CrossFit Open: To Redo or not?

There is a frenzied debate over whether to redo CrossFit Open workouts. Today I was reading through a thread on Facebook and you had people pretty much shaming people who decided to repeat one of the Open workouts, with the logic of “You aren’t going to the CrossFit Games, so what’s the point”? Both sides started yelling back and forth and the CrossFit Games account even stepped in and joined the discussion. The answer is pretty obvious:

Redo the workouts if you want, don’t redo them if you don’t want. 

I have a history of redoing workouts, and I think that doing so has been extremely valuable for me and my development in CrossFit, so I’m going to talk about why I think it could be a good idea to redo these workouts.

Before I start, I’ll talk about some legitimate reasons not to redo Open workouts:

  • You really don’t need a reason. If you don’t want to redo the workout, don’t redo it. It’s completely normal not to redo the workouts. However you SHOULDN’T make other people feel bad who do want to redo the workout. It’s okay for something to be really important to other people, even if they aren’t going to make the CrossFit Games. On the flip side, you shouldn’t make other people feel bad if they don’t want to redo a workout. Sure maybe you really think they could have done better, but it’s okay not to care that much about a CrossFit competition.
  • If the workout is extremely taxing on your body and results in many days of soreness and fatigue, you should be careful about redoing it. There have been a few workouts like this for me. I have no interest in risking my health to redo an Open workout. However most of the workouts are no more intense than a workout we do during a normal week, so I’m putting myself at no risk by doing it again. The only thing that doing 15 minutes of rowing and wallballs is going to do for me is to make me a little bit more fit.

As we all know, in CrossFit you are doing pretty intense workouts that vary every day. It’s extremely rare that you’ll do the same exact thing within a week, or even within a few months. In general this is a good thing, but the CrossFit Open gives you a unique opportunity to do something that you don’t ever get to do the rest of the year: To do a workout, and then do it a few days later and learn whether there are certain pacing strategies that would greatly improve your performance. When you do a workout again so shortly after, every single thought that you had during the first attempt is fresh in your head. You remember when you felt tired, when you felt that maybe you could have pushed just a little harder. Now you get to see if maybe, just maybe, you are capable of more than you showed.

These pacing strategies don’t just affect the one Open Workout you are redoing. They can affect every other workout you do for the rest of the year. It’s not uncommon that I’ll see a workout and think to myself “Based on what I learned by redoing 18.2, I know I should probably use XYZ strategy”

In my opinion, redoing the workouts in the CrossFit Open fits into the CrossFit ethos of constantly varied and intense movement. The variance this time is we are actually going to do the same workout shortly after originally doing it, which is something we almost never do. There are a lot of people who act like it’s completely insane to do a workout, and then do it again two days later. Aren’t there lots of people who basically run 3 miles a day every day? There is nothing at all weird or strange about doing the same workout again, it’s just not what CrossFitters are typically used to. What’s weird is acting like exercising in the same way that you did a few days ago is weird.

In the first two Open workouts of 2019 I have repeated and in both cases have learned something extremely valuable, either about pacing or about myself.

CrossFit Open 19.2 was:

Beginning on an 8-minute clock, complete as many reps as possible of:
25 toes-to-bars
50 double-unders
15 squat cleans, 135 lb.
25 toes-to-bars
50 double-unders
13 squat cleans, 185 lb.
If completed before 8 minutes, add 4 minutes to the clock and proceed to:
25 toes-to-bars
50 double-unders
11 squat cleans, 225 lb.

followed by some other crap I have no chance to get to.

In 2016 I did this workout a few times and finished with 2 cleans at 185. In 2018 we did it in a regular class and I was able to get 6 cleans at 185. I was aiming this year to at least get 6 cleans again, and hopefully be able to do better. I’m 40 years old now, and I’m not doing any specialized training other than going to daily CrossFit classes, so I don’t beat myself up too much if my times just stay the same 🙂

Here was my strategy for each of my attempts:

Attempt 1:

  • Start with a big set of T2B, then just do a bunch of quick singles and doubles to get to 25
  • Do 30-35 double unders, rest 10 seconds to get your heart rate down, and then do 15-20 double unders
  •  Do the 135 squat cleans quickly. Do a rep, drop it, pick it up again right away
  • On the next set of T2B do whatever you can to survive. Try to do a big set, and then once you feel yourself falling apart, immediately switch to fast singles
  • Do 30-35 double unders, rest 10 seconds, and then do the last 15-20.
  • Get to the 185 lb cleans and pray

With the above strategy I got to the 185 lb cleans at 6:35. The first round of T2B were a total mess. I did 15 reps, then some random mishmash of singles and doubles. The 135 lb cleans went well at first, but then I started massively slowing down, and sometimes taking 6-7 seconds in between reps on the later ones. The next set of T2B was a mess, I did 5 reps, and then started going to singles and doubles right away. I ended up finishing with 6 cleans, tying my score from 2018. I was relatively satisfied with my score. I know I’m not the most amazing athlete in the world, and six cleans is pretty respectable.

However I started to think something was really amiss when I screwed around later in the day and tried a few sets of 5 T2B, followed by 5 second rest. It seemed like I got through 15 and still had a lot of energy to burn. I felt calm and relaxed, and I thought that maybe this is a strategy I should try. Will it work or not? Who knows. But if it does work, it could completely change how I approach future T2B workouts.

Here was the strategy in my second attempt:

  • Do sets of 5 T2B with 5 second rest in between sets
  • Do 30-35 double unders, rest 10 seconds to get your heart rate down, and then do 15-20 double unders
  • Do singles on the 135 squat cleans, and do a strict 3 second count before each attempt
  • Do sets of 5 T2B with 7-8 second rest between sets for as long as I can
  • Do 30-35 double unders, rest 10 seconds to get your heart rate down, and then do 15-20 double unders
  • Get to the 185 lb squat cleans and pray
  • Minimize all transition time between stations

The difference between this strategy and the first one was simply massive. I felt so much better, and had a tiebreak time of 5:49, over 45 seconds faster, as though just tinkering with a few things transformed me into someone who was much more fit.

The T2B felt great. I managed to get a clean three sets of 5 in on the second round, before I had to resort to singles and doubles. The 135 lb squat cleans were smooth and consistent with the set 3 second break. I managed to hit 10 cleans at 185 lbs in the 2ish minutes I had remaining, which left me 3 cleans away from the next round and a massively improved score from my first attempt. One other note…I did the first set of dubs unbroken, and it didn’t seem to faze me much. However on the second set I intentionally stopped around rep 37 and rested ten seconds. In retrospect this seemed unnecessary.

I decided I really wanted to get to the third round, and so I took a third attempt at the workout, to see if there were any more things I could learn about myself. One thing I’d like to mention is I really didn’t want to do this workout again. Everything was telling me that the unpleasantness of going through this again just wasn’t necessary. I also had a super busy day and could have made lots of excuses not to do it. But that’s usually a good sign that I should do it and so I found a way to fit it in. Here was my plan for attempt 3:

  • Do sets of 5 T2B with 5 second rest in between sets
  • Unbroken double unders
  • Do singles on the 135 squat cleans, and do a strict 3 second count before each attempt
  • Do sets of 5 T2B with 5 second rest in between sets. After my third set of T2B, dig deep to push for a few bigger sets so I don’t have to immediately resort to singles and doubles, as they are pretty frantic and can mess up your heart rate, and will waste precious time on the clock.
  • Unbroken double unders
  • Fight harder on the 185 lb cleans
  • Minimize all transition time between stations

Once again everything worked perfectly. It turned out the rest on the double unders was completely unnecessary. Although I did trip once each round, but picked things back up quickly in both cases. The second round of T2B was MUCH smoother because I kind of knew where I would run into trouble and was mentally prepared to fight through that moment. I got to the cleans this time with a tiebreak time of 5:25, a full 25 seconds faster than my second attempt and about 1:15! faster than my first attempt.

I wish I could say the story had a happy ending, but I only managed 11 cleans, and still came up short on the third round. But I learned so much by redoing this workout multiple times. The difference between getting tiebreak times of 6:35, 5:49 and 5:25 is enormous and demonstrates a completely different level of fitness (and obviously I didn’t magically get more fit in 3 days). I learned that:

  • Sets of 5 with 5 second rest on T2B are manageable for a long time for me, and keep me calm and my heart rate down. Meanwhile larger sets mess me up a lot.
  • I was able to immediately go to the set of 5 for the T2B after my 135 lb squat cleans in my second attempt, because the set was so manageable and my heart rate was under control. My first attempt I took like a full ten second rest before jumping onto the bar. Using this type of pacing strategy in the future could allow me quicker transitions, which might eliminate any time I lose from not doing large unbroken sets.
  • In a workout like this, the temptation to break the double unders is strong, but I should just try to do them unbroken. The breaks in between the squat cleans, and the breaks you’ll get on the T2B will help you to recover, and you shouldn’t waste ten seconds just staring at the rope
  • I still have to figure out a way to fight through doing moderately heavy loads under time pressure. I do believe I should finish the cleans in the amount of time that I had, but my body just wouldn’t go to pick up the bar. This is something to think about as a focus in future WOD’s. I think that if I were to redo this workout, I’d give myself a strict count on when to do each clean, based on the assumption that I’ll have about 150 seconds to complete the cleans (so that gives me something like 11-12 seconds per clean)

Ideally I’d be able to perform the optimal strategy in my first run through the workout, but it’s hard to know what that strategy is without having done tests like this first.

So yeah, I could have just not done this workout a few times, but I’d be worse at CrossFit for it and I’d understand a lot less about myself and my athletic abilities.

2 thoughts on “CrossFit Open: To Redo or not?

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