You Just Finished the CrossFit Open – Now What?

Brilliantly sandwiched between being “just a little too busy” to attend to your New Years Resolutions and “oh crap it’s almost summer” is the CrossFit Open. The Open is a great time to have a little fun, test your fitness, and see where you stack up.

Where should you go from here? The do’s and don’ts of post-Open training.

My first Open season was 2011. My big takeaway: I needed to get stronger. In hindsight, I was right. I weighed 148 pounds (I comfortably walk around 20 pounds heavier), could do a million pull-ups, but struggled with anything that weighed over 95 pounds.

But, I reacted poorly.

How? Well, it’s right there: I reacted. I started an olympic lifting cycle, stacked on a powerlifting cycle, stacked on some strongman work. I quit working out alongside people because I had this super-special proprietary program that would get me strong for next year’s Open.

Well, I got strong. Really strong. But… I lost my muscle up. I lost my dozens of unbroken pull-ups. I got adrenal fatigue which caused me to gain significant body fat. 190 pounds does not feel good on my frame.

After stepping over to the coaching side of things, I would have given myself much different advice. Would I have listened to me? Maybe. Maybe I thought I was a snowflake that knew better and actually had a coach telling me these things. For what it’s worth, here you go:

Do: Evaluate.

Look at where you finished on the leaderboard. Do you see any outliers? Is there a time domain you crush and one where you struggle? Is there a gymnastics skill that routinely jams you up? Was your max effort clean at the end of a workout WAY (15%+) off your PR? Did you PR your clean in that workout? Take a look. What do you see? Here are some fixes:

  • Time domain: Don’t worry too much here. In regular classes, you’ll have plenty of exposure to different time domains. Find a rabbit in each class and push each other.
  • Gymnastics Skill: How many days over the last year did you work on that skill? I’m not talking about those 3 weeks you really got after it. I’m talking about 5-10 minutes a day, everyday. If doing the skill under fatigue is the issue, simply shift your practice time to post-WOD.
  • Strength under fatigue: If you want to be a full-time weightlifter or powerlifter, that’s one thing. If you want to be a generalist, that’s an entirely different beast. In the world of CrossFit, you don’t need to be maximally strong. You need to be strong enoughI’ll bet that targeted skill work will go further in your CrossFit training than a strength cycle.
  • You PR’d your clean AFTER a workout: One of two things occurred here: (1) You’re new (less than 6 months) or (2) You could stand to push the envelope on your training a little more. Don’t always grab the same plates, kettlebells, wall-ball, or whatever. Push it a little.

Don’t: React.

Did you not do as well as you thought? Whatever you do, don’t pull a 2011 Scanny and react. You absolutely don’t need to do olympic lifting everyday, squat everyday, and do a million muscle up attempts each day. Remember: working out won’t make you fitter. RECOVERING from working out will make you fitter. Work on technique, not volume. Remember: The Open, in a nutshell, is one workout performed to maximum effort with sub-maximal weights and ABSOLUTE WORK CAPACITY. I’ve always wondered why peoples’ programming reactions to poor Open performances look nothing like Open workouts themselves. It’s like teaching a kid to drive using a horse.

Do: Learn your rhythm.

A lot of times folks get all up in their head when the Open workouts hit. If, by some reason, the hype of Friday will allow them to summon  Thor-like powers and crush everything that Dave Castro has laid before them. This often results in poor breathing mechanics, poor performance, and frustration.

Instead, use your daily workouts as benchmarks. How do 20 unbroken wall balls make me feel? What’s my pre-workout routine? At how many total reps do my pull-ups fall apart? Where should I breathe in a Thruster? 

Play around with stuff. Attempt t0 find some waves in your training. You won’t be able to go all-out every single day in the gym. So, start off by doing it once every 10 training sessions. Then, once every 8. Eventually, you’ll get the idea of how your body feels and what you can do to get optimum performance.

Don’t: Go hard all the time.

Again, find some undulation in your training. Think in waves and listen to your body. Remember, in most sports, “practice” encompasses ~80% of physical activity. Make sure that your daily workouts have the same rhythms.


Find someone to push you. Take a class with someone that’s working on the same things as you. Make a bet on who will get the first muscle-up. Chase each other to higher performance. I’ve seen dozens of athletes get their first pull-ups and muscle-ups using this “Arms Race” tactic.

Do: Have patience.

If I could go back to 2011, I’d try to drill into myself that strength takes decades of repetition to build. Thousands upon thousands of repetitions. I don’t think a barbell snatch felt “right” until 2-3 years into lifting. Think about putting in the minimum effective daily dose of work.

Don’t: Analyze programming.

There’s a weird tendency I’ve seen a lot of athletes gravitate toward. Beginners just want to learn the movements and show up to work out. Novice athletes begin to care about performance. How well am I performing a pull-up? There’s a shift that occurs as an athlete is cresting novice to intermediate – programming becomes a focus. Things like “volume” and “cycles” come up in conversation. Unfortunately, this premature focus on programming, keeps an athlete “stuck” in this novice/intermediate transition. I was stuck there for years. If you want to add things (“volume”) to your training, the first volume you should add is accessory work: Reverse Hyper, Strict Pull-Ups, Handstand holds, Strict toes-to-bar, planks, and the like. Grab a coach to get some ideas.

Do: Analyze the things that matter.

What matters before programming? Mechanics, nutrition, sleep, alcohol consumption, stress mitigation, workplace ergonomics, appropriate intensity, movement efficiency, breath control, how you deal with adversity, and attitude. I could probably go on for awhile longer, but you get the idea. If you have a butt wink when you squat, no special “squat cycle” will fix gross motor dysfunction. Double your recovery efforts. Double your focus on mechanics. Double your focus on metabolic conditioning. You’ll get really fit, I promise.

Speaking of mechanics… Did you know we have an Olympic Weightlifting Course coming up?