Don’t be mad at Dave Castro: Takeaways from the 2018 CrossFit Open.

Written By Ben  |  Mental Toughness, Open 

CrossFit Open 2018: Flashback to 18.4

new HSPU standards crossfit open 2018

Mid-workout, I turned to my judge (my husband) in a blind rage. I had flopped to the ground off the wall after stretching like a giraffe to get my 12th HSPU of the workout, my pride in shambles. 

I can’t wait for the Open to be over,” I said, panting. 

He laughed, because he knew it wasn’t true. 

Of course it wasn’t true. I love the Open, and the electricity that comes with it. 

The CrossFit Open is fantastic for a lot of reasons, and I could write a long, feel-good post about how it brings us closer as a community.... how it pushes our limits as athletes, and tests skills that we’ve been working on all year.

Yet there are plenty of those articles to go around. And to be honest, what makes the Open great is the hard stuff. The hard stuff is what we end up learning from.

So, buckle up, because I’m not here to stroke your ego (or my own). I’m here to shift your perspective, refocus your mental energy, and remind you that progress isn’t made without putting in the work. Hard work.

Because in the end, the only thing that 'sabotages' our Open performances isn’t Dave Castro, new movement standards, or the workouts - it’s ourselves.

Here are four lessons we can learn from the 2018 CrossFit Open...

1. Stop wasting time deciphering Castro’s clues.

Yeah, I’m starting with this one. Trying to decipher Dave Castro’s clues, and arguing about it on social media is comparable to debating what the next winning lottery numbers are going to be.

Waste. Of. Time.

The Crossfit Open 2018

So chill out with the guessing games. It’s a perfect example of wasting time, energy and mental capacity over something you have NO control over.

The 2018 CrossFit Open was a great reminder that you should control what you can control, and forget about the rest.

So instead of stressing yourself out over what will be programmed, a better approach would be to shrug, and say outloud to the stranger next to you,

“Regardless of what the clue means, I can’t control what the workout will be. Everything is going to be okay, and my life will continue.”

Then give that stranger a high five and you carry on with your day.

Can you control what the 2019 Open workouts are going to be? No.

Can you control how much you’ve practiced each movement the previous 12 months, your attitude going into workouts, and the reaction you have when you face adversity? Yes. And that’s a much better use of your energy.

2. Last minute learning before Open workouts = Hitting the panic button

It happens every year during the Open.

Good ole’ Dave announces a movement like double unders, muscle ups, or some other high-skill movement during the Open, and the procrastinators crawl out of the woodwork in a panic.

No kidding, during the 2018 CrossFit Open, at WODprep HQ we got thousands of messages like this: “Hey guys! Trying to learn _____ for 18._ and I’m doing it tomorrow. How can I get my first _____? I’ve been doing CrossFit for 5 years and always scale this, but I want to Rx tomorrow. Please help!”

My answer: 

Step 1: Get a time machine.

Step 2: Go back to a few months ago.

Step 3: Practice the movement using real, old school discipline.

Yes, this means actually having to do things that are difficult and not being good at them. Because unless you've already been working on it, and are right on the edge of finally breaking through and nailing that movement... it's very difficult to start from scratch and try to learn your first (fill in the blank) in two days. 

The 2018 CrossFit Open

I know that there are a ton of athletes out there who may have grabbed their first ring muscle ups during the 2018 Open. And I’m not trying to steal your thunder if you’re one of those who got lucky, and saw success.

But, I also have to be real with you guys….

Ring muscle ups are one of the most challenging movements in CrossFit. Unless you already can manage a handful of strict C2B pull-ups, ring dips, and can hold a false grip... it’s not even safe to attempt RMU’s without facing the risk of ripping your arm out of its socket.

I managed to get my first strict RMU during the 2018 CrossFit Open. But, I set that goal in the fall of 2017, and had been practicing (and failing) RMU’s, going through Muscle Up Madness, and filming/analyzing videos of my drills for months at that point.

So when Dave announced 18.3, I didn’t panic. I didn’t see the “12 ring muscle ups” and have a full meltdown. I didn’t message Ben and beg him to Facetime and coach me through the workout (but I did consider that).

I said to myself, “The 2018 CrossFit Open is a better time than ever to finally get above the rings. You are ready for this.”

Because I had prepared for the past several months, I was confident that I could grind one out. I knew what I had to do, and it was time to execute.

Guess what?

Getting my first ring muscle up during the Open this year was WAY cooler and more gratifying than when I managed to chicken wing my first bar muscle up in Open workout 17.2, without any prior training or drills.

On that same note, you shouldn’t make a big scene if your failure to prepare leaves you with failed reps and a lackluster score on the leaderboard. Instead, own your lack of preparation and head back to the drawing board.

3. The 2018 CrossFit Open proved that you can’t hide from movements you hate

It’s not a newsflash that there are athletes at gyms around the world who hide from certain types of workouts, or even particular movements. Maybe you’re reading this and thinking, crap that’s me.

“Pull-ups? Yeah no way, I’m going to hit some active recovery today instead. See you tomorrow buddy.”

The CrossFit Open exposes athletes like this with stunning accuracy - myself included.

18.5 called me out big time. I remember waking up that Friday, being upset that 11.6/12.5 had won the online voting, after setting an alarm for 1:30 AM to vote for 14.2/15.2 in an attempt to completely dodge thrusters.

It’s a short, boring workout to end the Open with,” I said to a friend at the gym.

Yet as I stood with my hands on my knees four minutes into the workout wondering if I was going to throw up my protein bar, I realized that by ‘boring’ what I meant was, ‘I’m scared of thrusters and I avoid them.’

I hid from Thrusters.

I skipped workouts with them in it. I’m pretty sure my gym had programmed Fran at least 3 times in the months leading up to the 2018 Open, and I didn’t do it once. I conveniently found a way to avoid the gym.

18.5 WOD 2018 open workout thrusters

But in the Open, you don’t get to cherry pick.

You can’t hide from your weaknesses.

Don’t let your weaknesses get to you. You’re a badass, you do CrossFit; who gives a crap if you think you “look stupid” while struggling through those double unders that you hate? Keep your chin up, and put in the work. 

And once the dust from this next Open settles, take time to make a game plan for how to fix those weaknesses. Keeping in mind... we get second 2019 Open this fall 😉 

4. Dave Castro’s job isn’t to coddle your ego, it’s to transform it.

Here’s a hot topic. Raise your hand if the mention of handstand push-ups still makes you want to cry a little bit (raises hand).

The 2018 Open workouts

I feel you. Last year. I had worked on HSPU’s all year long to make sure that they wouldn’t bite me in the butt in the 2018 CrossFit Open (because they bit me hard in 17.4).

But guess what? They crushed me. Again. For a variety of reasons, the new standard completely destroyed my HSPU game, and 18.4 tanked my standing and temporarily shattered my spirit.

I had a spectrum of emotions after that workout, and I did the workout twice. I was confused after the first run, and then pissed/annoyed and being a huge baby after the second go at it.

“Why would Dave do this, this isn’t fair. If these are the standards then why didn’t they warn us of the drastic changes!?”

Wah wah wah, so on and so forth.

A lot of interesting posts came out the week after 18.4 came to a close - this is a good read if you haven’t already seen it.

As I read them, I not only realized that I wasn’t alone in the struggle, but that playing the victim about the standard was pretty pathetic. And it was doing nothing to fix my situation.

Did the new HSPU standard in the 2018 Open suck? 

Of course it did. But remember, CrossFit is supposed to be hard! Handstand push-ups are no exception.

It’s the challenge of it - both mentally and physically - that actually leads to true growth and transformation. The new standards in the 2018 CrossFit Open were set for that very reason… to challenge us, the quality of reps, and to perform the movement in a safer manner.

So once I stopped wallowing and carrying on to my dogs about how Dave Castro was mean (it took about 24 hours) I decided to shift my mindset to:

I haven’t been doing HSPU’s with the right stance, and I’m going to fix this moving forward.

The 2019 CrossFit Open is right around the corner. 

What are you going to do about it?

The Open teaches us as much about our character as it does our physical abilities. And I love that.

I’ll say it again: CrossFit is meant to be difficult. So is the Open.

We’re lucky to have the opportunity to challenge our bodies with this style of fitness. Take the “hardships” that were presented from the 2018 CrossFit Open, and turn them into positives as we head into the 2019 Open season. 

“I GET to practice toes to bar today. And before long, I’m going to dominate them.”

Before we wrap up this post, I’ll leave you with a quote from Ben.

(For some context, this was after I told him that I was nervous about having to do ring muscle ups for 18.3. I didn’t know how I was going to perform under pressure, fatigue, etc.)

His response was: “Be happy you have arms and legs.”

It’s a great reality check. We’re exercising for fun, learning new things, and spending time with close friends. How incredible is that?!

I hope you enjoy this year’s Open. If you haven't yet, be sure to opt-in to get our free 2019 Open Strategy Guides - they're clutch when it comes to Open coaching. 

  • That’s a thoughtful, well written and accurate piece. The CrossFit Open was a huge challenge and I scaled Everest* each week! *everything ( first time predictive text got something right ) My emotional range/reaction was huge but the only thing to remember is I’m grateful I could take part and I’m planning to do it all again next year! ‍♀️‍♀️

  • ill be working on my gratitude attitude and strict pull ups, DU’s, upper body strength for HSPU OHS Thrusters, and squat depth and form, for as my coaches tell me, it all begins with the squat. Thanks WodPrep, for perspective. Be happy you have arms and legs. Amen.

  • Great write up Kait. Identified with so much of it. I think my biggest weakness is Thrusters. I also think it’s the lead domino, in that if I get better at Thrusters, I’ll naturally get better at other movements I don’t really love…Like wallballs & HSPU…

    Got me thinking about time machines now. LOL

    • Thanks Sunny! Totally agree… working on Thrusters will probably help with other movements across the board. Not to mention just getting more comfortable with being super uncomfortable.

  • Love your commentary and couldn’t agree more! I had to go through even further humiliation of videotaping my workouts since I’m not with an affiliated box. Actually videotaping it wasn’t so tough, but watching it was definitely humbling….and embarrassing. Here’s to learning and improving! Here’s to getting started now for next year’s gains!

    • I can relate Jeanne – I had to video all of my workouts as well in attempts to qualify for a local competition here. It was both rough and humorous to re-watch some of them 🙂 Best of luck with training!

  • I couldn’t love this post anymore. I need to work on everything but my main focus for next year will be pushups, strict pull-up, DUBS and TTB. Any WOD that scares me…I’ll be the first in class.

  • Double unders. I HAVE to get them. I have DU unleashed but am having trouble landing my first DU. I am committed and I spend 15 min per day taping myself and finding new ways to drill issues like rope control. Any other advice is welcome. I am ready to stop whipping my shins and toes too 🙂

    • Hey Yaniv – thanks for reading! Are you posting/emailing your videos to us so that the WODprep coaches can give feedback as well? Let me know 🙂

  • The one thing I was disappointed in was that for 18.5 we (at least not all of us) didn’t get to see what the actual workouts were going to be before voting. I went back and looked at the workouts for 11.5, 13.5 and 14.2 and based my vote on that. Turns out 18.5 was *not* 11.5 — at least not for those of us 55+. I was really hoping for the heavier weight and chest 2 bar pull-ups. My cardio isn’t all that great so ending up with the lower weight and skill meant I would do worse. I would have selected 13.5 had I known. I think it was cool that Dave gave us the choice, but if he does that again I’d love for him to provide the *actual* workouts for us to choose from.

    • I agree with what Doug wrote – except turned on its head! I specifically didn’t vote for 11.5 because I do reasonably well with intermediate weights, but not with the heavy weights. So I was pleasantly surprised. 🙂

      But to your point, they definitely should give all of the workout specs instead of just the “big guns”.

      Loved the article, Kait! My wife even shared it on her facebook page.

  • Double unders used to be one of my weakest skills. It took me forever to get consistent. My coach told me to do 100 a day, so for six weeks before last year’s open, I did just that. But they still weren’t consistent. One year later, after doing 100 a day 4-5 days a week, I can now say they are one of my strongest skills. I was able to go into 18.3 with confidence, and it ended up being my 2nd best workout. Now my 100 dub routine is just a quick 5 minute or less easy exercise at the end of my wod. We can overcome our weaknesses, but it requires effort and dedication! Now on to strengthening my other weaknesses!

  • Great article, Kait. So true. If Dave Castro programmed predictive WODs, the truth is that we would be at a greater disadvantage because our competitors would be at a greater advantage instead of equally being caught off guard. The truth is that being forced to face our fears and to be ranked against our peers pushes us to be better and reach for more than we ever would by not being in the Open.

    “Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, though checkered with failure, than it is to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much because they live in that gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.” Theodore Roosevelt

  • I have arms and legs, I’m healthy, I’m 48 years young, fitter than ever and the open has shown my weaknesses. Really great stuff – shit happens! I’ll be back for 19.0 – for sure! Thanks the unique community!

  • It’s like you’re in my mind! I’ve been running from ring muscle ups for 3 years after I almost hurt myself doing something unrelated and just did bar muscle ups. He found me out and of course my lungs are not the lungs of a Master’s fire-breather, yet. I think this time next year I’ll be even happier. Great read!

  • I will be working on erasing my fear of being inverted so I can do a legit handstand walk and hold, stringing T2B, holding on the kipping pull ups I got FOR THE FIRST TIME in this year’s Open, and NOT dodging WODs that have runs longer than 200m. ‘Cuz that’s what I’ve been doing and it’s not making running any less challenging.

  • I’m the same Roslyn that commented below but I forgot something important: I will be happy, this year and beyond, to have arms and legs. Thank you Ben and Kait!!

  • I competed in the Open for the first time this year. I am 14 and finished 28 in my region (mid atlantic). It was really fun and everything you said in your article about the challenge of Crossfit and the Open is so true. I come from a gymnastic background ( i did it for almost 10 years) and during the open i just had so much fun with the handstand push ups and BAR muscle ups. I capitalized BAR in that because I am not YET able to do ring muscle ups yet. When i saw them in the workout i have to admit i did shy away a bit. When i got to my gym i decided to work on them first and see if i could get them. I couldn’t get them yet and any advice on how to is appreciated, so i did the workout RX’d and when i got to ring muscle ups i worked on getting one for the rest of the time cap. My score was 220, but guess what? I forgot to post it! That’s why it came as such a shock to me that i am even that high in the score in my region still. I will be working hard this year to get my ring muscle ups so i can crush the open next year. Let’s do this!!!!

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