Last year at this time, I had no idea what “the Open” was, a term I heard knocked around my CrossFit gym. I quickly learned it was the beginning of the search for the Fittest Man and Woman on Earth.
Although CrossFit has gained in popularity over the years, it’s still not entirely mainstream, meaning some people have no idea what it is or about its annual competition, the CrossFit Games.
To wit, no one understood my “extreme Crossfitter” costume at a party this past Halloween, and I thought I was being so clever!
CrossFit is basically a type of fitness that supports regular everyday movement and includes Olympic weightlifting, gymnastics and other physical movements that foster increased strength and metabolic conditioning. People of any age or ability can participate in a learning, supportive environment to improve their health.
Plus, it’s really exciting. No one gets bored doing CrossFit workouts, I can assure you.
In the past year, I’ve learned a lot about the competitive side of CrossFit, especially after chronicling the journey of Jodi Pietrzyk, a woman from my CrossFit gym who placed 49 out of 3,800 women in the mid-Atlantic region to earn a spot in the regional competition last year.
Any Crossfitter can participate in the Open, the preliminary five-week contest leading to the regional, then worldwide games competition in search of the fittest, just by paying a small entry fee and getting officially judged on his or her performance at an affiliate.
There are five workouts, one announced each Thursday beginning February 27 and denoted as 14.1, 14.2, 14.3, 14.4 and 14.5. Participants have until Monday to complete the workout and get it logged into their accounts.
Scores and rankings are posted on leaderboards. Anyone can log onto the CrossFit Games website and review the boards, which can be segmented by region, country or worldwide. Further breakdowns include age and gender categories. People can also type in a name or affiliate and search for different competitors, of which there are 204,000 reported so far.
While I have no delusions about being the Fittest Woman on Earth, this year I’m participating in the Open, just to see how I rank in my category (women, aged 50 to 54), and to challenge myself.
Many of the many friends I’ve made through CrossFit — incuding Pietrzyk — have thrown their hats into the ring as well, and with one week under our belts, it’s been fun to witness the support we are giving one another.
14.1 included doing as many rounds as possible of 30 double unders (we call them DUs) followed by 15 ground-to-overhead barbell lifts with a specified weight in 10 minutes.
This workout was complicated for many who had yet to master, or even do, a double under, where your jump rope must pass under your feet twice per each jump.
I was impressed by how hard many of my fellow athletes worked to get their DUs. Some who had never done one, succeeded in learning how. Others worked on stringing them together in greater numbers. Others managed to do one every other jump. Our chat boards and in-gym practices were full of encouraging instruction and cheers. And ultimately, we all gave 14.1 everything we had, which is what challenging one’s self is all about.
It’s rare to find such a caring community of people in a competitive environment — but I feel blessed to be a part of it, and contribute to it.
Pietrzyk, who is gunning for another ticket to regionals, had a great first week, and we’ll all be watching her with particular interest, as well as cheering her on. No surprise, she is also one of the biggest motivators for the others in our affiliate, cheering us on with her specific brand of enthusiasm. When I complimented her on it, she told me, “Of course I'm cheering for everyone. I love you guys. I want everyone to do really well.”
I was thrilled with the results of my individual 14.1 workout, and my ability to stay calm and focused. It’s been fun to track my name on the leaderboard, as well as my friends’. After week one, I am ranked 25 out of 126 in the mid-Atlantic region and 323 out of 1,572 worldwide.
We’ll see what happens after the other four weeks, but one title is certain: I’m definitely the Fittest Woman At My House.
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