Is It Failing or Does the Line Just Keep Moving?

Programming insight, clearly and distinctly written by Colin Cartee.

I design workouts for a living. Literally. I get asked about how I program, when I program and why I program all the time. So I have decided to share some insight on my programming thoughts and why I do what I do.

Programming for the 10%

I program for some of the best athletes and teams in the entire world. Team OC3 Black has been top 10 at the Reebok CrossFit Games for three consecutive years and finally standing on the podium last year (2018). But, if I had to rate it, I’d tell you that I get the least amount of joy programming for these athletes. NOT because it’s difficult, but because – and I know I’m going to get sh*t for this – it’s too f*cking easy.

That’s right; it’s easy.

One thing I will give Dave Castro is his ability to throw things at people that they were not expecting while simultaneously throwing things at people they KNEW were coming. He always mixes and contorts his WODs it in such a way that nobody could fully predict. His past ability to keep athletes and coaches on their toes is why programming for the top tier athletes is so easy. Sure I’ve been doing just that for quite some time and I have a blueprint of sorts down, but the more random and the more guessing you can have those athletes doing, the better prepared they are come August!

Programming for the 90%

However, the same cannot be said for programming a typical class with the general population. This is where I truly believe a great programmer’s skills excel. How in the hell can one person program for 200+ people and make it work for all skill levels?

The answer is easy (the preparation and execution, not so much).

The easy answer is, scaling and making sure your On-Ramp classes and your coaches are ready for any scale that may be needed. I am a firm believer in programming for a high-level Rx athlete and making your coaches and athletes understand the importance of thoughtful scaling.

For example, we ran the following workout yesterday.

20 minute EMOM (every minute on the minute):

Odd minutes: 15 power snatches 75/55

Even minutes: 15 wall balls 30/20

How many of our 200 everyday athletes (not the CrossFit Games level athletes) do you think finished this workout as written?!?!

A whopping 0! That’s right, not a single person. And here’s why that’s important to note.

I wrote this workout knowing DAMN well nobody was likely to finish. I wrote this workout, instead, to test not only the athlete’s ability to scale but the coach’s abilities to keep a handle on their classes and their athletes. Our motto yesterday was, “THIS IS NOT AN AMRAP.” Not one person turned it into an AMRAP, not one person did it Rx, yet every single person succeed in getting the stimulus and intensity they were supposed to get out of that workout. Just ask any OC3 member, they’ll tell ya!

What did we learn?

Did this ruin my athletes’ confidence?!!?! F*ck no! It lit a fire because it let them know there is still another level to achieve. Let’s be real for a second and break this down. If you’re paying $150+ per month for a gym membership and you do sh*t every day that you can actually complete, how in the hell are you getting any better? It’s my job as a programmer to ENSURE there are workouts that people will not finish, that people will struggle with and that people will question (Clint, “Why in the f*ck did we just do that, Colin???”).

Everyone nowadays is either scared to ask for too much or they are worried because something may cause them to fail. News flash: life is about failing at pretty much every damn thing you do. The people who have failed the most are the people who keep trying to move forward. The people who have failed the least are the people stuck in the same sh*t job, sh*t social life and sh*t mindset they’ve always been stuck in. CrossFit is NO different and if you are a member at CrossFit OC3, you best f*cking believe you’re going to fail. If you cannot accept that, then I would suggest finding another gym (just being honest).

So sure, 110 people “failed” yesterday but 110 people also learned. They dug deeper into their mental game and found some sh*t they didn’t think was possible. For the record, I’d call that one successful f*cking Thursday.

Just keep “failing!”

Please keep failing, keep showing up and keep putting out 100% effort. Spoiler alert: you’ll never get to your perfect self or you end goal because the line keeps moving forward. But, dammit, if you keep failing, you’ll be one badass mother f*cker in the end.


ICYMI: The photo is of Colin’s little black book, a.k.a. his new programming book. He’s been maniacally keeping lists of workouts over the past 8 years, 10 days and 12 hours. Some are good ideas and some are very bad ideas. You can guess which ones go in this book. When you see it, just know something special is headed your way and it’s only because he loves ya!

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