How to Succeed in Your First CrossFit Open
Participating in your first CrossFit Games Open is the ultimate learning experience, and this year’s scaled division makes the competition especially inviting for novice CrossFitters.
Beginners to CrossFit should relish in the fact that they can’t check the leaderboard for their scores from past years. For this one year, ignorance is bliss. Work hard, have fun, and learn what the Open is all about because you only have one first time.
Here are five ways to make the most of your experience:
1. Ignore the Clock
The fastest way to get discouraged during a workout is to focus on the clock. We’ve all been there: four minutes into a fifteen-minute AMRAP and suddenly we’re questioning how we’re ever going to survive the rest of the WOD.
Wasting your time looking at the clock isn’t doing you any favors. The time melts away at the same speed regardless of how often you check. So stop dilly-dallying and just do the work.
"By shifting your focus away from the clock, you can dedicate 100% of your effort to achieving your goal. If there’s time left once you’re at your target, the rest is gravy."
Since 2011, every Open workout has been an AMRAP except for last year’s dreaded thruster-burpee descending ladder (which I predict we’ll see as this year’s repeat workout). So, if history repeats itself, it’s safe to say the Open will be a mix of short and long AMRAPs.
With that in mind, the best approach for a beginner to avoid getting overwhelmed is to pick a realistic number of rounds to complete and forget about the time constraint. Just focus on the task at hand and fight to hit your number.
By shifting your focus away from the clock, you can dedicate 100% of your effort to achieving your goal. If there’s time left once you’re at your target, the rest is gravy.
Tip: Ask your judge to let you know when there are two minutes left in the workout so you can make a final push to finish strong.
2. Avoid Playing Games
If this is your first CrossFit Open, you might hear conversations among fellow CrossFitters that go something like this: “Dude, step ups are faster than box jumps. I totally timed it.”
But you know what? Who cares? Go ahead and watch the dozens of strategy videos that inevitably pop up after each workout is announced, but don’t let the hype get to your head. As a first-timer, your main concern should be working hard without regrets, not whether or not you maximized your time by doing three reps per set instead of four. Remember, as a novice, you aren’t going to Regionals.
"Beginners to CrossFit should relish in the fact that they can’t check the leaderboard for their scores from past years. For this one year, ignorance is bliss."
Worrying about strategy, like focusing on the clock, will just sabotage your confidence - and for a beginner, it’s all about the big picture. At the end of each workout, ask yourself these questions:
- Are you proud of your effort?
- Did you work as hard as possible on that given day?
- Did you have fun?
If you answer yes to these, consider the workout a success.
Tip: I’m not advocating going into a workout totally blind. Hopefully you’ve been CrossFitting long enough to know how your body responds to different workouts. For example, don’t go pedal-to-the-metal at the start of an eighteen-minute AMRAP. I’m talking about common sense here. Do your own thing and let other people calculate work-to-rest ratios for wall balls.
3. Don’t Hold Yourself Back
Something magical happens during the Open. Fear and doubt go out the window and countless people find themselves transitioning over the rings for their first muscle up or finally whipping a jump rope fast enough for their first double under.
Athletes all over the world achieve feats of strength and athleticism that once seemed impossible. Watching a friend conquer something that he or she has struggling with since that first nervous day at the box is incredibly rewarding.
Many beginners get stuck in a cycle of always choosing to fall short of what they’re truly capable of doing. But because Open workouts are judged, you’re forced to maintain movement standards and try things you think are out of your reach. Henry Ford said it best: “If you think you can, or you think you can’t - you’re right.”
Tip: Ride the adrenaline wave and see what you can do in the heat of the moment - with safety first, of course. You’ll be surprised what you can achieve.
4. Embrace Embarrassment
Chances are one of your goats will pop up during the five-week competition. Maybe it’s the elusive muscle up that you’re still a bit away from achieving. Or maybe the prescribed deadlift is a weight you only dream about.
It sucks to stand next to a barbell you can’t lift, but unfortunately, when you can’t perform the movement, the only course of action during an official Open workout is to ride out the clock. Your coach will likely give you a high-five for hanging in there, but let’s face it, entering a sub-par score into the leaderboard is going to sting.
Give the workout your best shot, but know when to bow out. Don’t be embarrassed, and don’t hurt yourself trying to get just one rep. Grinding out a heavy snatch or turning into the Hunchback of Notre Dame for a deadlift isn’t worth the risk of injury. Crazy things can happen in the heat of the moment (see tip number three), but sometimes it’s best to call it a day. Remember, you’re a beginner and your goals are to learn and have fun.
"Give the workout your best shot, but know when to bow out. Don’t be embarrassed, and don’t hurt yourself trying to get just one rep."
The silver lining in this situation is that the Open will expose your weaknesses and provide a training roadmap for the next year. You might be surprised at how motivated you feel to train harder after failing in an Open workout. Once competition is over, there are 47 weeks until the next Open. That’s a lot of time to improve strength and skills.
Tip: Hold your head high and vow to come back stronger next year.
5. You’ll Get Better at CrossFit Without Actually Working Out
Yes, you read that right. Each Open workout must be performed in front of a judge (aka, fellow CrossFitter at your box). Judges are responsible for ensuring each athlete adheres to proper movement standards. If your athlete doesn’t meet these standards, it’s up to the judge to call out a “no rep.”
Judging will make you a better athlete because watching people move is a great way to develop an eye for quality movement. You’ll begin to notice common mistakes that run rampant in CrossFit boxes and you may start to wonder if you’re guilty of the same mistakes. “I hope I don’t look like that when I work out.”
No one wants to “no rep” during a WOD, so do yourself a favor and use this new awareness as motivation to fight for better positions - like maintaining high elbows on front squats or keeping your feet glued together for kipping pull ups. A little extra effort will go a long way for building your confidence.
Tip: In the end, remember that your first Open is a learning experience. Have fun, work hard and enjoy the ride.
You Might Also Enjoy:
- 10 Opinions on the CrossFit Open
- 3 Things I Learned While Sitting Out the CrossFit Open
- What the CrossFit Open 2015 Changes Mean for You
- What's New on Breaking Muscle Today
Photos courtesy of CrossFit Impulse.