certain time frame, or how quickly you can finish a workout with it. Tracking these numbers every time you workout allows you to see how and where you’re progressing, and gives you an idea of what areas need more attention. So why, oh why, would you not keep track of them?? Every time you open your workout notebook, app, or carrier pigeon, you’re getting valuable information that can help you progress as an athlete. What’s more, it allows you to see how far you’ve come since you first started, which is probably one of the best reminders that CrossFit is indeed working—in case you’re ever feeling down about the whole thing.There’s nothing quite like seeing where you started with your back squat, your deadlift, your Fran time, and being astounded at the progress you’ve made in a relatively short amount of time. It gives you hope for the future, while simultaneously making you proud of your efforts. Why would you want to deprive yourself of that joy?

Of course, tracking your numbers has a more practical application within the WOD itself. Right now, at some box in the world, there is a coach writing this on the whiteboard: 5 x 5 at 70% of 1RM back squat (or something like that). Be honest with yourself, how many times have you had to take an ‘accurate guess’ as to what the percentage of your 1RM for any lift was? I hope you realize the folly behind this ‘method’. It’s not accurate, you probably aren’t lifting what you’re supposed to be lifting, and it’s not making you a better athlete in any way. I hope that it only took you one or two sessions of guesswork lifting to realize that.

When it comes to the workout itself, athletes are generally left with two guidelines as to what way they should be using: RX or scaled. These are good markers with which to gauge what weight you should be using for a particular workout, but I would argue that it’s not conceivable that every athlete will fall within two levels of performance. In fact, a lot of coaches now program their WODS without listing RX, scaled or any other weights, as it allows for an athlete to determine a weight that is suitable for them. Keep in mind that ‘RX’ and ‘scaled’ are there as guidelines, they are not mandatory. If you want to add weight or go lighter then so be it! The point is to make the workout as challenging as it can be for you. Of course, you’re not going to know what a challenging weight is IF YOU HAVEN’T BEEN KEEPING TRACK OF YOUR NUMBERS!!!

When you’re armed with this knowledge, you can look at the WOD and understand how the weight you choose is going to affect your performance.I understand that CrossFit is about the unknown and unknowable—but there are some things that you just need to have a lock on. Knowing your numbers is one of them.

Photo by Runar Eilertsen/CC By NC ND 2.0

William Imbo
William Imbo is an Associate Editor at BoxLife magazine, CrossFit Level 1 Trainer and holds an MPS in Sports Industry Management from Georgetown University. He is an avid CrossFitter and loves film, music and travel, thanks to having grown up across Europe. A fan of the New Orleans Saints and Newcastle United, Will's favorite CrossFit girl is Helen-least favorite being Isabel.

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