My First Open

I’ve just completed my first Crossfit Open. As I look back on the past three weeks, I’m proud of my efforts and I’ve been reminded of some important things that have always brought me back to fitness: consistent effort will yield improvement, competition isn’t always with others, and a supportive community is invaluable.

To see how far I’ve come, we can go back to the last Crossfit Open, in the fall of 2019. I wasn’t yet attending classes regularly, but my husband, Pawel, was already committed. I watched as an outsider as he got excited for each workout, participated in throwdowns, and proudly wore his team color. By December, he (and some friends) were able to convince me to join the 5am crew and I began putting in an hour every morning before sunrise. There were new exercises, and lots of new friends, though as a former cross-country/track athlete I was no stranger to the “individual effort as part of a training team” structure. I was happy to be making friends and feeling strong.

And then in March, we were told to stay home. This could have been a time to give up, and I leaned in. I attended zoom classes regularly, and added accessory work to my program with the help of one of Thrive’s remote coaches. I practiced double unders until I could do them with ease, along with other skills and relative weaknesses. I even started a handstand program which included lots of core work and time spent upside down! When we returned to the gym I continued this slow and steady approach. This earned me a reputation for doing weird and typically unglamorous work, mostly on my own. 

Which brings me back to The Open. I signed up early, was assigned to my Color Wars Team, and we batted ideas back and forth in our group chat about what 21.1 might bring us. The announcement was met with groans from some of the others, yet it felt like a gift to me! (yay accessory work!) Wall walks and double unders? Those were two movements I had been working on! This was unexpected. I could do an Rx workout! I entered the workout feeling confident in my preparation, and was proud of my result. The rest of the weekend was spent judging friends workouts and not thinking much about the leaderboard at all.

Sometime in the week between 21.1 and 21.2 I got swept up in the competition. “Do you have any idea how good you did?” was a phrase I heard from my friends, equally surprised and impressed with my score. I felt like I had to defend my spot on the leaderboard, to prove that my Week 1 performance wasn’t a fluke. To distract myself, and to prepare myself for what might come up in the following weeks, I took the Judges Certifications Course and by the time the next workout was announced, I was a ball of nerves. 

21.2 was about half as good to me. I was good at box jumps, being a former runner and all, on the other hand this would be my first time lifting a 35lb dumbbell overhead. Should I scale or would that be too easy? Should I do the Rx or would I be in over my head? I was suddenly filled with doubt, and a Friday night spent judging other athletes as they entered the so-called “pain cave” only contributed to my feeling of dread. I arrived for the workout Saturday morning in a panic. I was shaking with nerves and my confidence was low. If there’s any benefit to being on a team of friends who want to see you succeed, it’s that they can lend you a bit of courage when you need it most. So I picked up that 35 lb dumbbell and, two snatches at a time, I marched my way through the workout. I surpassed my own expectations even as I dropped down the leaderboard a few notches.

I spent the week recovering and considering what 21.3 might bring. A barbell and some sort of hanging movement were both likely. While I’ve improved my lifting tremendously in the past few months, my weights are modest and I’m still learning. I had begun working on pull-ups and had yet to do them unassisted. My toes-to-bar were sketchy at best and nonexistent at worst. This last workout would be the one to highlight all of my weaknesses. My biggest challenge yet!

When the final announcement came, of 21.3 and 21.4, I was a bit disappointed. Even the Scaled version of 21.3felt out of reach with all of its pull ups. Is this what I had been training for, to not even be able to complete the movements? What a bummer! As I judged my friends on Friday evening, I realized that I was not alone. Some athletes were caught by the clock and many were also stopped short by their skill set. And 21.4? We all cheered as each athlete loaded the bar and took their attempts; it didn’t matter what the number was (also, it’s hard to do barbell math at a distance). Every completed attempt was a reason to celebrate. 

Once I shut out the noise in my head I decided that I would do the Scaled version of 21.3. I wanted to at least complete the first round of movements. 30 toes-to-bar was about 28 more than my previous lifetime total, and it seemed unlikely. I made a plan for 21.4 and used my warm up to reinforce that plan and also to talk strategy with friends, boosting my own confidence and hopefully theirs as well. 

3..2..1… GO! I got to it. I made my way through round 1 of the front squats, hanging knee raises, and thrusters quickly and easily. I had a minute to rest and time to collect my thoughts, and headed into round 2 assuming I would do my front squats and then take a few attempts at a pull up. I started the round by taking my time on the squats, thinking I didn’t need to rush just to stand around later, and then moved over to the rig. But then, on my pull-up third attempt, I went for a kip and was suddenly up over the bar! I shrieked with joy and was met by cheers around the gym. This was the magic of The Open I had heard about, where the combination of adrenaline and preparation lead to a breakthrough. I completed that pull-up, was encouraged to keep trying and did 6 more! Then I went on to PR my clean and jerk in the lifting complex. What a day!

Where did I land on the leaderboard? As of writing this, it’s too soon to tell. What I’m most proud of is the work I’ve put in over the past year, the friends I’ve made at Thrive, and the competitive spark I’ve once again found in myself. 

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