I can’t recall the last time I felt nervous before an athletic event. It had to be all the way back in my high school glory days, glory being a slight exaggeration. But on that Friday night, the culmination of the 2017 CrossFit Open, my heart was pounding. I was pacing back and forth in the athlete designated area, a dose of anxiety topped with overwhelming excitement, trying to complete the prescribed warm-up from Tom Rini.
The atmosphere was rocking at Black Flag Athletics that evening for Super Friday. You could sense the electricity. Music was blaring as the entire community – family, friends, and visitors filled the gym to capacity to cheer on everyone as they took on 10 rounds of nine thrusters and 35 double-unders. I had the privilege of taking on the workout in the second to last heat of the evening. With Tom serving as the MC, my name was called and it was time to finally settle the jitters.
It took me a little over 23 minutes to complete the final workout of the CrossFit Open. Matt Fraser, where you at? It was one of the hardest physical challenges I’ve taken on in recent memory. I could barely walk, out of breath, with a huge grin on my face. I still remember the voices of Raul Lopez, Jennifer Moore Savage, and J.D. Weinberg cheering me on. Tracy Beck, my judge, keeping me poised and my wife, Alina, with constant encouragement. I had no idea what I had signed myself up for two months prior but it was one of the best decisions I ever made and here is why.
The main reason I signed up for the CrossFit Open was selfish. I wanted to see how well I could do. That does not mean I was prepared by any means but I needed something to train for, a goal I could work towards. With every workout completed, I felt at first relieved, then elated and more confident. This has the unique ability to carry over well beyond the confines of the gym and well after the CrossFit Open is over.
Super Friday speaks for itself. It’s literally like combining March Madness, New Year’s Eve, a Hollywood Premiere, and the hottest night club with a CrossFit workout. Now, if you steal the idea make sure to give credit where credit is due 🙂 Even better is that this atmosphere lasts for over five weeks, not just on Super Friday, or the day of the workout, or the weekend. Everyone is dialed in and charged up. Which leads me to the fact that these are not workouts or tests of fitness, they are an experience, not just for your but for your community.
Great segue, I know. Think of it as icing on the cake. The word community gets thrown around a lot, especially in the CrossFit circles. It is not just cheering someone on through a workout or slapping high fives when its all over with. It’s when the athletes pretend to be texting you for advice on hiking and surprise you with a hammock for your birthday. It’s fellow athletes coming to watch you take on the challenge instead of going to work or bingeing on Netflix. The CrossFit Open is the vehicle to highlight this simple yet probably the most significantly representative aspect of what the five weeks are about.
This one is rather superficial but c’mon. I did the CrossFit Open. You did the CrossFit Open. Many people will call us crazy, nuts, or whatever but if you take all the people in the world you realize how lucky you are to have the opportunity to do this. The fact that you can and are able to is pretty special. Be proud, feel proud.
Not all CrossFit gyms are created equal. Therefore, my experience is severely skewed by the quality and knowledge of those who I have been very fortune to call family. My hope is that you can find the same, create lasting memories, new friendships, and gain an appreciation of how strong you can become. 2018, here we come!
Pawel Wencel is the co-creator and host of Uncharted Performance, website and podcast dedicated to maximizing our potential inside and outside of the gym, as well as Coach and Media Director at Black Flag Athletics. Pawel possesses over 15 years of experience in strength training through the exploration and adaptation of various training methods, including CrossFit, Olympic Weightlifting, Strongman, Powerlifting, and Bodybuilding. He is keen on athletes, members and clients utilizing their strength and movement practice to get outside, travel, hike, and find adventure outside the confines of the gym. He holds the following certifications: CrossFit Level 1, CrossFit Scaling, FMS Level 1, and USAW Level 1. His claim to fame is a great set of legs :) For more of Uncharted Performance check them out on their website, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter and whenever in Cleveland come visit Black Flag. The Podcast is available on iTunes, Stitcher, and Google Play.