The CrossFit Open invites the whole world to compete and have fun in the gym

CrossFit competition
© Andrea Williamson (used with permission)

Regardless of what you may think of CrossFit, it's difficult to argue with an approach to fitness that is so inclusive, positive and motivating.

For the past month, I’ve had a regular Thursday night date with my husband. At 8 p.m., we sit down to watch the announcement for that week’s CrossFit Open workout. A quick yet impressive competition follows the announcement, in which two ‘elite’ CrossFit athletes go head-to-head, showing all the spectators what’s in store for them if they’ve registered to do the Open, too.

The CrossFit Open, you see, is quite literally open to the world; anyone can do it. Last year 209,000 people participated worldwide, and that number has climbed above a quarter million for 2015. The Open is the first step in the process of elimination that eventually leads to the CrossFit Games, held each summer in Carson, California, the purpose of which is to find “the fittest man and woman on Earth.”

I love watching the Open because it’s an intriguing concept – intensive exercise that is community-based, inclusive of all, and actually fun. By creating an annual competition, CrossFit has transformed from more than just a particular way of working out at the gym. It has become a sport in itself, accessible to anyone who wants to do it, and I believe that contributes to its growing popularity and success.

Most people need a goal toward which to work, and the Open provides exactly that. Just as an artist may view selling art as the final stage of creation, and musicians may need to perform a song they’ve worked on in order to feel like they’ve mastered it, so participating in the Open is a way for people who do CrossFit to measure their progress and be rewarded for their hard work. This year’s “15.2” workout was a repeat of last year’s “14.2”, which made it easy for participants to see whether or not their scores, and therefore their level of fitness, have improved over the past year.

What I really like about the Open is how it opens the doors of competitive sports to people like myself who would never have that opportunity otherwise. I never played sports as a kid (my parents didn’t think it was important), but CrossFit has allowed me to tap into previously unknown athletic abilities as an adult, and the Open actually gives me a place to compete.

This is the first year that the Open includes an official scaled division for the majority of people who can’t complete the more complex gymnastics movements, such as muscle-ups and handstand pushups, or the heavier prescribed weights. It means that even I, at 35 weeks pregnant, was able to complete last week’s 14-minute workout of wall-ball shots and skipping, which was hugely satisfying.

Best of all, the CrossFit Open fosters a wonderful sense of community. Friday evenings are when we all meet at the local box to complete the week’s workout. It brings everyone together, from little kids and spouses to non-CrossFitter friends and members new and old.

No matter what you may think of CrossFit – and there certainly are plenty of haters out there – it’s difficult to argue with an approach to fitness that is so inclusive, uplifting, and motivating. The CrossFit Open, against all odds, manages to make healthy, intensive exercise fun, and that’s worthy of admiration.

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