How to Approach The CrossFit Open

Written by Holden Rethwill

If you’ve been following along with our Invictus blog then you probably saw the post about The Open coming up (remember, death and taxes?)… In that post, I talked about how it was too late to set the foundation for this season, but then followed it up with some tips and advice for how you can give yourself the best shot going forward. If you didn’t read it, go back and do so…It’s good. I’m clearly biased because I wrote it…but in all seriousness, it just might be what you need to hear…with your eyes…before the season officially kicks off.

I’m going to take a little different spin on some “Open” discussion and talk about how we think you should approach the three weeks slowly approaching us like a dark rain cloud filled with sweat and pain. Whether it’s for this year, next year, or down the road, hopefully, this advice will stick with you…or at least give you something to fall back on every year right before tax season…(I mean if for nothing else, at least The Open can be a reminder to do those? Small wins…)

So how should you approach The Open? This season will be my 8th Open, and while this year is slightly different than years past (insert tiny human and exit competing)…I’ve picked up some knowledge and nuggets along the way that I believe can be useful for anyone regardless of where they fall on the fitness spectrum.

Let’s get to it…

Use it as an opportunity to learn.

The Open can teach us a seemingly endless amount about ourselves and our abilities. Not only can it expose deficits in our fitness, but it can bring to the surface mental ones as well.

I like to geek out on all things mindset-related, so let’s examine that first. If you didn’t know this before, now you will…Open workouts hurt. They are notorious for forcing people to dig deep and find “that dark place”. I can say with full honesty that I have never seen athletes push themselves as hard in training as they do in The Open or other forms of competition. Whether you’re a top 10% or bottom 90% athlete, everyone has the opportunity to push themselves to a level they didn’t know existed before. That sounds terrible, I know…but what can it teach us? It can teach us to persevere through painful situations. At some point, it will end.

The ability to persevere in the face of physical pain is transferable to other areas in life. Subjecting yourself to uncomfortable situations by choice can better prepare you for when that little thing called life happens. So moral of the story…What can you learn about yourself here? Do you shy away when things get hard, or do you dig in and find something deeper inside yourself?

Now that we’ve got the mental side of things out of the way – mental toughness always seems somewhat dark and scary or is that just me – let’s move to the physical side of things.

Use it to test your current level of fitness.

The Open is a phenomenal opportunity to test your current level of fitness, and then re-test it every year against an enormous sample field. I’m not just talking about the leaderboard. While the leaderboard is a great way to see if you’ve gotten more fit over the years in relation to the rest of the world, The Open presents so much greater data than just that. If you’re not a tip-of-the-spear athlete, then there’s a very good chance that a workout will come up and expose a deficit that you may have. There’s also a great chance that a workout from the past will resurface to see if you learned from before. The Open is a baseline test to see where you’re at physically, what you excel at, and what you struggle with. It can show you correlating data from year to year.

The way I see it, you have two options when the workouts get released that you struggle with. Option number one, b*tch about the programming (please don’t). Or, the better option, learn from what you weren’t able to do this year and attack it going forward. One of the most beneficial components of The Open is that the programming is completely objective and meant to progress the fittest to the next stage. If you’re not there, it will expose you. That’s ok! As long as you learn from it and understand what you need to work harder on going forward. This doesn’t just apply to those of you hoping to make it to the next stage, it applies to everyone partaking in this worldwide celebration of fitness. You could be 14 years old or 60 years old and there is ALWAYS something you can learn.

Use it as an opportunity to gain some perspective.

Leaderboarding, hate it or love it, is useful. The best use it has? Giving all of us a reality check as to how fit we truly are in comparison to what our minds perceive. That’s not meant to be an insult. What it’s meant to do is open everyone’s eyes to how truly freakish the individuals in that top 1-2% of the sport are. Take a chance when it’s all over and analyze some of the scores these people put up. You’ll be mind-blown. Then guess what you can do…You can use it as motivation going forward knowing that it has been done and can be done. You may never, ever, get to that level, and again, it’s ok. But finding and acknowledging some perspective should hopefully be motivating regardless.

Use it as an opportunity to become closer with your community.

This is probably the best part about The Open. While this year may be different, depending on where you’re at and your current pandemic situation, The Open is one of the best times of year to come together with your gym community. There’s nothing like suffering together to bring you closer to your friends and peers. If you’ve never experienced a “Friday Night Lights” or Open announcement, or whatever your gym does…it’s pretty magical. Whether you’re competing or not, just being there and seeing people push themselves to the limit while their friends are screaming for them is one of the most incredible aspects of CrossFit. The games are cool, trust me, but there’s nothing like seeing an entire community rally around the people who have no shot of making it there.

Use it as an opportunity to know that you will never, ever, not in a million years, ever guess what the heck the workout is going to be.

While this is somewhat of a joke, it’s also sort of serious. By serious I mean, don’t try to guess the workouts because none of us will. Just prepare yourself as best you can, try your hardest when they are released, and then learn from what did or did not go well.

At the end of the day, the opening is a great experience. While it’s often a logistical nightmare for gym owners across the country, that is easily negated by its unique ability to rally communities together. After the year we all had last year and how things had been trending in CrossFit, the open couldn’t come at a more perfect time.

Attacking the CrossFit Open with an Unconquerable Mindset

Download your FREE “Attacking the CrossFit Open with an Unconquerable Mindset” PDF for tips on how to approach the Open including:

And some additional bonuses and tips for: 

  • When to Attack the Open Workouts
  • Equipment Considerations
  • Nutrition Guidelines

For more nuggets regarding Open preparation; as well as weekly workout analysis and tips from athletes and coaches who have been around the game for a while, follow along on Instagram!


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