The Art of Scaling, Dena Boucher

The Art of Scaling, Dena Boucher

The Art of Scaling

Dena Boucher

If you’re anything like me, few things feel better than logging a workout and being able to click “Rx”. We’re CrossFitters, after all. Being part of this community means that we likely possess a good measure of competitiveness and athletic drive. We want to lift heavy and move quickly.

CrossFit workouts are designed to challenge even the highest level of athletes. It’s unlikely that any one person can tackle the Rx weights and movements across the board for every workout. Moreover, I would argue that it’s not necessarily even safe or effective to do so. This is where scaling comes in.

I know, I know…scaling doesn’t sound sexy. It feels to some of us like a dumbing down of the workout. When done right, this could not be further from the truth. Scaling is an excellent tool through which we can hone our technique and dial in mechanics.

One of the biggest takeaways of my recent Crossfit Level 1 Training Course was to see the degree of care and skill that goes into CrossFit programming. CrossFit is by definition constantly varied, functional movements performed at high intensity. One day we may do the short, intense “Fran” workout (a couplet of 21-15-9 repetitions of thrusters and pull-ups). The next day we may tackle a thirty minute chipper. Though the programming may seem random to those of us just showing up to class, there is compelling science behind the types and orders of workouts that we do.

The “constantly varied” aspect of CrossFit is, to me, what sets it apart from other workout routines. The point being that it’s not routine. The programming is designed to achieve a particular stimulus for that daily workout. This is important when we think about scaling. The key to effective scaling is to preserve the intended stimulus as closely as possible.

What does this mean in practical application? It means that there’s a sort of algorithm we can run through as we scale a workout. First, we can look at load (or weight). Can’t snatch 105 pounds for 15 reps? Phew…me either. Let’s scale that sucker back to 85 pounds. We’re still performing the movement and working on the skill, but we’re not sacrificing mechanics and consistency in the process.

Next, we can scale volume. Can a person complete “Fran” as prescribed but do it in twenty minutes? Sure. Should they? Probably not. The reason is that the stimulus is lost. In this case, it might be better to reduce the repetitions in order to keep the athlete circulating through the movements. Perhaps even both load and volume need to be reduced in order to keep the intended level of intensity.

In the case of injury or physical limitation, a movement may need to be completely substituted. When doing so, it’s best to try to preserve the intended function and range of motion if possible.

For instance, are we trying to push or pull? Is the movement driven by the upper or lower part of the body? Are we simply trying to raise heart rate with a particular movement?

Scaling is incredibly valuable to both new athletes and those who have been in the sport for a while. I have found myself scaling weight more often lately in an effort to dial in mechanics. As my technique improves, I can perform more work with less effort. In the long run, this will undoubtedly help me to become a better athlete.

For a newer CrossFitter, scaling is critical at least until the fundamentals are mastered. I implore you not to skip over this important learning period. It’s tempting to load up the bar and go for broke, but balancing safety and efficiency will lead to better results over time. Try not to compare yourself to the person working out next to you. Patience is key.

It can take some time and practice to learn the right scaling approach for you, but it’s well worth the effort. It’s also something that should evolve as you develop as an athlete. Do you always substitute ring rows for pull ups? Maybe it’s time to try banded pull ups. Talk to the coaches about your limitations and goals. They are trained to help you make the appropriate modifications. A well scaled workout truly is a thing of beauty.

Member of the month, October

Member of the month, October

Bruce Hanson

1. When did you start at CrossFit Bangor: The day before COVID shut the gym down.

2. Proudest CrossFit accomplishment: Every time I am able to do something I wasn’t able to do when I first started.

3. Favorite lift, metcon, or both: Push jerks.

4. A movement or workout you’re hoping to improve this year: All gymnastic movements but pullups and burpees the most.

5. Biggest surprise since starting at CrossFit Bangor: How much I love being here.

6. Advice for new members or friends who have yet to try CrossFit: It is worth it!!!

7. Favorite Maine place to recommend to other members or visitors: Get off the beaten path, Maine’s beauty is everywhere.

8. Non CrossFit interest(s): My grandchildren and dogs (all dogs).

9. Additional thoughts you’d like to share! I love Bangor CrossFit!

What is CrossFit to you?

What is CrossFit to you?

What is CrossFit to you? It is not just a gym. It is my family. It is my way of life.

Some think CrossFit is the sport for crazy people who want to do the unknown and unknowable. Which is a little true.

Some think CrossFit is this elite cult that no one can enter unless you have a 6 pack. Guess what, nothing is further from the truth.

CrossFit is a lifestyle characterized by safe, effective exercise and sound nutrition. CrossFit can be used to accomplish any goal, from improved health to weight loss to better performance. The program works for everyone—people who are just starting out and people who have trained for years.

CrossFit is functional movements performed at high intensity across broad time and modal domains.

But for me, CrossFit is more about health and wellness. Above all else, CrossFit to me means Family. We get up super early to maintain our fitness because it is more of a way of life rather than an exercise program. We stay after class to help a new person get just a little bit better.

This family looks out for each other. If someone needs a babysitter because their husband is deployed and they finally got a doctors appointment, you drop everything and go over to watch two girls under 4. If someone needs help moving, 5 trucks will show up to help move things across town. If someone’s garage suddenly stops working, you show up and help troubleshoot. If someone needs a tool or ladder for one time use, people line up to offer theirs.

I do CF for many reasons. It is fun, it pushes me, it is a stress reliever, and it keeps me active without being boring. So many little things that I could find in other fitness classes. However, I have never been a part of a community that is so supportive and inclusive. Sometimes the term “community” gets thrown around at will. CrossFit has a culture. We push ourselves and those in our class past what we could do on our own. We cheer on the person who finishes last. We are just as enthusiastic about someone’s first pull up as we are someone’s mile PR.

I can understand not wanting to always use the word community when it comes to CrossFit. It is more of a culture, a way of life, and for me – it’s family.

I have moved every 2-3 years of my whole life. Home is where I’m at. Home is where my husband is, home is where my parents are, and even more now – home is my box. You will never go to a big box globo-gym and have everyone in class come up and greet you. Being a military spouse has its benefits. We tour the world along with our spouse, and get once in a lifetime experiences. But it can be a lonely existence. We move a lot. Our house looks unsettled because we have random furniture that we make fit. We miss birthdays and anniversaries. Sometimes we are lucky and find a job that is in our chosen field. We try not to get too attached to a duty station (the city and the people), because at some point – we will leave.
Eight years ago, when I found CrossFit, a lot of the stress of military life got relieved. I found a healthy outlet. I found a group of people who were supportive. I found my family. Each CF box I have been to is unique. They have their own culture, things that are important to them. But one thing is the same. The members. The coaches. The family. The community.

~Coach Michele

Ryan L.

Ryan L.

Meet Ryan! He’s our Member Spotlight! Read on to learn more about Ryan and his CrossFit Journey!

  1. When did you start at CrossFit Bangor:
    I started in early December, 2017. I asked for a membership as a Christmas gift – haven’t looked back since.
  1. Proudest CrossFit accomplishment:
    Maybe when I nailed my first muscle up? I first got it on the bar – I knew had the strength for a while but didn’t quite have the timing. When I tried it on the rings, I got up there, but nearly dislocated my shoulder… I can say that I’ve done it on the rings, but I’ll stick with bar muscle ups from here on out. And a shout out to Scott Robinson for helping me (he showed me a floor exercise that finally made it click)!
  1. Favorite lift, metcon, or both:

You know me – I love any workout where burpees are involved. But I gotta say, I love the Diane WOD. Maybe because it’s fresh on my mind having just done it. I love deadlifts and anything gymnastic/bodyweight focused, so Diane is in my wheelhouse. And it’s always fun to haul ass through a workout.

  1. A movement or workout you’re hoping to improve this year:
    I think overall, I would like to improve my form. Between COVID and a nagging wrist injury that has affected my front rack positioning, I’m using this time to lighten the bar load a bit and focus on establishing good form.
  2. Biggest surprise since starting at CrossFit Bangor:

I said this to Mel: I think that she and the CFB staff did an exceptional job adapting and rolling with the COVID punches. The fact that we could “check out” the equipment for home use, and that the coaches stayed engaged with us through social media and Zoom classes – it was a job well done.

  1. Advice for new members or friends who have yet to try CrossFit:
    Make sure to stick with it and keep up a consistent attendance. This instills a routine that you’ll eventually crave, but it builds your sense of community with fellow classmates. The community aspect will motivate you to show up and keep going, even when you don’t want to. Also, challenge yourself, but listen to your body and your coach. Scale appropriately. To sum it up: It’s a process that will eventually yield awesome mental and physical results if you show up and challenge yourself.
  1. Favorite Maine place to recommend to other members or visitors:
    I have a special place in my heart for the Moosehead region. If you haven’t hiked it, check out Borestone Mountain. Also, if you’re into adventure, I recommend canoe camping on Lobster Lake – beautiful sand beaches, incredible views and moose!
  1. Non CrossFit interest(s):
    I love many outside things (My wife says too many things). I am a traditional sportsman (hunting and fishing), but I am also a huge snowboarder. I enjoy all of these things even more now that I get to pass them down to my two boys.
  1. Additional thoughts you’d like to share! 
    I am grateful for CFB and the coaches. And I am impressed by the community. It is tight, it is supportive and it is welcoming. If there are “cliques”, I am not aware of them. I think it is a unique quality for a gym.


  1. When did you start at CrossFit Bangor:
    I started at CrossFit Bangor in January 2018.2. Proudest CrossFit accomplishment:
    I was really proud to complete the marathon row last year, and my first rope climb was really exciting…but I still have to work on getting down safely…

    3. Favorite lift, metcon, or both:
    I’m learning to love deadlifts and back squats because they’re fairly straight forward and you can really see yourself progress and gain strength.

    4. A movement or workout you’re hoping to improve this year:
    I really struggle with pushups and pull-ups so definitely those, and all the other ones, too… but

    5. Biggest surprise since starting at CrossFit Bangor:
    I’m surprised at how much I love coming to classes and being part of this community.  My personality tends to avoid this type of environment, but at Crossfit, I love it!  I honestly didn’t think I’d stick with it very long, but here I still am!!  Go figure…

    6. Advice for new members or friends who have yet to try CrossFit:
    If I can do it, anybody, and I mean anybody can do it.  You will get the help and support you need to learn, grow, and progress every time you show up.  Everybody supports each other regard of skill level, and you will be inspired and challenged every day.

    7. Favorite Maine place to recommend to other members or visitors:
    Acadia National Park is amazing, and everyone should summit Katahdin at least once.

    8. Non CrossFit interest(s):
    I love hiking, my dogs and cats, traveling to underserved countries for medical missions, and I absolutely love my career in health care.

    9. Additional thoughts you’d like to share!
    I am so grateful and privileged to be a part of this community, and to the coaches for all the patience and support extended in helping me to continue to develop my skills… you all are amazing!


Chili Cook Off Recipe

After the Row-solution (Team Marathon Row) we had a wonderful Chili Cook Off! A huge thank you to the 10 people who made chili for the event! I know everyone appreciated the food, plus it was a lot of fun taste-testing all the different types of chili. Our own Coach Cherie won the Chili Cook off getting half the votes placed! I guess people loved the spiciness of her chili (and her whit)! Below is her “recipe.”

Cherie’s Chili

First off, if you are a diehard, measure everything precisely kind of cook, you might hate this recipe. Please view what I write here more as a “guideline.” I encourage you to be adventurous and swap out different veggies, or meats, with whatever you may have in the fridge or pantry. The joy I find in cooking is with trial and error, thinking outside the box, and using up what I have on hand, rather than running to the store for specific ingredients. Get in the kitchen. Have fun. Enjoy.

P.S. This definitely does not fit in the low fat category

4-5 Tablespoons cooking fat – I used half/half bacon grease and butter
2-3 poblano chiles, chopped
2 bell peppers, chopped – whatever color you have on hand
2 jalapeños, chopped (you can always add more if you like it hotter)
2 medium to large size onions, chopped
1 head garlic, peeled and minced
2 pounds ground beef
1 pound sausage – I used chorizo for extra spice (did I mention I like things hot)
32 ounces canned diced tomatoes
12 oz can tomato paste
2 cups tomato sauce
2-3 cups chicken, beef, ham, veggie, whatever stock/broth

All of the above ingredients can be switched up. Only have 1 pound beef, but two pounds sausage? Fine. No poblano? Add another bell pepper. I do find that the poblano adds a nice flavor though. I had some chopped green tomatoes hanging in the freezer, so I threw them in too. Add beans if you want. Anything goes.

This is what I used, but adjust to your taste.

3 Tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoon cayenne
2 teaspoon coriander
2 teaspoon cumin
2 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoon onion powder
2 teaspoon paprika
2 teaspoon kosher salt (I started with this amount, then added more, to taste, when it was finished)
2 teaspoon black pepper

In a large stockpot or dutch oven, sauté all the peppers (poblano, bell, jalapeño) and onions in the cooking fat of choice, until softened and slightly caramelized (about 5-10 minutes on medium to medium high heat). Add garlic, sauté for a minute or two. Use a slotted spoon to remove veggies to a bowl. In the same pot, add the beef and sausage. Cook, stirring gently, trying not to break up the beef too much, until all the meat is browned. Slotted spoon…move the meat to the bowl with the veggies. If there is more than a tablespoon or two of fat left in the pot, pour that out. Put the pot back on the stove, add the can of tomato paste. Add all of the spices to the tomato paste. Cook, while stirring occasionally, on low to medium-heat until browned/caramelized, but not burned. Add the stock (add enough stock to make it saucy, without making it too watery – I used a little more than two cups)to thin the paste. Add the tomato sauce and diced tomatoes. Keep stirring until combined. Take off the heat.

Now you have options on how to finish it…
Add everything back to the pot – veggies, meat, saucy goodness, and beans, if you’re using them – and simmer away for two hours, stirring every once in awhile.

Throw everything in your electric pressure cooker, stir to combine, and cook on high pressure for 22 minutes. Allow for natural release, if you have time.

Toss it all in a crockpot and let it go on low for 8 hours.

Get Rob to clean up all the dishes and mess you made in the kitchen. Then sit down with your favorite people to enjoy. I made this the night before. Cooled it and reheated it. Chili always seems to taste better on the second day.

I’m a sucker for the chili add-ins – cheese, sour cream, chopped lettuce, chopped onions, chopped tomatoes, olives, avocado, cornbread, tortilla chips…Again, anything goes.

Enjoy you guys. Be sure to let me know how it turns out.