Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In

Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In



14.4 – Chipping Away at this Grinder

I never thought I’d be so happy to see a rower.


I don’t dislike rowing but with the winter we’ve had in the Midwest, I’m a little burnt out on rowing at this point (and being indoors, too). However, when Dave Castro started the live announcement with some crazy talk about most of us ending our workout on the muscle-ups, my reaction was, “Hell no! Not a repeat of 150 wall balls, double-unders and muscle-ups again!”

To my relief, after the athletes were brought out, he explained that the rest of the movements would include 30 cleans at 135 pounds, ONLY 40 wall balls, 50 toes-to-bar and a 60-calorie row. My initial response was relief but that was a reaction to not having to do the 150 wall balls again. Then I took a second to process the whole thing and realized, “Damn, this is going to be difficult.”

A chipper, a grinder – what’s in a name?

In CrossFit-speak both are the same and just a matter of preference in which term you decide to describe this type of workout. The difference, at least to me, is that a grinder can also be a person (see: basically all my other articles). Regardless, the term implies that the athlete is going to have to chip away at the large quantity of work involved or grind it out over a set of reps or in an amount of designated time.

No short and sweet couplet this week; 14 minutes of just doing some work. As I was relieved and at little excited to see the rower burst into the Open mix, some of the stuff I read on social media pointed to the fact that not everyone was on board. There were legitimate concerns about some affiliates not having a rower and how they would handle this workout with access. But the people I spoke with at my box were pretty pleased to see it introduced.

My planning and plotting was spent looking at video tips from coaches and experts around the county and a lot of it focused on rower tips and technique. Most of the time I just kept thinking, “Rower? Why are we worried about that? Fifty toes-to-bar and 40 wall balls will crush my spirit.” My concerns proved to be very accurate later.

I went in on Friday afternoon and was able to judge and watch three other athletes grind through this monster before having to do it myself. My goal was to get 180 reps, which would have gotten me through the 30 cleans at 135 pounds. This seemed reasonable because in four years of CrossFit training, I have never once been able to complete a muscle-up. Not trying to be negative, I just decided that after pounding through 180 difficult reps, there was a decent chance that in that moment I would most likely not suddenly hammer out my first muscle-up ever. Basically, I just threw that idea in the “I’ll-deal-with-that-if-I-get-to-it” file.

The row went pretty well. I tried to maintain about 10 calories rowed every 30 seconds and about a 1,000-calorie/hour pace. I did alright and finished at 3:25. I started out with sets of 5 on the toes-to-bar early on with a few no reps here and there and finished with a 3 and 2 format to get it over with. I will say that this was the first time I have ever experienced abdominal cramping during a workout like I did completing these 50 toes-to-bar.

The 40 wall balls, as a workout alone, would have been laborious, but at this point I was very lucky to get 8 sets of 5. I had to come to the realization that with the amount of time remaining there was probably no way for me to finish all the cleans. I went to singles and got 13 of them finishing with a score of 163. Not my goal, but a decent effort.

Had I been born three months earlier, I would be vying for a spot in the top 200 in the 40–44 Men’s Masters division and I would probably have pushed for more reps or even considered redoing this. But given I’m still 39 and one of the older men in the “general population” of the Open, I have just been one-and-done on all the workouts. This one was not one I was interested in having another go at regardless of the score.

So with four down and one to go, the Open is now 80% complete. I have no idea what to expect with 14.5 because the introduction of the rower has changed some of what the community has known as the “rules” of the Open. And that’s not a bad thing.

Bring on 14.5 and let’s call this Open, closed.

How is your Open going? What was the worst part of 14.4? Let me know at

Stay on the grind.

Jamie Toland (JTol)
On Twitter @JTolgrinder, and on Facebook – Jtol Grinder