In the CrossFit Games Open, your eyes always skip to the loads when the workout is announced.
“I can lift that,” you think, completely ignoring all the stuff you have to do before you get to lift.
I’ve made that mistake many times, perhaps first in 12.2, which featured many snatches at 75, 135, 165 and 210 lb.
“I can lift 210,” I thought for a brief second before my inner coach brought me back to reality by reminding me that my conditioning isn’t good enough to come close to that bar.
Over the years, I’ve made the mistake less often, but when the right workout comes up, I still wonder.
“Maybe I’ll need 225 in 19.2,” I thought for a fraction of a second.
But, of course, I left the extra 45s on the rack, confident that I would not make it out of the cleans at 185. And I was correct.
Don’t mistake this for a lack of self-confidence. I know we like to say every single person can be president and so on, but getting to 225 was not realistic for me in any way, and it’s wise to recognize your limits.
Can I clean 225? Yes. But I don’t have the wind to get there. The 135 bar destroyed me.
I’m 19.too strong.
Strong Enough to Get Tired in the CrossFit Games Open
And I’m not really that strong overall. But my strength levels are far better than my conditioning levels, and that won’t get you very far in a fitness competition.
I’m aware of an argument that does hold a bit of water: An absolute strength test would be a valid part of general fitness competition. I’ll certainly nod to the burly philosophers in the corner who suggest 20 deadlifts at 365/225 could precede a gymnastics couplet, not follow it. I get it. Strength tests need not always follow conditioning or be sandwiched by it.
But as a gym owner, I don’t want a pure strength test in the CrossFit Games Open. I don’t want people maxing out for 4 days straight just to add a pound to their score, and I don’t want others to be disappointed by impossible loads that prevent them from having a great workout. I want broad participation, sweat and smiles. We can test absolute strength on our regularly programmed heavy days in regular classes.
I want some heavy lifting in the Open, too. But I’m OK with earning a trip to the heavy bars through conditioning. I know that won’t please the strength crowd, but I’ve never been a part of it even if I very much prefer squats to running. Over the years, I’ve seen that many arguments from the strength crowd don’t really show an understanding of CrossFit and overall fitness. Here’s an example:
“If you drive up your max, all submaximal lifts are easier.”
That’s true for about 45 seconds. A guy who can deadlift 600 will generally crush 225 until his conditioning lets him down, which almost always happens in Minute 2 after one huge, unbroken set that makes recovery impossible. Games athletes are rare exceptions, of course. The have the strength and conditioning to apply it. But I’ve seen so many winded strong people that I can make a statement with confidence: Strength doesn’t compensate for a lack of conditioning. You can’t deadlift your way to a sub-3:00 Fran, and you can’t snatch your way to victory in the CrossFit Games Open.
You Get the Score You Earn With Fitness
All this doesn’t mean I haven’t made a personal choice to slightly prioritize strength. I love lifting, and I definitely invest more time in it. I could go on a running program, and I could do more conditioning. Both would dramatically improve my results in all CrossFit workouts. But I’m not going to.
I’m always going to lift just a little bit too much and do conditioning work because I know it’s good for me. But that prescription isn’t going to make me the best all-around athlete I could be. It’s going to make me 19.too strong, and I’m not going to get to clean 225.
Which is just fine. I got the score I deserved, and I know what I need to do to improve that score.