Open and shut – CrossFit Open 2017

The 2017 CrossFit Games Open is done. At 5pm PST on Wednesday, all scores were validated and the leaderboards were finalized. It’s been an incredible 5 weeks. This was my second Open and I enjoyed it even more than the first. The #530crew I’ve been training with for the last year has come a long way. We’ve all improved and we’ve all made great strides in our CrossFit journey. My finishing stats are below.

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I finished inside the top 200 in Northern California in the 40-44 age group. A group of about 750 competitors. A massive jump up the leaderboard for me. I finished 401st last year in a smaller field of about 500. I am over the moon about this.

What are the stand-out things for me:

1. There’s always room to improve.
I re-did 17.1, 3 and 4 this year. I bettered my scores in 17.3 and 4. But I meant this more generally. No matter how good you are at a skill or how strong you are for a lift or how fast you can finish a set of movements, you can always improve – form, technique, speed, how you feel at the end. Keep practicing. Consistency is key.
2. The CrossFit community is amazing.
This has been said again and again by just about everyone who does CrossFit. But it is heard all the time because it bears repeating. The spirit in a CrossFit box is always great – encouraging, supportive, fun and loud. During the Open, this steps up a notch. Our box was no different. The atmosphere during the Open workouts was phenomenal. Many a suffering competitor made it to the finish in large part due to the shouts and screams of the people looking on.
3. Double unders suck!
At least mine do. Even though I’m much better than even a month ago, I still have a long way to go to do these efficiently and for more reps before tripping up. In 17.5 I managed to injure the tendon between my calf and Achille’s during the 9th round of DUs. I finished the workout but the pain meant I was doing one to three DUs at a time and trying to do them on one foot.
4. I LOVE CROSSFIT!!!
Well, maybe I didn’t only learn that because of the Open but it certainly cemented that fact even more concretely. I am addicted. I thoroughly enjoyed the pain and torture which were the Open workouts. I loved testing my limits and my skills. I couldn’t wait to get back into the box this week to start working on the next set of improvements. Look out 18.1, here I come.
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Training bias – strength, conditioning, other?

I Will CrossFit, the affiliate I train at, has a more conditioning biased training regimen. The programming is an oft-discussed topic in the #530crew conversations. We’ve all made remarkable progress over the last year or so, in terms of strength and conditioning. This is evidenced by the fact that our PRs have all been moving steadily upwards for the various weightlifting benchmarks and downwards for the timed benchmarks.

Ben Bergeron, legendary coach of the two fittest people on Earth, Katrin Davidsdottir and Mat Fraser, has podcast series called, Chasing Excellence. In a recent episode he discussed Conditioning-Biased Training. Give it a listen.

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I love that there is a copy of Seth Godin’s “What does it sound like when you change your mind” on the shelf behind them.

In this episode: We talk about the difference between programming for competitors versus members of our affiliates, the downfalls of strength-biased programming, & why less is almost always more.

It’s a great discussion and offers excellent insight into the different programming approaches which can be followed. What I found just as interesting, though, were the comments about the podcast. Ben divides the programming needs for an affiliate between competitors (Games- and Regionals-level athletes) and ‘regular’ members. And rightly so. The programming required to reach Regional level is so far beyond what most people want from a training program that they bear little resemblance to each other. However, there is another group of athletes not addressed with this approach. These are the guys who are not going to be in the top 20 in the Games and they’re not looking to beat Dan Bailey’s Fran time. They’re also not just trying to keep fit. Many of them played or still play other sports. They’re competitive. They want to improve. They want to get stronger. They want to learn how to do all the gymnastics movements. They want to get faster. They use CrossFit to supplement and complement their other sporting activities. Often making great strides in the other sporting disciplines because of the work they do in the CrossFit box. A program that suits some looking to keep/get fit may not suit this sort of CrossFit athlete. I think there is room for something in between. In some affiliates they program three versions of the workout: scaled, Rx and Rx plus. Perhaps this does address it to some extent. In ours, we have scaled and Rx but people do their own scaling depending on their experience and strength, often ending up somewhere in the middle.

I’ve only trained in one other affiliate when I was on holiday, so I don’t have a frame of reference for how other philosophies on programming work. I know I’ve improved significantly in the last year in all aspects of CrossFit that I’ve focused on. For me, I tend to trust the process our Coach has us following but it’s interesting to think about progressing to the next level. And trying to define that next level. I think if I discuss this with my coach we can work out a plan to address whatever it would take. But I also think that despite my progress, I’m still at a level where I can continue to improve just by following his current program. Intensity during the workout can make quite a difference without changing the program. But that’s a topic for another post.

In what direction is your programming biased? How are your WODs structured? If you changed affiliates was it because of the programming?

17.5 – Thrusters and Double unders?

Tonight the final workout of the 2017 CrossFit Games Open is announced. Thus far the workouts have been as grueling as expected. Dave Castro posted a clue to 17.5 earlier in the week.

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Social media was alive with guesses and predictions. Dead meat came up a few times. A knife thrust through under-cooked meat. A Ka-Bar knife. Thrusters, double unders, bar muscle up (again!). There are some movements that have been repeated every year since the start of the Open. Two of those have not been in any of the workouts yet – thrusters and double unders.

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I have a tough history with both movements. In last month or two, I’ve become more comfortable with double unders but given how I’ve struggled I don’t take this comfort for granted. I still practice regularly and was happy to have them programmed in our WOD yesterday. I should manage if they do appear in 17.5. Thrusters have been my Kryptonite since I first started CrossFit. My form has certainly improved but I still find a 95lb weight rather heavy for the movement. The fear I have is that we’ll end up having 50lb dumbbell thrusters. I tried these earlier in the week and wasn’t able to complete even a single rep. Anyway, this had me scouring the interweb for some tips and tricks. I found this article on Boxlife Magazine’s website which had some good insight. If you’re uncertain about thrusters as well, have a look. There’s also a link to a demo video of Jason Khalipa doing thrusters. Hopefully these are useful.

I’m excited about tonight’s announcement. Castro may yet surprise us with a completely unexpected workout. Looking forward to the final one of this season. Good luck everyone.

17.4 is 16.4 – back for more!

The old saying warns, “be careful what you wish for.” In numerous Open WOD discussions and chats and predictions, I’ve been saying that it would be great to have a repeat of 16.4. As the announcement drew closer it seemed like a good guess given the movements which had not yet appeared in the Open. Deadlifts. Wall balls. Handstand push-ups. Of course thrusters and double under have yet to appear as well. But this week we had 16.4 again.

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Last year, 6 months into CrossFit, I didn’t have high expectations of this workout. I attempted it Rx despite having a 3 rep max deadlift of 255 lb. Dangerously close to the prescribed 225 lb this workout called for. As you might guess, I got stuck at the deadlifts. It took me forever to finish them. I wasn’t much better on the wall balls. I ended up getting onto the rower with precious little time left and managed 1 single calorie. I didn’t even worry about the fact that I could not perform handstand push-ups since I knew I wouldn’t make it that far.

Enter 2017.

I have a higher deadlift 3 rep max now (315 lb) and I’ve been known to string together a few wall ball shots unbroken. I can also do handstand push-ups now and my rowing speed is adequate. I made my first run on Friday morning. My hope was to beat last year’s score and at least get further on the rower.

I tried to pace myself on the deadlifts. I didn’t want to run out of steam too early on. I did 5 reps unbroken but then followed those up with 50 slow and steady singles. Off to the wall balls. These went well for me. I kept up quite a good pace and my coach kept my breaks short and consistent. I got on the rower with a little over 2.5 minutes to go. I strapped in. Closed my eyes. And just started pulling. As hard as I could. I finished 40 calories! A nice 39 cal improvement on last year.

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I was rather chuffed. Later that evening I returned to the box to watch the other athletes make their attempts at the workout. Man! Those guys were amazing. It was inspirational to see them go all out. Their pace on the deadlifts was incredible. They flew through the wall balls. Then pulled like Olympic rowers. One guy even made it as far as the handstand push-ups. The next morning two more athletes made their runs. Another two awesome performances. Wow! Watching them made me start to rethink my strategy. Could I push harder on the deadlifts – the only place I felt I could improve my time? I spent most of the weekend wondering about this and eventually decided I’d repeat the workout today.

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I was quite nervous. I wasn’t at all sure I could go at a faster pace and maintain it for 55 reps. I decided to just go for it. 3-2-1-Go! And I was off. I started off doing singles immediately. But this time, the pauses were a lot shorter. As soon as I dropped the barbell I picked it up again. I managed to keep up a pretty good pace for 15 reps and still felt good. Each deadlift gave me more confidence. At 30 reps, I was felt strong and kept going. I finished the reps 2 minutes faster than my Friday time. Wall ball time. Good pace again. Almost the same time as Friday. This meant I was still 2 minutes ahead of that pace. Yay.

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Next up, row, row, row your boat. Again, same tactic. Strap in. Close eyes. Pull. And pull. And pull. Repeat until 55 calories reached. I managed to finish! Just over a minute to get in as many handstand push-ups as possible. My whole body felt wobbly and unsteady. I took a few seconds break and then coach told me to just get up on the wall. I listened. First attempt. No rep! Dammit! Reset. Try again. 1 rep!! Woohoo. And then…5 more reps.

I was over the moon. As happy as when I managed my first muscle-up. 171 reps in total. 60 more than 2016. I’ve been smiling all day. What a great feeling. Coach Matt is the man. His programming, patience and persistence saw me to a big improvement over last year. Amazing what you can achieve with consistent training with a great coach. Incredible what you can push yourself to do when inspired by a great bunch of athletes.

One more to go. Thrusters and double unders are my prediction. 21-18-15-12-9-6-3 for time. Can’t believe the 5 weeks are drawing to a close. It’s been great so far. How has it gone for you?

Thanks for reading.

17 point 3 and my CrossFit family

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That’s me in the center. Completing my final rep for 17.3 as the clock reached 8 minutes. This was another tough workout, as the Open workouts always are. We rarely, if ever, practice squat snatches in our gym. Usually it’s power snatches or hang power snatches. So going in I had no idea if I’d be able to complete the reps as prescribed for even the first round.

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My goal was to try and reach the 135 lb snatches and see if I could make even one. I broke up my chest-to-bar pull-ups from the start and had to do singles on the 95 lb snatches. My coach gave me tips all along to improve my form and technique. I was actually getting better with each rep. He’s amazing – he spots the errors and gives such great cues to fix them. Coach Matt is the man!

I reached the 1st 135 lb snatch with about 30 seconds left on the clock. My first attempt failed. 15 seconds to go. I gathered myself, took a deep breath and executed probably my best snatch EVER! I pulled myself under the bar and stood up strong. I was elated. 44 reps in total. But I think I may try this one again :-).

What this workout highlighted for me again was the CrossFit family and sense of community. I workout with the #530crew at 5:30am Monday to Friday. We have a great spirit – we laugh, we joke, we tease, we taunt but we also encourage each other and cheer each other on. We celebrate everyone’s achievements together. I love working out with these guys. A large part of why I do CrossFit is the fun I have with them. You can clearly see this in the photo above. The whole #530crew watching me and cheering me to my final rep. Love it! Absolutely love it! Thanks you guys – you’re awesome.

Taking the (p)lunge

Week 2 of the 2017 edition of the CrossFit Open is well underway. Dave Castro announced the workout last night at the Rogue Headquarters. He’s making sure that all the boxes that invested in new 35 and 50 lbs dumbbells are getting maximum use out of them. Like 17.1, this week’s workout included some dumbbell work.

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After watching the live announcement and the live head-to-head of Kari Pearce vs Kristi Eramo followed by Ro vs Boz, my nervous energy shot up 100%. Last year I managed to do my first bar muscle up, so I know I can do them and I wasn’t too worried about those. What worried me was reaching the 3rd round at all. The weighted lunge was with two 50 lbs dumbbells. That was going to be heavy for me. I wasn’t sure I could even get them onto my shoulders, let alone do walking lunges for 50 ft.

I did my run at the 5:30 am class today – it was completely brutal. After Coach Matt counted down and said, “Go” I had a number of failed attempts at raising the dumbbells onto my shoulders. When I did get them there, they weren’t comfortable or stable. I then realized that the clock was ticking and that I was squandering precious reps. I just stepped up to the line and took the (p)lunge. One foot in front of the other. The dumbbells felt ridiculously heavy and completely unsteady. I reached the 25 ft mark and turned around. When I finished the 50 ft I dropped the dumbbells from shoulder height. Coach was not impressed but I didn’t have a choice. I couldn’t hold them anymore. Next came toes-to-bar.

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These were alright. I can string a few reps together and was able to complete the first round of them in two sets of 8. Dumbbell cleans came next – 8 of those. Matt and a number of people online recommended doing 6, taking a short break, then doing two more and heading directly into the lunges. This saves you having to perform a 9th clean if you rest after the required 8. This time around, I got the dumbbells settled on my shoulders a bit quicker and off I went on my second round of lunges. These didn’t feel any better than the first round but I managed to maintain a steady pace. I put the weights down after 25 feet though. Took a short(ish) break and headed back down the track for another 25 ft. At the end, I was able to lower the weights more gently and not drop them like before. The second round of toes-to-bar were not as smooth. I managed a set of 8 but then had to break them up into 1s and 2s for the second half. Successfully completed, I moved onto the cleans and followed the same process as in round 1. I was tiring rapidly now but I was determined to reach the muscle ups – even if I was unable to finish all 16. I finished round 2 at 6:44 with the dumbbells on my shoulders. Next set of lunges…

I was getting used to having this unstable and unsteady weight on my shoulders now but my legs were starting to give in. After the workout, one of the other athletes told me that he was standing behind me on this set and he saw my legs wobbling quite a bit. I had to take a break at the end of 25 ft and then finished the next 25 feet with about 2:30 left on the clock. I hoped this would be enough time to finish at least half of the 16 muscle ups. I stood under the bar just looking at it. Matt told me to just get one and that would start the momentum. I jumped up and did just one. Yay! Only 15 more to go. I was exhausted. Breathing heavily, throat dry, muscles aching. Matt and the other athletes started shouting encouragement and clapping. This made a massive difference. I was buoyed by their cheers and kept pushing. Thanks Daniel, Eric, Shannon, Warren and Matt – you guys are awesome! One rep at a time. At 40 seconds to go, I had 4 reps remaining. 30 seconds – 3 reps. 20 seconds – 2 reps. 10 seconds and I completed the last rep! Man!! I jumped down from the bar as the last five seconds were counted down. Fell to my hands and knees and then rolled over onto my back. I was utterly spent but also ecstatic. My goal had been to reach the muscle ups in round 3 and complete and many of them as I could. To actually finish all 16 in that round felt amazing. 94 reps total.

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17.2 was a doozy. My shoulders are bruised. My hamstrings and glutes are worn out. But my spirits are soaring. This time it’s definitely one and done. I don’t want to repeat that workout anytime soon.

Good luck to everyone else doing their run later this weekend. Let me know what your strategies are and let me know how you fared.

PS. Not the best quality pics, I know. They’re screen grabs from the Livestream video of the workout.

 

17 point one and done?

On Friday morning I did the first CrossFit Open workout of the 2017 season. It was one tough workout from which I am still recovering.

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After watching the live announcement from Dave Castro on Thursday night and then watching the Games athletes face-off against each other, not to mention Ro vs Boz, I was a bundle of nerves and excitement. I was nervous about doing 150 dumbbell snatches at 50 pounds. Nervous about 75 burpee box jump-overs. Nervous about finishing under the time cap – even Rory McKernan didn’t finish. But excited to be starting the Open.

I arrived at the I Will CrossFit box a lot earlier than usual to find fellow athlete, Daniel, already there and getting in the zone. Coach Matt had put out some donuts and coffee for afterwards and the equipment was set out and ready for the first two athletes to start. I spent some time stretching and warming up. Nothing too fancy, but making sure the muscles and joints would be as ready as possible for the test ahead. All too soon we were called to the whiteboard where Matt went through the movement standards to ensure we and straddling the line when going down into the burpee. He gave us a couple more minutes to get settled and then, before I knew it, it was 3-2-1-GO!

Ten snatches – not too bad. Fifteen burpee box jump-overs. Not too bad either. Next 20 and 15 still going ok. My split time for this was 5:21, so an okay pace. My strategy going in was to keep moving. I didn’t want to take any breaks if possible but that meant keeping a steady pace and making sure I didn’t start out too fast. So far so good. In the round of 30 snatches, the weight started feeling a bit heavier. When I hit the round of 40 snatches at 9:37, I had to focus even more to ensure I got the dumbbell up above my head and locked out properly. I was still going at a good pace but was definitely tiring. I started the last round at 14:26. Five and a half minutes to finish 50 snatches and a final 15 burpee box jump-overs. Matt was judging my attempt and was counting each rep – this helped a lot but it seemed like the 50 would never end. When I completed my last rep, I had about 90 seconds before the time cap. That’s when I got my one and only no-rep. Instead of jumping up onto the box, I did a step-up. Fool!!! That cost me at least one extra rep.

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In the end, I finish with 10 burpee box jump-overs. Just 5 reps short of completing the workout within the allotted time and 220 reps in total. I was completely spent. I had nothing left in the tank. My lower back had already started hurting. My lungs were gasping for air. My legs were jelly. WOW! What a fantastic start to the Open!! Throughout the day, I watched online and in person as other people had their go at 17.1. Loads of people finished. Loads of people were time capped. Everyone was a mess of sweat and muscle agony afterwards. The other three guys who did the workout in the early class immediately decided that they would be repeating on Monday morning (all four of us were time capped). When seeing other box members successfully finish, this only added to their resolve. I remained stubborn – I insisted that I would not repeat. I told them it was one and done. However, you may have noticed the question mark in the title of this post…

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As I did last year, I’ve spent the last 48 hours analyzing my performance. What could I have done differently? Where could I find 26.5 seconds for the last 5 reps? Would my back return to normal in time for Monday morning? In the end, peer pressure and a desire to at least try to make up those final 5 reps have won out. I plan to repeat tomorrow. I’ll be trying to squat earlier in the snatches, I’ll also try and drop down into the burpee faster and I’ll try to not stand up as much in the box jump. If I can maintain a similar pace with those improvements, I think I may be able to find the extra seconds I need.

Wish me luck. I’m going to need it. I’ll update you tomorrow. For now, I’ll be foam rolling.

How did your 17.1 go? Any tips? Are you going to try one more time or are you happy with your performance already?

UPDATE: I repeated this morning and didn’t manage to better my score. I went from 220 reps to 181. My burpee box jumps were waaaay better but I struggled more on the snatches. Bring on 17.2!