I don’t believe the point of CrossFit is to pretend to be a professional athlete, base your self-worth on your fitness level, and your placing at competitions.
But I also don’t believe this is what the Open is about.
When I was coaching a class of 18 athletes of all different levels the other morning, I asked them who was planning on doing the Open.
Two hands shot up proudly. Another half dozen looked like they maybe wanted to, but were fearful of committing to compete (perhaps thinking they're not good enough), while the other 10 looked confused about what Open even is.
If you’re one of the half dozen who looked scared, embarrassed, or apprehensive to commit, listen up:
I’ve never met a person who did the Open who didn’t say she was so glad she did it. Never heard anyone regret competing, not even my client who couldn’t do a toes-to-bar. The only feedback I’ve ever received are either stories of people exceeding their own expectations of themselves, or stories of athletes learning valuable life lessons.
Looking back, my favourite Open memory from 2013 is putting my 57-year-old mother through the workouts.
My mother played a ton of sports growing up and has always been very active, but admits she didn’t ever think she had taken herself to that “red line” zone, that “pain cave.” She prefers to hang out in her comfort zone.
In fact, she claims she has a “magic number” at CrossFit. By that, she means that 65 lb. is her "preference" for a lift – across the board. She can back squat, front squat, and split jerk 65 lb. Ironically, she can also shoulder press, thruster, and even snatch 65 lb.
And while I don’t believe that taking yourself to that ultimate “pain cave” is always the smartest approach for anyone (especially in a 3-day competition), you do learn a lot about yourself there.
And seeing as my mother is super competitive when she competes, I knew she'd find a way to dig deeper. I was determined to remove her from her comfort zone during last year’s Open.
Week after week, she showed up nervous, pacing, sweating, even making my father drive out with her and watch her performance because she didn’t feel calm enough to get behind the wheel.
And week after week, she found a way to push to that next level, getting closer and closer to the pain cave each workout.
Then came 13.3 – 150 wall balls
“There’s no way I’m doing 150 wall balls in 12 minutes. No way, Em,” she said. “Especially with the heavier ball.”
“We’ll get you there. You’re going to get to the double unders. I’ll pace you through it,” I said.
After watching, examining, analyzing what was happening to most of the athletes at my gym all week - focusing especially on the ones who were at my mother’s level - I found myself witnessing people blowing out too early, doing too many unbroken reps right off the bat and hitting a wall early, over and over again.
My mother took a deep breath, unable to hide her nerves, and began.
I had her begin with sets of 6, and when I could tell that 6 was starting to get tough, we moved to sets of 5, all with a short, calculated rest period.
It was going to come down to the wire. I knew it. My mother knew it, and pretty soon my father, who was into the workout as if he were watching the Superbowl, knew it. “C’mon Ang, you got this,” he yelled.
“No, No, I can’t, I can’t,” my mother moaned.
But every time I said, “You’re back on. Give me 6 reps,” she reluctantly picked up that ball and found a way to give me 6.
It definitely came down to the wire. But she managed to finish at 11:22, and suddenly found a surge of energy as she happily sprinted to her rope. She couldn’t get going on her double unders soon enough.
In the end, she managed to get 20 or so double unders, before collapsing to the ground in typical post-CrossFit workout fashion, for the first time in her life.
It was a beautiful moment.