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February 23, 2016

The 2016 CrossFit Open—How to Do It and Make It a Success

Written by Damect Dominguez

It’s Open season and registration for the 2016 Open is live and waiting for you.

Ever since the Open was introduced in 2011, athletes from around the world have registered to compete in this first qualifying phase of the CrossFit Games season, and in 2016, athletes have more opportunities than ever to take part. Here’s our guide with what you should know about the competition—and how to make it a success.

What is the Open?

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The Open is the first qualifying phase for entry into the next stage of the CrossFit Games—the Regionals. Yet it is the only stage of the Games season where every CrossFitter (aged 14 and older), regardless of fitness level or ability, is allowed to compete.

The Open invites athletes to complete five workouts, one workout a week over a five week period, starting Thursday, February 25th. These workouts can be completed in affiliates, in home gyms, or anywhere you have enough space and the required equipment to perform them. Your scores can be tallied and verified by a judge who watches you work out or can be verified by video submission. Your scores are then posted on the online leaderboard, along with the thousands of other athletes around the world.

As it has grown, the Open has become a worldwide spectacle that ties together the global CrossFit community. You perform the same workout as athletes you’ve never met before and the online leaderboard allows you to compare your fitness to people from all over the world, including the most elite athletes in CrossFit.

If this is your first Open, you’ll quickly notice how the atmosphere in your affiliate changes during the competition. There’s a sense of excitement in the air as your friends guess what workouts will be programmed. Everyone takes their intensity to another level as they are judged and cheered on by the rest of the gym. If you’ve never done the Open or competed in any way, it’s truly unlike any other experience you’ll have in CrossFit.

In 2015, more than 272,000 people competed in the Open. This number was buoyed by the inclusion of two new divisions to the competition: Teen (14-17) and Scaled. Whenever an Open workout is released, athletes will be given two variants of the same workout: Rx (as prescribed) and Scaled. So, if one of the Open workouts includes a movement or weight you can’t perform as prescribed, you have the option of doing the scaled variant of the workout. To keep the competition fair, one repetition of the Rx version is worth more than any scaled score of the same workout.

All in all there are four divisions in the Open:
Individual Male
Individual Female
Masters (ages 40+)
Teen (ages 14-17)

In 2016, LEO/EMT/Military/Firefighter categories have been added to the Open Leaderboard. “This year you will be able to see where you stack up against your peers in the law enforcement, military and firefighter communities.”
-CrossFit Games

 Registering for the 2016 Open

To sign up for the Open, go to You’ll be prompted to login with your existing CrossFit ID (if you’ve previously done the Open, Judges Course, or a seminar registration). If you’re new, simply create a new account. You’ll be asked for straightforward details such as where you work out, your date of birth, credit card information (it costs $20 to compete in the Open) and which Division you wish to compete in.

The first Open workout (16.1) will be released on Thursday, February 25th. Each Open workout is released at 5p.m. PT on Thursday, and you have until the following Monday at 5p.m. PT to submit your scores online. The next four workouts take place over the following dates:

16.2: March 3 – 7
16.3: March 10 – 14
16.4 March 17 – 21
16.5 March 24 – 28

Preparing for the Open

The first step in preparing for this year’s Open is to think about when and where you wish to do the workouts. You are free to perform the workouts wherever you choose, so long as you have the requisite equipment and can videotape yourself in order to have your scores validated. To get the full experience of the Open, we recommend performing the workouts at an affiliate, surrounded by other CrossFitters. You can’t replicate the atmosphere of a gym full of people cheering you on when you’re working out alone in your garage, and it’s nigh on impossible to find the same motivation as you can at the box. After all, surrounding yourself with the CrossFit community is the whole point of the Open in the first place! Sure, you can do the Open and register your scores on your own—but you won’t have as much fun doing it, and your scores might be lower than had you struggled through the workouts in the walls of your affiliate.

You may complete the workout as many times as you wish during the Thursday-Monday period and resubmit your scores. If you think you might want to repeat a workout, you need to plan the day(s) you intend to do it. In addition, you need to consider your weekly class schedule at the box. Just because it’s the Open doesn’t mean everything else comes to a halt. You should still attend classes throughout the week, but you’ll probably want to give yourself a day of rest prior to attempting the Open workout.

Next, you need to figure out who you want to judge you, who you want to watch and support you, and who you want to do the workout with. For 15.5 of the Open last year, eventual Open winner Mat Fraser worked out alongside fellow Games competitor Alex Anderson. Fraser wound up posting the fastest score in the world for 15.5 (05:19), and afterwards spoke of the importance of having Anderson there to push him.

“Thank goodness Alex is here—I would have sandbagged the shit out of that if he wasn’t.”
-Mat Fraser

Finally, you have to determine your goals for the competition. To simply compete is a good goal, but the Open will be far more challenging—and fulfilling—if you set certain goals to achieve during the competition itself. Achieving your first muscle-up, handstand push-up, toes-to-bar or besting your score in a repeat workout from a previous year are all examples of good goals to set yourself—but they need not be the only determinant of your success in the Open. For instance, knowing that you gave your absolute all in each workout, regardless of whether you achieved a sub-goal, should constitute victory. You can’t do better than your absolute best, so there’s no point in chiding yourself if you didn’t achieve one of your objectives! Just something to work on for next year. With that being said, you should also expect some disappointments in the Open. It’ll happen to you every year. You’ll be flagged for no-reps, you might rip your palms, your work/rest scheme isn’t advantageous, or a workout will come out of nowhere and wipe you out. So don’t expect a smooth ride throughout the competition, because that’s not going to be the reality.

Performing the Open

As you know, every Thursday from February 25th through to March 24th, the CrossFit Games releases a workout for the 2016 Open. They do this through a live announcement at a different affiliate in the country each week. Dave Casto, the Director of the CrossFit Games, presents the workout to two (or more) elite athletes at the affiliate, as well as to all of us who are following the live stream online. A few minutes later, these athletes are the first to perform the workout. This provides us with a valuable research opportunity. Instead of attempting the workout the same day it’s released, it may be a good idea to watch and take notes from the first athletes to perform it. Do they employ a certain work/rest scheme? Do they break up their sets early? What grip do they use for certain movements? Essentially, what works and what doesn’t? Gathering this information is a good first step, but you should still wait to perform the workout. That’s because the following day, there will be an abundance of articles and videos from Games athletes, coaches and other subject matter experts which can use to pick up crucial tips and further bolster your knowledge of the workout. You should also watch the athletes at your gym—especially your rivals—to see how they tackle the workout, and to also gain the advantage of knowing the score/time to beat. Use all of this information to build your workout strategy, which is the next part of your Open plan. How many times have you attacked a regular class workout too fast (or too slowly) out of the gates and realized with hindsight that you could have done much better? Rather than attempting to adapt and adjust on the fly in the middle of 16.1, stick to your carefully constructed strategy. You’ll end up with a far better score, we assure you.

As a reminder, you can complete the workout as many times as you wish for the highest score possible, but you must submit your score online by the 5p.m. PT Monday deadline for it to show up on the leaderboard.

End of the Open

Once the Open wraps up on March 28th, it’s time to celebrate properly. You can start to contemplate all manner of sins that you’ll get indulge in as a reward (just make sure you return to your box and your regular workouts in one piece). Make a note of your scores for each workout, and your overall placing in the leaderboard. If you’ve been doing this for several years, rejoice in how much fitter you’ve become by comparing your statistics—specifically in the repeat workout (each year Castro programs a repeat workout from a previous year’s Open with the purpose of allowing athletes to compare and evaluate how much fitter they’ve become). If this is your first Open, now you have a benchmark to compare to in 2017. Use all of this positive energy and motivation and direct it towards your training for 2016, then return to the attack the 2017 Open with a new-found vengeance!

Photo courtesy of Aryan Barto, Behemoth CrossFit/2015 CrossFit Open Photo Submission

About Damect Dominguez

Co-founder of BoxLife Magazine. Author: Training Day: 400+ Workouts to Incorporate in Your Training.

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