CrossFit is often defined as being very “intense” or that the people who participate in it are very “intense”. Intensity is not defined how loud you are, how much chalk you leave on the floor, if you did the workout RX, or how awesome your lifting face is. Since each person is different depending on training age, physical age, gender, level of fitness, skill level, mobility, etc then what is intense for one person might not be intense for another. In a group setting, for everyone to get the same intended benefit of the workout, scaling may be necessary.
“Grace” is a workout that consists for 30 clean and jerks at 135lbs for men and 95lbs for women. It is intended to be completed in 3-7 minutes with the primary intent that it is training your ability to maintain a high level of sustained effort. If Suzy, a 20 year old collegiate athlete with lifting experience and Denise, a 45 year old lawyer in her first week of CrossFit are in the same class for this workout and are trying to complete the workout with the correct intent (a high level of sustained effort), they’ll need to use different weights. Suzy can probably handle 95lbs, but Denise will need to scale back so that she can keep her workout intensity high. Remember, the purpose of this workout, Grace, is NOT to train at very heavy weight. It is meant to move a moderate weight as quickly as possible for a relatively short amount of time. With proper scaling, two individuals of different abilities are able to train at the same intensity and get the same results from the workout.
Your body has three ways of producing energy during the workout. One way works for very short and high power efforts like an an Assault bike sprint or a fast sled push. Another works for moderate duration and moderate power days like a run to Fountain View or a 500m row. The final method works for long and slower endeavors like Murph or a 5K. Each workout you do in class is designed to train one of these and scaling when necessary allows you to make sure you’re developing the right one.
Because intensity is relative, perceived exertion in a workout feels different for everyone so your coaches will help you scale appropriately. This also applies to scaling up. If the prescribed weight or reps seem to be too easy, do not fall into the trap of adding more weight to your bar. Instead of making a workout harder, work harder in the workout. Using the example of Grace, if 95lbs is very light for you, try to finish in a quicker time. This means you are producing more power in less time or, in other words, you are fitter. Increasing the weight at the expense of taking longer to complete the workout doesn’t make you stronger, it makes you slower.