The Open is upon us!
Kevin and myself attended a seminar put on by three-times GrossFit Games athlete Lucas Parker earlier today (thanks to the heads up from Laurissa!). This seminar focused on tips and strategy for the CrossFit Open workouts, the first of 5 of which will be released this Thursday at 5pm. We talked about the history of movements and what we can expect from year’s past, warm-up, cool down, nutrition and supplements, sports psychology, and strategizing in order to perform at your very best athletic level. For those of you competing in the Open this year, whether for your own personal athletic goal, to see how much you’ve improved since last year, or to qualify for an individual or team position at the CrossFit Regionals, here are some of the most valuable things I took away from this seminar that may also be of value to you:
Your fitness level at this moment in time is the highest its going to be in the next six weeks. So what does this mean for your training? Any high-level, intense metcons or heavy lifting is not going to benefit you in any way for the next five weeks. Open workouts are traditionally light-moderate in weight, majority between 7-12 minutes, and are basically going to test your ability to withstand a fair amount of physical discomfort in that time frame. If you aren’t just doing the Open workouts ‘for fun’, then any work that you do throughout the next five weeks should essentially be treated as auxiliary work for these intense WOD’s.
Lucas has 5 primary areas in which he focuses on;
1| Minimize restrictions Using a foam roller or lacrosse ball to work on any flexibility or movement restrictions you may have.
2| Maximize stability points This refers primarily to the spine, shoulders, and core. Utilize core activating movements such as the plank, dead bug, glute bridge, super mans, wall angels, etc.
3| Lock in range of motion Refer to movement standards. Avoid wasting energy squatting too low in a wall ball, jumping too high on a box jump, or pulling too far past past your collarbone on a chest to bar pull-up. Basically, hit the movement standards to a bare minimum.
4| Prime motor units Consider warming up to a weight which is heavier than prescribed (use your own judgement and knowledge of your max lifts to determine how much heavier). This will make the actual WOD weight feel lighter, and utilize more motor units so that you have greater muscle memory for firing and activating those muscles during the WOD. This also translates to warming up to a higher than rX box jump height, or warming up to C2B pull-ups if the WOD has regular pull-ups.
5| Activate relevant energy systems If you are faced with a 20-minute WOD (long for Open standards!), consider starting your warm-up with a long slow jog to make your warmup relevant to the length and intensity of the WOD. So, you’ve warmed up until a bit of fatigue has set in and have worked out all your mobility issues. How much of a rest do you need before beginning the workout? Lucas recommends within 3-5 minutes.
10-15 minutes of gentle movement. 3-5 minute on the rower or bike, at next to zero effort. Vary your cool downs (and warm ups!). If time permits, work on mobility issues with a foam roller, lacrosse ball, or banded stretches.
Hopefully you have done enough experimenting with your diet by now to know how your body performs best. Now is not the time to make any significant changes (unless you’re eating Big Mac’s and Blizzards daily--now is the time!). Lucas recommends beet juice a few hours prior to working out—beets contain high levels of nitrates which promote vaso-dilation. He also recommends magnesium as a mild muscle relaxtant and stress reducer. Whey protein powder, creatine, fish oil, and beta-alanines are also in his regular supplement routine
The CrossFit Open is based on a points system. This means that one single double-under is worth as much on the leaderboard as one single heavy snatch on an ascending ladder. Muscle ups, handstand pushups, double-unders, pistols, and similar are known as deal-breaker skills. If you don’t have these movements in your bag of tricks, you are going to be significantly lower on the leaderboard than others with the ability to do even just one of them. The 'gold standard' for double-unders is 100 in one minute. If you trip up a few times and only get say, 30, this is going to lower your overall score significantly.
If you do the workouts twice, or even three times, it is very likely that you will increase your score each time. This is not because of an increase of strength or aerobic capacity, but simply because of a familiarity with the movements and better being able to look at what you could have improved upon from your last attempt (pacing, equipment set-up, mental focus).
You will want as much rest as possible between attempts. All other work throughout the week should be basic strength accessories ie. ring rows, handstand work, single-leg deadlifts, and basic core strength accessory work. Lucas preaches the swimming pool for active recovery days. (In his words, “as calming as encasing yourself in amniotic fluid”). Consider not coming to the gym every day as it can be tempting to do some lifting or partake in a fun-looking WOD with your fellow athletes. Take the dog for a walk. Go for a swim. Ride your bike. Get a massage.
NO self-handicapping. “I’m just doing this for fun”, “I don’t even care”, “It wasn’t a good idea to do a max back squat wod yesterday”, or “I’m so hungover” are some classics. Why did you pay $20 to not perform at your best? Now is the time to capitalize on your existing skills and test your true athletic ability, not the time for excuses.
Rather than be your own cheerleader, be your own coach. Useful, relevant cues are much more effective than positive self-talk. This also applies to your cheerleaders.
Instead of: Think:
“You can do it!” “Elbows up!”
“Great job!” “Fast transitions!”
“1,2,3,4…” “Don’t squat too low!”
“Half way there!” “No chalk-up!”
“You’re awesome!” “Knees out!”
Try writing a trigger-word in chalk on the ground in front of you. For Lucas, last year it was “coach” for him to remember the coaching cues. For others, it can be as simple as “breathe” or “focus”. Whatever works for you!
The most important thing to remember is NO CRAMMING in this final week before the Open. It will hinder you more than help you. Plan your week ahead of time--Brent has posted a list of times and qualified judges that will be available for each week. Good luck and have fun!!! You are capable of far more than you ever imagined.
Thank you to Lucas Parker for the truly enlightening seminar!