Coaching the Athlete Who Always Tries to Go Rx

By February 13, 2019Box Development

Next up in our six-part series on how to have difficult and effective conversations with athletes, we’ll discuss how to talk with an athlete who is always trying to go Rx.

Let's begin by looking at some of the characteristics of the "Rx or Bust" athlete:

  • Lacks a proper understanding of the intent of each workout
  • Does not understand that results are garnered through intensity, not volume
  • Gains pride through doing the workout as it’s written, independent of how long it takes them
  • Feels that scaling a workout is viewed as “weak”
  • Male, ok not all the time, but most of the time…;)

Dealing with athletes who always want to go Rx is like working with an athlete who enjoys banging their head against the wall every single day. It can be frustrating and painful for a coach as they see the “problem” walk into the gym to take their class. Coaches often react negatively to the person and place the fault on the athlete.

I disagree with this and believe that the root of the problem often lies with the gym and coach. At the heart of the issue, is an athlete who has not been properly educated on the tenets of CrossFit.

Eliminating the issue of the athlete who always wants to go Rx is done by playing the long game, educating your members, and celebrating the athletes who train with the proper stimulus.

Below, you’ll find one strategy to address each of the elements listed above.

Does not have a good understanding of the intent of each workout.

At the start of every class, coaches should specify the intent of the workout and the expected time domain that all athletes - whether going Rx or Scaled - should fall within. This expectation should be reinforced during the Specific Warm-up where coaches should give athletes non-negotiable checkpoints for capacity to indicate if they have the proper weight or rep volume to achieve the intended stimulus.

As an example, say the workout is Diane and the athlete wants to go Rx at the weight of 225 pounds for the deadlift. The coach specifies that athletes should be able to complete 15 reps unbroken with a consistent and fluid tempo. In the warm-up, the coach has the athletes complete a set of 15. The athlete in question, begins the set with 5 in a row, begins to slow down through reps 6-10, and by rep 12 the back begins to soften and the athlete stops to regrip - before pulling the last 3. In this instance, the coach would then tell the athlete to take weight off the bar and give them the exact weight they want them to use.

Does not understand that results are garnered through intensity, not volume.

Coaches often assume that their athletes and clients understand the tenets of CrossFit as well as they do. They don’t - at least not unless you educate them.

The discussion on intensity over volume must be taught, communicated, and reinforced all the time if you want it to be something that your athletes abide by. Use your blog or newsletter to write articles on intensity. Reinforce the conversation by talking with athletes during cool down sessions.

Educate. Always.

Here are some examples of how you can do this:

  1. CrossFit Whiteboard: Intensity
  2. CrossFit Intensity Explained and Why Scaling Can Equal Better Results
  3. Scaling for Life
Gains pride through doing the workout as it’s written, independent of how long it takes them.

Athletes gain pride in doing something when they are celebrated for doing so. I see this all the time on the gym floor. An athlete disregards the coach’s instruction, finishes 10 minutes after everyone else, and the athletes and coach sit there commending them on a job well done.

Athletes gain pride because of the praise they receive. When an athlete finishes outside of the intended design, have an educated discussion with them indicating why the workout missed the training goal for the day.

Feels that scaling a workout is viewed as “weak.”

Again, this one falls largely on the gym’s shoulders. If the gym promotes a vibe of celebrating athletes who do the workout with the intended stimulus, Rx or not, then athletes will feel more comfortable scaling. If the gym and coaches tend to celebrate the athletes who go Rx only, this will reinforce to athletes that the only “respected” way to do the workout is Rx.

Give each of these strategies a whirl and let us know how Rx evolves at your gym!

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