If you live in a cave then you may not realise that the CrossFit Open is in full swing!  In 48 hours CrossFit will announce workout 17.3.  It’s the third test of physical fitness in this years series of five gruelling workouts.  I’m not a training novice, with many years of leading strength and conditioning coaching experience, but I am total CrossFit newbie.  Two workouts into my first ever competitive experience and I’ve already learnt loads about the so called ‘sport of fitness’.  Here are the lessons so far:


The CrossFit Community

Each ‘Box’ has a genuine community feel.  You will be made to feel welcome the moment your walk in the door.  Strangely enough, there is no sizing up of newcomers or cliques – they are genuinely pleased to see you!  It feels just like walking into the sports dressing room again with all of your favourite team mates there.

The Open has it’s hardcore standard workout known as the Rx.  There are then several scaled workouts for those who want or need to take it a little easier.  In the Open you get to compete against every other athlete in the competition in the act of competing against yourself.  It is arguably the friendliest competition in the world – every personal best is cheered by onlookers.  This encouraging competitive atmosphere is very powerful, which is why you will see people achieve a number of personal bests during the Open.


Prepare for a Reality Check

Park your ego firmly at the door!  You are about to go head to head with some of the worlds most fanatical fitness athletes.  I like to think that I’m pretty strong for my age and size but there’s nothing like the combinations and loads used during the Open to bring your expectations back down to earth with a thud.  It’s relatively easy to look fit and healthy as a Fulham personal trainer doing laps of Eel Brook Common!  After so much optimism at the start, the lung busting and back breaking mix of workout 17.1 shattered my aspirations within 2 minutes.  You are not the athlete you think or hope that you are.  That said, it has a funny way of giving you enough enjoyment to want to come back!

Fail to prepare and you will be found out.  A quick look at Open’s in previous years reveals a consistency that will send shivers down your spine.  There are a number of movements and gymnastics skills that appear every year.  It is simply a matter of time.  If you cannot perform any of these movements or safely shift the loads being asked then you can scale down the intensity demands of your workout.

Every second counts.  If you care about where you come on the leaderboard then it pays to squeeze out as much as possible from very performance.  A second quicker or an extra 2 repetitions can rocket you up the leaderboard.


On a personal note

There is no substitute for skill.  Sure, you can throw yourself and the weights around and power through to the finish.  However, taking the time to learn efficient movement would save me so much time and energy.  Two weeks in and I can only wonder how much better I would do with proper movement and an efficient technique.  Time invested in developing skills will pay huge dividends under the pressure of competition.

I have a new favourite website.  It’s the Open Leaderboard.  Are my scores up and how do I compare?  Despite knowing how stupid it is I just can’t help checking in several times per day.  Its all about alpha points and seeing where you have come.

I’m a former sceptic that has been converted.  My original concerns do still hold true because in pursuit of becoming better some people do compromise on their technique during the workouts.  This carries obvious risks which can give the sport a bad name.  Technique should be closely monitored at all times because it really isn’t worth the risk of injury to jump two places if there are 500,000 above you on the leaderboard.  For those prepared to train smart (training to do well during CrossFit competitions is not the same as the classic WOD) the downside of CrossFit does not outweigh it’s upside.  Now if you could excuse me, ‘I need to go check the website!’