CrossFit – the way we do it here

by Megan Nolde of SAGE RVA, LLC for Shockoe Bottom Performance

Defined, CrossFit is “constantly varied, high-intensity functional movement.”

Great. Now what does THAT mean?

First of all, there’s CrossFit itself, defined by CrossFit HQ, and then there’s the way we practice it at Shockoe Bottom Performance. Let’s define the official version of course while we use it to explore how SBP puts that into action on a daily basis.

Functional movements in CrossFit, officially, are “natural and essential” meaning that we practice them in everyday life, whether we are in the gym or not. Things like squats, pushes, pulls, etc. As we practice them at SBP, we include the movements of squat, lunge, twist, push, pull, gait, and hinge, all centered around the core – this is what we focus on in our movement assessments, and what connects many movements in our workouts.

Functional movements, officially,  are “capable of moving large loads over long distances, quickly” meaning that they are measurable and generate power. According to the official definitions, being able to perform functional movements efficiently helps us live fully and promotes wellness and fitness throughout the lifespan. It promotes growth in fitness and independent living, which in turn leads to health (fitness over a lifespan). At SBP, we promote healthy lifestyles through fitness, nutrition, and community as a way to support our members’ goals which range from competing in the CrossFit games to increased mobility and strength for longevity, from weight management to developing their first pull-up. CrossFit is the tool that we use to best support our members’ individual goals.

“High-intensity” is another concept to consider – and between looking at the official definition and at our practices of it at SBP, it’s easy to see that both consider it to be highly individualized. Sure, there’s the official definition that intensity is dependent on power, and power is measurable. Average power equals force times distance over time. Force times distance is equal to work, so power is also equal to work over time. What all this means is that intensity is also equal to how quickly power is exerted, and has a direct relationship to the results desired and is therefore relative to the athlete in question. In other words,

“As important as intensity is, it is even more important to understand the application of it. The level of intensity at which a person works needs to be appropriate relative to their physical and psychological tolerances. That is, the intensity at which someone should work is always and only relative to that individual.” (

Intensity is something you determine through knowing yourself and your current capacity. At SBP we believe strongly that self-knowledge is key to choosing the appropriate weights, paces, etc. to create the desired or intended intensity in a workout. Not knowing what your neighbor is doing, or what you did three months ago – knowing where you are today and what feels right, as well as what the intended feel of the workout is too. This is a large reason that we frequently prescribe using a percentage of a 1RM for a metcon portion of a workout, rather than a set weight that may or may not be appropriate for everyone in a class. Doing this helps promote appropriate scaling for the intended intensity rather than choosing a weight that is too heavy or light and missing the purpose of the workout.

Lastly, we have variance. Variance is where we move from the workout to the world. 

“The goal of CrossFit is to create a broad, general, and inclusive fitness: fitness with a general physical capacity that lends itself well to any and all contingencies; the likely and unlikely; the known, unknown, and unknowable. It is not enough to develop one capacity at the expense of any or all others. We do not just want you to be good in the gym or at one physical task; we want you to be good at life, sport, combat, and everywhere, at any time, for any duration, and in any environment. Achieving that requires variance.” (

We can vary intensity, the functional movements used, the environmental factors (time of day, temperature, etc.), among many possibilities. What we vary helps us learn what we need to work on. As is quoted in every Level 1 trainer certification course everywhere, “We fail at the margins of our experience.” Meaning that to find out our weaknesses, so we can address them and grow them into strengths, we need to find new ways to fail in an ever broadening swath of experience and trials. CrossFit as it’s defined, and as we practice it at SBP, is about fitness and health, personal knowledge and awareness, and the confidence gained through experience that is understood and built upon. 

Here at our gym, we use the tools provided by the CrossFit methodology to support our members as they not only become physically stronger, faster, fitter, and healthier, but also (and sometimes even more importantly to many), psychologically stronger, fitter, and healthier. Mental strength comes from the confidence borne of a supportive environment in which to “fail at the margins of our experience.” Through teaching functional movements in all variations, promoting self-awareness through the factors that influence intensity, and creating a space that asks members to risk safely and frequently failing in new ways, we use CrossFit at Shockoe Bottom Performance as a way to approach life in and out of the gym.

– Megan Nolde, communications specialist and owner of SAGE RVA, LLC, a creative consulting firm in Richmond, VA.