Successful Execution in the Open
With the open approaching at the end of the week, I’ve experienced many things that limit people from performing well and thought I might share my reflections. It happens year in and year out and many athletes seem never to learn from their experiences and fall into the same old failing habits. So, because ‘failing to plan is planning to fail,’ I am going to give 10 tips for planning that should help you enjoy your experience, improve yourself as a person through whatever comes, and improve your scores. Use these however you see fit and good luck!
Pace the workouts properly! “Going hard” is not an effective way to plan your workouts. Decide ahead of time where you want to break, what your limitation in the workout is, when you will drop the hammer, what bar you will use, how you will change out your weights, etc. Every rep matters at this point so ‘blowing up,’ going out too hard, reaching failure on a movement is not something you want to happen. Be a smart athlete, it pays dividends.
Have your weekly layouts pre-structured: Your training week should be written to support you being fresh on the days you plan to do the workouts. Only the highest level of athletes in the sport can train through the open, not repeat the workouts, and use the open passively to see where they are in those specific tests. IF you are not this type of athlete (which you’re probably not), your volume throughout the week should be lower, prioritizing movement quality, staying fresh, staying healthy, and keeping your metabolic systems ready to attack whatever workout comes out. Also, if you intend on repeating workouts or doing them once, put that into your weekly structure and stick to it! Be open to changing on the fly if needed because a workout is too difficult to repeat or you are tired. Do not get married to your pre-structured layouts.
Succeed, but prepare for disappointment. Everyone dreams, but fate doesn’t always work out the way you envision it happening. The open is really competitive and small mistakes can cost you big. You may be planning for regionals and not make it. You may beat someone in your gym at every workout all year and then lose. Do not let your disappointment take away the appreciation you have for the journey of training.
Stick to it for five weeks. Most people give up in the open after the first sign of a struggle. Refine your mind state to continue to strive to be better no matter what happens. You should give your all for five straight weeks. Resigning yourself because you didn’t meet your expectations, changing your goals mid way through, getting mad at the style of workout released, etc is all just knee jerk response to your own feelings of inadequacy (generally). Finish what you started (if you’re healthy), even if it isn’t what you wanted it to be.
Stay healthy. Some of the workouts might be above your fitness level or above your skill level. You will probably not impress many people by being so tough that you end up injured. There is a fine line between mental toughness and physical stupidity. Perform your best, but remember that your body is the only vessel with which you have to walk through this life. Care for it, even when you are asking it to perform at a high level.
Live your normal life. The five weeks of the open or any competition is just a small piece of your overall life. Remember to continue to support your loved ones, take a break from your ‘diet,’ enjoy a good movie, have a nice meal, etc. The likelihood of your trying to relive the glory days from the open in 20 years is low (hopefully), but the relationships you have, the confidence you can gain, and the learning you can achieve during every time period of your life will travel with you long after the open is over. Keep things in perspective and don’t let it consume you. You are a human first and ‘athlete’ second, even at the highest level of sport.
Avoid the leaderboard. You can’t control how other people perform so why focus on it? Check the leaderboard if it is going to give you insight into whether or not you will repeat it or after the submissions are completed. If you look early, there is a 0% chance (unless a scoring/tech error) that your score will go up, a small percent chance it will stay where it is, and a close to 100% chance that it will go down. Why put yourself through the emotional struggle for 25 days during the open when you can ONLY control what you do on game day? Ignore the madness! You can be sure that many people will not be able to manage their emotions during the open and will break before it is over allowing you to beat some people who are better than you as a result of being more relaxed.
Stick to your routines. If you don’t know by now how you effectively warm up, cool down, fuel for workouts, and get into the competitive mind state for success, then it’s already too late for this year. If you have that dialed in from your year of training, then you should not change anything! I repeat, do not change anything! There is no super pre workout supplement that is going to change your score, no new shoes you should break out for the first time, no extra number of minutes warming up, and no amount of waiting around and strategizing for longer periods of time than your normal training sessions that will help you improve. You are lucky that training for your sport is VERY similar to competing in your sport and you should be well on your way to knowing how your body works by now.
Analyze your training needs. All competitions give you an opportunity to learn about yourself. Champions are never built over night and you must fail many times before you reach your peak. You will likely have weak areas in relation to the competitive field. Do not be scared of that vulnerability or disappointed when it happens. Those who succeed embrace their weaknesses and dedicate their futures to eradicating them. You should thank Dave Castro any time you are down on yourself for a poor performance as you now have an idea of one thing that you neglected or need to continue to work on during your next training year.
All the above being said, go out there to win. Winning isn’t everything, but it is a beautiful icing on the cake to culminate a journey. Winning looks different for each athlete, but set your sights on whatever that means to you and go after it with a furious passion. Whether you perform better with a “have fun” mind state or a warriors mind state, master your internal world and crush the open!