What Does it Cost You to Repeat Open Workouts?

We are in the thick of the Open right now and with it comes the weekly decision.  Should I repeat the workout?  In this article I want to explore what you are giving up if you do decide to repeat the workout each week.  What are you gaining and what are you losing?  Is it worth it?  With all of the changes to the CrossFit Games season it doesn't make a whole lot of sense for the majority of people to do the workouts more than once.  Not only does it not make sense but it is actually setting you back.  Let me tell you why.

This is my 9th Open now and over the years I have gotten a good feel for how the week goes during the Open.  Thursday is filled with excitement and anticipation waiting on hearing the workout.  Once the workout is announced it is 4 days of thinking about the workout.  All night Thursday and all day Friday is thinking about the workout and the strategy you will take.  Immediately after the workout is over on Friday you say "I'm not repeating that workout.  That was terrible!"  Then about an hour later you start thinking about the workout.  “I think I left a few reps on the table.  I think I could have done a little better if I would just have broken it up a little differently.  If I would have only rested a little less then I would have done better.”  You think about it all weekend.  You don't train very hard on Saturday, or you skip training completely. You go back and forth on whether to do it again.  Then you hear what some of your buddies got.  One of them beat you by a few reps.  You know you can beat him.  So you starting planning out your new strategy on Sunday.  You write down your breaks on your scorecard.  You get the perfect gameplan.  Then you go and do it again on Monday.  Maybe you get a little better.  Maybe you don't.  From my experience I get better on a redo most of the time.  But not every time.  After you redo the workout you resign yourself to your score.  Monday night you spend all night looking at the leaderboard and breaking down your placement.  Where would I be with 5 more reps?  If only I would have not put the bar down that last time I would be ranked so much higher!  When you wake up Tuesday there is a feeling of relief.  You have a few days of regular training until the next one comes out on Thursday.  By the end of the 5 weeks you have done 10 workouts at max effort if you repeat all of them (sometimes even more).  You have been riding the highs and lows of the Open for over a month.  You are exhausted, both physically and mentally.  You take a week (or two) completely off.  Then you slowly start to ease back into training.  It takes you almost a month to feel back to normal.

So what are you giving up when you repeat the Open workouts?  I want to break it down for you.  If you truly want to do your best in the Open then you will need at least a week of taper before.  Then the five actual weeks of Open you will actually be losing fitness.  You will be regressing.  Repeating the same workout twice in 4 days at max effort is not conducive to progress.  By the end of the 5 weeks you will be a little bit less fit.  Not to mention there is a much greater risk of injury. Then you will also be exhausted.  You will need at least one week off.  Maybe two.  Then it will take you about two more weeks to get back to where you were before your taper.  Are you doing the math on that?  One week taper.  Five weeks of the Open.  One week off.  Two weeks to get back to where you were before your taper.  That's nine weeks!  And that's a conservative estimate!  I have been doing this for nine years. I have been treading water at best for two months a year for nine years.  That's a year and a half!  How much progress can you make in a year and a half?  How much fitter would I be if I could add a year and a half of training?  Think about it this way.  If you repeat the Open workouts every year then you are losing 1/6 of the year of training.  Is that a trade you are willing to make?  At the end of the year would you be happy with that trade?  Would you rather add two more months of progress or move up a few spots on a leaderboard that people quit looking at as soon as the Open is over?  These are things that you should be thinking about.

Is it worth it?  In the past it was (or at least you could make the argument that it was) for a lot of people.  The Open was our season.  It was what we trained all year for.  If you performed well enough then you could qualify for regionals or the masters qualifier.  But now things are different.  There are no more regionals.  There is no more team competition in the Open.  Only the top 20 IN THE WORLD or the top person in each country move on to the games.  The top people in the masters categories move on to the masters qualifier, but now they reset the leaderboard for that so all that matters is that you qualify.  For a very small group of people, then, repeating the workouts is worth it.  If you're one of the 100 best in the world then it is worth it.  You have a realistic chance of qualifying for the games.  A few reps can mean the difference in making it and not.  If you are one of the top 5 or so in your country then it's worth it.  You have a chance of winning your country and qualifying for the games. A few reps can mean winning a national championship.  If you are a borderline masters qualifier then I could see the argument to repeating them.  If your goal is to just make it to the qualifier then I could see someone redoing them.  I still think they shouldn't because if you are having to repeat workouts just to make it to the qualifier then you don't have a chance of getting top 10 in the actual qualifier.  The people who will be getting top 10 (and thus getting a spot at the games)  will make it to the qualifier easily and with only needing to do each workout once.  They will be training through the open.  So really, I would argue, the only people who should be repeating workouts are the top 100 males and females in the world and the top 5 males and females in each country.  Everyone else should be training through the open.  Repeating workouts isn't doing anything but helping your ego and hurting your fitness.

Let me put it this way.  The people who you could make the argument to  be repeating the workouts are so good that they could probably get by without repeating them.  Do you think Mat Fraser is repeating workouts?  He's so good that he doesn't need to.  If you aren't that good then you should be training until you are that good (if that is your goal).  Why are you repeating Open workouts?  You are only slowing down your progress.  Why not keep working until you are so good that you don't need to repeat workouts?  That makes a lot more sense to me than to sacrifice 1/6 of your training year every year.  And if your goal isn't to be Mat Fraser then what the heck are you doing?  Honestly?  You are only setting yourself back by repeating workouts.   I'm not just talking to you.  I'm talking to me.  I haven't repeated a workout yet this year for the first time ever.  But I really wanted to after 19.3.  I wasn't happy with my score (but I've done strict handstand pushups once in the last year so at least I knew it would be bad) and I probably would have repeated it if I hadn't gotten sick.  I'm glad I did get sick though.  It was a great lesson.  The leaderboard has absolutely no bearing on my life.  It doesn't define me.  It never has and it never will.  I needed that reminder.

It all comes down to goals.  What are you trying to do?  Is your goal to move up 10 spots in the world in the open?  If it is then why?  What are you going to get out of that?  Is it going to have any impact on your life at all?  No one else cares where you rank.  I promise.  If you train year around for the Open and this is YOUR competition that you want to do your best at then go for it.  Who am I to tell you what to do?  If that is what you train for then by all means repeat the workouts.  Run yourself into the ground for a few more points.  But be aware of what you are giving up.  You are giving up two months of progress (and actually getting regression)  for a few more points.  If you are ok with this transaction then go for it.  Before you decide though, I would encourage you to do some self examination.  Do you really want to do your best to see how you stack up?  Or do you just want to finish a little higher for your ego.  Ryan Holiday said it best.  Ego is the Enemy.  If you are repeating workouts just to feel a little bit better about yourself then you are doing it all wrong.  Keep the end in mind.  What are you doing all of this for?  Why did you start CrossFit in the first place?  Is repeating workouts getting your closer or farther away from that?  Coach Caleb said it best on the Coyote Fitness Podcast.  We are here for the fitness.  Everything else is just a distraction.

So my recommendation is this.  Do the workouts once as part of training.  Have fun.  See where you stack up.  Then move on.  There’s no need to be endlessly leader boarding.  The leaderboard doesn’t define you.  Use the Open as an opportunity to have fun, push yourself, get closer to your gym friends, see where you stack up, and keep things fresh and fun.  Don’t put more emphasis on it than there should be.  And above all keep moving forward.  Don’t take a few steps back just to get a few more points.  It’s not worth it.