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
BACK SQUAT / THREE-POINT DUMBBELL ROW SUPERSET*
A1) Back Squat:
4 x 8-10
A2) Three-Point Dumbbell Row:
4 x 8-10
Use a heavy load for the rep range that allows you to move with perfect form. Keep rest to a minimum, 30-60 seconds between movements.
*Warm up and then perform a set of Back Squat, followed by a set of Dumbbell Rows. Repeat for 4 work sets of each, resting 30 seconds to a minute between movements.
Post loads to comments.
Exposure 3 of 8
Choose one of the following scaling options and spend 15-20 minutes practicing hand balancing and/or handstand walking:
A) Hand Walking (free or 2′ from wall)
B) Wall Inverted Hip Shifts with Hand Release (from a wall walk or kick up)
C) Box Pikes Hip Shifts with Hand Release
D) Floor Piked Hip Shifts with Hand Release
Jog 270m, Bike 1/2 mile, or Row 300m as active rest after each set or attempt and don’t turn it into a 20 minute AMKAP (as many kick ups as possible).
Post work to comments.
Sasha S says
Thanks for all your insight Whitney!
Allie B says
Really enjoyed reading this article, Whit! Thanks for sharing. Can’t wait to finish it. Also-thanks for the shout out 🙂
I’ve been inspired by your hard-work and improvement–even as a coach we all consider to be amazing already. Just seeing you work out at the subway series, watching your bar muscle ups progress, etc… it’s just more evidence that one can’t mire themselves in the data or the numbers when it comes to competing. Your ranking may have gone down, but it’s obvious you’ve just gotten better and stronger. Thanks for the reminder that those rankings don’t *truly* matter.
I’d just like to share that AG Strength/accessory work has been amazing for learning to love the process. It’s a bunch of “boring” stuff like rows and strict press and bicep curls that don’t provide those sexy “results” week after week. Some weeks you might only go up *one* measly rep. But then… you go to do 45 strict chest to bars and it’s no problem. Or you’re deadlifting your former PR for reps on a whim. I’ve come to view those result-producing PRs as a special treat, but not the ultimate goal (like, I don’t even care!) because they’re so unstable and finicky. Rear-foot elevated split squats not as exciting as testing a 1 rm back squat! 85% sustainable effort aerobic work with 1:1 rest, etc is not as exciting as testing your Morrison! That grindy, boring and *tough* training is what’s important!
Anyway, I’m so grateful to be in a place where I’m not concerned with competition at all. Just getting stronger and improving my aerobic capacity, because that’s what defines me– not the one time I did Fran really fast that I haven’t been able to repeat. I’m enjoying the process and maybe eventually little sexy results that come along the way 😛
Thanks for the reminder.
Great piece, Whit! Always love your voice on here.
7AM w/ Lauren doing Monday
Stayed up too late last night (I’m watching those HBO documentaries about the West Memphis Three and I’m SO OBSESSED) and was really feeling the lack of sleep this morning. Early bedtime tonight 🙂
Arnold press: 25#x8eax4. First 4 reps, no problem. Next 4 reps…woahhh.
RDLs: 95×8, 125x8x2, 130x8x2. Fine!
Got through about 4.5 rounds of the workout. I love those lever thingies! Gimme all the core work.
Kris H says
Pro tip on the west Memphis 3 doco’s – don’t watch them on a honeymoon. Doesn’t set the right “tone”, apparently
HAHAHA!! We watched “The Confession Tapes” on ours.
7 AM. Not awake at all.
Squats 155x9x4, not too bad.
Rows 35×10, 40x10x3, also not too bad.
Handstand work: surprised myself by being able to do the hip shifts from a wall walk, although I admit I was not vertical by any stretch.
reaaaaaaaaallly wanna go back to bed.
Oh! ROBIN! I forgot I wanted to say something here since we were doing different workouts and we never got to finish talking about Chicago boxes. I’ve been to both River North CF and Windy City Strength and Conditioning (formerly Windy City CF) several times since I travel to Chicago at least once a year for work.
River North has the advantage of being super super convenient. I found the coaching to be a bit disorganized. Not that anyone anywhere runs a ship as tight as DO does, but I really felt like the guidance on who to partner with and how to use the space is lacking. If you are in Chicago on a weekend, know that they always do very long partner metcons on Saturdays. (Yay partners, ugh long metcons!)
Also, I’ve found on a couple of occasions that they’ll do a super long metcon on Saturday, and then I have a plan to go back on Monday but on Monday the WOD has at least two of the movements from Saturday repeated! And I’m like “WTF I’m still sore in all those places!” and I don’t go.
WCSC had better coaching IMO. It’s nowhere near as convenient, although it is very close to a Brown Line stop so you can get there cheaply, if not super quickly. Their facility is GINORMOUS, so they have been really nice to me on a couple of occasions when I’ve needed to do my own programming — there’s plenty of space for it.
Robin E. says
Thanks! Yes — on Tuesdays it often seems like half of us just disappear for the other workout ;-). I have two Chicago trips this summer, so maybe I’ll check out both.
kate tk says
WHIT! Thanks so much for sharing – it’s so inspiring to read along with your training posts, bc it’s obvious how consistent you stay to the goals you set for yourself & it’s super cool to watch those pay off in the Open (regardless of ranking numbers).
I love the notion of prioritizing WORK over accomplishments. In some ways, I feel like I’m paying for that now, having to go back and rebuild this mid-back/shoulder strength that I managed to work around in the effort towards getting a new skill or hitting a new PR weight. I feel stupid & lazy about it, but it is what it is & I can change things now. Giving ourselves (& each other) credit for doing the WORK is a better mindset, for sure, but could also help us avoid injury.
This is a really appropriate post for this cycle, too, which is so awesomely focused on doing good, boring work-stuff.
Speaking of – 7am doing Monday with Jess
Half-kneeling SA Arnold press:
22.5x10x2; 22.5x8x2 – so heavy, especially on the left. I’m uncertain about a jump in weight next week.
115×10, 120×10, 125×10, 130×10
10c row – legs-only, legs + hips-only is a perfect drill for me, helpful to feel the difference
14e SA KB swing @ 16kg
7 floor levers, all from tuck
Gaby V. says
“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”
Love this. Thank you for writing and sharing, Whit!
Charles Smith says
10 AM with Jess and cereal soup lover Lauren doing Wednesday’s work
Great cue from Jess to create tension by rotating quads out and toes in- initiating outward knee movement.
the hidden metcon.
Got 2 kickups on my own- still a major work in progress.
Thanks for the feedback and love so far, buddies!
12pm group class w/ Lauren
BB RDL – off 2 DC blocks today (4″) – holy sh*t that’s so much harder. HELLOOOO!
135# x 10 x 4
was obviously sandbagging this a bit in the first two weeks in terms of the ROM I’m capable of
my lats were on fire during/after this
HK SA AP
(wu 20# x 6 ea)
30# x 10 ea x 3 , x 8ea x 1
tough but pretty stoked I got 3 sets of 10 @ 30 on that
-triceps still sore/fatigued from Sunday’s DB Thruster/HR push up combo!
4 rounds of the NFT wod
row in about :38-:45 – fun starting w/ legs and hips first
SAKBS @ 12kg
floor levers have gotten so much better — fun to see this improve by way of other core/positional work b/c I certainly haven’t done one of these in at least a year. what a challenging movement!
cashed out with 3 x 20 seated banded knee ext, L side only. just so keith could make fun of me. L knee feeling off the past couple days.
Daniel R says
Awesome article, Whit, I kept nodding along to it – it matches a lot of how I (only 3y into Crossfit) think about accomplishments and pushing myself. +1 to Allie’s comment on how you gotta “trust the process” in particular around lots of accessory work, and not obsessing about one-off accomplishments.
@MGMT is there AG tonight?
Arturo R. says
2-3 strict pull up or 5 ring rows
10-20 sec handstand hold
10 double unders
Butterfly pull up/kipping pull up practice
for time @aerobic pace
10/8 cal AB
rest 3 min
5 burpee box jump overs
10 KBS, 24/32
rest 3 min
5 C2B pull ups
10 wall ball
rest 3 min
15 double unders
Arturo R. says
Daniel, sorry for the late post! AG is on and rocking tonight at normal schedule. I had to take a red eye flight back from AZ last night and couldn’t post until I landed today
Daniel R says
Ro you’re a trouper! Very sad I will miss out tonight (I’ll either be working or at an opera, here’s hoping it’s the opera).
Kate R. says
Thank you for sharing, Whit! Your insight can be applied to our everyday life as well, not just about our fitness journey!