The design of the Open WODs: Find your limits, then go beyond them

Written by:

Damect Dominguez

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“The limits of the possible can only be defined by going beyond them into the impossible.”-Arthur C. Clarke

 There was great excitement ahead of the 2014 CrossFit Games season and the announcement of 14.1. Early registration numbers for the Open indicated that this was going to be the biggest season yet in terms of participation. This has since been confirmed: over 200,000 people signed up for 14.1. All eyes were on Dave Castro and CrossFit HQ in the weeks leading up to 14.1. Numerous articles and individuals (including ourselves) attempted to predict just what 14.1 would have in store for us.

 When Castro announced that 14.1 would be a repeat of the very first Open workout in 2011, the CrossFit community was suitably surprised, and, judging by the comments on social media, a little deflated. Double-unders, after all, are supposed to be an advanced skill. The general consensus in the CrossFit community was that 14.1 would be all-inclusive­: newbies, seasoned pros—everyone could participate.

When we asked the community what they thought of 14.1, there was an overwhelming sentiment of CrossFitters who felt duped by Dave Castro:

“Grrr……double-unders are going to be hard for many of the new Crossfitters. I encouraged many of them to do the Open and now they get to feel insufficient…GREAT”(Rachael Rutherford).

 “I agree. I talked my cousin into doing it and she can’t really do double-unders. They said the CFG and Regionals are for the 1% and this is for us. They lied” (Rich Glanzer).

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 Clearly, that wasn’t the intention of 14.1.

It wasn’t intended to make anyone feel insufficient or to weed out the beginners. It was a workout designed to push athletes to their absolute max…to find their limits, or what they perceived to be their limits, and go beyond them. For many, double-unders and snatches are simple movements, and the prescribed weight was light enough to make the workout competitive. For many others, one or both of these movements are difficult to string together consistently. No one enjoys getting caught up in their rope doing single or double-unders. Having to stop and start over and over again is not an enjoyable prospect—forget about being competitive. The snatch, even at a ‘light’ weight, is a complex Olympic lift that takes years to master. To combine them in a workout meant that many athletes around the world would have trouble getting into a decent ‘flow’ and truly pushing themselves to their max.

But as we all know, that is the overall point of CrossFit, and indeed the Open. Expect the unexpected. There is no doubt there will be workouts with movements you cannot do. There’s a reason for this. Let’s remember, yes the Open is just that, ‘open’ for all to participate in. But it is also the first stage of The CrossFit Games. There has to be a way for the absolute best to rise to the top. For everyone else, the Open is about learning to do double-unders the day before a WOD. If 14.1 didn’t include double-unders then social media wouldn’t have been a buzz in the days following the announcement of individuals who surprised themselves and not only got their first double-under, but strung a few together. The same goes for 14.2. If we knew exactly how many individuals PR’d their chest-to-bar pull-ups, absolutely no one would be arguing about the programming. Again, the Open is about going beyond perceived limits. Dave Castro would have done the community a disservice if he programmed just below these perceived limits.

Castro and CrossFit HQ could have made 14.1 as all-inclusive as possible to encourage the greatest number of people to sign up. It’s evident Castro chose a workout that would provide the greatest challenge to the most people. And in retrospect, we would argue that all-inclusive and challenging are exclusive terms. Yes, the workouts have been challenging, admittedly more for some than others; all-inclusive, though, means that we can all get something from the workout—for some a great score, for some a first double-under.

So although 14.1 and 14.2 might have been slightly unwelcomed, it still kicked our asses, while showing us what we have achieved, and what we still can. That’s the beauty of the Open. Bring on 14.3. Anyone up for strict muscle-ups and triple-unders?

Photography by Jota Murillo @ jotamurillo

About Damect Dominguez

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

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