CrossFit Games Season: A Competitor’s Guide To The Open

📸:CrossFit Games

About the Author: Jonathan Kinnick is a CF-L3 and the owner of CrossFit Kinnick in Upland, CA since 2007. He has coached his brother Jeremy Kinnick to 4 individual appearances at the Games and has sent a Masters Athlete, Teen, and Team to the Games as well. He has coached multiple individual athletes and teams to Regionals over the past several years.

The Open is here and you want to get the best placing possible. Whether you’re a Regional Hopeful or just want to take the Open seriously, here are some tips to help you put up the best scores you’re capable of.

Submit Your Best Score Each Week

This is the age old question of whether you should repeat the workout or go with a “one and done” approach. Here’s my suggestion: If you think it’s possible to do better, even by 1 rep or a few seconds, do the workout again. Every rep/second can represent dozens of spots on the leaderboard for your Region. This is especially important in Week 1 when the most people will submit a score and can potentially beat you. Resist the urge to settle for “good enough” in the early weeks. Don’t just wait until week 5 when there’s only so much you can do and repeat that one 4 times. Plan ahead and know you left everything on the gym floor and got every point you were capable of. No doubts, no regrets.

This is true whether it’s a workout that’s in your wheelhouse or not. If you beat everyone at your gym, but you think you can do better, go for it. Don’t settle for a “good enough” score when you could have done better. Likewise if it’s a workout that exposes some of your holes, it’s even more important to squeeze out every point. The weaker your score is, the more places 1 rep/second will boost you (or cost you) on the leaderboard.

Have A Smart Schedule

If you are serious about getting your best finish in the Open, you need to organize your week in order to give yourself the best shot at success. In a normal one-day or one-weekend competition, it’s common to taper down your volume ahead of competition day to be as fresh and ready as you can be for the competition. The Open is a different beast though, because you have to be ready to put out your best performance on 5 workouts over the course of 5 weeks. In the Open, you need to plan for 5 weeks of “mini-tapers”. The non-Open workouts and training you do during the week will definitely impact your performance on the Open workouts. This is not a time to crush yourself and bury yourself with volume. I’ve seen success with a schedule that looks something like:

TUE WED THU FRI SAT SUN MON
Hard Day Med Day Rest & Test Open Rest Open/Rest Open/Rest

A schedule like this prioritizes your readiness for your Open attempts, and should still maintain your level of fitness during the Open. Doing your first attempt on Friday gives you some time to figure out a reasonable strategy for your first attempt. Thursday evening after the announcement is a good time to play around with the movements and format to see how it feels. Maybe practice one round of the workout to see what your cycle time and pacing looks like. This will be crucial in helping form the right strategy for yourself. On Saturday you can decide if you’re going to do it again. Here are some possible approaches depending on the workout that week:

  • If the workout crushed you on Friday and you think your body can only handle one more attempt, waiting until Monday to retry is a good idea.
  • If the workout isn’t that taxing and you want to be able to try 3 attempts if needed, hit the second attempt on Sunday. That way you can still squeeze in a third attempt on Monday if you have to.
  • If you do the workout on Friday and Sunday, and are happy at that point, take a rest day on Monday.
  • If you are happy with your Friday attempt, and decide not to repeat, you should train on Sunday and/or Monday that week.

Have A Smart Strategy

The Open is now here and you’re as a fit as you’re going to be this year. Your prep time has come to an end and there’s nothing you can do at this point to increase your capacity in a meaningful way. The goal now is to get the best score you can at your current capacity. And that’s where mental preparation and intelligent strategy come in.

This is not a time to crash and burn in your workout. Your number one goal needs to be to not blow up. You can cost yourself minutes/rounds on your workout by going out too hot and imploding before the workout ends. Picking the correct pace will give you the best score you’re capable of. A properly paced workout is not always the best training stimulus, but it will always give you the best score on a workout.

Break your reps earlier than normal. This is where it’s important to know yourself as an athlete. If you can’t handle big sets for the whole workout, then start with smaller maintainable sets. Build in a little more rest than you think you need early on. You need to be pretty uncomfortable the whole workout to get your best time, but this pace needs to be short of “buck wild”. Almost every Open workout we’ve seen should *not* be sprinted. You need to go fast, but not too fast. You can always go faster at the end, but you can’t come back once you’ve blown up. Pick a conservative enough pace that the wheels don’t fall off and ideally one that gives you enough left in the tank for a solid work rate through the finish.

Have A Smart Target (and be realistic)

So how do you know what pace to choose for the workout? If you are going to the Games, you can base it roughly off what the announcement athletes get. But keep in mind they had zero time to prep and strategize, and they’ll likely improve on a later attempt. For the rest of us, that’s not going to work out too well. Just because Ben Smith went touch-and-go doesn’t mean you should.

Your best resource for choosing a realistic target for yourself is the preliminary percentile tables that BTWB releases each week on Friday evenings. We take a look at the submitted scores early to give you an idea of what people are getting on the workout. If you are a BTWB user, you can actually access these numbers early (i.e. before your first attempt) by going to the Open workout page on our website.

If throughout the year you normally score in the 80s for your level/percentile, then you’ll want to plan for a score that would put you in the 80s. If you’re trying to make Regionals you’ll need to be in the top percentile on all the workouts if possible.

Once you have an appropriate target in mind, you can reverse engineer the work/rest and pacing you’ll need to get there. Divide the rounds/reps by the total time and give yourself some target points to be at during the workout. If possible, enlist a buddy to help keep you on track. But don’t be a slave to the target. It’s only a guideline and you may need to make smart adjustments on the fly during the workout to stay within yourself. Don’t blow yourself up just because that’s what your target says.

Have Fun

We all know you’re taking this thing seriously, but don’t be that guy/gal. Don’t get so wrapped up in the strategy and leaderboarding that you’re a jerk to your fellow gym-mates. Remember why you got into CrossFit in the first place. Stress does not improve performance. The more you try to have a good time and a positive attitude, and the less pressure you put on yourself, the better you’ll perform on game day. Good Luck!

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Filed under: CrossFit, CrossFit Games

About the Author

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CF-L3 Trainer and CCFT Board Member. Owner of CrossFit Kinnick in Upland, CA (est. 2007). Co-founder of beyond the whiteboard(@btwb). Lecturer in Economics at Cal Poly Pomona.