Scaling Doesn’t Mean You Are Weak
Scaling, a somewhat taboo topic for some in the arena of physical fitness. While some athletes are super comfortable with using scales for their appropriate skill levels, others may live in denial about their ability or even what’s best for them. I’m a technician at heart, so I’ve always been a big fan of scaling when appropriate. When I first started CrossFit, you had better believe I used an empty barbell A LOT, especially when I was learning Olympic lifts. I am admittedly not the best at pullups or pushups, so when I first got an unassisted pull-up, I often scaled back the number of reps. There is nothing cool about not being able to straighten your arms the day after too many pull ups. Even after years of doing this fitness thing, I will still do workouts where I scale back the number of pushups because I know I want to workout the following day and be able to perform daily tasks like washing my hair and brushing my teeth.
So, I’m a scaling believer. I had a minor tweak in my shoulder: scaled. I tore both of my hip flexors on separate occasions due to poor glute activation in my squats: scaled. My current physical situation (being pregnant) also has me thinking regularly about this topic. Now, this is not a rant about pregnancy and fitness, what’s good for you, what’s not, etc. If that is what you are looking for, then stop reading. If you are a scaling doubter/hater or believe scaling makes you weak, then you should definitely read on.
Scaling does not mean you are weak, and scaling isn’t permanent.
Let’s look at a few different scenarios:
Injury. An injury is the quintessential time to scale any movements that irritate your injury or prevent healing. Our job, as fitness professionals, is to help you move toward wellness and fitness while moving away from sickness; that can’t happen if you’re constantly injured and not taking breaks for aching body parts. Unfortunately, those nagging pains are probably around for a reason; listen to them! Changing a movement or scaling doesn’t have to be forever and it doesn’t mean you’re weak; it may just mean that you are injured. There are a million different movements and movement combinations that we can utilize as coaches to avoid areas that are giving you trouble and still give you that workout you are craving. Have an injured knee? No problem, let’s put that upper body to work! Injured shoulder? Well you can do a whole lot with your lower body still. You name it and we can find a way to work around it in classes. Our only request is that you let us know when an injury happens sooner rather than later so that we can continue to check in on you and be prepared with ideas to work around it.
Newbie. I get it. Deep down I’m super competitive and find myself basing my own performance off of those around me, even if we are at different points in our fitness journey. We have all been there, you want to add weight to the bar because your partner is or you you push through some ugly push ups to keep pace with your neighbor in a workout. Real talk: it’s hard being new to something or to just not have it down yet. Trust me that you want to take the extra time and learn it the right way rather than the fast way. There are some movements that you can get away with having sloppy technique for a few reps or at a lighter weight, but in the long run we all want to get better, right? Right! So, dig in and learn the proper technique for everything, I’m talking EVERYTHING: Strict pull-ups, strict pushups, hollow body, kettle bell swings, squats. Eventually, you can add more weight and do more reps and they can look BEAUTIFUL!
You have had to take some time off. It happens to all of us, and if it hasn’t yet, it will. You get sick, you travel, work swamps you, and you find yourself out of the gym for longer than you would like. Maybe, you just needed a break to try something else, but you realized that you love us and you have to come back (totally the case!). Well, time off equals gains lost. If you haven’t been working on a skill for quite some time, you may have to take a few steps back. This is okay. In fact, it’s more than okay, it’s normal. Be at peace with it. If it really bothers you and you want to get back to where you once were, you have to put in extra work. Talk to the coaches about some drills you can work on outside of class to bring yourself back to “fighting shape.”
Never moving on and up. Now, there’s another side to this coin that I want to mention. You may say to yourself “Gee, I really am comfortable with always scaling all the time.” Okay, well why do you scale? Is it your appropriate skill level, are you injured, coming back from a hiatus? Or, are you just content with getting by but not getting better. Scaling has a time and place, but so does pushing yourself and being challenged. Eventually, your body will get used to the same scale and become comfortable. We will often see people stuck on the same scale for what seems like forever because they always revert back to the same scale. It’s okay, and important, to move up and try something new! If you are not sure what that next step up is for you, ask your coaches and they will help you with the best way to progress to the next step. As long as you are mindful of technique and under the care of our coaching staff, push yourself to that next level! And that creeps dangerously close to the territory of setting goals, but I won’t go into that today.
Before I leave you, I want you to evaluate where you are at when it comes to scaling. Maybe you never scale because you think scaling means weakness. Well, you’re wrong. Maybe you scale all the time because you don’t know your own potential. Stop. Maybe you need to be open to scaling or being challenged on certain movements. As an individual do you consider how you may have to scale some movements but not others? It is a delicate balance at times, and it’s an ever-changing phase in our lives. You never fully graduate from scaling and you’re never stuck scaling forever. Make your next workout more than just going through the motions; make it mindful.
~ Leslie Gardner ~ Lead SWIFT Coach, Assistant Manager, NapTown Momma