The CrossFit Open – to Scale or not?

The Open is just around the corner. In exactly 3 weeks we will all have our laptops, tvs and phones streaming the 18.1 live announcement to see what Castro has in store for us this time. What will be the repeat? 17.1? 17.3? Or maybe something from a few years back? Regardless of what he throws at us, we know there will be some challenging skills. Ring Muscle-ups haven’t been programmed for 2 years, and it seems like Handstand Push-ups are here to stay. We know Double Unders will be incorporated.

With this realization comes a very important question – if you can’t do a particular skill, will you scale or not? This question is not as simple as it seems. There are many angles to attack the question from, including the specifics of the workout, how close you are to that skill, and what your overall goals are. Now, you may be asking why this question is important. I believe this is a very important question because the Open, for most of us, is the springboard into the entire year of training to follow. It’s where we discover our biggest weaknesses, our strengths, and everything in between. There are mental and physical implications of the Open, and it’s important to come out of the Open with the best mental state possible.

Let’s dive in.

Specific Workout Formats

Let’s dissect this by looking at two different workouts: 17.2 and 16.3 both featured high rep bar muscle-ups, but in a very different format. 16.3 had very short rounds, so the bar muscle-ups were early and often. 17.2, however, had a long chunk of workout before the bar muscle-ups showed up. So obviously 17.2 was much more do-able for people who didn’t have muscle-ups yet.

Specific Skill Level

Your specific skill level also plays an important role. Are you currently in the process of developing a skill, or are you pretty darn close to getting it? In other words, how close are you? If you are close, then chances are the adrenaline and extra motivation/pressure of the Open might push you over the hump. If you aren’t close, then you’ll probably just be developing poor habits that could hinder your long-term growth.

Your Overall Goals

What are your overall fitness goals? Do you crossfit to improve your health and wellness so that you can enjoy a better quality of life? Or do you crossfit because you have aspirations of competing in the sport? While the Open is a great competition for us all, it’s important to determine this ahead of time because of the mental implications. Whether it’s the muscle-up or double unders, chances are there will be something that will slow you down. That’s what the Open is INTENDED to do, put up barriers to weed people out of advancing. If you run into that barrier at full speed, and it knocks you on your ass, there is a very real chance of disappointment and frustration. So you have to figure out if the disappointment of not being able to accomplish something is worth the risk.


Now, I don’t want you thinking I am pushing for people to scale. I have seen how the Open has pushed people to accomplish feats they didn’t think were possible. I’ve seen how hard people have pushed for something. But I have also seen people try too hard for something, risking injury and pride, and leaving feeling defeated.  So what I am saying is, be smart. Don’t let your ego or outside pressures influence you. Do what you feel is right.

Yes the Open is a competition, but it is also a time for celebration and joy. If you feel down on yourself or defeated, you didn’t do it right. You should finish the Open EXCITED because you pushed yourself to new levels and you know what you need to work on over the next year.

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