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BoxLife Magazine

What’s the fascination with Fran? Plus a few tips to improve your time

By William Imbo

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February 26, 2014

Her name is infamous. The legends and tales she inspires serve as an indication of how much she is respected….and feared. 21, 15, 9. Thrusters and pull-ups. The original CrossFit WOD. Ladies and gentlemen, this is the story of FRAN.

As a young gymnast in high school, Greg Glassman (CrossFit founder and CEO) was looking for a way to not only get stronger, but also replicate the high-intensity, short duration model of a gymnastic routine during the off season. In 1972, Glassman (with the help of his father) bought a weight set from Sears and set about converting his garage into a home gym. Now, the instructions that accompanied Glassman’s weight set depicted “morons” (Glassman’s words) doing lateral raises and curls. But what Glassman was looking for was something that could simulate the cardio-respiratory demand he was used to in gymnastics. So, after much experimentation, Glassman discovered that if he was to bring a barbell to his chest, squat down and drive up, pushing the bar above his head, he would start to get a similar feeling to the demands of gymnastic routines. So, the thruster was born. Glassman then combined the thruster with pull-ups, and settled on a rep scheme of 21, 15, 9-thrusters (95lbs for men, 65lbs for women) and pull-ups.

When Glassman finished the workout, he threw up all over the garage floor.

He knew he had found the workout he was looking for. And so, Fran was created. But why name the workout after a woman? Glassman’s explanation is straightforward:

“If a hurricane that wreaks havoc on a whole town can be Fran, so can a workout.”

 Ever since Fran, all the benchmark WODs of CrossFit are affectionately (or less so, depending on who you ask) referred to as “the Girls”. And yet, no workout since Fran has held the same appeal, the same fear. Why is that? Glassman loves Fran for her simplicity and the effect she delivers in such a short time. Perhaps that is what draws the CrossFit community in. The knowledge that this workout will not be a long one, but it is a “burner”. Fran is not designed for rest, you don’t have the opportunity to gasp for air, your stomach is constantly churning. Fran destroys all those who step up to challenge her. You will see the elite CrossFitters post sub-2 minute times, but collapse on the floor, dry heaving and convulsing.

One thing is for certain with Fran. Love her or hate her, everyone knows their time in the workout. She has become a staple of the CrossFit community, a benchmark of progress, a marker for a challenge. She will always be there, her simplistic beauty lulling you in to a false sense of confidence. She will break you down, and build you up. In many ways, Fran is the very definition of CrossFit.

 Looking to improve your Fran time? Here are some tips that could shave off some seconds.

1. Practice Fran at half speed to get a feel for the combination of thrusters and pull-ups.

2. Try to stay on the bar as long as possible. Dropping down will cost you valuable seconds.

3. Don’t drop the bar on the thrusters! Rest with the bar on your chest. Dropping the bar to the ground will mentally defeat you, not to mention you’ll have to exert extra energy to clean the bar back up.

4. Learn and practice the kipping and/or butterfly pull-up technique. They are much faster and more efficient.

5. Position your bar close to your pull-up station. This is an easy way to save some time by simply shortening the distance you have to walk between the two stations.

6. Focus your mind to block out the pain. Listen, we’re not going to sugarcoat it for you, Fran sucks. This is a hard workout and will hurt. But if you tell yourself that before you even start, then guess what? It’s going to be much harder than it would have been if you had set your mind in stone. Focus your mind on dominating the workout, overcoming any pain, and relishing the opportunity to test what you are capable of. A positive thought always outweighs a negative.

William Imbo

About 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. View all posts by William Imbo →

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