An Open Ramble About Doing the Open.

The marker of my CrossFit career began in December of 2015, and even then, it’d be hard to claim what I was doing as “CrossFit”. Yes, my coach was (and still is) a Level 1 Certified Coach and he had me doing EMOM’s/AMRAPS of wall-balls and calorie row in his garage, but I was a long way from Olympic lifts, muscle ups of any kind, and I was still loyal to Adidas shoes, not those fancy Swiss Army Knife-Kevlar-enforced Nano’s everyone else had. I had yet to even step into a CrossFit gym when the Open rolled around. Here are a few reflections on my first Open season and why I, a CrossFit newbie, think you ought to do the Open.

“The greater the obstacle, the more glory in overcoming it.”-Moliere.

The Open inspires you to practice, to study and to accomplish what you normally wouldn’t.

My first Open workout was 16.1 which involved two movements I had never done before: overhead walking lunges and chest-to-bar pull ups. It was promptly followed by 16.2 which I had to scale because I couldn’t do the prescribed double-under’s or toes-to-bar and I was still a toddler taking his first steps when it came to cleans. 16.3 was the first time I ever did a bar muscle up (learned it that day) and the first time I had done snatches.

CrossFit is about constantly varied movements which continuously challenges your body to respond to new stimuluses, therefore generating greater overall results and health. The constantly varied aspect keeps your fitness from moving from rhythm to routine to rut.  However, the constantly varied aspect also reminds us of the humble beauty in the pursuit of overcoming a challenge and the wonderful opportunity for growth. Most of us don’t attempt what we aren’t good at, unless a coach or competition tells us to. The Open reminds us that we have an ever-expanding capacity for more greatness.  

The Open will surely present some obstacles. Yet, it will also present you with the realization that once you commit and endeavor towards embracing that obstacle as an opportunity for growth, development and the creation of a better self, you begin embracing your glory.

“The most personal is the most universal, the most hidden is the most public, and the most solitary is the most communal.” -Henri Nouwen

The Open promotes, generates, and fosters community in a way different than a normal class.

We all long to be wrapped up in an epic story. Find someone who does CrossFit at another gym and simply ask them how workout “number point number” went and they’ll know what you’re talking about. The Open transcends gyms, class cliques, and state lines.

Events like “Friday-Night-Lights” and Thursday watch parties introduce you to people at your own gym that you don’t yet know. If you are a regular 4:30pm athlete, you may meet that insane person who can do thrusters at the 5:30 am class you never go to because why on Earth would anyone want to do thrusters at 5:30am? I don’t know, but that new friend you just made does.

I was in Denver the week of 16.4 and dropped into a gym. We did a workout and then had “Open Prep” in which their coaches all discussed what they thought the workout would be, and offered teaching cues and technique work to help all athletes-including the outsider-to get better. It doesn’t matter if you’re in America, Iceland, or Asia, the workout and the movements are the same even if the religion, language and race are not. That’s pretty cool.

The first workout I ever did in a CrossFit gym setting was 16.1. I was surrounded by a bunch of strangers. Some folks were incredibly fit and they were decked out in the Rogue tee-shirts to prove it. Others were like me-confused, wanting to be invisible, and fearfully peeing themselves a little. The only person I knew was the friend who was connected to this gym.

Yet, once my work-out began it was as though all my closest friends and relatives were there to support me. People who had learned my name only a few moments before were chanting it and cheering it with grand familiarity. People who I thought I was supposed to be competing against were giving me suggestions, tips, and workout hacks. My judge, who I thought was supposed to be overly critical, harsh, and mean (because their leader, Dave Castro is) was incredibly encouraging, supportive, and helpful. When I collapsed at the end of the workout I was greeted with handshakes, high fives and people offering me their water. I had 14 new follow requests on Instagram. My experience is not unique to me. That is the culture of the Open.

The Open promotes the shared struggle, the common suffering, and the collective experience. We each have a different level of fitness, combination of strengths and deficiencies and the uniqueness of our own bodies. Yet, when we all do the Open, we have one more bond uniting us, unifying us, and connecting us. It gives us something to share, discuss, and relate to with one another. It takes our individual workout and grafts it together in the overarching community.

“We don’t learn from experience. We learn from reflecting upon our experience.”-Jan Johnson

The Open teaches and enforces the aspects of Measurable, Observable, Repeatable.

One of the largest emphasis in the CrossFit training methodology is measuring growth and this is achieved by having workouts with predetermined weight, rep schemes and movement standards. Workouts are designed to be repeated to see in what ways your fitness has improved.

For example, remember how I couldn’t do any of the three movements in 16.2? Now I can. Remember how 16.5 was a repeat of 14.5? You don’t? Probably because you did 16.5 three minutes faster than you did 14.5 and blacked out. THAT’S REPEATABLE, MEASURABLE AND OBSERVABLE GROWTH! BOOM.

Begin Total side note: since the Open requires you to meet certain movement standards you learn a lot about doing a movement with integrity, honesty, and virtuosity. Typically your chin on your pull ups on a random Tuesday doesn’t get over the bar, or maybe you don’t fully lock out your thrusters at the top but during the Open you’ll be no-repped if you don’t hit these performance points. So, you learn something valuable and essential about the movement, and you realize you’re capable of working out at a level of integrity worthy of you. End total side note.

The Open provides an orientation point for your fitness journey. It reveals to you all your subtle, almost insignificant and unnoticeable achievements. You drip sweat, rip hands, and train ferociously each week. The Open is a good affirmation of what you have accomplished and your efforts in the past year. This inspires and motivates you to keep moving forward, to continue practicing, and to remember your “why” behind you showing up each week.

Does the Open cost money? Yes, about 10 Starbucks drinks worth. Do the Open workouts hurt? Yes, like you did Monday-Wednesday programming in one workout. Is it humbling to see elite Games athletes demolish your score? Not really, because that’s just expected.

Is it worth it to master a new skill, meet new friends, and to testify about your training? Absolutely.

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