Welcome to Franuary!

That guy Einstein knew his stuff.

With the recent completion of the 2012 CrossFit Games season, and a lot of time to chat and think while driving up I-5 (thanks Leslie M. and Zelina!), we’ve decided to concoct a “Gym Challenge” to help focus your burning desire to kick ass.

If you had a chance to watch some of The Games, you might have noticed a few of the workouts they performed there were the exact same Benchmark WODs we have performed at class on several occasions (with scaling options of course). I think it’s an important reminder that, even at the highest level of this sport, the classic CrossFit Benchmarks are still excellent tests of fitness that still challenge some of the world’s fittest athletes.

However, particularly for those new to CrossFit, chasing performance via re-testing benchmark workouts can be a hard concept to grasp when the workouts themselves are relatively infrequent guests in the programming. Even with our very deliberate benchmark-biased programming (we perform at least 1-2 benchmark WODs per week), by the time we re-visit a workout you have likely forgotten what you did, how it felt, what strategy you used, etc. Compound that with the all too often “I lost count of my reps” or “I forgot to check the clock when I finished,” not to mention uncertainty in consistently achieving full range of motion, and we have a recipe for a confusing set of experiences at the very least. Enter “Franuary”!

Here is the scoop:

  • We are going to perform a variation of “Fran” every Friday (working around some holidays, travel, etc.) for 8 weeks, starting this Friday July 20th through Friday September 7th. Variations can include using different rep schemes (e.g. 15-12-9, 5×9, 9×5, “straight through”, etc.), heavier weights, lighter weights, harder pull-ups, easier pull-ups, dumbbells, wall balls, sand bags, etc. Use your imagination! 😉
  • The 1st, 4th, and 8th week will be the workout “Fran” as it is written:
    • 3 rounds for time/10 min cap:
    • 21-15-9 Thrusters @ 95/65#
    • 21-15-9 Pull-ups
  • There will be many scaling options of course, and as a rule of thumb we will recommend about 40% of your 1RM for the Thruster weight.
  • You will take turns counting reps for each other at class to ensure a high quality experience. Full ROM standards and “No Reps” will be strictly enforced (barring mobility limitations) to the best of our collective abilities.
  • We will document and record all of your performances each time.
  • Here comes the science: scoring will be based on your relative improvement in Thruster Power Output. This will be measured by multiplying the bar weight you use for the Thruster (e.g. 65#) by the total number of Thrusters performed (45 reps), multiplied by the distance the bar travels (4 ft) , divided by the total time it takes you to complete the workout in seconds. In short form: Power = Weight*(Distance/Rep)*Reps÷Time.
    • For example, if at  Week 1 you use 65# and it takes you 10 minutes (600 seconds), your Power Output (P1) = 65 lb*(4 ft/rep)*45 reps÷600 sec = 19.5 ft-lb/sec. That is your first data point.
    • If at Week 8 you complete Fran with 75# in 8 minutes, then using the same formula, Power Output (P2) = 28.125 ft-lb/sec. That is your second data point.
    • The relative percent difference, D = (P2-P1)/P1*100% = 44.2%. This would be your overall score for the challenge. The highest score wins!
    • If you wish to do a more detailed and accurate measure of Power Output for yourself, check out this CrossFit Journal article, “Fooling With Fran.”
  • We will encourage participants to consider increasing the Thruster weight they use over the 8 weeks as a means to increase power output, but we are deliberately negating the measurement of the Pull-ups (as well as the air squat/bodyweight portion of the Thruster) as part of the scoring because there are too many variables (bodyweight, scaling levels), and will instead strive for consistency in the scaling level used across the measurements. This means that if you use a Jumping Pull-up at a certain pin height or box + bar height the 1st week, that will be your standard on the testing days (4th and 8th week). Of course we would hope and expect that your pull-up abilities will improve over the course of Franuary, but to make sure the results are scientifically meaningful we will deliberately record and use the same standard on testing days.
  • There will be a $20/person pot for those that want to spice up their motivation for the challenge! Those that do not opt-in are of course welcome to participate, but will not be eligible for the awesome prizes.

There are probably at least a few questions swirling through your collective noggins that follow this information overload, such as:

  1. “Why?”
  2. “Why Fran?”
  3. Doesn’t this violate CrossFit’s core principle of constant variation?
  4. I hate this idea! (not a question ;))

Time and space do not permit me to get into a lot of detail here, but in short:

1. a) To demonstrate with precision the measure-ability of CrossFit workouts. b) To showcase the unique performance chasing opportunities that repeating workouts provides. In short, if thinking about doing Fran tomorrow elevates your heart rate; if you get a little nervous as you drive up and walk into the gym to find out if you can outperform your previous best, you will have learned and gained something powerful. c) To demonstrate that all of the “cardio” so many of you are often left wanting for is already there. The secret for the vast majority of athletes and everyday people alike isn’t in doing more work (volume), but in doing the same amount of work much, much faster. By developing an intimate knowledge of this workout and its demands, as well as the intensity level you have previously demonstrated, you will have the greatest chance to find your 4th, 5th, and perhaps 6th gears which will — make no mistake — define you as an athlete.

2. I have done it and it was an extremely valuable experience. Fran is and is not just another workout; the combination of Thrusters and Pull-ups is uniquely challenging and the adaptations it facilitates are highly transferable. There is a history to how it (and all the benchmark WODs really) was originally conceived, and it was done with deliberation. In short, if you can learn to deal with The Suck that is a fast Fran, you can deal with almost anything.

3. The constant variation part is still taken care of by performing variations of Fran rather than just doing the exact same workout all 8 weeks (aiiieee), but Constant Variation is often overblown and largely misunderstood anyways. As long as the rest of the week does not include a bunch of high rep squats and pull-ups (hint: it won’t) , you will survive and thrive.

4. Cool, cool. Suck it up buttercup? It’s just another day at class either way, an opportunity to become a little more than you are.

I look forward to questions, comments, and more great experiences at class!

-Mauricio

“These people are united in an understanding that all good things come out of blood, sweat, and tears” — Greg Glassman


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