If you’ve ever talked to adult chess players who are new to the game, there’s one problem that so many of them share.
When it comes to playing chess, there is nothing more valuable than tournament experience. While you can certainly learn a lot at home by studying classic games, solving puzzles and playing casual games over the Internet, there is no way to infuse that extra level of intensity and importance that comes from playing in a real life chess tournament.
At some point these aspiring chess players want to know what to do to get better, and for those who never play in competitions the answer is simple “Go play in a chess tournament”.
Unfortunately one of the most common answers I’d hear is “I’m not ready to play in a chess tournament yet”. The problem with this line of thought is that you’ll never actually feel that you’re ready to play. There’s so much to learn and understand in chess, that you’ll always feel like a total beginner next to the players who are much stronger than you. But if you want to improve, you absolutely must find ways to play in organized chess competitions. As long as you know the rules of chess, you’re ready to play in a tournament.
So what the heck does this have to do with CrossFit and the CrossFit Open? I hear the same exact thing from people who don’t want to join the Open.
“I’m going to wait until I get better at kipping pullups”
“Last year the cleans were 185 and I can only clean 165 right now. Once I get to 185 then I’ll join”
“I’ll probably have to scale most of the workouts”
First of all the scaled workouts are hard as hell, so there’s no reason to think like that. One scaled workout last year was 13 straight minutes of wallballs and jumping rope. I hate wallballs more than anything, so that sounded like a nightmare to me. How about 15.5 where you still have to row 72 calories throughout the workout but have to do 65 lb/45 lb thrusters instead of the Rx weight? If you think that’s not still an unbelievably grueling workout for nearly anyone, you’re crazy.
But here’s when I realized just how important it was to actually sign up for the Open:
Last year during Workout 15.3, we had a litany of athletes who had never done a muscle up, and the workout called for seven muscle ups right away. Most of these athletes probably felt their hearts drop when they heard the Workout Announcement and there were thousands of others across the world who had no choice but to do the scaled version.
Despite the initial disappointment and fear, many of the athletes at our gym who hadn’t gotten that muscle up were not ready to just go right into the scaled version of the workout. They worked like crazed animals trying to get their first muscle up. They tried on Friday and if they failed, they came back on Saturday, then again on Sunday. What was the final result? I’d say somewhere around 10-15+ people got their first ever muscle ups during that workout, and every time it was a beautiful thing to see.
How many would have gotten that first muscle up in March 2015 if they didn’t sign up for the CrossFit Open? A lot less I’m sure.
Actually committing to the CrossFit Open takes every workout to the next level. You may think something is impossible for you, but you’re going to go crazy trying to do it. There’s almost no way to replicate this level of intensity by just doing the Open without signing up. When we have a WOD that happens to have muscle ups in it, we don’t see a dozen athletes getting their first muscle up during that WOD. But when it’s the CrossFit Open, and you’ve completed two workouts already, and the next challenge either requires you to find a way to get above those rings or scale the workout, your chances of making it happen go way up. I saw it at my gym and I know that gyms all around the world saw it as well.
We saw people get their first Toe to Bar, their first Chest to Bar, their first Overhead Squat with 65 lbs, their first 115 lb Snatch and their first Handstand Pushups.
Just like in chess tournaments, which have different sections for different rating levels, everyone is going for something different in the Open. Some elite athletes are aiming to make Regionals. However this is far less than 1% of all athletes competing. The majority of people are just trying to have fun. Here are a few possible goals:
- Try and complete every workout RX
- Try and complete every workout Scaled
- Get at least one new movement or PR during the Open
- Go for a higher ranking than you had in 2015
- Crush Jason Malumed in 16.4
What’s my goal? Aside from crushing Jason, my goal is very modest. I just want to do better than I did last year. In 2015 I came in 1299th in the Mid-Atlantic Region and 16,986th in the world. If I can somehow equal those performances I’d be very happy as I’ve been battling annoying injuries for a good part of this last year. Also my business card says top 1300 CrossFit athlete in the region, so I don’t want to have to reprint those.
My biggest regret in CrossFit is that I didn’t sign up for the first Open available to me back in 2013. I thought I wasn’t ready but I was, and it was really disappointing when I realized halfway through that I wish I’d have signed up. Even worse, now I can’t go online and look back at my 2013 scores to see how far I’ve come.
The last, and probably most important reason to join is the community support. You’ll never have anyone cheer for you so loud as you’ll have during the CrossFit Open. I’m serious that anytime I go to any sporting event, and pay 50 bucks for the tickets, 20 dollars for the food, I think to myself “am I insane?”. There is nothing more thrilling than simply watching everyone at your CrossFit gym fight through the Open together. And the best part is that it’s totally free.