Foreword: For those who are not in the CrossFit world, there are still some points that you can relate to in this post so please, read on. And in case you are wondering what the hell is the CrossFit Open? Think of it as like the equivalent of the qualifiers for the Olympics. There are the elite (like the top 1%) who will actually qualify, but it is open to anyone who does CrossFit.
Also, 18.1 is the numbering convention of workouts (2018, 1st workout). The workout was 20 minutes of as many repetitions of:
10 (5 each arm) Dumbbell clean and jerks
14 (men)/12 (women) Calorie Row
For someone who resisted signing up for this year’s CrossFit Open as much as she could, I have to say, as much as it pains me, I am…. gratified that I did. And if I am being totally honest, I have to acquiesce that I did not hate it. I mean, I did legit feel like I might black out at least twice during 18.1 (breathing would have prevented that!) but I got it DONE! And more importantly, I am satisfied with what I accomplished. This experience of course inspired me to share some words of wisdom. (Or is it wisdom? It may just actually be reality checks. You can be the judge of that).
- Strategy, strategy, and strategy.
I knew that rowing would be the most challenging part for me and the most time consuming. And had this been a year ago, I would have been a total stress case and just focused on how bad I am at rowing. Not this year. I did not let rowing mess with my confidence and instead I strategized. It was about mitigating the weaknesses to not let them define my performance.Fortunately, I also was able to go to a very timely rowing clinic the Sunday before 18.1 was announced, and I FINALLY learned what is meant by “it’s all legs”. I never had figured that out in all the 6 years I have been doing CrossFit. I always swore my legs were strong based on what I could squat and deadlift, but it seemed irrelevant anytime I got on the erg. Now that I had picked up a new rowing technique that was indeed 80% legs and did not require my shoulders to get to work, I took that knowledge with me into The Open.
Now, the knowledge and technique did not mean that I became any faster in the last week. It just meant that I could be more efficient on the erg, and that when I got off, I was not wrecked. And I was able to save my arms and shoulders for the other 2 movements that needed them. That was part of my strategy. I was not after speed per say (because height and weight is a real disadvantage with rowing). I wanted to be efficient and not wrecked after each round.
When it came to toes-to-bar, I stuck with sets of 5-3 from the get go. I could have done all 8 unbroken for a few rounds at least, but I wanted to preserve my grip. And so I was still able to fly through them in record time (not to toot my own horn but to toot my own horn, someone asked me after seeing me do them if I was a gymnast).
For the dumbbell clean and jerks, I realized after the first set of 5 with my right arm that I needed to break before switching sides. If you want to expose any weakness, do a movement with a dumbbell instead of a barbell btw. I did not want to fail on any or have to break in the 5.
I stuck to my strategy like peanut butter on bread and my rounds were fairly consistent. And for that, I am happy. I have done this and seen people that even when they strategize, they do not execute on it. They may start off fast and furious and feel good the first few rounds and then drastically decline. I did not want that to happen. And it didn’t. Cheers.
I felt pretty calm during 18.1 which says a lot. Past years I think I was spastic and inconsistent and far more psycho about it. Being able to stay focused on strategy takes discipline and trusting the process, which is something we all can and should do more of.
- Efficiency is just as important as being fast and explosive.
As I mentioned with rowing, it was about being efficient. Hopefully over time I will get better with being able to go faster for meters or calories, but for now, focusing on being efficient is more important.For a workout such as 18.1, when it is twenty minutes long, being efficient means being able to sustain a pace. Some people have a tendency to go fast and hard out of the gate and burn out pretty quickly. I see this in workouts. I often am lagging behind others and then find I have lapped them. It is usually because I was pacing and being efficient while they may have over-estimated how much they had in their tanks. And I think this comes with experience in CrossFit. It has taken me probably 5 years to figure that out. I used to have this idea that being first at the beginning meant I would have a faster time, but it does not always correlate to that. One of my goals has been to be more efficient and consistent.
There are still times for being fast and explosive, for sure! It just takes some experience to know when. I went for that tactic when I had about 10 seconds left to get on the rower and get a calorie or two before time was up. But again, if I had rowed like that during the workout, I would have gotten about half the rounds I did.
- Ask “How did you do?” instead of “What was your score?”
I am deliberately omitting my score from this post or anything I post on social media. I am making a concerted effort to shift the focus of the Open on people’s accomplishments and not their score. For a few reasons.Disclaimer: Everyone has a different school of thought when it comes to The Open. Some people want to measure against others as a benchmark. Some want to be #1. Whatever it is, it’s all good with me. I personally subscribe though to the school of thought that for some, if the focus is on a number, it diminishes the work they put into that number no matter what that number is.
There are people who could never do a toes-to-bar before the Open and guess what? 18.1 forced them to get over their fear or out of their head and go for it. And to me, even if they get “just” 1, that 1 rep is a freaking amazing accomplishment. Going by a number alone does not always tell the full story.
So I have been asking “how did you do?” because I want an answer that is not just “200” or “250” or “300”. Tell me about your triumphs. Tell me about what proud moments you had. Tell me what you learned you need to work on.
- Rep schemes and order of movements in The Open can drastically change anyone’s score. The Open workouts could easily have different results if the rep scheme is different or the movements show up in a different order. Imagine if the toes to bar reps had been higher. Maybe they were 15 reps per round. The scores could drastically change for those who find toes to bar to be more of a struggle or had the rowing calories been higher, that too could have shifted people’s scores.Look at 17.4 from last year. The workout was an AMRAP 13 of:
55 Wall balls
55 Calorie row
55 HSPU (handstand push-up)
When I did this last year, I struggled through wall balls and rowing, two of my weaker movements. (Height matters!) I never made it to HSPU, which is a bummer since I am actually respectable at those. And there are people who got a higher score than me because they did get through rowing, even if they could not do a single HSPU.
But say the order was reversed and HSPU was the first movement. That would have meant that a lot of people who did RX would have to had to scale. And even people who struggle with HSPU may never have gotten past them. My point, which is not to knock anyone, is this. There is an element of the luck of the draw so to speak. An open workout can easily play into strengths just as easily as it can into weaknesses. So does that mean someone is better or stronger because they happened to have been able to get even just 1 HSPU than someone who never got off the rower? Absolutely not. Does it mean you are less strong because a weaker movement showed up first? Absolutely not. It’s just the way the WOD was programmed that was a more favorable order in a chipper (or less favorable depending).
One week into the 2018 CrossFit Open and overall I am far less mental about it than I have been in prior years. It has been a big shift for me in mindset which is really why I finally allowed myself to be okay with signing up. I am treating it like it is really about me (I mean, I have an element of being competitive but I am not letting that get the best of me). It is about overcoming hurdles and acknowledging and celebrating what I do, no matter the score.
We have 4 more workouts to go. My goal is to stay sane. Stay positive everyone!