The Challenge of the Crossfit Open

I’m not the most competitive person in the world. In fact, I’m more likely to cheer you on than try and compete with you head-to-head. It’s just not in my nature.

So crossfit for me was a bit of a match made in heaven. Why? Because I’m competing against myself. More weight. More reps. Better time. Even just working on a new skill. And I’m content with that. It’s never about doing better than the other guy. It’s just me doing what I can to get better from WOD to WOD.

Reebok Crossfit GamesAlong comes the Crossfit Open and we were all encouraged to join. It’s fun! It’s a challenge! You can see how you stack up against the other folks in your age group!

And I bought into that.

For the last several weeks, we’ve had mini-gatherings at Crossfit Continuum to watch each announcement of the next workout. We’ve seen each broadcast get bigger and bigger and I’ve felt a growing disease each time I’ve watched.


Because it’s added an outside pressure to something that has been traditionally an internal one for me. And that was ok for a while.

The first workout involved double-unders and snatches. I did my best for 10 minutes to accomplish one double-under. I didn’t, but I gave it my all.

The second workout involved overhead squats and chest-to-bar pull-ups. OHS are not one of those movements I’m good at, but I gave it my all and achieved two of them at 95# and was happy because it wasn’t a goose egg on the score board.

The third workout was deadlifts and box jumps. Woo hoo! Finally a couple of movements I could do! I got 76 reps and was pleased with myself.

The fourth workout was a row and toes-to-bar and a bunch of other things. T2B is one of those movements I’ve been getting closer to and had finally achieved not long before the announcement. And I got 19 of those puppies done – I was happy and enthusiastic.

Then this last workout was announced. Thrusters and burpees. Thrusters, like OHS and several other movements like squat cleans, are not among the moves I have in my bag of tricks. They’re doable, but not pretty. And this was going to be a bear. Descending rep scheme – 21-18-15-12-9-6-3 – of thrusters (95#) and bar-facing burpees.

I watched the elite athletes mow through the workout in 8 minutes. And I was struck by how easy they made it look. Each move was carefully done for the maximum effect. Each thruster might as well have had a pause at the top so the paparazzi could take a photo for posterity.

It got in my head.

I fought with it all night. And this morning it was still there. Gnawing at me from the inside. My head just didn’t feel right. I was not excited about going to the box to attempt the workout. I dreaded it.

Got to the box and watched one of our young, talented athletes plow through the workout in about 20 minutes while I warmed up. Then the first heat of folks did the workout and I watched another of our elite talented folks blow through it in 18 or 19 minutes. And the dread grew.

I tried to shake it off. But it swelled until it was pounding in my head. The doubts were circling like sharks. Why even bother if it was going to take me an hour? 95 pounds was heavy for 21 reps – how would I ever make it through 80 of the suckers?

When it was my turn, I tried to joke with the trainer (Marilee) who was judging me. The swearing began pretty quickly. I hardly ever drop F-bombs while working out but they came fast and furious today.

By the time I got done with the 18 reps of thrusters  I couldn’t do it any more. I paced the floor trying to gather the oomph to do the burpees but didn’t have it in me.

So I bailed.

Walked outside after punching the door and sat in the sun around the corner until people finished, punishing myself and at the same time trying to settle down the demons in my head. It took a while, but eventually I was just there sitting and enjoying the sun.

Eventually I wandered back into the box to get my stuff… keys, wallet, glasses, phone, etc. And waited in the car for the rest of my family to finish.

But by that point I’d pretty much decided that this whole competition thing was not for me. It added another layer of pressure I didn’t need. It was no longer just about completing the workout. It was about living up to the standards set by those elite athletes the night before.

And that wasn’t cool.

I have become a crossfit convert not because of any outside factors, but because every day is a challenge for me. Some days are better than others, I’ll be the first to admit. Sometimes my body and brain don’t work together in any sort of synchronicity. But I have fun. And I try. And most days I succeed in some small way.

Today was not about succeeding. It was about comparing myself to those models of crossfit athleticism I’d seen the night before. Knowing that 160 reps of two of my least favorite movements were waiting for me. It was about knowing that a trainer would be watching every single rep to see if I held to the standard.

It was about the pressure. Not about the fun.

And that is no bueno.

So I am done with participating in measured events like the Crossfit Games and the Lurong Challenge. It’s not worth the aggravation. I’ll still do the workouts but I refuse to fall into this trap that I have to measure up to the rest of the crossfit community.

I don’t.

I have to measure up to my own expectations. My own goals. My challenges are purely of my own manufacture. And sure, I belong to a box and I want to succeed at doing these movements correctly so that a) I don’t hurt myself and b) I get some solid physical activity out of the workout. But I’m not there to see how I stack up against the world. I’m there to see how I stack up against myself.

Today I found myself lacking because my head was NOT in the right place. And it’s because I bought into the trap of competition.

Now that I know that, I refuse to fall into that trap again. More power to the rest of the athletes who can divorce themselves from the competition aspect or LIKE knowing how they stack up against the elites. But it’s not for me.

Sorry Crossfit Open, I think this is the last time I’m participating.


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