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What Did You Learn from the CrossFit Open?

You have a little under a year until the next CrossFit Open, how will you improve your training until then?

Elite athletes are well into the 2021 CrossFit season, but the vast majority of CrossFit athletes are getting ready to tackle a new season of fitness, making training decisions based on their CrossFit Open performance. 

The Open finished just over a month ago. It isn’t an easy competition, especially when you’re a beginner or it’s your first time taking part, and there is a lot to learn from every Open you do, especially your first.

The Open workouts are just one part of the competition, and there were a lot of other aspects of the Open to wrap your head around: what the Open actually is, the sign up process, deadlines, rules, and other logistics.

Who would’ve thought a tape measure and duct tape could become such an integral part of a workout? There’s a sharp learning curve when you throw yourself head first into the Open and each year you’ll always gain more knowledge, especially through trial and error.

By throwing yourself in and getting involved, you’ve got a better grasp and understanding of what to expect, and how to move forward.

Besides the many details involved in participating in the CrossFit Open, the most important takeaway is how the Open made you understand yourself better; your own capabilities, strengths, weaknesses and future goals. 

This is what the Open is about; it brings the worldwide CrossFit community together while simultaneously allowing you to learn more about yourself.

Individual Takeaways from the CrossFit Open

The hardest hurdle which you’ve already surpassed is the belief that you weren’t ready. You’ve managed to overcome that rationale and realise there’s no better time to get started than right now. 

Now it’s time to figure out exactly where you are in your fitness journey and learn how you can build on that foundation. 

It all boils down to honing in on your strengths and weaknesses. If you learned any of the below, then you should look at your first Open as a success. 

  • Pacing: Did you learn more about workout intensity and how to manage it based on your current abilities? During 21.2 for instance, did you hold onto the dumbbell for longer than you thought you could?
  • Skill: Did you manage to perform a movement that you thought you couldn’t do when the workout was released? Maybe going from zero pull ups to a few reps or more? The happy guy pictured below did, and he was pretty stoked; going from zero pull ups to 25.
  • Mental strength: Were you more resilient than you thought? Getting past the anxiety and nerves that doing the Open ultimately brings and work through the mid workout pain and thoughts of stopping?
  • Weakness spotting: Do you have a better understanding of what movements you could improve upon?

Read more: Why Is Mental Fitness Important in CrossFit?

Your training plan following the CrossFit Open

Whatever your answers are to the above questions, write them down so you can begin to figure out how to move forward using the below steps.

1.     Set Targets

CrossFit can feel like trying to spin 100 plates at once. Just as you’re  getting the hang of one element, another might fall off the radar. You’re dealing with gymnastics, strength, technical lifts, muscular and cardiovascular endurance, and more. 

So, how do you master all of these components to become a well-rounded CrossFitter? By trying not to master them all at once. Half the fun is that there is always something you can get better at. 

Don’t dwell on every aspect you could improve on, keep it simple and continue to participate in your gyms weekly WOD’s, while picking one movement within the gymnastics and strength realms to focus on during open gym. 

Take 21.3 for example. How did you manage on the toes to bar and pull-ups? If you found your gymnastics breaking down due to the addition of barbell work in between movements, then you may want to place your focus on working on your gymnastics under fatigue. 

Take note of the rep ranges you managed during 21.3, and set a goal to increase that with simple weekly EMOMs. For example, if you know that your max toes to bar when you’re fresh is 15, but they break down considerably to sets of 4 or less in a workout, then practice that smaller rep range under fatigue while using different timings and intensities. 

A simple workout could consist of a 10-minute EMOM completing 30% of your max set. For instance if your max set is 15 unbroken toes to bar. You could aim to complete 5 unbroken toes to bar and rest the remainder of each minute. You’ll then have completed 50 toes to bar in under 10 minutes. 

The following week, you could decrease the timing to work every :50 seconds while also increasing the rep range to 6 toes to bar for 8 rounds. You will have done two less reps than in the previous week, but by reducing the timing of each round and increasing the rep range, you will have worked at an increased intensity. 

Then, by week three you could return to a 10-minute EMOM, but complete 6 unbroken toes to bar each minute. Which would be a ten rep increase from week 1. 

2.     Do accessory work

Easy to do and just as easy not to, but accessory work is where the magic happens. 

You know all those little exercises you do in your warm-up or finisher during class? The ones sometimes involving bands, dumbbells or body weight that you want to get through quickly so you can do the more exciting movements? That’s accessory work. 

It’s the little movements that contribute to, and compliment, the bigger movements such as squats, pressing, cleans, snatches, pull-ups and so forth. 

21.1 serves as a great example of using accessory work because it actually had an accessory exercise within it. Those cagey wall walks. There have been so many times while I’ve coached a class with wall walks in the warm-up and have had members try to literally slide through them and forego the important yet simple points of performance that wall walks involve.

If during 21.1 you found your shoulders burning out quickly during the increasing rep range of wall walks and double unders you could work on building more shoulder strength and endurance. 

To hone in on your upper body strength, utilise any pressing movement involving dumbbells, such as seated or floor dumbbell presses to provide you more power and strength to compliment overhead movements. 

Further, working unilaterally, (one side of the body at a time) is going to ensure you are addressing any asymmetries of the body. Another excellent shoulder exercise is the half kneeling Arnold Press. This movement works your core, shoulders and triceps while ensuring you’re not getting any help from the lower body. 

Besides working on your strength with accessory work, you can also work on your shoulder endurance with a few simple exercises as well. Think holding a handstand against the wall for :30-:60 seconds followed by a max set of empty barbell strict presses. Rest for an equal time it took you to complete the above and go again for 3-5 rounds. 

Lastly, full body tension and core stability transfers to all movements in CrossFit which is why core exercises such as planks, side planks, hollow holds and hollow arches should always be in your arsenal of core exercises. 

3.     Sign up for other competitions

If you found yourself loving the competition feel of the Open and don’t want to wait around for the next one, then check out competitions to get involved in near you. 

There is something for everyone and your CrossFit gym should be able to help steer you to nearby ones that will suit your goals. And if you want to compete but don’t want to go at it alone, there are plenty of group and pair competitions available as well. Competition Corner has a great database of competitions from all over the world.

The biggest takeaway after completing your first Open, or any competition, is to not put too much pressure on yourself. At the end of the day, we’re all doing Adult PE and, whether you have a competitive side or not, your first three goals should be to stay fit, happy and healthy. 

CrossFit training is about finding new ways to challenge yourself in a positive environment. Continue to do your gym’s WODs and schedule in some time to work on your weaknesses, you’ll slowly but surely reach your goals, one rep at a time. 

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