Who likes to see progress? We all do. For many of us, that’s a key reason why we fell in love with CrossFit workouts in the first place. It is very effective at eliciting results and with that presents many opportunities for us to prove those results with data. Data is the key and that’s why we measure our daily results in the form of rounds + reps, time, total reps, calories, meters, weight and so forth. We log those results either in a notebook or hopefully in a database like SugarWOD. Keeping the record allows us to benchmark against our past self.
This Monday we have an opportunity to benchmark. An awesome one. Many people’s favorite, FRAN. If you’ve ever done this workout your stomach is likely churning. It has a way of making you feel nervous, excited, and uncertain. With that in mind, data from the past, and depending on where you are at with your fitness, it can help greatly to devise a plan. Plans create a path and when you have one it can ease some of the nervousness and uncertainty. I want to help you make a plan that serves your goal for this workout with some insight I’ve gained from my past experiences as a coach and participant of FRAN.
First let’s take a look at this workout. For time, 21-15-9 reps of thrusters, 95 pounds for men/65 pounds for women, and pullups. This equates to 45 reps of each movement. Next, what is the intended stimulus? This workout is designed to be an all out attack on 90 reps. Of course we always focus on technique, but the goal of this workout is to work constantly with minimal rest in the 5 total transitions between the two movements. With that in mind, we can take a look at rep times. For the average person working out 1x a day, 3-5 days a week. We are likely cycling thrusters at a rate of 1 every 2-3 seconds and pullups at a rate of 1 every 1-2 seconds. We’ll say 2.5 and 1.5 to make it simple. This adds up to 112 seconds for the thrusters and 67 seconds for the pullups, for a total of 179 seconds or 2:59. We’ll just say 3:00 to make it easy. For the normal person doing CrossFit to improve the quality of their everyday life, a 3:00 FRAN time is an awesome goal to aim for. At 3 minutes, you will definitely hit the intended stimulus that FRAN offers, heart rate through the roof, lungs pumping, legs and lats on fire, and grip on the verge of being no more. Taking into account a 30% window from 3:00 which is 3:54(we’ll round to 4:00 flat), we would want everyone who’s goal is to hit the stimulus to complete FRAN in 4 minutes or less.
So let’s talk goals. If you are looking for a great workout and want the FRAN experience then I’d advise you to aim for the stimulus. If unbroken sets of thrusters are not possible at the given weights and/or you don’t have big sets of pullups, it is likely that you’ll want to modify this workout so that you can mimic the rep cycling times that we mentioned earlier. Potential mods can be barbell weight and jumping pullups, or a plan to immediately switch to jumping pullups the moment you can’t sustain a kip for large sets any longer. Hitting the stimulus each day is the largest opportunity to see improved fitness in the shortest amount of time and most all of us should be attempting to do this on most days.
Some folks goal will be to complete this workout as prescribed, and I totally understand this. Every once in awhile we see a challenge and we want to take it head on. Your strength and endurance at thrusters and pullups will dictate where the workout goes. If 95/65 pounds is larger than 60% of your one rep max thruster then you should be planning a schedule to break those reps up. Same goes for the pullups depending on how many you can do unbroken. If your goal is to complete FRAN as prescribed and you know that sub 4 minutes isn’t an option go into it understanding that the stimulus you get from the workout will be quite different. Sometimes making a plan to break reps up early on will help us complete the workout faster. Often coming out hot and falling off the deep end equates to a lot of breaking later leading to increased resting times. Even if one of the movements is a strength for you, it could be a good idea to plan breaks for that movement also.
If you’ve modified FRAN in the past and your goal is to benchmark against your past self, you may want to modify in the exact same manner you did in the past. Even if you are capable of an RX FRAN, it would be fun to see how far you’ve come.
There are a lot of ways to approach this thing and none are right or wrong. For the most part we should be aiming for the stimulus but it’s okay to deviate from that on some days. But don’t deviate too far or get into the habit of doing it every day. Your fitness will appreciate that.
I personally did not have a coach to give me advice during my first 12 months of CrossFit. So, I was never given the knowledge of how to modify FRAN properly. The first time I did it was alone at 24 Hour Fitness. I had just learned what a Thruster was and I didn’t know what a kip was so I did strict pullups. With many rests and many aches, I completed the workout as prescribed in a little less than 14 minutes. I probably did FRAN 8 times in 2012. I saw it as a challenge and as a benchmark chance. I learned how to butterfly before I learned an efficient C-Kipping pullup, although my butterfly at the time looked more like a moth. I was pretty quickly able to get my FRAN time in the 5 minute range. In 2013 when I started receiving coaching, I became more efficient at the movements and started to get it in under 4 minutes. I still haven’t broken that 3 minute mark because my grip on the pullups gives out going into the set of 9 pullups. Grip loss makes it hard to sustain the faster butterfly pullup option. Tomorrow I’ll set my eyes on sub 3. It’s been a fun experience with FRAN and I hope that each of you create your own and can reflect back on it as a big piece of your fitness journey. Decide what your goal is, make a plan to achieve your goal, and have fun with it!