14.2: For the Stronger and the Weaker

By James Toland,

I recently got a shirt from Black Legion Athletic Gear that reads, “Only Stronger and Weaker Exist.” At first I looked at that and thought it was a cool saying and just dismissed it. After the first two Open workouts I think this statement carries a lot more weight (pun intended) than I had originally given it credit for. Aside from scores and numbers on the Leaderboard, I’ve been able to see some amazing examples of strength and weakness in terms of physical accomplishments and mental weakness.

The phrase “The Open is a test of fitness” is one commonly heard during this five-week celebration of the CrossFit worldwide community. It’s most definitely a physical test, and in that case there are definite and definable levels of stronger and weaker. Each Thursday two of the top Crossfit athletes in the world are told the workout, get two minutes to get ready, and then throw down in front of a worldwide and ever growing legion of CrossFit fanatics around the planet. The two athletes, whether it be males or females, show all of us what pure physical strength and athleticism looks like when set into motion. It fills the mind with visions of high scores and piles of reps just as watching a professional baseball player hit a homerun or watching a world-class soccer athlete score in the World Cup does.

For most, the scores these athletes put up are numbers we can never attain, but it doesn’t stop us from trying. We watch videos and talk to friends and coaches and read articles planning and plotting our way to use what skills we have to give ourselves the best chance at a personal best score.

But then there are the weaker ones who want to throw in the towel and complain before they even try. I get very frustrated with CrossFit athletes who just immediately bitch the second the description of the Open workouts come out of Dave Castro’s mouth. It’s the Open. It’s going to be difficult and challenging and he’s not going to handpick a workout each week that you’re just going to throw down 500 reps without working for it. How many thousands of people strung together double-unders in 14.1 last week? How many more got personal records for chest-to-bar pull-ups this week?

It’s easy to watch the Open announcements and say, “This will suck” or “This will be brutal.” I’m onboard with both of those. It’s the weaker-minded people who say things like, “Well, I’m done, I’ll be lucky to score a 10,” or “I’ll never be able to do a chest-to-bar so I guess this one is over.” That really pisses me off. I just can’t handle people who fail mentally before they even try.

This year, not only am I competing in the Open, but I completed the Judge’s course as well. As a judge I’ve witnessed some amazing events in just the first week. I saw my friend deal with his shoe coming untied not once, but twice, and have to chase his bar around as it bounced between reps on 14.1 only to redo the workout two days later and achieve a 30-rep improvement in his score. I judged for another guy who could barely do any double-unders and then was able to push himself to pound out a final score of 135 reps on 14.1. Many people were repping out sets or 20 or 30 unbroken DU’s for the first time ever. Then this past week I judged for a girl who had only accomplished six chest-to-bar pull-ups in last year’s Open. This year she was able to knock out 33 during 14.2.

The Open does separate the world into stronger and weaker physically, but more importantly it can show so many of us where our problems exist in the area of mental strength and weakness.

On a personal note, I had a goal of 100 reps for 14.2 and I was able to score 84 (four chest-to-bar pull-ups short of finishing the round of 12). I wasn’t thrilled about missing out on the round of 14 that I was shooting for, but I learned a lot about what I need to work on in terms of mental toughness versus my physical limitations. Just like the lessons I’ll learn in the next three weeks I know more about myself now than before I started the Open.

And really, isn’t that the point?

Share you triumphs and struggles on 14.2 with me at Jtolgrinder@gmail.com.

Stay on the Grind.

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