Are You Ready for the OPEN?

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The most confusing part of the year is less than a month away.  Open season.  Last year I post a few blogs about the good the bad and the ugly of the open.  To highlight the mixed message I wrote about a real video of two guys snatching their way to the grave in an Open workout.  This year I wanted to discuss a meme posted by my good friends at Third Pull Apparel.

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Whenever I talk about CrossFit some idiot eventually asks, “Bro, do you even CrossFit?”

My answer to this question, like many things in my life has evolved a great deal.  Less than 3 years ago I would have answered that question an enthusiastic YES!!!  Back in 2013 I was knee deep in CrossFit training and achieved something 99% of Crossfitters will never even sniff, a Games appearance.  To say the least I was drinking the CrossFit Kool-Aid.

3 years removed from my competitive CrossFit experience I have to say that my answer to this question would be very different and much more specific.  Do I CrossFit?  Yes, but I do not participate in the Sport of Fitness.  In fact, just today I logged a nice little AMRAP with the lunch crew at CrossFit New Windsor.

I believe very much that if you do not understand this distinction you don’t know enough about either to participate in the Open.  My contention has always been that CrossFit is a great, broad, and general conditioning program that when implemented properly can fit into just about any sport.  That proper implementation has a great deal with the coach you are trusting with your health.  Look at platforms like CrossFit Football, CrossFit Endurance, and CrossFit Weightlifting.  All of these platforms incorporate sport specific ideas while sprinkling in metcons and the competitive characteristics of CrossFit.  Great gyms like CrossFit Invictus also do a great job of making a clear distinction between competitive Crossfitters and folks just looking to get fit by programming multiple levels of participation and group classes.  In a recent conversations on the Doc and Jock Podcast with Nick Fowler of Massif CrossFit, it is also clear that the really good CrossFit gyms also incorporate on ramps and screening programs to ensure athletes can move safe before they move with intensity.  If you haven’t participated in an on ramp program, haven’t trained at a quality gym with multiple levels of CrossFit participation, and haven’t experienced layered skill work implemented by a coach who has taken athletes beyond the open you may want to back off on participating in the Open.  If you have hesitations, I very much feel you should stay on the sidelines.

The point here is before you get all crazy and go breaking your neck trying to do HSPU in an AMRAP after just getting your first you should know what you are getting into.  The meme above posted by Third Pull is hilarious, scary, and above all true.  The Sport of Fitness is no joke and a real athletic endeavor.  The programmers of these workouts do not have your best interest at heart.  They do not care about your fitness.  They are looking to separate the wheat from the chaff and you need to understand that.  The level of competition is very high and there is much at risk.  To credit CrossFit they have done a great job adding scaled divisions, masters divisions and I do think it is very clear that there exists a big difference between CrossFit and the Sport of Fitness.

Where I do think CrossFit and most affiliate owners miss the mark is under estimating the high likely hood of folks being dragged into the deep end of the Open pool before learning how to swim.  Intensity is contagious, competition is enticing, and we all want to do what the cool kids are doing.  What CrossFit athletes and affiliates do not want to admit is that along with the PR’s folks also get hurt during the Open.  I will reference the scenario above one more time.  It really happened at a local gym just outside of Columbia SC and mostly likely all over the country.  I nice women broke her neck doing HSPU during an Open workout.  I will also add the expert opinion of my co-host on the Doc and Jock Podcast.  Dr. Danny of Athletes Potential and Mobility WOD will discuss on our Wednesday release his experience as a PT last year after the HSPU workout.  Danny saw many patients with stiff necks after that workout.  Many of which were so banged up that they couldn’t turn their head and safely drive a car to work.  We all laugh and say the athlete has a responsibility to not get hurt.  I firmly believe CrossFit coaches need to step up and keep athletes whose score don’t matter from breaking their necks.

Without a solid training base, good coaching, and an honest evaluation of you own skills you will not escape the Open experience with a positive outcome.  It is also understood by many great CrossFit coaches that your fitness will diminished during the Open.  Doing the same workout 2-3 times, under an intense competitive microscope, for 5 weeks is extremely taxing. I can say with confidence that I do not participate in the Sport of Fitness currently because I did not practice restraint and worked through to many injuries.  It’s hard to say now if a Games and two regional experiences where worth destroying my left arm but that is something only time will tell.  What I can say for sure is that for most folks a one and done policy needs to be adopted regarding Open workouts, scoring one or two more reps won’t make you a better person, and that finishing 1,877 instead of 3,222 does not matter.

The ultimate question is should you participate in the Open?

I have no idea?

I know this year i’ll probably save the $20.00 and buy a cool beanie.  The cold weather is serious here in NY.

My advice would be to practice restraint, know your limits, and always keep your next rep and workout in mind.  I also think that if you truly have competitive CrossFit aspirations you need to be training at a CrossFit gym where individuals and teams are qualifying for regionals.  Until you train along side of these giants you will have no idea what kind of dedication it takes to reach this level of competitive functional fitness.  Also, chances are that if you have never competed in a CrossFit event, train alone in your garage, or just stumbled on the Sport of Fitness you also aren’t ready for the Open.  The fact is, until you earn your lively hood by your training, your training should not affect your lively hood.

For more on my opinions regarding CrossFit, training, check out my other posts, including those linked below!  Also, this Wednesday the Doc and Jock Podcast will release Episode 46 and cover this exact topic.