24 Karat Commentary: The 2015 Crossfit Open

24K Yoga

So, the CrossFit Open is over and many of us paid $20 for the opportunity to possibly earn a coveted spot for Regionals. Congrats to Marcella Morrill for making it and making all of us at New Species proud (We did it J!) Yet, unless you are Marcella, odds are you know that you won’t be making regionals anytime soon, let alone be on ESPN competing in the CrossFit games. So, the 24K question is, “Why do it”?

For me the answer lies in a key tenet that the coaches constantly preach….to get better in life. Let me explain.

Nearly three years ago, I joined New Species after a 15-year exodus from any type of physical training and could not complete a single WOD within the time cap, let alone at RX weight. My goal was just to show up each day no matter what because I realized I was getting older and needed to develop a healthier way of living that I could maintain for a lifetime. Even though at the time I was shy and dreaded being early to the box, fearful that I would just sit there by myself, I paid close attention to my surroundings. I would always hear words of encouragement from the coaches and I found my own truths in their words. If you listen carefully, they each have certain trademark phrases:

Josh: “The struggle is real.”

Johnny D: “Have a number in your head and go get it.”

Chrissy: “Keep it up guys, almost there.”

So, what does this have to do with the CrossFit Open and life? Everything!

The CF Open is a microcosm for life. For the very elite, it is about making it to Regionals and possibly the Games. For the rest of us, it’s about the camaraderie of being around like-minded dedicated individuals who are testing their capabilities, trying to obtain their personal goals, and learning how to deal with setbacks along the way.

For five weeks, a WOD is announced on Thursday at 8 pm EST and athletes across the world have until Monday 8 pm EST to do the workout and record their score. Because of the duration between WODs, athletes are left to ponder their performance, rationalizing, fretting, justifying and possibly even getting dejected about their performance and about CrossFit. It is a physical and mental challenge that provides a roller coaster of emotional highs and lows.

I had some trepidation when workout 15.1 and 15.1A were announced, knowing that I had not focused on my Olympic lifts all year. In my mind my results were not indicative of my fitness level; however, I knew that they did accurately reflect my negligence towards Olympic lifting. Frustrated, I went to Phil’s Olympic lifting class the next day and set a personal record clean and jerk….where was that the previous day?

15.2 was a repeat WOD from the previous year. The workout involved another Olympic lift, one that required serious mobility… which I sorely lacked because I had not been going to Courtney’s yoga class. The first day I tried the weight, I couldn’t do a single rep. Over the next few days, I worked on my mobility and was able to improve upon my score from 2014 by 6 reps. Here’s to small victories, I guess. But I was left wondering, “did all the work I put in really only amount to a 6 rep increase? “

This was the first year that the Open had a scalable option, which resulted in 15.3. Last year, I couldn’t do a single muscle-up or more than four double unders in a row. This year, I was able to do the muscle-ups and the double unders – legitimate quantifiable progress!

15.4 involved two more movements that last year I would not have been able to do; yet this year I was able to do 57! #Gainz were definitely made. For the old timers #FBGM!

Finally, 15.5. I helped judge some people and watching them suffer through it, I honestly did not want to do it. But I had come so far. So on the last day I did it and our intern/gymnastics guru Ali judge/coached me through one of the most grueling workouts I’ve ever done. She used her phone as a timer, so I had no clue what my pace was. I just trusted her and my conditioning when she said to get back on the bar and do more thrusters. 11:20 seconds later, I was done with the 2015 CF open.

If approached with the right mindset, the CF Open teaches us about commitment, regardless of circumstances – showing up each week and competing. Responsibility is also reinforced because the onus is on the individual to enter their times. Much like putting your name on the whiteboard for your fellow athletes to see, putting your name on the worldwide CF Open site emphasizes ownership and accountability.

Everybody is stoked before the announcement of the first WOD, but can you have the same energy when things don’t go your way? Or, will you find a way and reason to quit. If you stick with it, you might just learn how to be a resilient individual with perseverance that exists no matter what life throws at you.

When you finish the open it is a chance to take inventory of what you have accomplished, where you fell short, and what you are willing to do about it. For me, I still have a laundry list of things to work on: Olympic lifting, mobility and gymnastic movements. The beautiful thing about it all is that even though I have many goals, I will have no shortage of coaches, teammates and supporters doing everything they can at New Species to help make those goals a reality…just like they did with my muscle-ups, HSPUs, DUs and heavy cleans.

So, whether it is doing your first muscle-up, setting a personal record (PR) or just showing up, know that you can do it and there are people who want to see you do it. And there is no better time to evaluate your progress than the CF Open.

Trust me – I didn’t become the 42,476th fittest man on earth by accident.