Over the next few weeks, we’ll be putting out some articles designed to help you use the Open as a jumping-off point to learn more about yourself as an athlete, prioritize which movements and workout types you need to work on, and then assemble and action plan to make it all happen. I thought it would be helpful to see an example of how I use the Open data and my subjective experiences in the Open to make decisions on my training priorities, in hopes that it can help you do the same. Need help figuring out how to analyze your own performance and where to go from here? Sign up for a Free Goal Review!
Buckle up friends, it’s about to get hardcore, CrossFit nerdy in here.
Now that this year’s Open is over, it’s time to dive in head first to the data and see how I did. The two main questions I’ll be trying to answer for myself:
Am I fitter than last year?
What areas of my fitness need the most improvement, and what should I do to fix them?
Here’s a screen shot of my Open placements, in the state of Minnesota for 2018
For reference, here is 2017. Keep in mind there was 1 fewer score so my overall points are much lower.
Question 1: Am I fitter than I was last year?
My overall ranking went down from 2017 to 2018 in Minnesota — 180th to 212th. If I didn’t look any deeper, I could make the false (I think it’s false, anyway) assumption that my fitness slipped and I got worse.
The competition, even at the local level, is exponentially tougher than it was the first couple years I did the Open back in 2015. More and more high-level high school and college athletes are finding CrossFit as their new competitive outlet. This means that if I ONLY look at my overall ranking, it isn’t necessarily an apples to apples comparison of my fitness last year, since there are literally hundreds of new Rx male competitors just in MN, plus everyone that was already in it is also getting better. This means we have to take overall ranking with a grain of salt, and look more closely at individual workouts, as well as my own knowledge about my capacity compared to last year.
The weak spots
I clearly had one huge outlier workout — the 1RM clean, 18.2a. At 615th place in the state, it absolutely murdered my ranking. When there’s a major outlier, it’s important to look at the context of this workout. Had I even cleaned 12lbs more, my overall ranking would have been right there where it was last year. Is 12lbs on one lift on one day enough to make the conclusion that I’m less fit than last year? Of course not.
That being said, overall strength, especially with anything front squat related, is definitely a major weak point for me. I have improved on them since last year — 20lbs more to my 1RM squat clean, for example — but relative to the rest of the field, I am still well behind. Top-end strength will be the overarching theme for my 2018 training season, especially squatting.
It’s worth noting that the last 1RM in the Open, the max clean & jerk in 2015 — I only managed to put up 170lbs, which was like 5023952490583th in the state. So even though I’m still not as strong as others, I’m a hell of a lot stronger than I used to be. It’s important to remember than even though I’m not where I want to be yet, I’m closer than I was before.
Besides the clean, my next worst workout was the first one — 18.1, which has toes to bar, rowing, and DB clean & jerks for 20 minutes. I don’t think my sub-par placement was due to lack of fitness. I think it was lack of preparation and mental fortitude. I’m good at toes to bar. Usually I’m good at rowing, for my size anyway. Usually I’m good at fast transitions. On that day, I was a total baby, especially for the last 5 minutes of the workout. Slow rowing pace, slow to pick up the dumbbell. I should have had another full round on that workout. I wasn’t in the right state of mind. I had no fire. If you want to do well in the Open, you need to be focused and hungry. You can’t coast through it and expect good things!
I didn’t re-do the workout, because in past Opens I didn’t really need to redo workouts.
Remember that thing I said about the competition getting way better? I think my days of one-and-done on every workout are probably over, especially when I KNOW without a doubt that I can do way better on a workout. I’m not going to re-do every workout, but if I still care about my ranking, some weeks I will need to come back better prepared for a second go. My goal is ALWAYS to bring it 100% on the first try, but sometimes you just have a bad day. Sometimes a workout surprises you and you need to re-tool your strategy. I have been kicking myself for not re-doing 18.1, since it was a combination of both these things. Next year I will be more prepared for this possibility.
So let’s say, for argument’s sake, that I added 15 more reps to 18.1, and 12lbs to my clean in 18.2a (which still would have been below my normal 1rm) . Both of these are totally reasonable and within my current capabilities. Then my ranking would have been higher than last year, pretty comfortably. Obviously I didn’t achieve those things, but it illustrates how incredibly narrow the margin for error can be during a huge competition with this many people. That extra 5-10 seconds of maximum effort, holding onto the bar for one or two extra reps, keeping that rowing pace strong for two or three more pulls — it all adds up!
The strong spots
My best placement was 18.2, the ladder of DB squats and bar facing burpees. I have trained a lot of fast, sprint-type workouts this past year, partly because I tend to do better at longer workouts, and partly because I’m almost always short on time in my training sessions. When you only have 30 minutes to warm up, work out, get changed and get ready to coach, you’re probably going to pick something short and sweet. Like 100 bar facing burpees for time. 50 burpee box jump overs for time. Both workouts I did this winter. “I can do burpees fast, even if I’m dying. Pick up the DBs immediately. ” That is the mantra I had on repeat in my head the whole 18.2 workout.
I was well-prepared, confident, and HUNGRY for a good result after laying an egg the week before. That’s a recipe for a good score. So I got a good score.
Even though 18.3 was my next best placement, I am most happy with 18.4. I would have had to screw up pretty bad to NOT score well in 18.3 — it’s like all my favorite movements in one workout. However, 18.4 had a major goat — handstand pushups have absolutely crushed me in the Open in the past. 2016 I got 7 total reps. 2017 I got 14 total reps. To get through 45 reps this year and get to pick up that 315lb deadlift bar was a HUGE victory for me. I’ve worked a lot on HSPU this past year and it feels like it paid off. Am I a little salty that handstand walks were in the Open finally, but I didn’t get to do them? You bet. But this workout overall was a big win for me.
Looking back on my placements, scores, and how I felt during and after these workouts, I do think my fitness is better than last year on the whole. I’ve lost a step in a few areas due to a year of chronic sleep deprivation and less overall time to train, but I have gained more in other areas to make up for it.
I still want to get a better overall ranking next year. My priorities are:
- Overall strength, especially in squatting, especially when under fatigue. Many of the movements I struggle the most with (squat cleans, thrusters, I’m looking at you) will improve greatly if I can add some top end strength.
- Get my grit back in longer workouts. I’ve lost a step in my rowing and it was noticeable in 18.1.
- Continue to improve gymnastics capacity under fatigue, especially in HSPU and ring muscle ups
Over the next two weeks I’m going to take a little time to do some fun workouts and let my body reload. During that time I’m going to write out specific strength programming to add to my training twice a week.
My process goals for the year:
- Squat at least twice a week outside of conditioning pieces — will follow a structured program for this part.
- 50 thrusters every week, at 95lbs or higher.
- 50 HSPU every week
- 30 Muscle ups every week
- Row in a workout every week
It’s not rocket science. It’s just giving myself some specific marks to shoot for each week, without getting super specific about when and how I have to do them all. The squats will follow a structured progression. The other movements I just need to accumulate more good reps in a variety of scenarios. I’m going to make myself a check-off sheet so I can have a physical place each week to note if I did my process goals. If I do those things, the results will come. I’m excited to get going and start with a clean slate!
With my experience in CrossFit and as a coach for many years, I have the knowledge and tools to build my programming and goals for myself. However, many people struggle with prioritizing which things to work on, and with how to actually implement them into training to get better. I encourage you to sign up for a Free Goal Review session — we’ll sit down one-on-one to talk through your performance now, where you want to be, and figure out together how to get you there.