The CrossFit Games Open is a bitter sweet time for me. As an affiliate owner it is a great time to see my members push themselves, get outside of their comfort zones, achieve some firsts and PB’s and come together as a community. It is also a massive pain trying to organise people being judged, trying to accommodate programming that is written with zero consideration for affiliates and trying to chase people to get their scores submitted and validated.

As an athlete the Open is usually also bitter sweet with some workouts making you feel like you are unstoppable and some crushing you into the ground. This is usually why I love the Open, it exposes your strengths and weaknesses and gives you goals to work on for the next year.

However, this year I have to admit I have struggled. I know others have too and I wanted to write this so those people taking anything negative away from the Open know they aren’t alone and hopefully know how to bounce back from it.

So why have I struggled, I’ve done ok at every workout, I can double under, I can do HSPU and pistols and I’m a relatively fit dude. I am, in certain ways, really pleased with my performance so far. The struggle comes with the Open being, for me, the realisation that I am not as fit as I used to be, or should I say I am not as high up the food chain as I once was in the competitive fitness world.

For those new to the CrossFit Open world in previous years the goal of the Open was always to get to Regionals. A ‘local’ (we we’re in the European Regional, arguably one of the toughest regions going) two/three-day competition where they whittled down the top 50 from each region to the top 40 athletes world wide who would go to the CrossFit Games.

Now Regionals was always my goal. I used to train alongside repeat Regional competitors and all I wanted was to be their peer, to step onto the floor at Regionals and compete with some of the fittest people in the world. Obviously, I never made it, but I wasn’t far off. For 4 consecutive years I got closer and closer and then I injured myself. (This isn’t a ‘blame my back for my open performance piece, don’t worry.) Along with many other things my injury forced me to take time off. I recovered, realigned and came back to training with a different mindset and a different purpose. The CrossFit Regional world had changed and I now knew that I wasn’t going to make it. The standard had outgrown me, the level was higher and the commitment needed to be that good was beyond me.

I had made my peace with this. Then I entered the Open this October.

Whilst I’m not super competitive fit like I have been previously I am still relatively fit, I do ok. I saw the first workout and thought, sweet, something I can bury myself on and set a pretty good score. I bombed. The workout was infinitely harder than I hoped, I took forever to do each set of burpees and I felt like someone had stolen one of my lungs after the first two rounds. Still I finished it, a small victory.

Come Monday night I had to scroll several pages to find myself on the score board, something I wasn’t used to doing. It hurt my ego, a lot. I then did the thing everyone does but no one will admit. I looked at the scores of everyone I knew around the UK who I thought I might be on par with, the people I used to compete with. Annoyingly they all dicked on my score. I even clutched at straws and searched for that dude who I always used to compete against but who I usually beat every time. Fuck he beat me too.

I am slightly ashamed to say I was angry and upset. I felt shit, I felt I’d let myself down and more importantly, but purely egotistically, I felt like I had let my members down. I assumed (pure ego) that my members would give a fuck what my score was. I felt like I’d be judged as a coach on my score.

So, week 2 rolls around. I have spent the last 4 days justifying my score to myself: your focus is different now, you’re only doing each workout once, you’re doing it for the community aspect of the Open, your goal is to peak for Tribal not the Open. I thought I’d made my peace with a sub-par performance and was going to be happy to just hit the workouts and move on.

20.2 scores go in, I scroll a few more pages to find myself. Officially the lowest I have come on the Open leaderboard. Savage! Again, I am annoyed at myself, dejected and all-round quite disappointed. I suddenly feel very unfit, something I have never felt before.

You can see the trend here. 20.3 I have the same chat with myself, give it my best shot and again am left wanting. 20.4, what I one time would have considered my jam, made me feel weak as a kitten. The 124kg barbell may as well have been 1000kg. Friday after I finished the workout I was gutted.

Now we are staring down the barrel of 20.5, the last Open workout of the year. I am the lowest I have ever been on the leaderboard, people I used to consider my equals are crushing me and I feel like all my fitness has left me for the winter.

Then I watched my members do 20.4 on Sunday. I watched them lift, jump and pistol like absolute heroes. I watched them PB, time and time again, rep after rep. I watched them get frustrated when they missed lifts or couldn’t pistol, I watched them jump with joy when they finally got them. I watched them cheer each other on, high five and hug. I watched them be genuinely impressed by one another and be genuinely thrilled for each other when they did well.

I high fived, hugged, cheered and got excited with them. I felt their defeat and I felt their success. When they got down about their score or their ability, I reminded them of how far they’d come, of how the whole point of the Open was to give them a benchmark to improve against, of how comparing themselves to others was a pointless and self-destructive task. Then I listened to myself and thought what a fucking hypocrite. I’ve spent four weeks feeling like a loser because I didn’t do as well as I wanted in some workouts. I’d spent four weeks comparing myself to others and letting that dictate my worth. I’d spent four weeks being given a benchmark of my current fitness and rather than using it as a motivator I’d used it as a nail in my fitness coffin.

Now I’m not going to pretend I suddenly had a light bulb moment and now feel amazing about the Open. I’m not going to pretend I won’t be disappointed if I don’t do well on 20.5 or that I won’t take a couple of days afterwards to move on. But I can honestly say I won’t be comparing myself to others on that board and I won’t be making excuses for my performance. I will be turning up Sunday hoping to hit the last WOD with my members, hoping to see them excel as athletes and people and hoping that a little of their magic rubs off on me.

I’m coming at the final workout, not as someone who wants to compete at a sanctioned event or who wants a company to give me discount codes to pass onto to my ‘followers’ for a high placement. I’m coming at it as a CrossFitter. Someone who wants to work hard, in the moment, with like minded people and to leave everything I have on the floor. I want to feel like a member again, like the only thing that matters for the duration of the workout is the rep I am on. I want my mind to scream stop and I want my peers to shout at me until I do another rep. I want to finish the workout, collapse into a sweaty mess and know that no leader board placement could ever replace that feeling.

So, that was a long one. I wasn’t sure what I was going to write when I started, I just knew that if I was feeling dejected by the Open then others might be and they might like to read it from another perspective. I knew people would be frustrated by not getting a HSPU, by not getting a pistol or by not being where they want to be and I wanted those people to know it’s ok to feel that way but don’t let it define your Open and certainly don’t let it define you. It’s taken me four weeks and a whole lot of watching box jumps and cleans on Sunday to realise the best thing about the Open is doing them with epic people!