Should you be performing each of the Open workouts multiple times during each week of the Open?
Well . . . it depends.
In my perfect world, the answer would be “no.” But I have come to accept that it’s not quite that black and white. CrossFit is an extremely competitive sport, and if I want to give my athletes the best chance at winning, there has to be some flexibility in answering this question.
Athletes need to ask themselves one important question, “Is the Open my main event?” If the answer is “yes,” then it is highly likely that they should be performing the Open workouts twice each week. If the answer is “no,” then the Open workout should be incorporated once each week as part of the standard training cycle.
Below are my opinions as to who should be treating the Open as their main event, and who should not.
The Open is Not Your Main Event If . . .
High-Level Veteran Competitors – The Open is not your main event if you are part of the small percentage of athletes out there who are veteran competitors in the sport of CrossFit and have finished well at Regionals and/or competed at the Games in the past. You should be focused on preparing yourself for Regionals. As we have seen over the last few years, the events tested in the Open are much different from those tested at Regionals. Your athletic ability, years of training and competition experience should be enough to carry you through the Open and into Regionals. To be blunt, if you’re scrapping to make the top 20 in your region, it’s unlikely that you’re going to be well-prepared to make waves at Regionals. There are, of course, some exceptions – mainly for athletes whose strength is far superior to their technique or conditioning – but as a general rule you should be focused on peaking for Regionals.
Recreational CrossFitters – The Open is not your main event if you are a recreational CrossFit athlete. Please do not get me wrong here, I want every one of the members of the Sea of Green to participate in the CrossFit Games Open and feel the thrill of pushing themselves in competition. I just don’t want them doing the same events multiple times each week. The volume of the events can be too much to handle and properly recover from each week. Inability to recover from the same repetitive movements puts an athlete at a greater risk of injury – which is certainly not worth it if you’re just doing this for fun.
More importantly, the best part of competition is rising to the pressure to perform at your best right then and there. Our competitors don’t get a do-over at Games, professional golfers don’t get mulligans, and Olympic athletes in nearly every sport train for four years for one chance to perform. The nature of competition is that you get one shot to demonstrate how hard you have worked for that moment. Don’t spoil that with the mindset that you will just keep performing the same workout until you get good at it.
Finally, unless CrossFit is your sport of choice, you should be using your workouts to support your general health and fitness, and maybe as a supplement to your other athletic endeavors. To best do that, you should be employing one of CrossFit’s foundational principles – variance. Our typical program relies on constantly varied movements to hedge against overtraining and to best develop an athlete who is well-rounded. Spending 5 weeks performing the same events multiple times cuts against this core concept.
The Open Might Be Your Main Event If . . .
Masters Athletes – The Open might be your main event if you are a Masters Athlete who is serious about competing in the sport of CrossFit. Ugh, I hate saying that, but if I am being totally honest, I am probably going to advise the Masters athletes that I coach to do some of these events twice. Masters would typically be the last group that I would want performing these events twice in a week, but because everyone in the world in those 5-year age groups is competing for one of 20 spots, this could be a very hotly contested Open, and I want to give my athletes the best possible opportunity to fulfill their goals of competing at the CrossFit Games. These athletes also have four months to recover from the Open before competing at the Games if they advance, which means we can give them a bit of time to recover before we launch back into training for the Games. But let me also be very clear that this applies to athletes who are serious about competing in CrossFit as a sport! These are athletes who dedicate 5 days a week to training and have already hardened themselves to the volume and intensity of some of CrossFit’s toughest workouts. If you’re newer to CrossFit or inconsistent with your training, see my advice above to Recreational CrossFitters.
CrossFit Is My Sport! – The Open might be your main event if you simply LOVE the sport of CrossFit and have been training your butt off for months to perform well as a competitive CrossFit athlete – this means following a program designed to prepare you for competition, or at least diligently working on your weaknesses as a CrossFit athlete in addition to your gym’s typical programming. If you or one of your coaches has honestly assessed that you have a chance to qualify or help your team qualify to Regionals and you have prepared yourself well through rigorous training, get in there and get after it hard. My suggestion is that you give everything you have the first time, and then honestly assess whether you could achieve a higher score if you were to repeat that event in two days. If you think you could, start warming up for the redo and see how you feel. If everything feels good, give yourself the green light for the second shot at the event. Athletes in this category need to understand though that focusing intensely on the Open for 5 weeks is likely to slow their overall development as an athlete. It’s a short amount of time, and you can get back to off-season training quickly thereafter, but if your primary goal is to continue to develop to be the best CrossFit athlete you can be and potentially compete for a spot on the podium at Regionals in 2016, I would consider treating the Open as just another training session in your weekly plan.
Those are my thoughts, but I am open-minded and interested in hearing other opinions on this. If you have a question or an opinion on this subject, please post to comments and we will start a helpful dialogue on this subject to help athletes better assess their game plan this Open season.