How to Approach the Open

At the turn of the new year, CrossFitters all over the world start to get nervous as they anticipate the upcoming Open and the beginning of the season leading up to The CrossFit Games.

In my experience, the way to best prepare for the Open is to practice and hone the movements we will need to perform during the Open – lightweight thrusters, CTB pullups, TTB, snatches, lightweight deads, STOH, box jumps, wall ball, DU, and MU. Unfortunately, this can sometimes feel like eating the same PB&J sandwich every day for lunch…boring! I am doing my best to try and mix things up as much as possible and keep it interesting, but know that we will be dealing with this Open cycle until the beginning of April, so hunker down and get comfy!

My thoughts on how to approach the Open are simple. Treat it like a real comp, where you have only one all-important opportunity to give it your best shot. 

Every year will have exponentially more athletes competing, and they will be filling the rosters at every level. If you ended 200th in your region last year, you very well might be 1000th this year…even if you have greatly improved your strength and fitness since last year’s Open. This means that repeating a workout should only be a Hail Mary play for an athlete on the cusp of qualifying for Regionals. For everyone else, repeating is detrimental to your training and I cannot recommend it. Do not let your placement in the Open define you as an athlete, nor as a person. You may be a more well rounded athlete than people who beat you in the Open-style workouts, which is one of the reasons why these events should not be viewed as a definitive test of fitness. They are simply part of the funnel which sends the most elite of the elite to the Games.

Your final placement during the Open, while important, is only a fleeting snapshot of your athletic life. Training should be about transforming into the best athlete that you personally can become, whether that is a high-level competitor, regional phenom, big fish in the small pond, or maybe just a better version of the person you were yesterday. My priority is helping athletes get stronger, faster, and more skilled, all while avoiding overtraining and injury. It is easy to get swept up in the competitive nature of the season, but the roots of CrossFit are YOU versus YOU.

Either you have the genetic potential to be Rich Froning…or you don’t. You will either easily qualify for Regionals…or you won’t. Programming and busting your ass can certainly go a long way, but at this point in the evolution of the sport, the competition is daunting.

This brings me back to my belief that you should treat each workout of the Open as a one-time, all-or-nothing attempt. That is how EVERY OTHER KIND OF COMPETITION operates, after all. Stick to the schedule we already have. Rest on Thursday and watch the announcement of the Open workout for the week. Friday, do some light training and perhaps feel out the Open WOD movements. Listen to the feedback of people you know who choose to hit the workout right away, and create a game plan for yourself based on what you know of your own strengths and weaknesses. Friday, test things out and determine your strategy, and Saturday is the day to throw down. Sunday, rest. Monday is the “Hail Mary” day if it is determined that repeating a workout is necessary, but for everyone else, it’s back to regular training.

This schedule is based on my own personal opinion, and I am the first to admit it does not take into account illness, gym logistics, freak snowstorms, or the other variables that will most likely come into play at some point during the five weeks we will be in Open mode. Adjustment might be required, and that is OK! Lastly, if you don’t agree with my strategy, you are certainly free to do whatever you believe is in your best interest – at the end of the day, it is always your choice what you do, and I won’t get butthurt if you decide to kill yourself by attempting each Open workout three times…I will just say I told you so when the dust settles and you admit I was right 😉

Once the Open is over, and spring is right around the corner, it will be time to ditch the repetitiveness of the season with much more fun stuff! Running is back on the table, as well as heavy barbell work, acquiring high skill movements, outside work with prowlers and sleds, and additional opportunities for expanding your fitness with hiking, biking, swimming, and other fresh air alternatives to being stuck in a dark, cold gym!

Laura DeMarco
Owner, Whetstone Athletics