Back in college I took an acting class for fun thinking it would help me to get out of my comfort zone a little. At the time, I was always a little nervous to talk in front of people and thought this could be the way to work through that fear. I mean who doesn’t wanna be an actor, cool right? Well, the class was harder and more terrifying than anticipated, but gave me something real special out of it I never expected. A sense of community and camaraderie. Here I was in a class of 8, and each of us had no clue who one another were, and we had to get up and do monologues and scenes together. We were all super nervous, but were all going through the same nerve-racking thing together. It made it more fun, totally bearable, and the joint sense of relief coupled with a sense of pride was palpable.
Flash forward, it’s February in Chicago. I’m sitting in my car, parked, waiting for a friend, searching YouTube on my phone for “Crossfit Open 2016 16.2…” (Ok, pause)
You see, by this point, I had been doing crossfit for a good couple months. I loved it, as I knew I would. I could now do a lot of things that I never thought I would come close to day one. I came into class one day and the coaches and members were all gathered around mumbling about… the Open.
“Who do you think’s gonna win this year?”
“How hard do you think the workouts are gonna be? Remember last year? No wait, Remember that one from a few years ago…?”
“What do you think Dave Castro’s hair’s gonna look like this year, he’s so weird…?
Ok, I had no clue what was going on, but I was intrigued. What’s this Open? Who’s it for and why are we so concerned about this Dave Castro if he’s not even competing. Is there something wrong with him? (side note: there is something very wrong with Dave Castro, and like it or not we’re better athletes for it, but that’s for another time.)
The Crossfit Open is held over five weeks, with a new workout announced worldwide, every Thursday night of that week. Athletes have until the following Monday at 5pm to finish and post their time and/or score. Sounds harmless, so I signed up. Not sure what I was getting into, but bring on the first workout. 16.1, got through it, not sure how. Took forever, hurt like hell, ok great. I thought, that’s what everyone was so worked up about? There’s gotta be more to this because that just seemed like a really challenging workout, and we’ve done those before. Alright, let’s see what next week brings. Someone mentions to me on the way out that you can watch the announcement live online…ok cool. By the way, I’m sore now just thinking about those OH lunges, but I still did it RX. (mental fist bump)
Back in the car, I’ve found the right video and it’s live from some guy’s garage in North Carolina. It’s clearly unseasonable cold, but they make their way inside and it’s packed. The announcer is bouncing around talking to the 40 or so crammed in this makeshift gym. Everyone seemed SO excited, hell I was excited and I didn’t even know why. This Dave Castro guy was getting ready to come out like the town squire and announce the workout to all the land for us to fawn over. A hush goes over the crowd as the announcer throws it over to Dave. He comes out with this jet black, slicked back surfer hair, this odd smirk on his face, bright white teeth and these weird dramatic pauses between each word.
“16.2 is…” and they were off. The pace was frantic and yet each movement was graceful and under control. I thought, “Hey, I can do these movements? Maybe not this heavy, but that’s OK.” and then they picked up the jump rope. “Crap, I’m out. I can’t do that,” and believe me I had tried and tried. I’ve gotten rope lashes on my body that honestly didn’t make sense. But I pushed the jump rope aside and just kept watching. These two guys were neck and neck throughout the entire workout, it was so awesome I forgot I was still in the damn car. My adrenaline was through the roof, everything’s all fogged up and I texted my coach to tell him how exciting all this was.
Then it hits me, everyone in that cramped little North Carolina garage gym was going to do this workout, and give it their all. Everyone sitting in their car on YouTube, at home, or in a beanbag chair sippin’ on a Kill Cliff at their gym, was going to do this workout…and give it their all.
EVERY Crossfit gym in the world was more than likely going to have someone do this workout.
This community was crackin knuckles, banding together, getting ready to prepare themselves for a pretty daunting athletic task. The rules and playing field were the same for everyone, and the only edge was each person’s fitness level. They were ready to try, succeed, fail, sweat, cry, laugh and cheer each other on for the next 5 straight weeks.
Whether you’re trying to go all the way to the Games or you just want to see if you can do 25 double unders and move onto the next squat clean. (I did not, but I got more than expected.) Each year The Open starts the Crossfit season, and it’s their little annual test of fitness for the entire planet. Consider it Finals week, but without the 2am 7-11 run for coffee and snacks cuz your brain hurts from all that book learnin’. The Open will show you what you’ve learned, and show you what you need to learn for the next 365.
So I implore you to sign up, give it your best effort and see what you’re capable of. More chances than not, you’re going to surprise yourself. Maybe you get that muscle up that’s eluded you? Maybe after barfing angry fire at your speed rope, you get a string of 10 double unders and it clicks… Or maybe, and this is the best part that takes the least amount of effort. You’re done the workout and its’ your coach’s turn, he’s staring at his third Full Snatch at 185, and he needs a boost from the crowd. Are you going to lose your voice rooting him on, like he did for you? I know I will.