Monday 11/19

“Helen”
3 rounds for time:
400m run
21 kettlebell swings 53/35
12 pull ups

What Your Fran Times Says About You (and Your Gym)

Last Friday, several of you were introduced to “Fran” (she’s a doll, isn’t she?). Fran is easily the epitome of a CrossFit WOD, once people have done Fran they don’t need to be reminded what the workout consists of because she has left a mark on their soul. Every gym has their own programming, some follow “Main Site” aka CrossFit.com, while others create their own workouts, but I can all but guarantee you that all of these gyms do Fran at least once in a while. Fran is both loved and reviled because she is so deceiving; just 45 reps in total of both thrusters and pull ups. There are plenty of “Girls” you can tell from a mile away are a suckfest (“Eva,” anyone?) But at some point Fran’s true nature comes out and you realize how awful she really is. Maybe it’s after the first round of thrusters or during the round of 15 when it feels like the WOD will never end. At some point, you will question your ability to finish and your sanity for even attempting this damned, stupid WOD. But you still manage to make it through!

So what does your Fran time say about you? Beyond the obvious pieces of information like weight used or how your pull ups were scaled, your Fran time is an indication of how well you tolerate discomfort.Those who have a sub 2 minute Fran or even a sub 3 minute time aren’t necessarily the world’s fittest people, but they have the physical ability to do the movements and the mental strength to stay on the bar straight through all of the thrusters and all of the pull ups.  These people are able to ignore the voice in their head that tells them they are tired or tries to sow the seeds of doubt. These are people who have embraced the suck, made friends with it and are now they are BFFs. At my Level 1 seminar, it was said that it requires more mental fortitude, more sheer will to finish Fran in under three minutes than it does to hold your head under water until you pass out. I don’t know if that’s ever been tested, but it doesn’t sound that far fetched.

When it comes to Fran, our goal is to find a scale so that it can be attacked from beginning to  end. We aim for a scale where Fran is done in less than 10 minutes, ideally less than 7 minutes and they are the longest minutes of your life. Why? Because we want you to find that level of complete and utter discomfort that is synonymous with Fran and learn to live there every once in a while.

So here’s where it can get tricky. In the grand scheme of things, the prescribed weight of 95/65 is light weight, or at least light enough that many people are tempted to try it prescribed, assuming they have pull ups (or what they think are passable for pull ups). I have witnessed this type of situation first hand at another gym, where I was attending a weightlifting  seminar a few years back. The hosting gym was conducting Saturday morning class and their WOD was Fran, which started just as were were taking a break. I looked on in horror and eventually indignation as I watched a woman perform 21 very labored and slow thrusters followed by 21 attempts at a kipping pull up. One.At.A.Time. All while her coach looked on in silence. It took her 26 minutes to complete the WOD.

I’m not sharing this story to make fun of someone, rather to illustrate that  just because you can do Fran prescribed doesn’t mean you should do Fran prescribed. What do you think the power output (the level of intensity) of a 26 minute Fran looks like?  You cannot maintain a high level of intensity over a long period of time, especially with a workout that is composed of 90 total reps, which workouts to 1 rep about every 17 seconds. So let’s try an experiment. I want you to stand up and do 1 squat every 17 seconds, for 10 total squats. Go ahead, I’ll wait… Are you sweating, out of breath? At some point during the experiment did you question your ability to finish? No? See the point  of all of this? Plodding through a workout (from the start!) isn’t going to improve your fitness and it isn’t going to make you more comfortable being uncomfortable. While it’s rewarding to be able to write “Rx” next to your time, that should not be the end all, be all goal of your workout. These workouts do not exist to stroke your ego and our job as coaches isn’t blow sunshine up your butt and let you do whatever the hell you want. These WODs should be humbling, even when scaled. And our job is to make sure you get an effective and safe workout, which might mean taking 10 pounds off the bar or adding a band. We are not trying to hold you back or make you weak. Quite the opposite, we want you physically and mentally ready to meet Fran and any other WOD head-on with ferocity. That ferocity isn’t forged by going slow, it is built by going fast and hard and being able to give it everything you’ve got.

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