Functional Tolerance

I know each of us have different reasons we exercise: to stay healthy, look better, compete, burn off stress. The list goes on and on and they are all byproducts of working out and doing CrossFit. Another byproduct is Functional Tolerance.

CrossFit is defined as constantly varied, functional movement executed at high intensity. Simple and elegant but it needs to be unpacked to get the true meaning. If I asked a friend to come to CrossFit with me and just gave him the definition, he would probably never come. If I told him, you have an opportunity to compete against me or I can guarantee a physical transformation as long as you follow our protocol then he may be more likely to walk through those doors.

There is one conversational definition of CrossFit that I remember and it has stuck with me through the years. We are preparing ourselves for the unknown and unknowable and in a constant ready state to do anything. I thought that was cool, the idea to be ready to do anything life demanded. If it is fight or flight, sport, work, playing with your kids, CrossFit prepares us to be “ready”. But what does that mean?

Last week, my son and I had to move 100k lbs of dirt using a shovel and wheelbarrow, maybe not that much but a lot!  It was a great workout and it wasn’t hard. We actually did a swimming WOD right after that, but it got me thinking.  We started shoveling, carrying, and lifting dirt without any “warm-ups” or bands or skill session. CrossFit prepared us for what life demanded. I shoveled with a rounded back on occasion, I didn’t drive through my heels all the time but I didn’t get hurt.  This is why we spend hours in the box for functional tolerance.

Functional - designed to have a practical use, working properly, or medical: affecting the way a part of your body works. Tolerance - medical : your body's ability to become adjusted to something (such as a drug) so that its effects are experienced less strongly.

I want to build up enough capacity in the box that my functional tolerance allows me to enjoy life outside the box at any time and any situation.  I want the ability to try new sports, work around my house, play with my kids into my formidable years (closer than I think).  I  need to use my time wisely in the box, practice safe movement, soft tissue management, and press the concept of threshold training. Stay tuned for that in my next blog.

P.S. - We had races on who could fill up the Wheel barrow the fastest! Yes, we used a stop watch. Yes, I won!


MikeB MikeB's picture
Wed, 08/10/2016 - 17:00


One of the comments you said to me when I first joined Crossfit 6+ yrs ago was "we prepare you for everyday life".  That comment is always in the back of my mind.  I can think of numerous occassions when the everyday task at hand seemed physically overwhelming, but I always remember that saying.  My Crossfit training has never let me down!



AlexNegron AlexNegron's picture
Sun, 08/07/2016 - 23:44

I love this, it's so true! All the nurses are telling me how fit I am, and how I am lucky that all the work we do doesn't make my back hurt, or doesn't tire me out physically. I'll get them to come in eventually :)

JasonPeters JasonPeters's picture
Wed, 08/10/2016 - 08:52

Great post Gale, I like the idea of being ready for anything.