If you haven’t already, be sure to check out these awesome shots of Coach Whit, Coach Katie, and Bethany E. by Kate R.!
The Long Haul: What I Learned from My 6th Year in the CrossFit Open, Part I
By Whitney Hubbard
Editor’s Note: This is the 1st part of a 2-part feature on Whit’s 6th (!) year of competing in the Open. Part 2 will be posted tomorrow.
We’ve felt it. We know it. The Open creates an exciting energy and buzz in the gym every year. It’s only been a few weeks since our annual 5-week test finished up, but it already feels like the distant past. I’m fond of saying in group class sometimes that every workout we do is an opportunity to learn about ourselves. Well, in that spirit of self-awareness and future growth, I wanted to share what I’m taking away from this year’s competition in hopes that you might reflect back as well. It’s easy to focus on what we want in the future. Maybe it’s less obvious to look back just a bit and remind ourselves of what we’ve accomplished, to acknowledge the things we’re proud of, to take note of how and where we’ve already been successful.
In the past several weeks, I heard about people’s first (and second and third) handstand push-ups. I watched women do bunches of Chest-to-Bar Pull-Ups after telling me they didn’t think they had more than one. I witnessed Allie B.’s triumphant return to the top of the high rings and then cried with her in celebration of all of those minutes, hours, days, and months of practice that led her to that moment. And that’s really what it’s all about.
The Open is a fantastic time to surprise ourselves. We might push the limits a bit further than we usually dare. We may add more weight to the bar than we’re typically comfortable with. Or we truly give that high-skill obstacle in our path every ounce of energy we can muster, just for that moment.
But the Open is also the time of year when we catch a glimpse of how our daily habits and efforts, as monotonous or boring as they can sometimes feel, are paying dividends. If we look closely, we might find that we have been becoming—slowly and surely, little by little—that stronger, better, faster, or more confident version of ourselves that we envisioned in the past. Maybe it was the first time we put the bar on our back to squat and felt the potential of our future strength. Or perhaps it was when we saw one of our coaches or peers walking on their hands or propelling themselves on top of the rings with power and grace and said out loud, “Wow… someday.”
Whatever the case, it can be hard to notice how far we’ve truly come. Despite ourselves, we might be a bit upset that we “only” did three handstand push-ups in the workout. We saw the other scores. We wanted more. But then we might step back and acknowledge the legitimate success of having kicked up to the wall fifteen times in the WOD just to make all those other failed attempts—when last week we couldn’t even kick up at all! Those are the wins that don’t get marked on the leaderboard. And they are everything.
I highly recommend that you celebrate them yourself and with others. Post them on the blog. Tell your friends in class. Share with your coaches so we can acknowledge you! Those seemingly insignificant, incremental improvements in our skills and strength are the exact things we should be celebrating and valuing regularly. That is the way we build towards our big, outrageous goals.
It’s easy to celebrate results. Results are sexy and obvious and associated with intoxicating ideas like “I’m good.” And I’m certainly not bashing anyone’s well-earned results. But they also have a tendency to be fickle and hard to control. So when we don’t achieve the outcome we were aiming for, it might sound more like, “I’m bad at that. I’m a failure.” That seems like a not-so-fun way to hang out in your brain. And it’s a distorted storyline that certainly doesn’t motivate me.
Of course, what we do have command of is our actions and behaviors. And if we get in the habit of praising ourselves and others for hard work, earnest effort, and daily commitment, instead of just the end result, we won’t be so easily labeled by good or bad. We might instead have a couple of running tabs along the lines of:
A) Skills I’ve acquired, stuff I’ve gotten pretty good at so far, areas in which I now excel (after days, weeks, months, and maybe years of committed effort)
B) Things I want that I will spend time on and get into action about (today, and for many days to come after that)
And that’s where I’m personally at right now. I had a few moments of self-pity in the Open this year when I realized I wasn’t going to achieve one of those scary, outside-my-control stretch goals. I’ve been making my way up (or… down, numerically, you know?) the Regional leaderboard through these years, and it’s a great feeling. 1045th in 2015, 720th in 2016, 402nd in 2017. So with that pattern I’d obviously be like… WINNING the Northeast Region in 2018, amirite?!?!
Just kidding. But I did set a quiet goal of being in the top 300 women in the Northeast Region this year, which I knew would be tough. And guess what? It didn’t happen (421st). But I’m still alive! I could take those numbers at face value and get bummed out that I actually went down in ranking this year. Even though I worked really hard, it might be tempting to say, “What did it even get me?” But that would be foolish. With that outlook and attitude, I wouldn’t learn anything, wouldn’t know where to go from here, and wouldn’t have much motivation stored up for those days ahead when I just don’t feel like training.
Instead, taking a closer look at my scores and a bit of reflection on my performance gives me the insight I need to keep improving and the confidence to know that I’m already on the right track. This year I had some clear focal points:
- Improve my wrist/shoulder function after some injuries in the spring/summer
- Build more absolute and relative/gymnastic strength in my upper body
- Create more tolerance (mental and physical) to high rep thrusters and squat pattern
- Increase my aerobic capacity
- Be as healthy and injury-free as possible through the season!
My results show me that I did well to improve those things (more on that below). But focusing on these areas meant a few other items temporarily fell by the wayside. The Open has a sneaky way of putting you on the spot, of showing you the edge, and sometimes of pushing you off that edge and shouting after you as you plummet from the cliff of your fitness dreams, “HEY! YOU FORGOT ABOUT DEADLIFTING, DUMMY!”
Check back tomorrow to read the rest of Whit’s reflections!
Yesterday’s Results Board: Arnold Press / RDL | Row, KB Swings, Floor Levers
How to Self-Assess Movement Pathologies Breaking Muscle
Eishiro Murakami Squats 360kg (794 lbs) With a Crazy Walkout BarBend