CrossFit Games Open At 5, Still Competing

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Benzo is one of the most dedicated, OG members of LAX CrossFit. He’s been here from the very beginning. He shared the post below on Medium and as soon as I saw it, I had to ask him if it was cool to share it here. Of course he said yes, and here it is. It’s a great perspective on the Open, CrossFit, and a whole lot more. Check out the original post here.

(I know what you’re thinking “Oh cool, a post about CrossFit.” But I’m finally fulfilling my moral obligations from cult HQ to talk about CrossFit with everyone. Check!)

This week welcomes in another season of “The Open” for the CrossFit Games. And to say I’m looking forward to the upcoming stomach punch is probably overstating things.

For the uninitiated, the Open is a five week exercise in psychological warfare where the workouts are unknown, the pain is a given and the results are excruciatingly public. It’s the culmination of a years worth of training, climaxing with five, yet-to-be-released workouts that the entire community (yes, literally everybody does the same thing — from Rich Froning to celebrity trainer Bob Harper to that really inspirational Grandma you saw on YouTube) will do together. For the great athletes, it’s the first step towards the CrossFit Games. For everyone else, it’s a chance for everyone to see how much you’ve been slacking on your diet or skipping snatch day at the box.

And yet, despite how much I hate having to compete, this will be my FIFTH YEAR doing the Open and I’ve realized more than ever just how important it is.

You workout with a judge so they dock reps every time you screw up! It’s a real blast.

Stopping to look back on my CrossFit journey really helps shed a light on how far I’ve come. Back in my pre-CrossFit Days, time spent at the gym was organized into WODs I called “Leg Day” or “Chest-and-Bi Mondays.” (And let’s be real, if I had it my way, every day would be focused on the biceps…) I never got any fitter following that formula and set up shop on Plateau Mountain. But, quite frankly, I didn’t know better and figured I wasn’t getting any worse.

Then one day while working at the John Wooden Center, UCLA’s excellent, if not jammed packed, student gym, I got talking to one of the trainers about the movie ‘300.’ (Which is pretty much sacred text to any dude who was 14–24 years old when it came out.) And specifically about how chiseled all the actors got for that movie. In my mind, if pudgy Gerard Butler could get completey ripped for that flick, so could I. All I needed was the formula and I’d do anything to make it happen.

I like to tell people I was a trainer here. But really I just wiped down machines and made sure every sorority girl had the Food Network playing in front of their elliptical. I was never quite sure how watching Mario Batali go buck wild over Asparagus Milanese made you run faster but when your dream girl from Kappa asks you to change the channel, you pick your doe-eyed jaw off the floor and don’t ask questions.

He told me about the workout all the actors did to get in shape for the movie called the ‘300’. It was created by an exclusive bad ass gym called Gym Jonesand it looked like this:

  • 25 Pull-Ups
  • 50 Deadlifts, 135lbs
  • 50 Push-Ups
  • 50 Box Jumps, 24″
  • 50 Floor Wipers
  • 50 One-Arm Kettlebell Clean & Presses, 1 pood
  • 25 Pull-Ups

Today this workout seems doable but at the time, this was the equivalent of scaling Mount Everest. I agreed to give it a go on the spot and finished the workout 30 minutes later lumped in a pool of my own sweat. (I also cheated at pretty much all the movement — man I hope Rus never finds this post.)

I knew in that exact moment that everything I was doing at the gym was wrong — this was the path to get results!

The next day I logged into CrossFit.com (which was free — shoutout to the open source model) and did their “Workout of the Day.” That was in December 2008. I’ve never looked back.

No, I swear CrossFit is fun. Wait, where are you going?

Asa college student, my goals with starting CrossFit were simple: I wanted to get abs and I wanted to get a girlfriend. (I realized later that it didn’t matter how many times I rolled around with Fran, I was never unlocking a six-pack with unlimited pasta bowls in the Covel dining hall.) I figured that if I could just stay consistent and hit every workout as hard as I could, the results would speak for themselves.

Eight years later, it’s safe to say my goals have changed. (Only slightly though, I still would like at least one ab.)

I joined LAX CrossFit a few years later once I was able to get out of #InternLife and now juggle workouts with a full-time (beyond full-time, if I’m honest) job with many committments and unending demands on my time. But CrossFit remains my one oasis in the mire. It’s a rare chance to put all my worries, anxietes and stresses in a little cubicle and spend one hour simply contemplating how the hell I’m going to finish these 25 burpees next to other random strangers from all walks of life.

In my years at LAX CrossFit, many of my favorite workout friends have come and gone but we’ve all been united by the same purpose: to grow, to have fun, and to never let fear put a limit on our dreams. I’ve done the Open five times with this crew and each time it is their support and encouragment that’s literally pushed me over the finish line.

  • In 2012, I remember hitting my first 6 muscle-ups E.V.E.R. at the end of 12.4. (As opposed to the “Girls”, each Open workout is represented by a real personal set of “numbers.” It adds to the ominous factor. There’s nothing cute about the Open.)
  • In 2013, I remember people going wild when I mustered all my strength and pulled 165lbs over my head on the snatch for the first time. And then I did it 3 more times after that. (That was some Luke Cage strength right there…)
  • In 2014, I remember doing thrusters and burpees faster than I ever had before and sitting in shock when our team finished 31st (one spot away from qualifying for Regionals — the experience of that final Open week could be a whole other blog post) in the So Cal region.
  • In 2015, I remember my judge grabbing the baby 1lb plates that I didn’t even know we had so I could PR my Clean & Jerk under duress.
  • In 2016, I remember my friend Nitro (both descriptive of his motor and his mouth) screaming his freakin’ head off to not drop the barbell on the overhead lunges.

But despite all my best efforts to inch closer to the Games, the numbers don’t lie. My times are getting slower, the box jumps a little heavier and the kettlebell swings more exhausting. Punk 23-year-old kids are lapping me on runs with a recovery time faster than Paul Pierce in the 2008 NBA Finals. I have to scratch and claw and fight just to maintain my old PRs, let alone break them. But it’s ok, because the real strength I’ve gained from CrossFit was never physical. It was never supposed to be.

They made me keep my shirt on for this.

You start to realize you’re an adult when the bills start coming in your name and you have no idea how you’re going to pay them. The safety net of a pre-programmed life throughout school is gone and the system tosses you out into a world where your only option is to learn how to swim, and quickly.

I have the tendency to try and plan out my life to the finest detail which is probably a defense mechanism to avoid the pain of unexpected struggles. And despite my good intentions, it’s gotten me into a lot of trouble. Because the thing about plans is that they usually blow up in your face.

In the past year, there have been times where I’ve been tempted to get up and run away. I’ve thought about leaving all this hardship behind and becoming possibly a fisherman selling oysters in Copenhagen. That seems like a nice life. (Seriously though, have you been to Copenhagen? You just ride your bike around an idyllic coastal paradise. I don’t even think people work there. It’s basically another planet.)

Unless you live here, you’re going to have to deal with your problems.

But running away is never the best option. As I’ve learned many times in the gym: sometimes the only way out is through.

So rather than trying to figure out how to avoid obstacles, the better way to survive is to steady your nerves, pick up your chest, focus your thoughts, and hit whatever comes your way head on. Time and time again, I’ve walked away from workouts bloody, beaten, battered, but never broken. It is that strength which has been forged over years and that strength which has helped me believe in my ability to stand firm in any trial, both inside and outside the gym. Frankly, it’s helped me survive.

So on Thursday night when the next season of the Open is announced, I’m ready to run headfirst into that storm. Let’s go Dave Castro, I’m ready for your worst…

But seriously no pistols, pretty please….

Workout of the Day 2/22/2017 – Wednesday

CrossFit

A. Maintenance
3 Sets (Untimed):
20 KB Swings (2 pd/1.5 pd)
30s L-Sit

B. Met-Con
5 Rounds:
10 Pull-Ups
10 Push-Ups
10 Squat Cleans (95#/65#)
1 Rope Climb

CrossFit 101

Skill.
Power Clean 8-8-6-6-4-4

Met-Con.
4 Rounds:
8 Power Cleans
12 Burpees
20 Sit-Ups