The Open is nigh, my friends. Are you ready?
Well, ready or not, doesn’t matter, because it’s happening.
Now that I have you here (oh, and this is the most important CrossFit Open post for me, but I was maybe exaggerating in the title), let me tell you that I’m not ready at all this year. This year is my third year participating in the CrossFit Open, and the second time I have officially signed up online. In 2013, I was still scaling for the majority of my WODs; in 2014, I had just started Rx’ing things more often. This year, I’m a solid intermediate, with many standard movements at Rx level; more technical and advanced moves like muscle-ups and 95# power snatches are not in my repertoire at this time. I have better endurance now and better proficiency, even though I am not a Firebreather by any means.
What can I expect this year?
Well, who knows. I’m no longer in the bracket where I will be likely celebrating my first [insert CrossFit move here], and I know I won’t be celebrating my first muscle-up because I’ve not worked on the technique much since tweaking my shoulder back in November. I won’t be qualifying for Regionals nor winning the state championship. That’s not counting myself out; it’s called “being real.” I will likely be fighting for one more rep each time the clock counts down; that much I know.
I also know are where my weaknesses and strengths lie. CrossFit is difficult for me in many regards, and I acknowledge my challenges and try to face them each day I’m in the gym. Knowing where I am physically and mentally is going to help me get through these next few weeks, as well as guide my training for the rest of the year, I’m sure.
Double-unders: Double-unders are my goat. “Goat” isn’t even appropriate in this case. Double-unders are not just a move at which I am weak; they are seemingly strong enough to break my will. They are a nasty thing that frustrate me beyond belief. They have the ability to deflate me during an otherwise manageable WOD. Nothing makes me want to cry more than double-unders. What’s worse–it’s not even so much that I’m bad at them; it’s that my biomechanics make it painful to work on them for more than a few minutes each week. No practice means no progress. And it’s shin splints that keep me from getting after this goat.
Shin splints are a recurring injury for me. I never had them until cheerleading in my senior year of high school. At that time, ill-fitting shoes were the problem, along with the bouncy nature of high school cheer. They disappeared after proper taping, and they were rarely an issue, save for a few minor incidents later on involving brief stints with running. However, something about the way I take off and land while jumping rope aggravates my lower legs. I have posterior shin splints, and taping hasn’t seemed to resolve the issue too much. I feel like I need an expert opinion and hours of video analysis, and I also need desperately to fix my technique. It all snowballs together, and it’s routinely compounded by everyone else wanting to help me feel less frustrated. I know my positioning is off; I know my timing is off. But more than that, I know jumping too high or too many times will hurt me and render me useless for several days, and it seems almost more productive to just not try.
However, not trying will not be an option. To combat the issue in the short-term, it will take the following: KT tape, my rope and a backup rope, and iron will. Completing the inevitable double-under WOD will be a triumph; I must remind myself of that, and just get through it. Stress factor: 9.99/10.00
Strict press: The chances of strict press being in The Open are not high. This is still a known weakness, and I have been trying to strict press at least once a week to encourage those muscles to grow, grow, grow. Likelihood of strict press showing up, though, is low, so the actual move itself is not a problem; the associated muscles and their weaknesses, though, are a stressor. Stress factor: 3.00/10.00
Wall balls: Unlike strict press, wall balls have been a staple in The Open. Wall balls to a 9′ target are manageable; wall balls to the 10′ target are a bit more “out of reach” (har har har) because I’m an overwhelming 5’1″. My wall ball stamina has gotten much better in recent months, but if the number “100” or high appears in front of the phrase “wall balls,” it’s going to be a mental struggle.
Wall balls feel a bit like grade school punishment. The proximity to the wall, the repetition, the physical burn, the frustration of being just shy of the target–those are the elements that lead to the wall ball being a hard movement for me. Stress factor: 7.00/10.00
First of all, I spend a lot of time talking about tackling weaknesses. I never spend time celebrating my strengths. Although I don’t feel like I am naturally gifted in the CrossFit and lifting world, there are things I bring to the table because of my natural traits and my limited athletic background.
Deadlifts: I love deadlifts. Deadlifts were something that my first coach spent lots of time on, and it paid off. I like deadlifts because they get really heavy really quickly, but most of the time, I can get through them. The technique just clicks with me. I haven’t been working on my hamstring strength as much in the last few months, so there is a bit of worry there, but I hope deads come up in The Open so I can again feel proficient during that WOD. Last year’s 14.3, which so many folks dreaded, was exactly what I had been begging the CrossFit gods for: box jumps and deadlifts!! I know high reps and heavy weights are still difficult and carry an element of danger to negotiate, so don’t get me wrong–I don’t feel cocky about deadlifts. Stress factor: 4.00/10.00
Burpees: “BURPEES?!” Yeah. It turns out that being really short and retaining flexibility from all those years of dance and cheer helps with this one. I don’t have very far to go when I have to get my entire body onto the floor and back up again. It is a problem when burpees show up near the end of an already taxing work-out, due to my endurance. However, I have been able to dig deeper into burpees than some end-of-WOD movements, so I know I can manage these, even if it feels terrible in the moment. Castro likes to come up with something really awful to pair with burpees (or just make it seven minutes of burpees), so I’m mostly concerned about endurance. Stress factor: 6.00/10.00
Ring dips: Not sure if these will show up because, like kettlebell swings in The Open, it might be hard to judge them. These are a hard move, and I can’t do more than five at a time (and even then, I can do that once before the sets break down into 3’s, 2’s, and 1’s), but I can do them, weirdly enough. If they come up, fantastic; I can probably get a few. If they don’t come up, which they probably won’t, even better. Stress factor: 1.00/10.00
Squats: Short legs come in handy again. So does all that time spent in dance class. I have a proficient squat, although at heavy loads I get just to or minimally below parallel sometimes (which I’m actively working on getting past–oopsies!). When you spend a good percentage of your life learning to plie, you learn to keep your chest up and knees tracking over your toes; while I was not the most amazing dancer, even that foundational knowledge plays a part. We’ve seen thrusters and overhead squats in recent years, so I expect something similar; again, endurance is a consideration for how well I’ll do, as is the required load. There are a lot of variables that go into what kind of squat we’ll see, so that uncertainty ups the anxiety. Stress factor: 5.00/10.00
There are plenty of other elements that we could see in The Open, and there are plenty of them that I don’t consider strengths nor major weaknesses of concern. Several of those things include chest-to-bar pull-ups, rowing, toes-to-bar, and snatches. These are all things at which I am getting better, but not up to competition standards. That’s okay.
Chest-to-bar pull-ups are inconsistent for me. Sometimes, I can get the height but not the required contact; other times, I can link three in a row. That’s fine; they will come with practice. They don’t give me shin splints.
Rowing is hard for me, given my size. When I was in college, I was actually approached by some girls on the crew team who said I should consider crew because I was the perfect size to be a coxswain. I can haul as fast as my little legs will go if needed, but most competition WODs are not won on the rower, especially not in my case.
Toes-to-bar are another move that are slowly coming along, now that I have the full range of motion. Some days I can link my first sets of reps together before my grip weakens and I switch to single reps. Other days, it’s steady singles. Toes-to-bar will be an element like they were during 14.2 when I was fighting for each additional rep. I accept that, and I will do what I can to string together a few in the first sets. If it doesn’t happen, that’s okay. I’ll analyze what happened after I get through the work-out to look for areas of improvement.
Snatches are technically demanding. It’s a hard Olympic lift. Depending on the weight we see for snatches in The Open, I might get one or I might get several. I might be able to power them up, or my “work in progress” technique might stop me in my tracks. We will see. However, this is a lift that I’ve been spending more time with, and it is a humbling lift, especially when it takes me so long to establish positioning and movement through those positions. It is what it is, when it comes to snatches in The Open.
The Open will be a time to test mental fortitude, foundations, lungs, and spirit. I’m anxious to see what we’ll be doing, and I’m anxious to see how I’ll feel and move through everything. It’s a wonderful yet taxing time of the year. I’m glad to be a part of it, to have the teammates and friends that I do, and to really be doing something that pushes me out of my comfort zone.
This is my time to shine, and by that I mean, prove to myself that I don’t just suck less than yesterday, but that I am better every day.
May the WODs be ever in your favor.