CrossFitters: Here’s How to Crush the Open

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CrossFit athlete Noah Ohlsen working out with his dog Maximus.Matt Rice Photography

Noah Ohlsen, professional CrossFit athlete and 2017 Wodapalooza Champion, didn’t feel ready for his first CrossFit Open in 2012. Still a rookie, he knew he wouldn’t qualify for regionals, but the opportunity to virtually compete alongside CF giants like Rich Froning and Jason Khalipa was too exciting to pass up. “That feeling of, I’m going through what they’re going through. We’re doing the same workout, we’re doing the same competition, and our names are on the same leaderboard,” he says. “I think that’s pretty cool.”

Since then, Ohlsen’s done more than just get on the leaderboard. He won the Atlantic Regional Open in 2016, and this year he’s gunning for a spot on the podium at the 2017 Games.

But, just like you, he’s got to get through the Open first. Here’s his advice for making the most of your first (or 17th) CrossFit Open.

Schedule a Practice Run

Ohlsen’s been known to do a scaled-down practice run on Thursday or Friday, right after the WOD has been announced, before actually competing during the weekend.

For example, Workout 15.1 was a nine-minute AMRAP of 15 toes-to-bar, 10 deadlifts, and 5 snatches, followed by a clean and jerk one-rep max. To prepare, Ohlsen did three sets of the toes-to-bar/deadlift/snatch metcon, rested for a couple minutes, and then worked up to about 70 percent of his clean and jerk max. “Just to get a feel of what it was going to be like to do one after the other, but not so much so that it was going to tire me out for the next day,” he explains. This is your goal, too: You want a balance between knowing what to expect, and still feeling fresh for the competition.

Use Home Court Advantage

Ohlsen emphasizes the environmental factor, cautioning athletes to choose comfort and familiarity over the opportunity to showboat at another box. “I know a lot of people will do a Friday Night Lights type of competition and go to another gym,” he says. “There’s people screaming in their face, and you’re in a gym you’re not familiar with — that environment can stress people out, and you might not have your best performance.”

Ohlsen sticks to his home gym, Peak 360 CrossFit in Miami, where he can control the playlist and surround himself with supportive friends, including his dog Max (a box regular who’s fit enough to have his own nutrition sponsorship with pet food brand Nulo).

Actually Rest on Rest Days

Before his coach encouraged him to be more intentional with his recovery, Ohlsen’s “rest days” were still pretty active. Now he prioritizes relaxation and does diaphragmatic breathing exercises to activate his parasympathetic (a.k.a. “rest and digest”) nervous system. He also subscribes to ROMWOD, which he describes as “yoga for CrossFitters,” and makes time for the pool where he can “flow and let everything work itself it out.”

Bottom line: The Open is a long game. If you want your fifth-week WOD to be as strong as your first week’s, dedicate some time to active recovery and don’t skimp on rest.

Eat a Solid Meal (Including Carbs)

From your sleep schedule down to the shoes you wear, you never want to change too much on game day. Hopefully your good habits already include a go-to pre-workout meal, but if you need some ideas, Ohlsen recommends a low-fat/moderate-protein/high-carbohydrate trifecta like eggs, oatmeal, and a side of fruit. It may shock the largely Paleo-observant CrossFit community to hear that Ohlsen recently increased his own daily intake of carbohydrates, including cyclic dextrin, an easy-to-digest powdered supplement. “When you’re doing really high-volume, high-intensity stuff, your body needs a ton of that quick-absorbing energy,” he says.

Go Ahead and Do it Again

As long as your scores are in before the Monday deadline, you can re-do a workout as many times as you want. But should you?

There’s no shame in deciding to just move on after a disappointing performance, but if you’re on the fence, Ohlsen thinks you should go for it. “If you didn’t do very well, it’s obviously something that you need to work on,” he says. He sees the do-over option as a unique opportunity to practice new skills and adapt to the competition environment.

…But Don’t Take it Too Seriously

Getting flustered, frustrated, or even quitting mid-WOD are among the most common rookie mistakes, according to Ohlsen. Being hard on yourself can potentially ruin what should be a fun, community-driven event. “You don’t want to have any negative associations with the thing you love doing every day,” he says, adding that you should put your best effort forward, but, at the end of the day, “it’s not that big a deal.” After all, if you don’t do as well as you want, there’s a simple solution: “You train, and do it again next year.”

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