Another Open Season Down!
Super belated because life got busy fast this spring, but I finally got time to sit and think about the state of this year’s Open and my training for the past year!
Even if we aren’t a competitive athlete, there is a fair amount of stress around 5 workouts over as many weeks. Even if we show up ready to throw down every day we hit the gym, there is a different type of anticipation and pressure we often put ourselves through with Open workouts, and it definitely is on our minds throughout the week as we approach the announcement of the next workout.
The 2019 CrossFit Open was my favorite yet because, for the first time, that space between my ears was in the right place. I entered every workout excited, did my very best (do not confuse that with having the absolute best strategy) and even wanted to retest a few to see if I could play with how I approached them. My training and choices over the past year felt validated, which was really important to me…
Because I changed nearly everything
Where I went wrong
After the Open last year, I hit a major low with my training. I felt weaker than ever, things that used to be easy were getting harder, I had persistent pain in my glute, and I wasn’t sleeping. I know now that I was likely overtraining, but at the time, it felt like I was fucking up and spinning in place.
Nevertheless, I persisted…in the wrong direction. I thought that the answer to feeling weaker was more. Put my head down and just work harder.
Wrong. I lasted another month and then just broke down.
Can I fix this?
I’d been toying with the idea of doing Individual Programming for some time, and I decided to try it for 90 days. It was hard. It felt kind of like turning my back on CrossFit, or the idea of CrossFit. Group classes, community, all the social, leaderboards, etc. But I finally hit my “something is really wrong” branch on the way down a hole I knew led nowhere good.
I’m lucky that we have amazing in-house programming and subject-matter expert in Angelo Fosco. I knew it from the moment he entered our gym and said I was “quad dominant” (“nice to meet you too, jackass” I thought at the time). I reached out and told him what was wrong, and where I felt I might have gone wrong. He took pity on me and took me on as a client.
Ugly crying and covered in flies in the CrossFit gym
It was a really hard adjustment.
I tried to remain as present in classes as I could (gotta have my Fringies fix), but my training largely took place by myself in the early mornings or evenings to skirt class times. It was lonely. I think I cried and melted down during almost every workout for the first 3 months. Doing hard things by yourself is worse than anything. I tried to channel my inner Mat Fraser. I particularly remember some early morning at our second location where it was like 85 degrees and there were flies all over me (Chinese restaurant next door) and I was doing weighted/elevated/banded lunges and really slow, heavy sled pulls at 6:30 am.
My A-HA: more is not more
The programming overall had a lot less volume. It was hard not to feel that mind fuck of “this isn’t enough, it won’t work”. The first changes I noticed were outside the gym. I started sleeping. I had better focus within a few weeks.
And then I started getting stronger. We had set up some benchmarks for what felt hard at the start, and things were getting easier and faster. My prone-to-injury body parts started feeling a lot stronger.
I noticed my recovery times decrease and I had more energy to throw at being a mom/wife/general good person. I felt a little more confident. Yeah, I know — it rocked my socks! Then I even took up yoga and meditation because why the hell not, it’s just another way to kick ass I reasoned.
I kept every workout and reflection logged in a spreadsheet with little warm-ups, cooldowns, and flows I was writing for myself. It was like that scene in A Beautiful Mind where all the shit is floating around his head. I was so wrapped up in my little program, this little thing I was nurturing like a new houseplant.
Within 8 months I was back to where I had been at my best, but it felt better because my head was right and balanced. I contribute a lot of this to deload. My programming has a distinct taper/deload every 4-5 weeks. It’s the secret sauce (aside from overall lower volume) to avoiding mental burnout and attaining true periodization that builds results.
So why am I telling you all this?
This is why. Now that we have reached the official end of the Open, I HIGHLY recommend taking a pointed week or two of lower volume training and really focus inward. Reflect, write, take your training toward recovery and focus intrinsically. It’s spring, so it’s perfect because you could just take some light jogs, bike, do outdoor yoga, or just lay in the sun and read a good book. Take a break from volume, from routine, and the pressure to hit the gym hard.
Feeling a little anxious at the thought? Don’t. All sports have off-seasons. It allows us to return to training with the intensity needed to be effective. And most importantly, keeps your motivation high and helps you avoid burnout and overtraining that leads to injury.
And who says all improvement stops if you aren’t working out? Here are some low-impact things that will take your training to the next level:
- Explore structured mobility programs. ROMWOD isn’t the only one in the game anymore, and there are THOUSANDS of free YouTube videos. Hunt these down and hit some mobility PRs
- Take up meditation/mindfulness. Do you know this practice has a direct impact on your recovery from exercise? Now you do, go chase this 1% add-on
- Naps. We’re always short on sleep, add some more sleeps
- Read up on fitness things. You will never not benefit from strengthening your grey matter. Read up on training methodologies, movement technique, recovery, or nutrition. Make a master list of topics and create a small routine about learning something new every week. Grab a friend and share back and forth
- Freeze some meals. I add this because who doesn’t need a few extra meals prepped and ready in the freezer?
In the end
Most of us are doing this just to be healthy, and despite what you are bombarded with online all day every day, adding more will not net you more. If you truly want to do this for a long time & see long term progress and results, trust that some time away will yield a net gain.
Heaps of kudos
A kudos to my coach and SME Angelo Fosco for being the literal life raft I needed and for treating me like I’m a BFD even though I’m a 37-year-old mom. His programming is exactly what everyone says it is, magic. To Liz and Sam for letting me emulate you and fan-kid around your much fitter accomplishments. I will continue to chase you this year and love every single second of our friendship and Liz’s ability to make macros. To Nate, because he is the Sports Psychology guru and continues to be the voice of reason and my original coach. And Tyler because he lets me play house in his business and have a key to train in the pump dungeon.
See you for the October Open!
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