What is the Open?

“One day this just appeared on my husband’s phone. What does it mean?!”

If you are a Crossfitter, you’re finishing up the most exciting time of the year. It’s The Crossfit Games Open, or as we call it, The Open. If you aren’t, you’re probably confused about why we were really amped up Thursdays around 5PM PDT and talked about Friday Night Lights and Dave Castro’s Instagram account, and generally getting really excited and/or nervous about workouts that sound like software updates (“I think it’s gonna be a repeat of 15.3!” “Dude, did you see 17.3 yet? Finally a barbell!”). We’re here to let you know what all of this stuff means, and how you can share in your crossfitter’s excitement.

As we talked about in the last post, Crossfit is actually two different but related things:

  1. A training and fitness regimen for people of all ages and fitness levels.
  2. A professional sport with a 4–5 month season.

For this article we are talking about Crossfit the professional sport. The Crossfit season starts with 5 weeks of workouts in which anyone can participate. Literally anyone. If you have $20 and a way to record video, you can enter The Open. This year around 159,600 women, and 214,550 men have signed up for it, for a total of around 375,000 people. But if this is about the professional sport, why are so many people signed up for it? Why are there 60+ year old grandparents signed up? Why am I, a 36 year old, 300 lbs writer and marketer signed up? How can we compete with people who not only spend their whole day working out, but are also just genetically gifted in the same way an NBA, NFL, or MLB player is?

The answer is, we can’t. No matter how hard I try, I’ll never be Rich Froning Jr. I’ll never be Josh Bridges. I’ll never even be Jesse Beckner (The 41st fittest man in California, who just missed qualifying for the California Regional Competition as an individual in 2016.). But we can be better than we were last year, and The Open helps us keep track of that.

The Open runs from mid-late February through the end of March. It consists of five workouts. Those workouts are announced Thursday evening at 5pm PDT, and CrossFit HQ being first and foremost a media company have made it into a big, live-streaming-through-Youtube to-do. Every week they pick two top competitors to demonstrate the workout, and they hear it at the same time the rest of us do. It’s got all the excitement of any other sporting event, but the whole thing usually takes around an hour. From the announcement of the workout the rest of us have until Monday night at 5pm to do the workout, in front of a certified judge, and record our scores on the CrossFit website. Pretty much every gym has at least one coach or member who is a registered judge, if not more.

Because “community” is such a big part of CrossFit, most gyms make the performing of this workout into an event. The most common one is “Friday Night Lights”. Rather than whatever normal evening classes the gym would have on Friday night, everyone who wants to comes to the gym around 5–6PM and they run the workout over and over again with everyone cheering each other on, being cheered on, and usually drinking some beer (We can’t be paleo ALL the time!). It’s a lot of fun, and gives everyone the chance to get the feeling of being one of those top athletes who compete at The Games.

What to say about Dave Castro. Dave Castro is the Director of The CrossFit Games, and has been since the first one in 2007.

Dave Castro, either searching for inspiration for 17.5, or inspiration for lunch.

Over the last 10 years he has developed into a bit of a “personality” as not just the planner of the games, but in many ways the face of them. He makes the announcement of each and every workout, from The Open, through Regionals, and under the bright lights of The CrossFit Games themselves. Dave is a very polarizing figure in the sport. It wouldn’t be too much of an exaggeration to say that Dave Castro is the one who made CrossFit a sport, by building and growing The CrossFit Games. For the people who like him, he’s a brilliant fitness mind, devising workouts that push top athletes to do amazing things, and pushing the rest of us to our very limits. For the people who hate him he’s a blowhard with no on-camera presence, who has ruined CrossFit by making it about the super stars instead of the average athlete.

This was the hint for 17.4, the most recent workout as of the time of writing. Guesses about the workout ranged from squats, to sit-ups, to yoga. The actual workout was a repeat of one from a previous year, which had no movements that resembled any of these figures.

During The Open Dave has gotten into the habit of posting pictures on Instagram with no context, and just the number of the next upcoming workout as the caption. This is supposed to be a hint, although even people who love Dave have difficulty believing he’s doing anything but trolling us with this. Pictures have included goldfish, swimming pools, and fire hydrants. Castro has never offered an explanation of what any of the pictures are supposed to represent from the work out, and when asked just responds, “Well, it’s obvious to me.” So if we’re constantly refreshing our Instagram feed and then say “What? What the hell is that supposed to be?!” just be understanding with us.

Finally those numbers. As we discussed in our article about the benchmark workouts, CrossFit has a large collection of named workouts, some to honor fallen service members and first responders, and some given women’s names, because, “Anything that leaves you flat on your back and incapacitated only to lure you back for more at a later date certainly deserves naming.” For The Open, rather than use the named workouts, or give them names related to a person they are just named with the formula “(Year) point (Which week of The Open it is)”. So the workout just announced was called 17.5, because it was the fifth week. The one before was 17.4. It was a repeat of the fourth workout last year, so it’s name was 16.4. This is literally the easiest thing to learn in CrossFit.

If you’re a CrossFitter, I hope you found this to be a fun way to praise or damn Dave Castro, clarified some things that other boxes do, or just got you stoked about how you did at this year’s Open. If you aren’t a CrossFitter, I hope that this made it a little easier for you to understand what we’re talking about, and maybe got you a little excited along with us.