Since 2011, the CrossFit community has come together once a year, to complete 5 workouts (previously 6), in 5 consecutive weeks, to place on a worldwide scoreboard, which is then divided up, into regions, to determine who would advance to the next stage, to then compete for a ticket to the CrossFit Games.
If you’re short on time, here’s a summery of this entire blog; the Open, is a competition to determine athlete placement, to compete for a spot at The Games, to crown “The Fittest on Earth”.
The End….or not, read on if you want any chance of success during the 2019 Open.
Back in 2012, I took part in my first Open. With no fewer than 3 athletes in regional contention, I was participating in a very competitive, and athletic box. With at least 5 more athletes ranking top 100 in Europe, the box was just 2 points away from qualifying a team in 2013 – a bittersweet loss – it also wasn’t uncommon to walk in, and find Annie Thorisdottir, Katrin Davidsdottir, or a host of other elite athletes, training in the box. So I wasn’t short of motivation or inspiration to work hard(er).
I’d been doing CrossFit just 5 months when I took on my first Open, but that didn’t matter – I could RX every workout, and advance with a decent score for each workout, except for 12.4, which had muscles ups. That year, no barbell weighed more than 55kg for females, and the most technical skill tested, was the muscle up, second to, low rep chest to bar pull ups – and at that point I could string together some flappy body, single rep, chest to bar*, to still see me progress through the workout.
*do not try this at home kids! 😉
CrossFit, in 2012 was a very different time – every WOD in the 2012 Open was safe and achievable for the humble CrossFitter, but yet somehow hard enough to challenge, and separate out the very best.
What sort of voodoo Castro programming could achieve that?
None, is the answer to that question.
In 2012, only 100,000 in the world registered for the Open, maybe even less. Sounds like a lot right, but compared to last years 450,000 – the numbers are pretty radical – Harvard Business School notes CrossFit as, “the fastest growing community of fitness services businesses of all time.” ALL TIME!
I placed around 5000 in Europe that year, which sounds incredible, right? But that was the bottom of the European pool – and the gap between the elite and the everyday CrossFitter was still huge. The drop off after about 500th was as large as the gap that remains between yourself and Mat Fraser or Tia-Claire Toomey today. But the big difference was, the middle ground was far more competitive, and attainable, simply because there was less of us. In 2012, the Open served the community well in delivering the first stage of a competition, to test, and identify, the fittest on earth.
Fast forward to 2018, and one Open workout included no fewer than 800 double unders…. 800!!! A female barbell weighing 93kg and handstand walks, as standard – those aren’t exactly skills and strength you can stumble upon in your first 6 months – they require focussed training to acquire.
In 2015, scaled workouts were introduced (thank god!). With the community growing, it was becoming increasingly difficult to separate the top – there’s only 60 seconds in a minute, and if 1000+ athletes achieved the exact same time, tie breakers would come into play – but again, there’s still only 60 seconds in a minute – exact same scores and an unbalanced test of fitness, plus some pretty poorly programmed Open workouts, meant the Open was confusion of, an elite level competition, and a local box Throwdown.
In 2015, the game(s) changed. The CrossFit bubble was expanding rapidly, and so was Open sign ups, with everyone believing that they could be the next Rich Froning, Sam Briggs or Annie Thorisdottir just by training CrossFit for a year or 2 – because thats how the very best did it.
Due to injury, I didn’t take part in the Open for a couple of years, but, being the Crossfit nerd that I am, I was still analysing the workouts, and watching the communities frustration, as the WODs became seemingly more impossible, even after years of CrossFit training under your belt, the same few athletes filtered out to the top, but how?
More Castro voodoo programming?
No – an entirely different game.
And worst of all, no one told you the game had changed.
In 2018, I completed the Open as a scaled athlete. As someone who’s been kicking around this community for 7 years, one would hope or imagine, that I should able to RX workouts by now, right? But unfortunately time, is not a precursor to ability, nor is it a gateway to the elite athleticism in CrossFit, or any other sport for that matter.
I, am not an elite CrossFit athlete, but in 2012, the humble CrossFitter, like myself, could genuinely work towards, and achieve elite level success, while the pool was still so small – and that’s the story that is still told, and believed by many.
In 2018, over 450,000 people signed up to the Open, that’s a big fucking pool we’re dealing with now, and expansion was rapid, faster than someone with a low, or a non existent athletic background, like me, could keep up with – and what also stood out most between 2011-2014, was, those who transferred from one professional athlete career to CrossFit, progressed to the top within a year or 2 of training, and have remained within that top 100 pool of athletes worldwide.
It wasn’t for want of trying – but simply watching the goal posts move 150,000 people to the left, and 150,000 people to the right, meant the Open was no longer the same game for everyone. The game had changed – it was like you was playing Monolopy with someone who’d been given £10,000 from the bank, before you’d even rolled the dice.
So where does that leave everyone in 2019?
The first question on most people’s mind, what crazy new standard will be decided on this year? With demands of a sub 9 minute Diane (21-15-9 Deadlift 150/110kg & HSPU), handstand walks, and pull ups as standard in the SCALED category, it’s difficult to know how to approach this endurance event.
And there’s a simple answer to that – stand, where you are.
The Open is not a test for us to bag our ticket to the Games (unless you’re reading this Mat Fraser- Hi Mat! <3), it is however, a “test of fitness” – a test of your fitness.
It is not, an opportunity to test a 1RM overhead squat for 40+ reps in a 12 minute AMRAP. It is not, a test of your ability to fling yourself on a bar for 8 minutes to get one chest to bar (trust me!), or worse, swing like a monkey from the rings trying to attempt an extremely risky first muscle up in a workout – its a test of your entire fitness.
CrossFit defines fitness across 10 broad domains – yes, maximal strength is one part of that, yes, skill, co-ordination and agility are also key elements, but fitness = all 10, working in cohesion with each other.
Each open workout will be a fine balance to test your entire athletic capacity – read the workouts carefully, understanding exactly what the demands are of that workout, is key to your success. If you’re not sure, then ask your Coach, it’s what we’re here for. There are coaches who analyse these workouts within hours of them being released, providing you with strategy, best warm ups, and what the stimulus is of each workout, to help you achieve success.
When approaching this years Open, ask yourself, where do I stand, now, today, at this moment. If you was challenged to display your endurance of skill, strength and aerobic capacity, what would that look like? Would it be double unders or single unders – knowing you’ve only ever strung together 8-10 scrappy reps. Would that mean a 15kg overhead squat or a 40kg overhead squat in a workout, considering that your 1RM overhead squat is currently untested, and your back squat depth is, at times questionable, due to mobility and strength limitations? And, would it mean completing Diane RX, when you’ve never RX’d that WOD, or 5 other bench mark workouts before in your lifetime before?
If you want a real test this year – stand humbly where you are, and challenge yourself to push harder into your current capacity – not only will you enjoy it more – you will also be playing the same game as everyone else (including the elite), but not only that, you’ll playing the right game.