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“Embracing the Suck” makes you a better athlete. My experience with the CrossFit Open Workouts.

Posted Apr 14 2013 10:10am

“Whether you are the Fittest on Earth or it’s your first time competing in CrossFit, welcome to the 2013 Reebok CrossFit Games Open!” ( ) The Open puts participants through 5 workouts over the course of 5 weeks. The last workout just ended on April 7th.  This year marked my second year competing. If you are sitting there wondering why someone like me would pay $20 to compete with the likes of Samantha Briggs or Camille Leblanc-Bazinet, then I’ll sum it up for you with one word-challenge.

Each week on Wednesday, at about 8pm EST, the WOD would get announced. As soon as I put my kids to bed I would start to make my lunch for the next day and check the clock every 5 minutes waiting for it to be 8 pm…just like I did last year. Only this year it was different. After each WOD was announced I was pleasantly surprised. I thought to myself “wow, I can do this.“ I knew there was no way in hell it was going to be easy, hell there isn’t one WOD in CrossFit that I would describe as easy. But I had confidence-confidence that not only would I be able to attempt the WOD’s, but that I thought that I would actually do ok in them (for me anyway.)

And that’s the important take away message here…I would do well for me.  It wasn’t about being the best in my box, it wasn’t about beating someone else’s score, it was about me competing with myself and giving my best effort. Challenge to me is stepping outside your comfort zone and doing something that may be hard but it will make you better-a better athlete, a better parent, a better professional, whatever. We should always be striving towards being a little bit better than we were yesterday. Competing in the Opens and having my workouts judged by others was an eye-opening experience and it wasn’t always pleasant. It doesn’t make you feel good to think that you move well and know how to do an exercise properly, only to find out during a WOD (as you’re getting no-repped) or even worse after the WOD, that your form was off. I definitely grew as an athlete during the 5 weeks of the Open and learned a lot about myself. I learned that I enjoy some level of competition, but once that competition gets too intense, I stop enjoying it as much. I think it’s my fear of failure and not living up to what I think I should be able to do or what I think other people think I should be able to do. It’s a pressure that I put on myself that causes me (unnecessary) stress. Ultimately I don’t want exercise to be a job. I do it because I enjoy it & I feel good when I’m exercising. I don’t do it because I want or expect to come in 1st place.

Ultimately I finished the Opens knowing I gave 100% effort and could walk away proud of my accomplishments. And because of that I can’t wait for next year! So here are a few examples of what I did.


Proceed through the sequence below completing as many reps as possible in 17 minutes of 40 Burpees
45 pound Snatch, 30 reps
30 Burpees
75 pound Snatch, 30 reps
20 Burpees
100 pound Snatch, 30 reps
10 burpees
120 pound Snatch, as many reps as possible

I went into this with a goal of making it to the 75 lb. snatch and then just giving that my best shot and maybe getting 1 or 2 reps. I strained a tendon in my shoulder about 6 months ago and it just hasn’t been the same. A lot of overhead exercises irritates my shoulder and I’m afraid of reinjuring it. Not only did I get to the 75 lb. snatch but I finished them AND made it back and finished the 20 burpees for a final score of 150! I was so proud. There is just no other way to describe the feeling of not only making your goal, but surpassing it.  I was on cloud 9.

Unfortunately not every week was a knock-it-out-of-the-park-I’m-a-rock star kind of performance.  That’s Crossfit. One day you’re on top of the mountain and the next day you’re at the bottom. It’s just how it goes. The third WOD was the same WOD that was done in last year’s games and it looked like this:

Complete as many rounds and reps as possible in 12 minutes of 150 Wall balls (14 lbs to 9′ target)
90 Double-unders
30 Muscle-ups

Last year my score was 73. Yup, in 12 minutes I was only able to get in 73 wall balls. But

Hitting the 9' target with a 14lb. ball

Hitting the 9′ target with a 14lb. ball
(photo courtesy of CrossFit Synergistics)

last year I was psyched because I had just advanced from an 8’ target to a 9’ target. Thankfully I didn’t even make it to the double unders because I didn’t know how to do them. This year my score was 150. I know you are probably thinking wow what a great improvement, and I know it was a great improvement, but I was still disappointed in myself.  Last summer we did the WOD “Karen” which is 150 wall balls for time using a 10’ target. I finished in about 12:43. This WOD the target was only 9’, like it was last year, so my goal was to do all the wall balls and get to the double unders and try to get a few. (Yup, a year later and I STILL don’t know how to do double unders….the most frustrating thing in CrossFit yet to me.)

I did this WOD twice. The first time I got 140 reps and I was really pissed at myself. I got a lot of no-reps and really just had a lot of negative talk going on in my head. I found myself whining about being short and how “unfair” it is …whaa whaa whaa…. I had to literally tell myself to shut up and stop whining. So I am at a disadvantage being short with wall balls;  I am at an advantage being short with a lot of other exercises. I decided to try this on again at open box with a goal of just finishing the wall balls.  I was nervous. I mean it was only 10 more, but they are just so hard for me.  I decided to “embrace the suck” and give it a go. I ended up making my goal of 150 by the skin of my teeth. Literally, in 11:57 seconds I got no repped and was able to squeak in the final rep at 11:59! I fell to the floor in utter

Shear exhaustion after 150 wall balls!

Shear exhaustion after 150 wall balls!
(photo courtesy of CrossFit Synergistics)

exhaustion and elation that I made my goal! Was it the best score in the box or even in the top 5? Nope and I don’t care. It was my victory and I worked my butt off to earn that score. I joked around about it after saying that I felt like the little kid that just got their training wheels taken off for the first time and it yelling for mommy & daddy to watch. :-)   Sure I didn’t reach my original goal of getting to the double unders, but I adjusted my goal based on what I could physically do. I pushed myself, I didn’t give up, I didn’t settle for less, and I gave 100% effort. That is what CrossFit is all about.

The final WOD was one that I won’t forget. It was:

Complete as many rounds and reps as possible in 4 minutes of 65 pound Thruster, 15 reps
15 Chest to bar Pull-ups

If 3 rounds were completed in the 4 minutes, then the time would be extended to 8 min, and so on.  I was really nervous about this one.  Chest to bar pull-ups are one of the exercises that I did that originally hurt my shoulder. My goal was to complete the 4 minutes and not reinjure my shoulder. Yup, seriously that was my goal, to not get hurt.  I ended up with a score of 51 and I was happy. I was happy because it was a decent score but more importantly I was happy because the next day my shoulder didn’t hurt more than usual. The chest to bar pull-ups with a reverse grip was a good call from my coach. After the WOD was finished and I realized that I did it and didn’t get injured, my confidence returned. I realized that although I still had to be smart about my shoulder, I didn’t have to baby it anymore.  I decided to do this one again during open box because I knew I could do better, and I did. I went into open box with a goal of going from 51 to 60. All I had to do was 9 more chest to bar pull-ups to finish the 2nd round. Knowing it was only going to be a 4 minute workout, I asked for my favorite pump up song “Till I Collapse” by Eminem featuring Nate Dogg.  I remember being nervous because I was in the front with everyone watching. But ultimately everyone watching and cheering was exactly what I needed. I got into the zone and everything fell into place.  My first set of pull-ups was unbroken and that gave me a power surge to turn it on. Not only did I meet my goal of 60, but I got back to the bar for thrusters and was able to get 13 before time ran out. Final score: 73! This ended up being the best score in the box (including men!) I couldn’t believe it. I was shocked and elated. But the best feeling was when I came home to tell my kids and my son says “really mom, but you’re the smallest one there!”

Seeing the pride in my kids’ face that day when I came back was priceless and made all the work worth it. How do you teach perseverance to your kids? Be the example they can look up to. At least that’s what I’m striving for.


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