A while back someone asked me if my goal for my workouts was to get good at CrossFit. The answer is no. For me, CrossFit was (and is) a means to an end. That end is “fitness.” The big problem is how do we define fitness? Well I admit I suspect a lot of what passes for “fitness” is actually culturally driven. But that bias aside CrossFit has the “10 Modalities” which is probably as a good a definition as any.
At the beginning of my CrossFit training I told myself ” just do the WODs!” (99.9% of which I scaled way down) and I assumed that I would eventually figure out what “fitness” actually meant to me. Well not so much. I didn’t have a particularly clear goal, and the modalities were a bit too abstract to be useful.
The good news is that CrossFit does provide a way to measure relative fitness by having everyone do the same workouts, and publish the scores for comparison. These are the named WODs. And of course that helps. But for me there was still something lacking — a specific goal. To put it another way, how would I measure my fitness?
Among the many WODs that are out there, the one that stands out for me as the best example of true fitness is “Cindy.” The Cindy WOD is 20 minutes of 5 kipping pullups, 10 pushups, and 15 air squats — do as many reps as possible in 20 minutes.
After thinking about it, I decided that the easiest way to manage and measure my goal of peak fitness (besides focusing on VO2) was to emulate athletes who had proven themselves to be capable (an idea I’ve mentioned before.)
And that brings us to Josh Stonier. Josh is an exceptional athlete, and among the many things he excels at is the Cindy WOD. He does 27 reps in 20 minutes. Now that is incredible. The last time I tried Cindy I did 11, and I thought I would pass out (several times!) It was grueling. So a score of 27 for Cindy is awesome.
So let’s use Josh as an example of how to set a fitness goal. I think the first best step is to set the problem up correctly. Instead of saying “I can’t do what Josh does” say instead, “how much of what Josh is doing can I do now, and how can I improve my current ability?”
Given that objective, let’s examine what Josh does. A score of 27 for Cindy means Josh does almost 7 reps every 5 minutes. That’s helpful, but let’s break it down a bit: a score of 27 for 20 minutes mean one rep every .74 minutes, which we could round up to .75, which means 1 rep every 3/4 of a minute, or 1 rep every 45 seconds.
So by that standard if I can do sets of 5 kipping pullups and 10 pushups and 15 air squats in 45 seconds on average, I’m as fit as Josh! Well, not quite — I would have to continue that progress for 20 minutes (which isn’t likely in the foreseeable future.) So let’s be pragmatic, and establish a starting goal of doing 1 rep every 45 seconds for 5 minutes.
As it so happens I did 5 minutes of Cindy recently, and it took me 5:15 to do 5 reps. So right now I’m quite a ways off — at 1 rep every 63 seconds. Which is 18 seconds off the mark per set. Plus I was doing knee pushups. But let’s put that aside and assume that being able to do 7 rounds of Cindy in 5 minutes (actually about 6 full rounds and 30 seconds left) with knee pushups is a good start. And for me it would be. As it so happens the first set I did came in at 44 seconds.
I think 5 minutes of 45 second sets of Cindy is something I can accomplish. The pullups and squats I can do — it’s the pushups that really slow me down. After the third round I start to fade really fast. I end up doing 3 at a time, then 2, then 1. Slowly. So I need to improve on pushups.
If I get to my goal of 7 sets of Cindy in 5 minutes scaled with knee pushups, I’ll try 10 minutes. And if I get that far, I’ll try full pushups for 5 minutes. And etc.
Will this make me as fit as Josh Stonier? Not exactly. It will mean that I am as fit as Josh for 5 minutes. I’m OK with that. At least for now.