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Why The Open Is More Important Than the CrossFit Games

March 21, 2019 No Comments

Why The Open Is More Important Than the CrossFit Games

March 21, 2019 No Comments
Wallballs

I still remember my first CrossFit Games Open in 2011.

I’d only been actively CrossFitting for six months when I was introduced to this new worldwide competition. I loved it.

That is, until I got hit in the face with a movement I couldn’t do well (overhead squats). Like most every one of you reading this have done, I redid that workout 2-3 more times, just trying to get another rep in. I was frustrated at my inability to execute the movement.

But more than anything else, I was motivated to improve on my deficiency at that lift.

I joined my first CrossFit gym in late 2010, and have been part of the community as both as a member of a gym, competitor (local and regional level), or brand owner of a company active in the space since then. I’ve seen its rapid growth and now this year, the changes that has thrown a number of people into a tizzy.

Unlike a lot of the online outrage, I love CrossFit founder Greg Glassman’s direction. He is committed to putting the focus back onto overall health instead of solely (what most of us became focused on) the CrossFit Games.

The Games can change (heck disappear even), but the one part of CrossFit that I believe should never change is the Open.

I’ve told a few friends that I wouldn’t be surprised to if the Open was stopped in 2021 or soon after with all of the changes to the Games, but here are the four reasons why CrossFit would be foolish to ever get rid of their most important event:

1. The Open Strengthens Community

“Theme Night” Bedlam CrossFit, San Antonio, Texas

The global community has grown and changed since the first Open. Back in its early days, if you were in a random airport and saw someone in Inov-8s or a CrossFit Affiliate shirt, you immediately struck up conversation. You were bonded by both being part of this “underground fitness community.”

Now? I don’t give a second thought to seeing Metcons, Nanos, a Gym Shirt, or the like. We aren’t as connected globally as we once were – but on a local side, the community is as strong as ever.

You show up for the workout – but you stay for the people.

The personal and professional relationships I forged through the CrossFit community will be ones I keep for life. They’ve sharpened me, they’ve encouraged me, and they’ve challenged me to strive for more.

There are a ton of brutal WODs you do – but it’s the person sweating to death next to you, pushing their limits while simultaneously verbally encouraging you to do the same that gets you through it. The workouts make you strong – the people make you better.

Every gym hosts the Open workouts differently, but at any affiliate across the world, between Thursday night and Saturday morning, it’s a party designed to create camaraderie. Gyms go all-out in costume themes, rent DJs, and host after-parties.

The Open strengthens the community.

2. The Open is Where People Step Out of Their Comfort Zone

2016 CrossFit Games Open at CrossFit Strong (Dallas) | Andy Luten Photography

CrossFit was invented to kill comfort zones.

By definition, CrossFit is a form of fitness that is “Constantly varied…functional movements…at high intensity.” (What is CrossFit?)

Every day you walk in to a surprise of what the day’s workout would be. (Please God, don’t let it be a 10k run today!) You become (more) comfortable with the discomfort of a certain movement by doing it repeatedly. You get stronger for life outside of the gym by constantly varying the work you do inside of it.

We know from experience that most members of your local CrossFit gym will never sign up for a competition. They have no desire to “throwdown” at a Saturday event for a myriad of reasons. But one thing they will do?

Sign up for The Open.

It’s a much easier decision than even a local Saturday competition because

  • it’s in their gym (safe place),
  • it’s with their friends (people they know),
  • and it’s what “CrossFitters do” (member of larger tribe).

The work you do in the gym translates to life outside of it.

“…the Open is a way to remind ourselves to get comfortable being uncomfortable – because that is the stuff that transfers from the gym into life. THAT level of being uncomfortable and pushing past our limits in a workout we may hate, is what prepares us to do the same in our lives. It’s what positions us to seize success in other areas of life that those who remain trapped within their comfort zone will never understand.”

(Push Past Our Limits)

3. The Open is Where People Discover True Strength

It’s funny what we tend to settle for as a “limit.” Not just in the gym, but out in our lives. Perhaps we believe we deserve only up to a certain level of success. Maybe we think that this body of ours is never meant to be “strong.” Whatever the self-limiting belief is, we tend to cling to it in all areas of our life.

My favorite thing about competition is that it forces us outside of our comfort zone and instead of what we think we’re capable of – we discover how much more we’re truly capable of.

I’ve seen it at every fitness competition or race that I’ve attended. Someone hits a PR, completes a movement, or finishes a workout that they never before thought they could. But with their adrenaline racing and the competition energy flowing, they suddenly find the strength it takes to do their *impossible.*

The videos like this one from workout 19.4 are littered across social media from people getting their very first bar muscle up to their first squat clean at _______ weight, to years back, their first unassisted chest-to-bar pullup. I’ll always remember watching friends lift a weight they never thought they could….until that moment in the Open that they did.

Competition is where we discover how much more we’re capable of – and the Open provides an atmosphere for discovering that strength.


Who gives a damn if you never go to the CrossFit Games? On the outside, The Open appeared to be the starting point for someone’s journey to the Games, but in reality, the beauty of the Open is that it’s not about the Games. Because for 99% of us who have participated in the Open, we were never going to the Games.

It’s about friends & strangers joining together to test their limits, encourage each other and participate in a global festival that celebrates being better than yesterday.

It’s about learning the benefits of abandoning your comfort zone, and reaching deep within to see how much more you’re capable of than you thought possible. And for the people who walk into the box, it’s the most important annual event CrossFit will ever have.

Jake Thompson

Jake Thompson is a professional speaker and coach who helps ambitious leaders win their work, workouts, and life. As founder of Compete Every Day, he has spent years studying great competitors, and with this research, has created a process that can help leaders harness a Competitor's mindset to make better choices and in turn, make bigger impacts in their careers and personal life.

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