Understanding ‘Fitness’ and ‘Performance’

With test week coming up and another cycle about to begin, now is the perfect time to re-address the real difference between the two sets of group class programming here at DCF – Fitness and Performance. While we try to discuss how to properly choose the right path for you, we realize that sometimes it can be difficult to completely understand what goes into the process between the two paths. Hopefully, the following post will help you to identify which direction makes the most sense for you.


Let me say that again: Fitness versus performance has nothing to do with degree of difficulty. It’s not that the fitness workouts are ‘easy’ and the performance workouts are ‘hard’. If you’ve ever thought to yourself that it’s time to ‘step up’ and try the performance workouts, we need to seriously readjust our thinking.

The Fitness and Performance tracks are entirely about priority. Determining which one is right for us requires that we decide: what’s the most important thing to us about CrossFit? What goal do we care about the most? What do we want to achieve the most? What’s our priority?

Surely, it’s a tough task to pick just one goal when CrossFit has done so much for so many people. Tremendous weight losses, injury rehabilitation, looking totally awesome in that two-piece, even becoming a bazillionaire – all various types of successes that can be attributed to participating in CrossFit. Surely, we don’t have to choose, do we? In a way, we do. Despite what some CrossFit coaches will have you believe, one size does not fit all. It we want to be successful, we need to make some choices.

So let’s try something. Right now, if you had to choose only one thing – the most important thing to you, that you hope to achieve at DCF, what would it be? Remember – ONLY ONE.



Got it?

Okay, here’s a list of things that I would guess a lot of us came up with.

“Lose weight”
“Get fitter”
“Look good naked”
“Be healthy”
“Fix (bad knee, busted ankle)”
“Get strong”
“Look like/feel like/be a bad-ass”
“Workout with my friends”
“Get better at (running, biking, basketball, flag football, etc)”
“Have fun!”

…Or for some of us that can’t follow directions…

“Ummm… I don’t know”
“It’s all so awesome, I can’t choose just one!!!!”

If your answer was something similar to one of these answers, you will be best served doing the Fitness workouts. The whole point of the fitness workouts is to improve you. The weight training progressions and intended dose-responses (how a workout should ‘feel’) are specifically designed and intended to elicit exactly this type of improvement. We choose very specific movements and time domains while omitting others. CrossFit is a very big umbrella, and some of the pieces that make up CrossFit work better for these goals than do others.

Now for the other side of the coin – where do the performance workouts come in? Who are those workouts intended for? Well, the performance workouts are for you, if your answer to the ‘priority’ question was something like this:

“be better at the SPORT of CrossFit.”

That’s it. That’s the only reason the performance workouts exist. Getting good at CrossFit takes priority over everything else. If you can get to the top 500 in the Open, or get that 3:00 Fran, to hell with how your clothes fit, how your knees feel, and how much you tear your hands. You’ve chosen that being good at CrossFit, the SPORT of CrossFit, is more important than any other reason for being here.

To put it simply, if your goal is anything other than improving in the world of competitive CrossFit, the performance workouts do not have your interests at heart.

Furthermore, if we understand that Fitness versus Performance is about priority (NOT degree of difficulty) it then becomes a heck of a lot easier to understand why we make the programming choices that we do here at DCF. One question that I’ve heard more than once is “how come we don’t do kipping pullups, like other CrossFit gyms?”. Simple – If your goal is to get stronger/fitter/healther, kipping pullups are a terrible choice. However, if your goal is to be a rockstar in the open or at the games, kipping pullups are a necessary skill… even if you risk beating up your shoulders while doing them.

It’s not about easy vs hard, or beginner and advanced. If you’re a very experienced, strong, fast, rock-star athlete, there’s no obligation to choose the performance workouts. Far be it from us to tell you that getting the best possible score in The Open is more important than whatever your goals may be. Similarly, there are levels of CrossFit competition for everybody, so you don’t have to be a Regionals-caliber athlete to do the performance workouts (you should, however, have a very thorough understanding of the types of movements that make up a typical CrossFit-style competition).

And there we have it. Hopefully now we all have the information we need to make the right decision as to which direction makes the most sense for you. Don’t freak out if you’ve just discovered that maybe you’d be better served by making a change – you’ve still been making progress. I won’t go so far as to say that it’s possible to make the wrong choice, but it’s almost always possible to make a better choice.

That’s why you chose DCF in the first place, right?