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The 2022 NOBULL CrossFit Open: A Performance Physical Therapist’s Take on How to Prepare and PR without Injury

The 2022 NOBULL CrossFit Open event is on the horizon, with that in mind I wanted to share with you what it takes to be ready and capable for this year’s test of fitness. In this blog post, we will discuss how CrossFit athletes can prepare their bodies and mind for the competition, as well as what not to do so they don’t get injured!

Set your expectations and goals for this year’s CrossFit Open:

Being goal-oriented for the Open and setting realistic expectations for yourself and your performance is the easiest way to have a good time this year with testing your fitness. There is not much time between here and February 24th to change the vast majority of your physical performance, we will discuss the specifics of this in our next point, but entering into this testing time with a strong and realistic mindset will surely give you a competitive edge.

Performance psychology and gaining a competitive edge while still enjoying the competition involves confidence in your preparation. This does not matter whether it’s your first Open, you’re trying to break into the top 500 in your State or Region, or trying to make it to Semifinals. You have been training hard, you know your current limits, and now it’s time to step on the gas and perform!

Before setting your goals assess your the things that are most important for fitness and can easily fluctuate such as sleep, stress levels, nutrition consistency, and current training program etc., which can all impact how well we do in any given workout. The ball is in your court with variables that can easily be changed, and can make a huge impact in the short term if you “right the ship.”

If you’ve squared away your physical performance points, set your mind on objective measures. For example, you should be thinking, my 1 RM squat clean and jerk is 205. Historically, during The Open, 1 rep maxes happen after a Metcon who’s goal is to take your soul just before putting heavy weight in your hands. So the question you should now be asking yourself is, have you trained this stimulus? If you haven’t, what is a realistic expectation for a 1 RM under fatigue? Over the next few weeks test this stimulus out! The same could be said and applied to your least favorite couplet nemesis, i.e. rowing and wall balls – set a timer, hit your thresholds, rest minimally, and repeat to see what you can tolerate going into a game time situation.

What should you change in the next three weeks be ready for the Open?

Short answer: not much.

Long answer: Given that we have a little under three weeks until The Open, and CrossFit athletes are notorious for “crunching time” to get better — which is usually accompanied by an uptick in injuries due sharp increases in intensity and volume, you want to mostly stick to your program.

It is difficult to get objectively stronger in a three week time span, but if your gym program has done it’s due diligence your body will be prepared and ready to peak leading into the first week of the Open, and it’s time to send it!

If you’re like me and your motor is always your biggest limiter, it would not be a bad idea to throw in longer duration cardio sessions of 25-40 minutes after your workouts working between 65-75% of your max heart rate, once or twice a week for the next three weeks. Added bodybuilding or accessory movements to work your weakness may be a good idea before workouts as what we refer to as “the pre-warm up, warmup” but this involves active and loaded movements! Not just stretching your shoulder all willy nilly with a band while you check out your gym crush in the class before you ;).

How to plan for each workout:

Assuming that you have a good idea of your current fitness level and what you need to work on, we can plan how to attack each workout.

For example, let’s take 21.2, a repeat of 17.1. a couplet of ascending dumbbell snatches and burpee box jumps that stay the same. Things you should plan for:

  • How does your back feel with high rep snatches?
  • This change when you pair it with burpees and jumping?
  • Are you shooting for unbroken or will that leave you roasted at the halfway mark?
  • Are you staying organized with your equipment setup?
  • Would you keep gas in the tank if you stepped down rather than jumped down?
  • Would you stay more consistent with a metronome keeping your reps on track?

Gaming the workout and knowing where your weakness’ lie will allow you to stay consistent throughout the full 5 weeks as well as not injure yourself on a workout that you should’ve planned for.

What are the most common movements I should expect to see:

Our friends at WODPrep compiled a list and crunched numbers last year and you can see the full chart here.

To synthesize this info — there is a 100% likelihood that toes to bar, double unders, chest to bar pullups, thrusters, and either ring or bar muscle-ups will be included in the open, as they have been included in every one since 11′.

These key performance indicators are extremely skill based, and can be learned in a pinch even if you haven’t been practicing. For instance, if you haven’t learned double unders, though you may have to accept your lashes here, there is still time to get used to performing SOME in preparation for the workouts that could set you score vastly apart in the scaled or Rx divisions.

Again, this is a perfect time to remind you to set your goals and expectations BEFORE the open begins! Do you want a better score? Do you want to learn a new skill in real time and celebrate with all of your gym homies? Do you just want to finish without getting hurt or feeling overwhelmed this year? The choice is yours!

How should I continue to train during the Open?

Assuming you answered yes to finishing the Open without injury, your training should look very similar to what you have been doing in the weeks leading up to The Open.

If you’re going for maximum performance, peaking and tapering for three days before each of the five workouts may be all that is necessary! This will allow your body to perform at its best while not underloading yourself and regressing fitness while testing yourself weekly.

Circling back to establishing your goals prior to starting the Open, deciding on if you will be one-and-done’ing each of the workouts will further the point of limiting interference with your normal training schedule and the Open workouts will turn into…just another workout!

The best things to do for recovery between workouts

At Alinea we consider recovery as a pyramid. Sleep is at the base. This is the standard and we view this in the same vein as averaging between 8-10k steps a day to meet general movement standards as a functioning human. If an athlete averages less than 7 hours of sleep a night and expect the body to perform at a high level you are having wildly high expectations of your own physiology, and must remember you aren’t a mutant with special healing powers like Wolverine.

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Putting the cart before the horse in the CrossFit world is “optimizing” recovery with fancy and generalized stretching apps, combat yoga, foam rolling, protein shakes and supplements, recovery trackers, and vibrating percussion tools to “speed things up,” but binge eat and drink on the weekends and stay up scrolling until 11 pm at night and can’t shut a screen off. The tools we recommend to our clients for both accessory work and recovery can be found here.

We apologize in advance for making you feel like a spot light resides on you, and Big Brother is watching all of your bad habits 😉 in real time.

Sleep and fueling your body adequately will provide balance during this time. On top of that, managing stress and dealing with any kind of chronic aches or pains through appropriate load management and joint care will account for the most bang for your buck when it comes to staying injury free and crushing your goals for the Open and beyond this year!

If you are interested into diving into Alinea’s other blogs check them out on our website here! At Alinea we strive to provide higher touch solutions and personalized problem solving both in an out of the clinic. If you need need in person help to solve your issues or are looking for virtual help from afar with a structured plan to resolve pain and improve performance follow this link!

William Mills II

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