Vanessa at a show

Merry 2015 Open Y’all!

crossfit games 2015Here we sit, lodged firmly into the middle of the 2015 CrossFit Games Open. It can simultaneously be both the best and the worst point in the year for professional and recreational exercisers/fitness enthusiasts alike. It’s a very unique competition format that allows 13 year olds, 82 year olds, adaptive athletes, and everyone in-between to compete and benchmark themselves against their peers as well as various age group individuals that are very legitimately professional athletes at this point.

It’s a chance to actually be in athletic competition without really having to do much besides pay $20 and show up at the gym at least once a week for 5 weeks. So, if the barrier to entry is so low and the athlete pool is so wildly varied, why can it be such an emotional mindfuck for some of us? Behold, the leaderboard.
It’s an odd and amazing realization of your own fitness level to see it quantitatively ranked against just over a quarter of a million other CrossFitters. Sometimes that ranking makes you feel damn good and proud of your athletic accomplishments. Sometimes it makes you want to turn your jump rope into a noose and bail on exercise all together. What are some ways that we can keep a healthy perspective on all of this so that we can mentally and emotionally maximize the positive and minimize the negative?
In no real order, here are some of my thoughts:
*What’s important to you in regard to your own journey of fitness? If what you primarily want to get out of your time in the gym is to look better naked and enjoy a higher quality of life, how much relevance does your placing in a competitive ranking have to your own personal goals?
Vanessa at a show
*Keep in mind the level of competition that shares space on that leaderboard with you. You probably wouldn’t feel too disheartened by getting shut down in a game of “horse” by an NBA player because you have a solid grasp of the degrees of separation between the two of you as “athletes”. Why should this be any different? If you weren’t aware, the upper echelon of CrossFit is most certainly populated by some of the best athletes on the planet who absolutely treat this as a profession. For every athlete that makes it to the Games, there were plenty of competitors at the Regional level that they bested. For the hundreds that make it to the Regional level, there are thousands in the Open that they displaced. Be aware that the performances of folks like Rich Froning and Camille Leblanc-Bazinet absolutely do push you lower on the leaderboard.
rich froning
*What are you putting into your pursuit of fitness on a regular basis? This kind of piggybacks on the above point, but generally, lots the people above you are there because they are working longer and harder than you more often than you. But guess what? That’s okay. I’m not bummed about not sitting at the top of the Open because I have zero desire to put that much into my fitness. I don’t want to workout multiple times per day, multiple days per week. Their level of dedication passes the point which I’m willing to go mentally, physically, emotionally, and in terms of sheer hours spent.
Now, there is another side to that. What are you putting into your pursuit of fitness on a regular basis? Are you doing the bare minimum or are you forcing yourself to continually push as hard as reasonably possible to drive adaptation? Are you out drinking with your friends more often than you’re putting in work? Will you force a workout in even when it’s not easy or convenient to your schedule? Are you constantly pushing to use more difficult scalings and progressions or are you just cruising on autopilot? Even if you’re showing up frequently, if you can speak well mid-metcon or you’re stopping to get water during a 10:00 workout, you could probably be trying a hell of a lot harder.
*Be aware that “unicorn scores” are all over the place. There are lots of scores logged for workouts that are not representative of the work that was actually done. Vanessa and I frequently, jokingly refer to the competition as “The LieFit Open”. Even CrossFit HQ has shot a media piece about “BroReps”, reps that blatantly fail to meet the movement and range of motion standards, yet are counted anyhow because, “Bro, come on.” That’s not to mention the existence of completely fabricated scores. There are plenty of past examples of individuals who absolutely dominated something in the Open only to completely fail to replicate even a fraction of the level performance at the Regional level. I don’t want to talk in absolutes, but I find it pretty damn hard to believe that an athlete qualifies for the Regionals and gets significantly worse during the time between the Open and Regionals. I’d expect their level of training, commitment, and focus to be at an all time high between the two competitions, but what do I know, I’m a real mediocre CrossFitter! And don’t just think that this applies to the individual RX side of things, I promise that the same stuff happens all over scaled, masters, and teams.
*It’s someone else’s definition and evaluation of fitness. Keep in mind what the tests of fitness are in the Open and what matters to you in your own personal pursuit of fitness. Believe me when I tell you that I wouldn’t want to sacrifice kilos on my snatch or clean & jerk for more wallballs or toes to bar and that I’ve absolutely never lost sleep over my inability to do 100 unbroken double-unders. Does that mean that I think wallballs, T2B, and DU are stupid? Not at all, but they are certainly lower priority movements and skills to me. I’d much rather sling mad kilos over my head.
*Your gym and coaches’ standards aren’t the same as all gyms and coaches “standards”. Yes, we’re all tasked to accomplish the same movement standards. Yes, we’re all tasked to judge all individuals to the same movement standards. But it doesn’t work like that. Lots of people are in this to build egos and to make people like them, when it should be simple objective evaluation. Just today a box owner posted in a Facebook group for CrossFit affiliate owners about such a situation. He had an athlete in his box receive an accurately judged score of 38. That athlete didn’t like that score and went across town to another affiliate, probably one with less character and integrity. With another “judge” that athlete did so much better that they beyond doubled their score and came away with 84. Yeah…. Who knows, maybe they were just counting by 2s. ..
*Steroids. No, not everyone, but certainly enough that it’s of a huge relevance. If you’re one of the people out there that still thinks that a sport solely concerned with performance doesn’t have performance enhancing drugs, well, I’m not sure what to tell you.
*At the end of the day, it’s really you versus you. If you’ve never done the Open before, you have no previous basis for comparison. Let it exist as an annual evaluation of your improvement in increased work capacity across broad time and modal domains.
Go exercise, have fun, try hard, and be totally stoked for your community!
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