The Open is an exciting time for CrossFitters. Last year over 220,000 individuals registered for the CrossFit Open. This year with the new 35-39year old Masters Division that could rise to 300,000. For the CrossFit elite, the Open is part of the process to getting back the CrossFit Games. For the other 99%, the Open is more of an experience that they get to share with their friends and family. Over the years I have found some common themes that make the newbies to the CrossFit Open much harder than it should be.
Following these 5 steps, you will be guaranteed a better performance than if you didn’t follow these hacks.
- Compete in the afternoon or evenings instead of the morning. The Open is great because you can do the workout at anytime you want to. At Regionals and the Games, you don’t have that luxury. Strength and endurance capacity are both higher in the afternoon, while the likelihood of injuries is decreased (1). Exercising when body temperature is lowest, which is typically later in the day, results in improved performance and increased power. At this time of day, muscles are more flexible since your body is more warmed up than it is in the morning. Your reaction time is likely to be quicker, while heart rate and blood pressure are low. Protein synthesis peaks at this time of day, as well. Based on this, intense workouts should take place during the late afternoon or evening. Now, this doesn’t mean that you can’t peak in an early morning session for the CrossFit Open if that is your preferred training time. Go for it, but it will take twice as much prep work than a late afternoon session. You know your body best.
- Do not consume a pre-workout or eat something you don’t normally eat in training. This isn’t a time to try something new. Taking a pre-workout before a competition is a huge mistake. A pre-elevated heart-rate prior to competition (due to consumption of a pre- workout stimulant) will increase the propensity of raising your heart-rate even greater during high-intensity competition. We know athletes who have gathered resting heart rate data for years and in a day or two can identify a 1 or 2 bpm elevation that precedes an illness or a bonked training session. On the other hand, if you are an avid coffee drinker a cup of coffee prior to competition can help reduce the time of fatigue(2). The present study indicates that a caffeine consumption 40 minutes before exercise can enhance exercise performance by increasing the total time to fatigue during incremental testing. Now if you don’t drink coffee on the regular now isn’t the time to do so. The same goes for food. Experimenting with a new food or going to restaurants the day before the competition will likely negatively affect your performance. The safest thing you can do is cook your food the days leading to competition. This will reduce the risk of getting an upset stomach or constipation.
- Watch the best of the best compete and take notes before attempting the workout yourself. There isn’t a top 10 CF Games athlete who doesn’t strategize these workouts without suggestions and tips from other athletes and coaches. Mimic the best athletes and you’ll be gold. Even Michael Jordan studied film. Watching the Open event live is an exciting experience as a competitor. You get to watch the best of the best compete side-by-side without knowing the workout until minutes before competing. Many times the strategy the athletes used isn’t the most recommended simply because they don’t get as much time to strategize the workouts as many others do after watching it first hand. Many things to consider during the Open workouts is what your capacity is for those skills, the muscle groups that will be taxed the most, and a score you feel you can achieve will all predict how you attack a workout. With that said there will be many videos that will come up following the Open workout announcements by CrossFit gurus such as Kelly Starrett and Barbell Shrugged that will offer suggestions and strategies for the workout.
- Get a crap load of sleep. When was the last time you didn’t set an alarm? I did it last week and ended up sleeping 10 hours! That was my body saying you need sleep. I woke up feeling like a million bucks! That day my training session was the best it had been in a very long time. Several new studies give an additional insight on how modification of sleep affects our performance and changes our normal physiology. In one study, scientists recruited several basketball players and extended the duration of their nocturnal sleep by approximately two hours over a period of 5-7 weeks. Instead of their habitual 6 to 9 hours, the athletes were sleeping for at least 10 hours every night. Researchers compared the athletic performance, as well as indicators of reaction time, mood, and sleepiness before and after this intervention. It turned out that after several weeks of regular extended sleep all sportsmen demonstrated faster sprinting time, better shooting accuracy, decreased reaction time, better mood scores and significant improvements in vigor and fatigue. Performance parameters are, essentially, the indicators of neuromotor functions. Their improvements reflect a higher level of brain activation(3). Remember sleep is part of training.
- Do not compete in any of the Open workouts by yourself. Ask a workout buddy to compete with you even if they haven’t registered for the Open. You will always score higher when you are competing against someone else. Its like, CrossFit Founder Greg Glassman once stated: We’ve learned that harnessing the natural camaraderie, competition, and fun of sport or game yields an intensity that cannot be matched by other means. The late Col. Jeff Cooper observed, “the fear of sporting failure is worse than the fear of death.” It is our observation that men will die for points. Using whiteboards as scoreboards, keeping accurate scores and records, running a clock, and precisely defining the rules and standards for performance, we not only motivate unprecedented output but derive both relative and absolute metrics at every workout. This data has important value well beyond motivation.
If you enjoyed these hacks share with your friends and family. They will thank you. And for God’s sake don’t go copying and pasting this stuff. That’s lazy bro.
- CD, Mah KE, Kezirian EJ, & Dement WC (2011). The effects of sleep extension on the athletic performance of collegiate basketball players. Sleep, 34 (7), 943-50 PMID: 21731144