You're Not Going to The Games: Balancing Goals with Delusions in The Open

This post originally appeared one year ago as we all prepared to tackle 16.3 - so I thought it was as good a time as any to share it again.  - SW

Every year the Open arrives, and every year gyms are faced with the task of dealing with the athlete who has convinced themselves they have the talent and athletic ability to make it to Regionals or the Games, despite all the evidence to the contrary.

 The 16.3 live announcement had a little wild/STRONG flavor!

The 16.3 live announcement had a little wild/STRONG flavor!

Now of course when the Open wraps up – these people are nowhere to be found in the top 100 of their Regional leaderboard. This is a cruel game where you can be in the 90th percentile of all CrossFit athletes in the world – and not be anywhere CLOSE to making it to Regionals. Those spots are for the elite of the elite – and this person is not in that category.

 There is a fine line between setting big goals and being delusional about your abilities as an athlete.

There is a fine line between setting big goals and being delusional about your abilities as an athlete.

I love setting big goals – and I love seeing other people do the same. There is however a fine line between goals and delusions. When you fail to achieve goals, it is time to reflect and ask yourself why? If you instead point fingers at others or make excuses – you probably fall into the “delusional” category.

I am 34 years old, knocking on 35’s door (damn: this was written a year ago, now 35 and knocking on 36's door). I got into CrossFit at the age of 32 – I’m not going to the Games. If I dedicate myself for the next half a decade and avoid injuries – who knows? I might have an outside shot at cracking the top 500 in the Master’s division…maybe (ok, so now I am in the newly formed master's 35-39 division). I am your average CrossFitter (well, going off percentages I am an above average CrossFitter, somwhere in the roughly 75th-80th percentile, but that math shit is for nerds) Basically I am somewhere between the inspirational guy with no legs, and a local comp podium finisher. 

The guys my age and up who are in that elite category right now, are not people like me. Some random 40 year old guy is not walking in off the street and finishing in the top 200 Master’s in the world, which is what it takes to make Regionals. These are men and women who were high-level athletes before and stayed in shape since.

 C-White knows what it takes to compete at a high level. After a successful college football career, he went on to play in the pros and now competes for a Regional spot every year in the Open.

C-White knows what it takes to compete at a high level. After a successful college football career, he went on to play in the pros and now competes for a Regional spot every year in the Open.

Cornelius White is a perfect example of this. White is a former training partner of mine in Raleigh, NC. He is one of a number of Regional-level athletes I trained with at CrossFit Sua Sponte. C-White, as he is known around the gym, played Division 1 Football for the legendary Frank Beamer at Virginia Tech.

After his career with the Hokies, he went on to play professional football in the arena league from 1998-2006. That’s the kind of background you see on the leaderboard – men and women with the athletic ability to play at that level and who understand that level of discipline and training. That’s why it’s no surprise that to find the delusional person at your gym takes 10 minutes of scrolling and page selection on the leaderboard, while C-White can be found at 112th in the World and 6th in the Region (during the 2016 Open). White says that the mental aspect of his athletic background is what gives him an edge over a lot of athletes.

"When you're doing 6am workouts, they are trying to break you. The coaches are all watching - they wanna see who is gonna break. Who can they depend on when the game is on the line in the 4th quarter - who is gonna black the fuck out and just go," said White. "I've been involved in sports since I was 5-6 years old. My mind just works like that - lots of people say they are willing to die out there, but when things get rough, you see them break - you see them getting water or chalk. That's not me."

If you got into CrossFit later in life and don’t have an athletic background (I’m not talking about your Uncle Rico-like glory days of high school sports, I’m talking about college or pro) stop thinking you just have to put in some work and you’ll be playing with the big boys, or girls. Use the Open to track your progress – not against the elite athletes, but against yourself. Are you improving? What movements are preventing you from performing better? What could you have done this past year to improve your score?

 I got into CrossFit after I was already in my 30's.  All the movements are new - the intensity is new. I know I have to balance my goals - but that doesn't mean I have to be satisfied with where I am.

I got into CrossFit after I was already in my 30's.  All the movements are new - the intensity is new. I know I have to balance my goals - but that doesn't mean I have to be satisfied with where I am.

This is the first year of the Open where there are no movements that I dread hearing come from Castro’s mouth. Muscle-Ups? I got em. Sure I can’t hit a set of 15, but I can do them. Overhead squats are a weakness for me after messing up my shoulder, but I can do them. We all have movements we aren’t great at – but this is the first year where I feel confident in my ability to do any we usually see in the Open. That’s a big improvement for me. That’s what the Open is about for me – improvement. The pressure to finish in the top 30 in the region isn’t there. I work on my weaknesses and every Open I identify something else I can work on in the year ahead. That’s how you become better – not by pushing your failures on someone or something else. The Open is about you – your abilities. Five weeks to prove yourself – to identify what you need to practice – to judge your own mental and physical capacity for the hard work you have to put in.

Be happy with your score. Be proud of your score. It represents what you are capable of. This doesn’t mean you should be satisfied with it – but that number should mean something to you – it should mean “this shows how hard I worked – all year.”

This part is as much for me as it is for anyone else. If I set a goal for a certain number of reps in a workout and don’t achieve it, I’m pissed. It wears off fairly quickly, but in the immediate aftermath, I want to break something.

If you know you could have worked harder – don’t say that, DO IT. It’s easy to say you should have done this or that, it’s easy to say you could have done better. It’s easy to talk about what could be accomplished – which is why people who aren’t happy with their score, usually do just that – talk about it. Shut the fuck up and go do it. “I could have scored better but…” Shut the fuck up and go score better. Talk is cheap and easy, just like that girl you dated in high school – doing is for winners.

 Talking about what you "could have" scored is easy - going out and improving by 81 reps? That shit is for winners.

Talking about what you "could have" scored is easy - going out and improving by 81 reps? That shit is for winners.

Christian McWorkman trains at CrossFit 7220 in Laramie, WY. He is someone I’ve competed alongside of a couple times and who I have cheered on at others. He came up just two cleans short of making it to round 3. He posted on Facebook that he wasn’t done with 16.2 and he was going to make it to round 3. Then he went out and did just that. He backed up the talk with real action and real improvement. He improved his score by 81 reps. It doesn’t matter what his total was or where that puts him in the worldwide rankings. What matters is that winners go out and DO, losers sit around and talk.

Winning in the Open for 95% of us, isn’t about your score – it isn’t about where you are on the leaderboard. It’s about how hard you worked, leading up to the Open and during the Open – it’s about you vs. you and never being satisfied with where you are, but being proud of how far you’ve come. You wouldn’t judge your Rec-league softball team a failure if you lost to the Yankees – why do you judge your Open performance a failure when you don’t achieve what a Games athlete achieves.

 After you finish an Open workout - celebrate. Your score, no matter what it is, represents your hard work and what you are capable of doing in that time and place. Be proud but never be satisfied.

After you finish an Open workout - celebrate. Your score, no matter what it is, represents your hard work and what you are capable of doing in that time and place. Be proud but never be satisfied.

Sean Connery had a classic line in the movie “The Rock” that I will always remember.

“Losers whine about ‘their best’. Winners go home and fuck the prom queen”

Your “best” should be unattainable. I will never say “I did my best” – because I will always know I can improve. Your “best” should be a goal-post that constantly moves – just out of your reach, always forcing you to work harder.

Now go home and fuck the prom queen (or king, whatever you’re into)