Annie's Story: The Better You Get, The Harder She Is

After we bench press today, we’re going to do a little workout called “Annie”.
Annie is:
50 Double-Unders / 50 Situps
40 Double-Unders / 40 Situps
30 Double-Unders / 30 Situps
20 Double-Unders / 20 Situps
10 Double-Unders / 10 Situps
…for time.
It’s a CrossFit baseline workout. That means we compare our scores against our previous scores on the same workout.
Not everyone can do double-unders, of course. Many will choose to skip in singles. So the first measure of progress is the acquisition of skill (double-unders.)
We call this virtuosity: doing a movement uncommonly well. Yesterday, we did heavy cleans from the floor. Today we’re doing double-unders with a skipping rope. Though the exercises are at opposite ends of the spectrum from a weightlifting perspective, technique is still the most important piece. And that’s why we’re coached.
So here’s the part of CrossFit that you can’t see from the outside: sometimes you have to go backward to move forward.
When an athlete does “Annie” for the first time, they probably use single skips and modified sit-ups. They record their time in our tracking software–maybe it takes around ten minutes.
Months later, they might do “Annie” again–but now they can link a few double-unders together, so they try to do the first 50 as double-unders, and the rest as single skips. We call this “scaling up”: incrementally increasing the challenge based on skill.
Of course, it takes them longer to do the workout, because they’re doing the harder exercise. And that’s great. The stimulus is the same, the intensity is the same. Alternately, they could choose to stick with single skips and do the workout faster, and that’s also fine–to a point. Eventually, they’ll hit a ceiling: they’re going as fast as possible, and the workout doesn’t trigger the same benefits. They’ll have to acquire a new level of skill to benefit, or change the workout.
When the exerciser chooses to do 50 double-unders, their time is slower, but they actually receive MORE benefit from the workout, because they’re working harder. It’s not the length that matters; it’s the virtuosity.
Eventually, they’ll be able to do the entire workout as written above.
So here’s the pointy end of CrossFit: the better you get, the harder the workouts get.
Come to noon group today and watch what happens: half the class will do the single skips, and be sweaty and winded at the end of the workout.
A quarter of the class will mix double-unders with single skips, and need to sit down after about 8 minutes.
The more veteran exercisers will do all the double-unders and all the sit-ups, and be totally bagged, lying on the floor in a puddle of sweat. Literally. I know, because this is one workout I can do “as prescribed”–with the double-unders and sit-ups.
The better YOU get, the harder THIS gets.