Sorry, I know the question can be complex, loaded and seem like there’s a lot more to it, which I’m going to go into below, but if you want the skinny version, the answer is yes, you should do the open.
Last year, after only doing CrossFit for a month and change, I decided that I would enter the CrossFit Open and for the most part, it was one of the best decisions I made in 2017. Along with nearly 400,000 other people across the world, through five workouts, I tested myself to see where exactly my fitness was and where it was going.
For those of you not familiar with what the Open is, it’s the annual initial test that determines not only your fitness but who among the fittest will be able to advance to stage two, the regional level and then from there, the coveted CrossFit Games. Each year’s Open starts towards the end of February, releasing one workout per week for five weeks until around Easter or the end of March.
The first thing you need to know about the Open is that it’s a test and an important one at that. While you may think when you walk through the gym that CrossFit is just designed to get a bit of a heart rate increase and more or less make things like raising your coffee cup to your mouth more difficult later in the day, there’s actually a method behind the madness. In that, it’s a blend of these 10 essential skills that no bodybuilding, powerlifting program could argue that they test for.
Cardiovascular / respiratory endurance – The ability of body systems to gather, process, and deliver oxygen.
Stamina – The ability of body systems to process, deliver, store, and utilize energy.
Strength – The ability of a muscular unit, or combination of muscular units, to apply force.
Flexibility – The ability to maximize the range of motion at a given joint.
Power – The ability of a muscular unit, or combination of muscular units, to apply maximum force in minimum time.
Speed – The ability to minimize the time cycle of a repeated movement.
Coordination – The ability to combine several distinct movement patterns into a singular distinct movement.
Agility – The ability to minimize transition time from one movement pattern to another.
Balance – The ability to control the placement of the body’s center of gravity in relation to its support base.
Accuracy – The ability to control movement in a given direction or at a given intensity.
The idea behind CrossFit is to have a strong balance of all 10 skills but not be too dominant in one area. Being too strong, sacrifices your ability to be more agile or to have better cardiovascular endurance which compromises your overall fitness markers.
Through the Open’s five workouts, designer Dave Castro has created a test that will determine who is the most fit across all of these markers. Some workouts will require more strength and agility than others, some will require speed and accuracy (double unders and rowing) than others but by the end of it, we’ll end up at a balanced test that will give you a score for your overall fitness compared to the thousands of others who compete.
Now, for most people, the thought of doing the Open accompanies the notion that they don’t want to compete or that they’re not ready for it which doesn’t exactly make sense. The idea for this test isn’t that you need to be in some sort of physical shape to do it. The idea of the test is that it can be used to measure where your fitness was it at a particular point in time. If you showed up for a doctor’s appointment and had your blood pressure measured, you wouldn’t tell them you weren’t ready just because you had a couple extra slices of bacon for breakfast over the last week, would you?
Last year, I competed in the Open and had only just got my first muscle up several weeks earlier and drove literally across the country the week prior to the release of the first workout. To say I was ready was to say that the sky is actually the colour red not blue. But I did it anyways because it allowed me to see where my fitness was at that particular point in time. And if you’re reading this thinking you don’t have a muscle up at all, not even a chest to bar, don’t worry the Open is also infinitely scalable just like any of the CrossFit workouts you do on a daily basis.
When doing last year’s Open, I saw people competing that had never done a pull up before and were amazed that they were able to push themselves to the point where they accomplished that goal in the Open. There’s nothing more motivating than the adrenaline kicking in during competition and hitting that PR that you thought was months away or wasn’t even possible.
At the end of it, your coaches or judges will record your score online where you will able to see how you compare with other crossfitters in your region, province, country, age group, gender or internationally. It’s actually quite fun.
For most people, we’re comfortable with getting a wide array of tests done on our health but not one of them is geared towards our fitness level, which oddly enough, allows all of the other tests to move in the right direction (more on Greg Glassman’s sickness—wellness continuum later). We are fine with going to the doctor and getting our blood pressure, or weight checked but are we conscious that being more fit in those 10 areas will translate to a healthier blood pressure measure and other health markers?
When it comes to thinking about doing the Open, think of it that way rather than as a competition against people in your gym or even across the rest of the world. You just might have some fun doing it too.