All five of the 18.x CrossFit Open workouts are behind me now. It was really fun! I learned five lessons as a newbie that I wanted to share with you. If you’re not a CrossFit crazy don’t worry – they are life lessons too.
Change your grip.
The 18.3 workout had a ton of pull-ups. I was thrilled to be able to do one, but in one round, I needed to do twenty-four. Miraculously, by adopting a flying bat approach and doing them one at a time I was able to get to 20. But despite four attempts I could not get 21. If I had changed my grip to underhand, I could have gotten at least one more pull-up.
How many things in life, if we could just change our grip on them, would we do more or better or differently.The dutch word “begripet” is perfect for this. It means “understanding” but it means it in a very visceral way – “to get a grip on things”. Change your grip on things and change your life.
Jennifer Garvey Berger, author of Changing on the Job: Developing Leaders for a Complex World, talks about whether something has us or whether we have it. When something has us, it controls us without our knowing it. When we have it, in the palm of our hand, we can look at it, and make decisions about it.
Offering our troubles and worries and wants and cares to God’s care in prayer is one way of changing our grip on things. If we don’t have a grip on it, and can give it to Him we know He does.
Work on your weakness
In CrossFit, a weakness in any one of the ten focus areas (like agility, strength, etc) will prevent you from completing a round. For example, if your upper back is too stiff to perform an overhead squat, and that’s part of the 18.x workout, then you can’t get past that point. You work on your weaknesses so that you can participate.
This approach is different from a contemporary approach to development popularized by Don Clifton, author of Strengths Finder 2.0 and Marcus Buckingham, author of Stand Out 2.0, which focuses on finding your strengths and developing those. I’ve seen this approach work very well to improve individual and team performance. And, it is also true that weaknesses can keep you from participating.
As a contrast to those approaches, it’s good to remember 2 Corinthians 12:9-11
And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast [a]about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with [b]insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.
In each Open competition, each participant has a judge and must meet movement standards or else hear “no-rep”. Judges do more.
I despaired of being able to do even one more thruster before the seven minute time cap was up on 18.5. At 65 reps, my judge, Jeb Binkley, gave me hope by saying “two minutes left, plenty of time, rest and go again.” I rested for 10 song beats and went back at it to failure. I got five more…and thought that was all I could do. Jeb said, “90 seconds more. You have time to rest and go again.” I rested for 10 song beats and got five more to complete the set of 15 and went on to get three jumping chin-over-bar pull-ups before the buzzer.
That’s a whopping 20% more reps because my judge oriented me in time and encouraged me. Who’s your encourager? Who are you encouraging? It’s worth at least 20%.
One at a time
Last year, I had started overhead squats with a PVC pipe and squatting to a low box. Nine months later, my best overhead squat was 18 pounds. But the scaled requirement was 35 pounds or 94% more than my best so far. Twenty one times. At the start of the workout. If I couldn’t get past this, I couldn’t do much else.
I tested it out on the practice bars. I could barely do one. “Okay, that’s it then, a score of one.” I thought to myself.
As I was setting up for what was sure to be a one rep round, Tim Dymmel, CrossFit Palo Alto owner and coach, walked by and said, “Can you do one?” I said, “Yes”. He said, “Then do them one at a time.”
Amazingly enough, I did. All 21. One at a time. Whatever mountain is too hard to climb, do it, one at at time.
Teamwork is dreamy
Being on a team cheering for each other, judging for each other, encouraging each other was consistently the best part of this experience for me. Whether it was the team we made, Team Alma, or the temporary team formed between judge and participant, with Rob Castaneda and Jeb Binkley it’s a real bond.
And the people were amazing. From the “box” owners like Tim and Christine Dymmel (CrossFit Palo Alto) and John and Jennifer Huston (Pacific Crest CrossFit) who orchestrated each workout for heats of people, to the volunteers who helped setup and tear down, the judges who both watched for the no-rep and the fellow participants who cheered others on and the people who took pictures, each had a role to play in making these five workouts over five weeks a lot of fun.
I can’t wait for next time:)