The CrossFit Open is a test of our fitness, but also an affirmation
“There’s a fine line between love and hate,” someone once said. Well, that’s exactly how I feel about CrossFit. One day you’re crushing a workout and feeling great about yourself and how you’ve done and the next…? Well sometimes you’re the windshield, and sometimes you’re the bug. Seriously, the CrossFit Open is such an amazing undertaking that never fails at building us up one week only to knock us down the next (Brooke Wells – you don’t count, you’re a freak of nature).
A slideshow of the first Open event ever held at CrossFit Fringe, then CrossFit United
This year marks my 7th CrossFit Open – that blows my mind when I think back. I’ve never attempted to be competitive in CrossFit. I like it, it’s fun, and it keeps me healthy and active. And it constantly humbles me. In 2012, I had the highest ranking I’ve ever had at 15,507th in the world – man did I ever crush it – hahaha. My fiancé on the hand has gone to the CrossFit Games and is overall just a BFD. You could say our house views on individual performances during these weeks and workouts are looked at very differently as athletes.
I think it’s important to share experiences so that you know you’re not alone in feeling the highs and lows and whether or not anyone can relate. This year on the first two workouts of the Open, I performed at a higher level with better scores than I could have ever anticipated. Humblebrag for sure – but I’m proud of how I did – and that’s ok too! No, I’ll never be pulling top 5 male performances in the gym, but at nearly 35 years-old it’s a reminder that I’m still improving, and that’s motivating. But then week 3 happened, and now week 4 was just announced.
Focusing on my limitations
A little background. I have a body built and broken through years of highly intense and competitive rugby. Having had 2 major surgeries, my shoulders suck, and I’ve not been diligent in focusing as much time on improving them as I should. Life happens. I knew week 3 would be difficult. To say I was less than excited about 12 ring muscle-ups is an understatement. But having done 14 in the EMOM a few days before, I thought it was something I could get past, even if it took me longer than most.
Wrong. Total gut punch. I made quick work of some dubs and overhead squats, but with 10 mins left in the workout, I got a mere 10 muscle-ups. My shoulders were roasted and toasted with nothing left to offer. I just couldn’t get through the rings and dipping out felt like I weighed 300 pounds. I realize for a lot of us, muscle-ups are something of a Holy Grail, and even getting one is a huge accomplishment. But in my 7th Open, my ego thought had built me up to believe I should be able to get further. My ego was so bruised after that workout that it soured my entire demeanor. I was in full pout mode, just so disappointed with myself.
Coming around to what matters
I had to remind myself that this isn’t normal training. It is the Open. And in the end, it’s still just a workout. That’s a lot of messaging to unpack, but in the end what it means is that one day doesn’t dictate my commitment to training today, tomorrow, or what constitutes my success in taking care of myself, or caring about my health and fitness. Yeah, it did mean eating a little crow losing to Matt Keel (love ya buddy) – but he also crushed the damned thing and that’s something I can get excited about! Because in the end going through this together on an upward curve is really what it’s about right?
Thinking about my long-time friendship with Keel is what started me looking back at other Opens. Let’s go back to 2015. The 2nd workout of the Open that year was every 3 mins complete 2 rounds of 10 chest-to-bar pull-ups and 10 overhead squats. If you complete that the next 3 mins you add 2 reps to both movements and keep going as long as you can complete the couplet. Pulling for me is not the most fun, but it’s tolerable. Squatting with a barbell overhead though was laughable. It’s okay, I know we all still laugh about my overhead squatting. But it was worse, so much worse then. I was on my toes even in oly shoes, and I had no balance or shoulder strength to hold the barbell in place. My arms wouldn’t lock out, my squat depth was not close to parallel, let alone below. In 3 minutes, I did 16 chest-to-bar pull-ups and 10 overhead squats (with at least another 10 no-reps in there).
Better than yesterday, still more work to do
The moral of this whole diatribe? In 2015, I couldn’t do 10 overhead squats without pain, without crappy form, or even at all if I’m being honest. In 2018, I was able to do 20 overhead squats, at a heavier weight, in two very easy and very fluid sets. With proper depth. With heels staying on the floor. I mean WTF, who is that guy? I’m me, now, and I have improved. How can I be upset that I didn’t complete the muscle-ups in 18.3 when I couldn’t even do overhead squats just a couple years earlier? I’m still getting better, I can’t forget that, and I need to celebrate that! So, as I go into 18.4 and look at all the handstand push-ups that I’m not likely to get through (unlike Cullen, Ashlyn, Liz, Libby, my lovely lady Shannon and so many of you who will just absolutely destroy and PR Diane…), I’m excited to see if I can do better than I did in all the years since I started. Because I won’t quit.
Our progress is not linear. We plateau. We get better in one area and sometimes backslide in another. Life will continue to always happen. But when we put it all together and look back at where we started –- we can see how far we’ve truly come. Because we never quit, and that my friends, is motivating. The sky’s the limit.