No CrossFit Regionals? No Problem.
Written by C.J. Martin
The sport of fitness is changing…and nobody knows what it will look like.
Does this scare you – or does it excite you?
Here Are 5 Reasons the CrossFit Games Changes Don’t Scare Us
Less than a month ago we learned that the future of the CrossFit Games and the sport of fitness will look very different. Among the announced and rumored changes, none has been as earth shaking as the elimination of Regionals – the qualifying event that moved athletes on to the CrossFit Games since 2010.
Thousands of athletes each year set their goals around the Regionals competitions. The elimination of Regionals has left many to question how they should be training, when they should be peaking, and what exactly they’re training for.
Few things create more anxiety than change and uncertainty; but change and uncertainty are also our gateways to growth and innovation. The elimination of Regionals and changed direction of the CrossFit Games may just be the best thing to happen for the sport of fitness. Let’s dig in to some of the benefits that we already know about.
More Opportunities to Compete (for both Recreational and Professional Athletes)
Last year there were 9 Regional competitions around the world over a 3-week period. But athletes could only compete in their assigned region – which meant that they only had a single opportunity to compete at a Games qualifying event. Now athletes will have 16 competitions to choose from. Those 16 competitions will be spaced out over the course of 8 months, meaning that athletes could choose to compete in as many as 6-8 competitions per year.
Athletes will not be limited by the structure of the Open and their assigned region, but rather their travel budget and tolerance for testing themselves in myriad online qualifiers and competitions.
Recreational athletes who may not have qualified for Regionals will now have the opportunity to compete in the same events as those striving to move on to the CrossFit Games. Some of the announced and rumored CrossFit-sanctioned qualifying events, such as Granite Games, WODapalooza, and the French Throwdown, have a long history of catering more toward the recreational athlete than the professionals.
In fact, it’s likely that 75% or more of the 16 qualifying events will have multiple divisions for recreational athletes (from RX to scaled), allowing the number of participants in qualifying competitions to far exceed the number of those who competed in the 2018 Regionals.
Less Risk of Illness or Injury Ending Your Season
Imagine busting your butt training for the last 12-18 months for your opportunity to compete, and then one weekend in March you get ill or suffer a minor injury. Under the current system, your season is over. If you cannot put your best foot forward for five consecutive weeks during the Open, your CrossFit Games season concludes immediately.
The new system, on the other hand, would allow for an ill or injured athlete to take the necessary time to get healthy and then come back to compete in a later competition and still qualify.
Flexibility to Create Structured Training and Competition Schedules
Since 2011 athletes (and coaches) have had to dedicate the month of March to the Open, and have had to preserve a 4-6 week chunk of time in May and June for the possibility of Regionals. Accordingly, training plans have been structured to prepare athletes for a certain level of readiness at those times of year.
Realistically, that meant sometimes altering training priorities before it was necessary to do so. For example, an athlete needing to gain strength to be competitive at Regionals may have had to back off their strength development in order to put some priority back on conditioning and gymnastics in the weeks leading up to the Open.
The changed priority can potentially stunt the development of the very physical qualities they’d be tested on at the qualifying stage.
Once the new qualifying events are all announced, athletes and their coaches will be able to look at the annual calendar to make strategic decisions about what times of year they’d like to compete, and structure training accordingly.
Using the same example of the athlete needing to develop strength, that athlete may choose to forego the early competitions and opt instead to focus on strength development until the final two qualifying events – potentially gaining as many as 4-6 months of consistent, focused training before having to embark on the online qualifiers for the athlete’s chosen events.
“What” Your Training for Isn’t Changing
The sport of fitness isn’t changing what is being tested. All of these qualifying events have a history of testing the same work capacity and strength qualities as have been tested in CrossFit since 2007. This isn’t GRID, where the nature of the concept fundamentally changed how an athlete would train. This is still CrossFit, it’s still the sport of fitness and it will still require every athlete to be well-rounded.
If anything, I expect coaches and athletes to benefit from greater insight into athlete strengths and weaknesses through the increased data generated by the online qualifiers and more varied qualifying competitions.
Your “Why” and Reason for Training and Competing Isn’t Changing
In addition to the benefits of the changes noted above, it’s important to analyze some of the things that should remain unchanged in this new system…like most importantly, “why” you train.
If you choose to train and compete to learn more about your character and what your body is capable of doing, or for the satisfaction of knowing that you have maximized your physical potential, the changes to the Games format are irrelevant.
The lessons you learn through training and competition, such as work ethic, goal achievement, overcoming obstacles, etc…, will be unchanged whether you are training for Regionals or to compete in the scaled division of the Granite Games. It’s a personal journey, so don’t worry about the structural changes. These individuals now have more opportunities to pick competitions that are meaningful to them and structure their training appropriately.
If you’re a purely recreational athlete who hasn’t had a realistic chance at qualifying for the CrossFit Games, you should be excited that your focus will move to preparing for more inclusive competitions rather than spending 5 weeks participating in an online qualifier that doesn’t offer you an option to compete.
At most of the announced or rumored qualifying events, such as Granite Games and WODaplooza, you’ll have the benefit of being able to compete with athletes of similar abilities and experiences. You’ll still have an online qualifier, but at least that qualifier will correctly place you and still allow you an opportunity to compete. Plus, you’ll be competing in the same arenas and warming up alongside the best in the sport as they prepare to compete in their own divisions at the same events.
That might not seem like a big deal, but think of it this way…if you had the chance to take batting practice with your buddies at Wrigley Field before slipping up into the stands to watch the Cubs play, you’d probably think it was pretty cool.
Athletes who have made a career out of training and competing shouldn’t be concerned. In fact, these athletes may have more to gain from the changes because they will have increased opportunity to win prize money at the qualifying events, and much greater opportunity to approach potential sponsors to become brand ambassadors. The prize money at competitions such as Dubai Fitness Championships, WODapalooza and Granite Games is significantly more than what athletes could make at Regionals.
If we assume that removing Regionals allows for more optimal timing of these events rather than having all of them between September and mid-January, you could see athletes selecting 3-4 different events and earning multiples of what they would have earned from their single Regionals weekend.
More importantly, athletes should be much more attractive to potential sponsors – which is where most professional fitness athletes make the bulk of their stable income. Knowing that an athlete will be able to compete at qualifying events multiple times per season should make prospective sponsors happy. Multiple competitions each year should help athletes better tell their story as brand ambassadors – and it eliminates the concern that a minor injury or illness sidelines them for the entire season.
Finally, athletes who train and compete “for the Gram” are still free to wear non-functional attire and place their cameras at the most uncomfortable angles. If anything, they’ll now have the opportunity to showcase their shenanigans all over the world at qualifying events.
I am not casting judgement on why any athlete chooses to train to the level they do, but regardless of their motivations, the new structure doesn’t dampen their purpose.
How do the changes to the CrossFit Games season effect the Open?
The competitive CrossFit world was rocked late last Summer when CrossFit HQ announced significant changes to the CrossFit Games season – most notably, the elimination of Regionals. The new format was somewhat unknown and only recently clarified with the release of the 2019 CrossFit Games Rulebook.
There are now multiple routes for athletes to qualify for the CrossFit Games, and the most prominent and important route is directly through the Open. Here is the most elementary breakdown of it:
– The top 20 males and females by Open finish will receive an invitation to the CrossFit Games
– The fittest male and female citizen of each country with a CrossFit affiliate will receive an invitation to the CrossFit Games
– The first place winners of the 16 or so CrossFit sanctioned competitions will receive an invitation to the CrossFit Games
There are some rules surrounding backfilling spots when individuals qualify through multiple routes (e.g., Mat Fraser wins the Open, is fittest in USA and has won a sanctioned event), but for the purposes of this article it’s enough to simply know that the Open has become more important than ever for the most competitive athletes.
But how many people are really affected by those changes?
If we dig into the numbers, you’ll quickly see that we’re talking about less than 1%…way less than 1%. Nearly 430,000 people signed up for the 2018 CrossFit Open. Approximately 1600 athletes worldwide participated in Regionals either as individuals or as members of teams, which represents about .3% of those registered for the Open.
If you’re part of the 99.7% of those who competed in the 2018 Open and didn’t advance to Regionals, the chances are pretty good that the changes to the CrossFit Games season don’t have any impact on you. The Open, after all, is a celebration of our fitness and our community. It’s an opportunity to push ourselves to new limits and share our successes and shortcomings with like-minded individuals. The Open brings us closer to other fitness enthusiasts who share an understanding of why we’d choose to engage in something that challenges our mind and body.
Simply put, it’s fun.
Change can be scary, but it doesn’t have to be. The sport of fitness is changing, and whether those changes are positive or negative is largely up to us, our perspective and our willingness to make the most of the new situation. Taking a break from training because you lack information about the new season isn’t going to make you feel better. Stay calm, train diligently, look for opportunities, and be ready to take advantage of them.
If you have questions or need help with your training or navigating the new structure, we’re here to help and excited to do so. And don’t forget, you are welcome to train with us by joining our Invictus Athlete program, an online training program tailored to the competitor in the sport of fitness.
Great perspective on the changes. Are the masters categories following this same format of qualifying events?
Great article CJ. I’m a recreational athlete but I love to compete. I really appreciated what you said about fitness being a personal journey. Whether you’re trying to compete at the games or in the scaled division at the granite games, this really does give us athletes more opportunities to grow as competitors! I have been thinking about these competitions, even the scaled division, and am looking forward to competing as an Invictus Athlete someday. I’m not afraid of these changes. I’m excited to compete more. Well said!
I suppose I’m definitely categorized as a “recreational” masters athlete… I had aspirations to make regionals one day… but I’m far from it at the moment. I think these are great positive points to the new structure… I really do… and I appreciate the blog. The only thing I will say is that having regionals was a way for someone to take that “next step” in competition that is now unavailable. it would be nice if they had a couple “invitationals” or “semi-final” type events All in all though… I like the new format. Something like this is necessary if… Read more »
Do you not think of the new qualifiers as the “next step” in competition? Why wouldn’t these qualifiers be viewed in the same way as Regionals was? At the end of the day, both regionals and these qualifiers are selection processes to test athletes and determine how they stack up.
Hi CJ…. I think there is a distinct difference between these events and the regionals. 1) Regionals were invitational only – you had to earn the right to be there. 2) All the focus was on the next level athletes and it was exciting to watch as the field narrowed over the course of the events. 3) As a competitor, it gave you an oportunity compete in an environment similar to what the games will look like… with fans in the audience picking their “favs” etc. 4) It was a nice “in-between” that showcased up and coming talent in a… Read more »
I am struggling to see the differences – and also believe that future iterations of these formerly off-season events will look much more like Regionals even than they did in the past. 1. WODapalooza, Dubai, Granite Games, etc…all have online qualifiers, just like the Open was an online qualifier for Regionals. You have to earn the right to be at a sanctioned qualifier just like you had to earn the right to be at Regionals. The only difference being that these events may also have division options for those who don’t qualify in the top divisions, which will allow them… Read more »
CJ, first… thank you for responding and addressing my concerns. I am not seeking to change your mind or persuade you that I’m right… I simply offer an opinion from the perspective of a fan/amateur athlete. I sincerely hope you are right… and indeed I DO think this is a better route in the long term for the sport of Crossfit. Change is necessary for growth.. yet not all aspects of change are pleasant and it doesn’t make much sense to me to pretend otherwise. I appreciate you putting such a positive aspect out there for consideration…There is much to… Read more »
I always enjoy hearing those perspectives, and trust me, I have heard a wide variety from various levels of athletes since the announced changes. What I am trying to better understand and help others see is that most of this “grieving” is a matter of perspective. Change is neither pleasant or unpleasant, it’s just change – it’s our response to change that determines how we will feel about it. That’s not to say that you can’t choose to grieve if that’s what you’d like to do, but there are significant reasons to celebrate these changes…and choosing to grieve in the… Read more »