Tuesday 7.22.14

Someone asked me today: "Why do you put DNF? Can't you just write how many reps short we were?"

....and I thought it was a great question. A completely valid, sincere question from someone who was invested in the workout and wanted a score to reflect that on the board. 

For those who aren't sure, DNF stands for "Did Not Finish." It applies when there is a time cap to a WOD, and someone doesn't complete the workout before the time cap expires. For the record, there are times when we will write thing like "-23 reps" as your score if you had 23 reps left at the time cap....and other times, we'll simply write: DNF. This is a community-wide CrossFit practice, not something exclusive to CFCH. The short answer is that the "-23 reps" approach is a gentle reminder. The "DNF" is like a shoulder shake. Sometimes we all need a little shoulder shake. :) 

If you CrossFit long enough, at some point you will probably see "DNF" next to your name on the board. It's happened to me several times, most often in competitions. In fact, in my first competition, I had "DNF" as a score for one of the five workouts, and therefore no matter how well I did on the rest of the WODs, I was not allowed to podium. However, there are reasons why we write those three, sometimes heart-wrenching, letters on the board on occasion: there's something to be learned. 

1) Scale properly. Workouts are designed to be completed in a specific time domain to elicit a specific stimulus. "Fran" should make you feel like you're lungs are going to explode. If someone does that workout in 5 minutes, and someone else does it in 25 minutes, they've just gotten two completely different reactions from their bodies. Sure, you might be able to do 21-15-9 pull-ups and thrusters with the prescribed weights and unassisted pull-ups....but if it took you 20 minutes: you didn't do "Fran." The time cap and the DNF exist to prevent the 20 minute Fran experience, and to encourage you to scale yourself appropriately. RX may be the long term goal, but it doesn't mean that it's the goal for you for that particular day.

2) Know your limits.  Imagine standing on the edge of a cliff. The idea behind CrossFit is that you operate right on the edge of that cliff....too far away from it, and you've left something on the table; you could have gone harder. Step over that cliff.....and you've pushed yourself too hard and too fast to the point where you've hit a wall that feels something like total exhaustion or complete muscle failure. Sometimes we're not sure where the edge of the cliff is for us. It's a tough thing to know, because as you get fitter and more experienced, the cliff keeps moving forwards and you can push a little bit harder. Occasionally, you have to fail in order to know where your limits are. You thought you could finish today's workout with unassisted chest to bar pull ups, but ended up with a DNF? Well now you know that you need to take a step back. However, if you ALWAYS operate in the safe zone, you may never know that you're actually miles away from the edge of your cliff. 

3) You can fail and still succeed. What prevented you from finishing the workout under the time cap? Work on that. Use the DNF as motivation. Did it make you mad to see those letters next to your name? Good. Maybe that means you take pride in what you do. But what are you going to do about it? Let it inspire you to take your weaknesses and turn them into strengths....or at least things that are no longer holes in your game. That's using a failure to ultimately find success. 

A DNF is only a failure if you don't learn something from it.

WOD
5 rounds:
5 power cleans (185/135#)
10 chest to bar pull ups
15 burpees over the bar