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Top 8 Tips For Winning The CrossFit Open: Gaming The Games

Froning and Khalipa cheering on another "competitor" who is still working. Because that's what we do in CrossFit.

Froning and Khalipa cheering on Austin Malleolo, who is still working. Because that’s what we do in CrossFit.

It’s CrossFit Open season again, and here at Rocket Crossfit we are doing what we always do in our humble little 1,300 square foot gym: Consistently turning out more champions per capita than any other gym on our block. Winners, baby. Fucking champions, dude.

And, as happens every year, throngs of reporters in my imagination are asking me how we do it. What our secret is, because our success is just so obvious. Our secrets are so simple that anyone can do them, and can seriously raise the barre for competition in the Games.

So, here are the Rocket CrossFit Top 8 Tips For Winning the CrossFit Open:

1. Show Up

The CrossFit Open is for everyone. Every. One. These are workouts that we can all do. We will all do them differently, but we can all do them. Step one to winning The Open is the same as to winning pretty much everything. Show up.

There are 2 ways to show up for The Open. 1: Register and do the workouts as prescribed. 2: Don’t register, and do them however you want to. Both are totally legit approaches. Both bring you to the games, and you know what games are? Fun. Play them.

2. Make it YOUR Work Out

Doing some back of the wrist-wrap math here, there are about a twazillion people in the world doing CrossFit these days. Roughly a batwerllion of them will do the Open. Several thousand of those will register and do the workouts as prescribed. A few hundred will get invited to compete at regionals. And a few dozen will compete at the CrossFit Games in July.

I will be there, at the Games, in July. I will be drinking beer in the stands, because I know my place. My place is in the stands, being impressed, cheering people on and drinking beer. I can rock that shit.

The open isn’t about other people. It’s not even really about how you compare to other people, unless by some freak of circumstance you are one of the few people that really might get invited to The Games. Really, this is about you, and only you. It’s about you agreeing with yourself that you’re going to challenge yourself. That you’re going to commit to doing something that might be hard for you.

It’s also about being in it together, with everyone else in your gym, and all those twazillion people who are all doing the same workouts for the next 5 weeks.

Look, we know people call it a cult, so let’s claim that for a minute. You know how some of those people who do other religious things will all eat or not eat something at a particular time? Or all sing the same song? Say the same prayer? It’s about coming together around an idea that unites us. THAT is what the Open is. It’s not about hitting the right note, or making the best Hot Cross Buns. It’s about remembering WHY we do this. You do NOT do this to win the Games, you do this to be stronger, better, braver, fitter and happier than you were. That’s it.

THAT is your goal. You know how to win? Do it.

3. Pace It

If you were going to go on a long hike to a beautiful mountain peak, seduced along the way with meadows and streams and wild-flowers, would you stand at the trail head and be all like, “dude, I’m gonna crush this shit?”

Gawd, I hope not. If you are, I’m sorry to tell you, you are already losing.

On a physical level, every disappointed bonker that I’ve seen so far in the open has flown out of the gates like there was a gator in their pants. Slow down. Pace it. Exhaustion is not your friend, and rushing is more likely to make you worn out and sloppy than strong and victorious.

On a psychological level, let me break it to you now that you are not going to win the games. I feel confident that the 20 of you for whom this might not be true can chime in nicely. But the rest of us, this is not about winning The Games, it’s about winning our own fitness and happiness. By all means, push it to your limits. Drip sweat, shake with fatigue, the whole CrossFit Tango. But if you really want to go longer and harder than you have before, go slowly. You will rest less and work more. I promise.

4. Love The Wall

By far, the people who inspire me the most are the ones who hit their wall and keep on going. Methodically. I have seen some beautiful tear-fueled Toes-to-Bar this week. Made me cry, literally.

If you know me or follow me, you know that I say DO NOT WORK THROUGH PAIN. I am not one who celebrates puking or herniated discs. That said, there are injuries, and there are walls. Work through walls.

50 Toes-to-Bar had a lot of people at their wall this week. Some of it was from blisters that both formed and tore in one session. (That’s not an injury, that’s an owie, and I watched people work through that, and I cried with them. Such fucking grit. ) But also, I think people were just generally stunned at how that slowed them down. People seemed to think they’d just get through that and move on. But I watched athlete after athlete spend 5 – 8 minutes on the bar, which is a huge chunk of a 12-minute workout.

They were frustrated. They had to breathe deep.

And that’s where the magic happens. The ability to watch your plans and vision fall apart and just keep going. To stay focused, and do it anyway. This is where CrossFit stops being a sport and becomes a metaphor for life. And it’s the magic. This is when I say, “thank you.” Thank you for reminding me that sometimes things are hard, and I keep going. Sometimes things are hard, and that’s when I learn how strong I am. This is when I look around and realize that I am not alone. I am struggling, and other people are with me. Thank you for reminding me that when I let myself be part of a community, I am never alone.

Stop for a moment. Notice that people are cheering you on. Magic. That’s the magic. That’s the magic of  loving the wall.

5. Celebrate Your Victories

Back to Toes-To-Bar. Know what I saw yesterday? A woman spend 8 minutes on the bar. A woman who works full time, volunteers more than I can find time to, and raises 3 kids. Know what she did in that 8 minutes? Her first Toe-To-Bar. And her second. WINNING!

She did not spend even a milisecond being sad about “only” getting two Toes-To-Bar. Why? BCAUSE SHE GOT TWO TOES-TO-BAR! Because she’s a winner.

Look, if you want to be pissed about the things you didn’t do, that’s your business. But your life will suck, in and out of the gym. Instead, celebrate the hell out of those victories. Every. Single. One.

You cannot compare yourself to anyone else and what they can do. Sure, Rich Froning can do a batwillion Toes-To-Bar, and I freely admit that I could lick jam out of his navel all day long. But that’s not the point. The point is, okay, points are: Can you do more today than you could this time last year? Did you stick to it and accomplish something you weren’t sure you could do? Are you stronger, fitter, healthier and happier than you were this time last year? Yes? You win!

Your work out is about you. And only you.

6. Support Everyone

When I first started CrossFit, I was confused about the whole group class thing. I mean, isn’t that for Jazzercize? It’s like an individual sport done as a team, and there’s nothing else like it. Which is why we get hooked. Actually, it’s why accomplish so much, and it’s that sense of accomplishment that gets us hooked.

I know that at Rocket – and I dearly hope every other gym on the planet, but maybe not – we teach people from the get-go that although your workout is about you, this gym is about everyone. EVERY. ONE.

Your pulse may slow down when you finish your workout, but you’re not finished until the last person finishes. Your job, if you’re done, is to cheer on whoever else is still working. Your job, if you’re not in the heat that’s working is to bring the heat by cheering.

This may be the only thing about the military DNA of CrossFit that I like, but I love it. No one left behind.

My favorite moment of the CrossFit Games in LA last summer wasn’t watching the seemingly superhuman feats of strength. No. It was watching Rich Froning and Jason Khalipa cross the finish line and then immediately head back onto the field to encourage those who were still pushing through. (Yes, I cried.)

THAT is how you win. That high, that feeling. That’s what victory feels like.

7. Celebrate All The Things

Which brings us to the most important thing that makes CrossFit so awesome for me, and here at Rocket. We celebrate all the things. One person’s first Toe-To-Bar is as awesome as another person’s Max Muscle Ups For Time. Or whatever. When you are invested in the success of other people, when you let yourself really care how they are doing, then their victories feel almost as good for you as they do for them. That’s good stuff.

You don’t see that often enough. You don’t see it in football. Those people who weren’t Seahawks looked sad when they didn’t win. You don’t see it in politics, we call the people who don’t win “also rans.” But not here. Not in CrossFit, and not in the Open. Here, we’re all in it together. Celebrate everything. Celebrate everyone.

Back to the religion thing….. No one really thinks that the Macaroni Last Supper that their kindergartner made is as gorgeous as the real one. And no one cares. Got it? Same thing. None of us will win The Games. We are all winners. We are the Macaroni Last Supper made with pride and displayed with love. Which sounded much better in my head, but you get the idea.

8. Dance

You think I’m joking, but I’m not. There is no CrossFit gym that isn’t blasting music, loud. And you know who the happiest people in that gym are? The ones who can’t stop their booties from shaking to the beat. I don’t care how tired you are, shake your booty, at least a little, while you’re catching your breath.

Because if you’re not having fun, what is the point?


Look, I don’t know who you are. Maybe you are one of the fire-breathers who might dethrone Froning. Totally possible. But most of us aren’t. And we need to keep this thing in perspective.

This isn’t about winning a contest, it’s about winning your life. If CrossFit is making your life better, then by all means, go in and go deep. But if it’s making you stressed-out because you’re not achieving some external goal about kicking someone else’s ass, dude, then you’re doing it wrong.

Which is why I love The Open so much. It’s a great time to come together, and get perspective. Sure, when one of our guys got 189 reps in 14.4, we were psyched. But if I’m being honest, I was more psyched about that woman’s first Toes-To-Bar. And I was even more proud of the way my daughter hit a wall, shed a few tears, tore some blisters open, and kept going.

But the thing I’m the most proud of? The way that our gym fills during Open workouts, with people who aren’t even working out, who just come to cheer each other on. And then all go eat pizza and drink beer together.

You know what that is? Winning. With a whole lot of winners.


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